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Visitors with little time can pack in a lot of attractions in just 1 day, given that most of the city's highlights are found in a localized area that runs along the length of the Mapocho River. I recommend that visitors begin in el centro, the city's historic center and home to museums, cathedrals, cultural centers, and civic institutions. Pick a few attractions that pique your interest, then walk over to the Barrio París-Londres neighborhood. Cross back over Avenida Alameda to the Cerro Santa Lucía hilltop park, and take a stroll through the charming streets of Parque Forestal, Santiago's burgeoning arts-and-cafe neighborhood. From here, it is just a short walk across the Mapocho River to the bohemian Bellavista neighborhood and Cerro San Cristóbal. If you still have time, wander around the shopping district of Providencia by crossing back over the river.

Now, if you do indeed have only 1 day, you're going to have to hustle and get a very early start, or narrow attractions down to only those that really interest you. Travelers with 2 or 3 days can take this tour at a more leisurely pace, and visit more off-the-beaten-track attractions such as the Quinta Normal Park or Barrio Brasil.

Especially For Kids

In addition to the recommend attractings, The Parque Metropolitano Zoo, the aerial tram at Cerro San Cristóbal, the Museum of Science and Technology, the Artequín Museum, the Natural History Museum, and the Railway Museum described earlier are all ideal for kids.

The spacious Parque Bernardo O'Higgins is a tired, worn-down park frequented by blue-collar Santiaguinos who come to fly kites and barbecue on the weekends; there's nothing worth seeing here except the modern amusement park Fantasilandia (tel. 2/476-8600; www.fantasilandia.cl). Admission is $10 (£6.60) adults, $5 (£3.30) children. It's open April 1 through November 9 on Saturday, Sunday, and holidays only from noon to 7pm. It's the largest amusement park in Chile, with four stomach-churning roller coasters, a toboggan ride, and a haunted house. If you are in town, the Halloween theme night is not to be missed.

The Museo Interactivo Mirador (MIM) and the Santiago Aquarium (two entrances: Sebastopol 90 and Punta Arenas 6711; tel. 2/828-8000; www.mim.cl; $6/£4 adults, $4/£2.70 children; combo ticket with aquarium $8/£5.30 adults, $6/£4 children) are neighbors within an 11-hectare (27-acre) park in the La Granja barrio. Inaugurated in 2000, MIM dedicates itself to providing children with an introduction to the world of science and technology. Adults will be fascinated by MIM, too. The ultramodern museum has more than 300 exhibits, mostly interactive displays that cover the range of paleontology, computer animation, robotics, and 3-D cinema. In 2008, MIM proudly unveiled its latest permanent exhibition, "Protecting the Ozone Layer." You could spend nearly a full day here if you choose to check out the aquarium which, while far from world class, has over 200 species of primarily Chilean marine life and an eternally crowd-pleasing sea lion show. Buy a combo ticket for both if you have enough time. To get here, take Metro Line 5 to the Mirador stop.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.