The National Tourism Service (Sernatur) office is at Av. Providencia 1550 (tel. 600/SERNATUR [737-6288]; www.sernatur.cl; Metro: Manuel Montt), open Monday through Friday from 9am to 6pm, Saturday from 9am to 2pm. Sernatur also has a small information desk, with hotel information and maps, on the departure level of the airport open daily from 9am to 5pm (no phone). The Santiago Municipality has an Oficina de Turismo inside the Casa Colorada at Merced 860 (tel. 2/632-7783), with limited information about downtown Santiago attractions only. Also downtown, at the south side of Cerro Santa Lucía at Avenida Alameda, is a tourism office (tel. 2/664-4216). The Yellow Pages has detailed maps of the entire city of Santiago, or you can pick up a pocket guide to the city, called Map City (www.mapcity.com), sold at newsstands and kiosks, for $7 (£4.70).
Santiago incorporates 32 comunas, or neighborhoods, although most visitors will find they spend their time in just a few. Downtown, or el centro, is the thriving financial, political, and historic center of Santiago, although it has been losing clout as more companies opt to locate their offices in burgeoning neighborhoods such as Providencia, Las Condes, and the tiny area that separates the two, El Golf (also known as El Bosque). These upscale, modern neighborhoods are residential areas centered on a bustling strip of shopping galleries, restaurants, and office buildings. El centro is older and scruffier, with the exception of the small but charming Lastarría/Parque Forestal micro-neighborhood, an up-and-coming arts and cafe community. Still, while it may not be easy on the eye or the nerves, centro remains the city's microcosm and the most rewarding place to get under the skin of Santiago's urban matrix.
The well-heeled residential neighborhood Vitacura, north of Las Condes and south of the Mapocho River, and spliced by the thoroughfare Avenida Kennedy, is home to Santiago's luxury shopping and many gourmet restaurants. The sleepy, middle-class residential communities Ñuñoa and La Reina offer few attractions and, therefore, little of interest to the visitor, with the exception of Plaza Ñuñoa and its booming restaurant and bar scene. Santiago is bisected by the Río Mapocho, a muddy river that alternately rushes or trickles down from the Andes and is bordered through downtown and Providencia by the grassy Parque Forestal. On the north side of the Mapocho rises the hill Cerro San Cristóbal, a 880m (2,886-ft.) forested park with lookout points over the city. At the foot of the hill is the bohemian neighborhood Bellavista, another restaurant haven and happening night spot. Note that the principal avenue that runs through downtown is called Avenida Alameda by absolutely everyone, but its official moniker is Avenida Libertador Bernardo O'Higgins.
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.