Santiago, Chile, the nation's administrative capital and largest city and the capital of Santiago province. It lies in central Chile near the snowcapped Andes, about 1,700 feet (520 m) above sea level. Santiago is the political, economic, and cultural center of Chile. About half of the nation's industrial plants are in or near the city, producing mainly processed foods, textiles, clothing, leather, and chemicals. Most of Chile's mining companies have their headquarters here. Railways, an international airport, a subway, and a network of modern roads, including the Pan American Highway, serve the city.
Santiago's most prominent landmarks are two landscaped hills, San Cristóbal and Santa Lucia. At the base of Santa Lucia is the downtown section. Located here are the principal public buildings, including the Palacio de la Moneda and the cathedral. Downtown Santiago's main thoroughfare is the broad, tree-lined Avenida Bernardo O'Higgins. The National Library is one of the largest libraries in South America. Santiago has many museums, including the Palace of Fine Arts, and the nation's leading universities—the University of Chile and the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.
Santiago was founded by Pedro de Valdivia in 1541 as a Spanish base for the conquest of Araucanian Indian lands to the south. During the colonial period it grew slowly but steadily as the seat of a captaincy-general under the Viceroyalty of Peru. The city figured prominently in the wars of liberation and became the capital of the Republic of Chile in 1818. The national legislature moved to Valparaiso in 1990 but the executive branch of government remained in Santiago.