The contemporary art scene is concentrated downtown on Parque Forestal, anchored by the Fine Arts Museum with its permanent collection and the adjoining MAC (Contemporary Art Museum). Nearby, off cobblestoned Lastarria, the MAVI (Visual Arts Museum) hosts modern exhibitions, and the cultural center known as GAM (Gabriela Mistral) offers concerts, exhibitions, and dance. Off the main square, the Museo Pre-Colombino showcases pre-Columbian art. The gallery scene is strong with established dealers and young upstarts in the Barrio Italia and Nueva Costanera areas. Chile’s national dance, cueca, is making a comeback, with nightclubs hosting a local form called cueca brava. In west Santiago, the Museo de la Memoria commemorates human rights abuses during Augusto Pinochet's military regime of 1973–1990. Many visitors also make the pilgrimage to Nobel Prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda’s home La Chascona, in Bellavista.

Santiago a Mil, or “Santiago by the Thousands” is the city’s largest festival. Held during January, this three-week event features both open-air and indoor theater performances. In September, when Independence Day kicks off spring, many Chileans head to Parque Intercomunal Padre Hurtado for a rodeo, games, and traditional foods such as empanadas and antecuchos (meat skewers).