At the western edge of Santiago  Centro, Parque Quinta Normal is a traditional open space whose 40 hectares constituted the city’s first de facto botanical garden. It also provides playgrounds, soccer fields, tennis courts, skating rinks, and pools, and a cluster of museums.
The most notable museum is the Museo Nacional de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum), a research facility that also has public exhibits on archaeology, ethnography, physical anthropology, mineralogy, paleontology, botany, and zoology.
Dating from 1830, when the government contracted French naturalist Claude Gay to inventory Chile’s natural resources, the Museo de Historia Natural (tel. 02/6804615) is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily except Monday. Admission costs US$1 for adults, US$0.50 for kids, but is free Sundays and holidays except January 1, Easter Sunday, May 1, September 18–19, November 1, and December 25, when it’s closed.
A private concessionaire operates three additional museums. The interactive Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología (Mucytec, tel. 02/6816022, www.corpdicyt.cl ) is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. Tuesday–Friday and 11 a.m.–6 p.m. weekends and holidays. Admission costs US$1 for adults, slightly less for children.
Trainspotters will enjoy the Museo Parque Ferroviario (tel. 02/6814627), with more than a baker’s dozen of antique locomotives, additional railcars, and an audiovisual salon. It’s open 10:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tuesday–Friday all year; weekend and holiday hours are 11 a.m.–7 p.m. in summer, 11 a.m.–5:30 p.m. the rest of the year. Admission costs US$1.20 for adults, half that for children.
The Museo Infantil (tel. 02/6818808) is more oriented toward groups of schoolchildren and requires reservations. It’s open 9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. weekdays only; admission costs US$1.
Parque Quinta Normal’s main entrance is on Matucana at the west end of Compañía, with other gateways on Avenida Portales, Santo Domingo, and Apóstol Santiago; it now has its own Metro station. Grounds are open 8 a.m.–8:30 p.m. daily except Monday.