Chillán was home to 175,000 people in 2012. It is an important transportation hub for the surrounding agricultural districts.
The air in Chillán is the fourth-most polluted in Chile, after Santiago, Temuco, and Concepción. As in Temuco, the main cause of air pollution in Chillán is the use of wood-burning stoves: about 62% of all households in Chillán use firewood as their main source of heating.
Founded by the Spanish in 1580 the city persisted despite numerous attacks by Mapuche, Pehuenches and other tribes in war with Spain. Over time Chillán became an important marketplace where Mapuches, Pehuenches, Mestizos and Criollos met. Many goods from Patagonia and the Argentine Pampas were brought into the market of Chillán across the mountain passes of the area. In the early 19th century, the countryside of Chillán was ravaged by the Chilean War of Independence and a subsequent banditry epidemic. In 1939, the city was devastated by a large earthquake prompting the government to initiate an extensive reconstruction program.
Winters are cool but mild with a July average of 7.9 °C (46.2 °F). Most of the precipitation falls during this time of the year with May to July being the wettest months, averaging over 200 millimetres (8 in). Summers on the other hand are dry and warm with a January average of 20.1 °C (68.2 °F) and during this time, precipitation is rare, averaging only 2–3 days per month from December to February. Temperatures can occasionally exceed 30 °C (86.0 °F) anytime from October to April.
In the city there are two bus terminals:
- Terminal María Teresa: in the northern access to the city, in Av. O'Higgins almost upon reaching Av. Ecuador. All the interprovincial bus companies operate here with main destinations to cities such as: La Serena, Coquimbo, Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Quilpué, Villa Alemana, Santiago, Rancagua, Curicó, Talca, Linares, Parral, Concepción, Los Angeles, Temuco, Valdivia, Osorno, and Puerto Montt. Companies such as Tur Bus, Biolinatal, Nilahue, Andesmar, Bio Bio, Inter Sur, Pullman Bus , Jac , Cóndor Bus, Eme Bus, Pullman JR, Sol del Pacífico and Buses Ríos offer their routes.
- Terminal La Merced is in the center of the commune (in Sargento Aldea street between Maipón and Arturo Prat) and has routes to most of the towns surrounding Chillán (such as Coihueco, Cobquecura, San Carlos, Pinto, Bulnes, Cabrero, Monte Águila, and Yumbel).
- 1 Chillán railway station (Estación Chillán), Av. Brasil 484.
Chillán is connected to Chile's capital Santiago by a modern highway.
The local public transport system is made up of 10 lines of taxibuses, known as Micros (1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 13 and line 10, known by the name Rapidos), which run throughout the urban area of Chillán and Chillán Viejo, also reaching nearby towns such as Cocharcas and Las Mariposas. The largest transport park is made up mostly of medium-capacity light minibuses. The red bus lines are urban routes, and green ones are rural. There are approximately 30 lines of collective taxis, in addition to taxis.
- 1 St. Charles Borromeo Cathedral (Catedral de San Carlos de Borromeo), Plaza de Armas. Symbol of the city, built after the Chillán earthquake of 1939. It was declared a National Monument in 2014.
- Iglesia de la Virgen del Carmen (Iglesia Los Carmelitas), Rosas 558. +56 2 2726 1400. A National Monument of Chile, construction began in 1910. It survived the 1939 earthquake, and was restored in 2017.
- Murals of the Mexico School, O'Higgins 250 (in the entrance hall of the Escuela México). Painted by Mexican muralists and Xavier Guerrero after the 1939 earthquake. The library on the second floor houses the mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros entitled Death to the Invader, while in the entrance hall there is a series of smaller murals by the artist Xavier Guerrero.
- Hotel Diego de Almagro Chillan, Avenida O'higgins 391 (500 m from the center). Outdoor pool, restaurant, free WiFi, complimentary breakfast. Double or twin 71,000 pesos, single 64,000 pesos.
- Hotel Los Cardenales, Bulnes Bulnes 34 (800 m from the center). Free WiFi and parking. Double 26,000 pesos, quad 51,000 pesos.