The old image of Santiago as a grey, dull city has given way to a very different one,” says Jorge Heine of his underrated hometown beside the Andes. For this new dynamism, the academic and former diplomat gives much credit to the influence of outsiders. The Chilean capital has been “enriched by the steady stream of immigrants,” he says.
An increasing cultural diversity and a strong economy have fuelled development. Last year the city turned a downtown street into a colourful pedestrian zone showcasing community, sustainability, and heritage. “Paseo Bandera” has proved so popular that the pop-up may become permanent.
As car restrictions minimise traffic jams, cyclists ply a growing network of paths. Below street level, the Metro will open a new line next year. And the government is offering incentives to nurture a “Chilecon Valley.” Now is a great time to discover the rincones (nooks) and surprises of Santiago.
Sandwiches are serious business here. For one of the tastiest, head to Fuente Alemana and order the lomito, piled high with braised meats. Traditional fare also stars at grilled beef specialist Las Vacas Gordas and seafood classic Ostras Azocar, which has oysters sent directly from Chiloé Island. Wine bar Bocanáriz serves small plates grouped by flavour (salty, citrusy, sweet) to pair with vino from lesser known bodegas, while next-door neighbour Chipe Libre offers Chile’s largest selection of piscos. Helmed by innovative chef Kurt Schmidt, 99 draws foodies for dishes like “fungal textures.”
In a newly renovated downtown mansion by Cerro Santa Lucíapark,Hotel Magnolia (www.hotelmagnolia.cl) won UNESCO’s Prix Versailles 2017 award for its inventive architecture. Nearby, the chic Lastarrianeighbourhood has two additions—the rehabbed Lastarria Boutique Hotel (www.lastarriahotel.com) and the family-owned Singular Santiago (thesingular.com), featuring a classic-meets-contemporary design and a rooftop terrace that looks toward the promontory of Cerro San Cristóbal. For peak views, though, nothing beats the rooftop bar and pool at the glam W Santiago (w-hotels.marriott.com).
Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda (bottom right); Barrio Italia’s Casaluz restaurant, inside a restored colonial house (top right); The vibrant “Paseo Bandera,” designed by Chilean artist Dasic Fernández, draws pedestrians in place of cars (left). Photos By: Yadid Levy (cultural center, restaurant), @dasigo (vibrant artwork)
The easterly high-rises of “Sanhattan”mimic the skyscraping Andes. For 360-degree panoramas, take the Sky Costaneraelevators to the Gran Torre Santiago’s observation deck, perched more than 60 storeys up. At street level (and below), catch exhibitions or shows at the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (once HQ for the Pinochet dictatorship) and the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, beneath a reflecting pool next to the presidential palace. You can take public transportation to Viña Santa Carolina and Viña Cousiño Macul, wineries within city limits, for tours and tastings.
Brimming with crafts, the adobe-walled shops of Pueblito Los Dominicos sit alongside a 19th-century church at the east end of Metro’s Line 1. Here find Artesanías de Chile, which has several locations around town, and look for elaborately carved wooden stirrups of the huasos, Chile’s counterpart to the Argentine gaucho. For art, antiques, and fashion, check out Barrio Italia. Travel agency Upscape partners with arts advocacy non-profit Antenna to offer custom studio visits for shoppers interested in Chilean works.
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