Santiago, Chile feels like a new city. With most of its colonial architecture flattened by earthquakes, and mirrored high-rises towering against the snow-covered Andes, it can be tough, at first, to see the more intimate side of this South American city. Here are two neighborhoods chock-full of quaint boutiques, natty coffee houses, a boutique hotel or two, spirited street art, and a genuine sense of place amongst the skyscrapers.
This isn’t exactly a new hangout. Barrio Bellavista has been Santiago’s Bohemian haunt since Pablo Neruda built a home there in 1953. Called La Chascona, the house is now a museum and is open to visitors. Surrounding the home, you’ll also find brightly painted murals and a fountain dedicated to the poet. Wander the adjacent streets to discover chic bars, restaurants, the local zoo, and swaths of students coming and going from the nearby university campus. A tip for exploration: Scout out places you’d like to try in daylight and then head back for dinner (around 9-11 p.m.) with a restaurant and bar-hopping plan.
Formerly home to the city’s Italian neighborhood, this stretch of gift shops, trendy cafes, and antiques markets is a good way to spend a lazy morning. Have a light breakfast either in the garden at refined Café de la Candelaria or at hippie-cool Café Survenir. The latter serves tea and coffee in mismatched china along with fortifying sandwiches and toast. Then head into the shops where you’ll find everything from kids’ clothes to alpaca shawls to used books.
Bonus: Pueblito Los Dominicos
Built on a homestead that once belonged to a prominent family -- and home to a historic church -- the Pueblito Los Dominicos, in the Las Condes neighborhood, has been a handicraft village since the 1970s. Artisans work in small shops throughout the sprawling complex and showcase traditional Chilean ceramics, sliver and lapis lazuli jewelry, woodwork, and clothing. But the real attraction is the village itself, with its low buildings overhung with vines and trees, and its population of curious cats. Nothing beats this area for atmosphere, although you’ll likely find better prices elsewhere.