Snapshots of the New Santiago
Chile’s capital is emerging as an icon of sophistication, a must-visit destination with plenty of essential attractions. Here’s a tour of some of the finest examples of this bold urban project.
Text: javier correa @javiercorream | Photos: sebastián utreras @sebastianutreras
Invisibility. For a long time, it seemed that Santiago bore a strange curse: the city’s most appealing attractions went unnoticed, even by those who lived there. Chilean writer Roberto Merino became obsessed with the phenomenon: Why do the locals speak of the capital with such little affection? What generates that invisibility?
In Barrio República (Una crónica), Merino offers an answer: “The tensions of everyday life, feeling hurried and overwhelmed, too many cars and buses, the noise. The streets become urgent thoroughfares, obstacles that must be overcome as soon as possible.”
But that has been changing in recent years. Santiago now seems more like a city, not just an accumulation of streets. It charms everyone who makes the effort to see it, explore it and live in it. With a perspective that’s intimate yet objective, some international writers had already predicted the change in the capital. In 2011, articles in The New York Times described Santiago as a “decidedly more vibrant” city. And several months earlier, musician and festival magnate Perry Farrell had held the first Lollapalooza outside the United States in Parque O’Higgins, in the heart of the city.
Santiago is now much more than a waypoint, more than a patchwork of architectural styles. The city has emerged as a modern and sophisticated icon, thanks to a history of change that has imbued it with new meaning and appeal.
Fuente Las Cabras
Fuentes de soda are traditional eateries found throughout the capital, and Fuente Las Cabras puts a new spin on old favorites. Here you’ll find Chilean fast food prepared with the utmost skill and flavor and home-style dishes presented with all the care of avant-garde cuisine. The red neon sign outside says it all: “Comida rica” (Delicious Food).
The menu at Las Cabras is a short but sweet tour of the country’s culinary identity: sandwiches, traditional salads, ribs, tongue, carne mechada (similar to brisket) and more unusual fare like criadillas (testicles). The most popular dishes include crudo de filete (a local version of steak tartar), the succulent signature dish of pork cheek (charchas de chancho) and the homemade beef hamburgers called fricandelas. In full tribute to fuente de soda culture, there are bouquets of napkins and a row of booths. It’s a comprehensive experience that will (re)ignite your love for the local cuisine.
Monday to Saturday, 12.30 p.m. to 00:00 a.m.; Sunday, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Luis Thayer Ojeda 0166, Providencia
The gallery itself features two exhibit spaces, one housing a permanent collection and another that showcases a new artist every two weeks. Madhaus also brings together emerging artists who have not been not on the circuit for one reason or another. In June, don’t miss the chance to view “Silencio” by multidisciplinary artist Aurora Anita.
Tuesday to Sunday, 12.30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
Tegualda 1509, Ñuñoa
Why open a specialty café in the middle of the Vega Central? Café Altura doesn’t intend to gentrify this traditional market but rather to get the most out of the quality products sold here – the best fruits and vegetables in Santiago. Located across from La Marita, the café offers freshly roasted coffee from Guatemala, creamy, aromatic and smooth. The best part? The reasonable prices.
Enjoy a hand-filtered espresso served in an oversized cup that lets you to savor the aroma and flavor. Especially recommended is the cappuccino, which boasts perfect foam, flavor and temperature. They also sell 250-gram bags of coffee beans and ground coffee to go. As Twin Peaks’ Agent Dale Cooper would say, it’s “a damn fine cup of coffee”.
Tuesday to Sunday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Calle Dávila Baeza, Vega Central. Galpón Chacareros (no address number), Recoleta
Open-air Museum in San Miguel
Chilean musician Jorge González once said that our true homeland is our neighborhood. By this logic, the native land of the former leader of the rock band Los Prisioneros would be the area around the intersection of Tercera Transversal and Novena Avenida. And it is precisely this spot where his pride and sense of identity is reflected in an open-air museum of murals in the neighborhood of San Miguel.
There are 40 murals – more than 43,000 square feet of art – exhibited on the street, without guards or admission fees. More than 70 artists worked to transform the gray blocks of state housing from the 1970s into murals that pay tribute to the indigenous peoples, workers, South America, women and – of course – Los Prisioneros. The faces of band members Jorge González, Miguel Tapia and Claudio Narea loom large in an 860-square-foot mural on Avenida Departamental, just blocks from González’s Novena Avenida.
24 hours a day, everyday.
Avenida Departamental; Tristán Matta; Carlos Edwards, between Gauss & Avenida José Joaquín Prieto (Autopista Central), San Miguel
Parque Fluvial Renato Poblete
There are also two soccer fields and a wide cycle path along a 26-mile route that crosses through a number of Santiago neighborhoods, as well as parking lots, water features for children and an outdoor amphitheater.
Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Avenida Presidente Balmaceda 2800, near Costanera Sur, Quinta Normal
Addicted to Santiago
Text: Rodrigo Guendelman @guendelman
One photo, 2,500 likes, 179 comments. Some criticize, some offer constructive contributions. This is one example of the thousands of photos posted on the Instagram account @Santiagoadicto. This particular image shows a beautiful house from the 1930s, about to be demolished. There are plenty of cases like this. People write, get things off their chests and meet other people with whom they can share ideas. In essence, it’s a network bolstered by another social network, Instagram. It’s also a space for people to define their city together. A chance to get a different perspective on the city. A meeting place for those of us who love Santiago. That’s the idea behind @Santiagoadicto. Founded in 2011, this virtual community continues to grow by leaps and bounds with 70,000 followers on Twitter, 45,000 on Instagram and nearly 15,000 on Facebook. But beyond the numbers, the main achievement is that it has become a platform for those who love and respect the largest city in Chile. The people who live here are surprised by places they never imagined existed, visitors from other cities use it as a compass, and tourists from abroad use it as a guidebook. People who follow the different accounts stay up to date on Santiago’s cultural scene and the countless free activities that the city offers. Urban art, architecture, trekking routes, sculpture, city planning, local celebrations, theater, film and public bicycles combine with memories of a Santiago that no longer exists and glimpses of a city that’s still coming together. Everything that matters to people who love Chile’s capital can be found at @Santiagoadicto.