Sprawling Colonial Capital ~ Santiago, Chile

01 March – 03 March, 2018

The first stop on our way to the southern tip of Chile was to her capital city, Santiago. A large sprawling metropolis, Santiago proper is home to 6 million people (more than one-third of all Chileans) and has one of the worst smog problems in the world, with more than one million automobiles clogging her narrow colonial streets, certainly not the kind of record a city hopes to garner. We had read that the months of autumn, especially March and April, are typically the worst as they are the most wind-free. Except for a little eye irritation and the perpetual brown haze blanketing the city, which often cloaked views of the Andes, it wasn’t as bad as we expected for a city its size.

With only a couple of days to explore before heading to Patagonia, we decided to rest from our jet-lag, decompress, and see some street art above all else, as we are planning to fly back out of Santiago when we return to the states. What we didn’t see this time around we could tack onto the back-end of our trip.

I positively love street art and had read much about Valparaiso’s infamous embellished walls, which we will be seeing later on this trip. Until Nicole of Third-Eye Mom posted her wonderful photos of Santiago’s street art, I wasn’t expecting much. But after reading her post, I was on a quest through the streets of Barrio Bellavista, where some of the best Santiago street art can be found. It is also where our hotel was located. 🙂

Beyond the street art, we were anxious to taste some of the local fare and one restaurant in our neighborhood that had been recommended was Como Agua Para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate). It is considered one of Bellavista’s “smartest” restaurants, serving creative Chilean cuisine. The food was delicious and the Chilean beer, Kunstmann Torobayo, was tasty.

As we sat outside enjoying the warm day, an interesting situation unfolded. A bedraggled, weather-worn woman approached, making eye contact with me. I immediately shook my head no, I suppose to discourage her. Before we could blink, she grabbed Terry’s glass of beer. Trying to rescue the glass, a tug-of-war was set in motion. Never get between a man and his beer. 🙂 He released his hold in order to not create a scene and she proceeded to shriek, slamming the glass into the street, without tasting a drop, then stormed off with her naked backside on display. The waiter was so apologetic, moved us farther from the street, and gave us another beer. Welcome to Santiago! We took to the streets with a story to tell.

Comprising only a few blocks, bohemian Bellavista is adorned with eye-popping street art and is a walker’s paradise. In trying to revitalize the barrios, local artists took to the streets to add some color. Many businesses pay these artists to adorn their walls, windows, and doors to draw tourists into their establishments.  The results are spectacular!

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During our search for street art we once again saw our partially clad friend, sporting a beer. She was once again shrieking and hitting herself in the head. Obviously the poor woman has some mental challenges and we wisely decided to steer clear of her.

A walk up Cerro Santa Lucía for views of the city was on our agenda, as was a walk through Plaza de Armas, the city’s historic center, and the Catedral Metropolitana, where mass was in service. The Plaza was packed with locals and tourists alike. During our wanderings in Santiago Central we saw the Palacio de la Moneda, the presidential palace, which made international headlines in 1973 when the air force bombed it during General Pinochet’s coup against President Salvador Allende. President Allende claimed his own life before being taken prisoner.

Hazy view from atop Cerro Santa Lucia.

Our final destination in Santiago took us to Cerro San Cristóbal, where we rode the funicular to the top. What awaited us was a lovely little chapel, beautifully adorned crosses along the pathway, soothing music wafting into the air, and the statue of the Virgin Mary with open arms, standing watch over the city.

Obviously a city the size of Santiago has so much more to offer but our time was limited. We had clocked over 20 miles of walking during our short time here. Some of the other sights we hope to visit on our return are the landmark Mercado Central, known for its impressive array of fruits, vegetables, and seafood, Museo de Bellas Artes, Cementerio General, and La Chascona, author Pablo Neruda’s hillside home, which now houses the Museo Neruda.

For now, the wilds of Patagonia are calling!

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31 thoughts on “Sprawling Colonial Capital ~ Santiago, Chile

  • Wow, that’s quite a story, and you’re just at the beginning of your adventure! Here’s hoping you won’t have too many half-naked people stealing your beer as you journey on. 🙂 The murals are so colorful and compelling — obviously not meant to be just decorative images. Thanks for the update on your travels!

    • My pleasure Laurel. And yes, we don’t need any more adventures like that. The poor woman was obviously challenged. We are off to hopefully see King penguins and flamingos this morning.

  • Don’t steal the man’s beer!! Quite the welcome to the city:) The murals are amazing! I can only imagine seeing them in person with their huge size. I liked the “lady” on the wall at the salon! Looking forward to Patagonia!

    • Thanks Pam! That entire incident happened so quickly and we were taken aback when she started to scream and threw the glass full of beer into the street. But when we saw her later on in the day we could see that she had some mental challenges.

  • You are off to a big start! So much exploring and discovering. Your incident with the beer stealing lady sounds a bit disconcerting. Good for you to steer clear on the second encounter. Happy travels as you head on to Patagonia.

  • The street art is awesome! Oh Terry so glad you didn’t have to go thirsty. I needed to look up funicular…new word to my vocabulary. I love Cerro San Cristóbal. The crosses are amazing. Thanks for a sharing a fantastic day in Santiago.

  • What a great tour of Santiago LuAnn! We only had a couple of days there and managed to find some great street art, though not Barrio Bellavista. I remember us walking all over, and going to a street known for its second hand shops to buy boots for our upcoming trip to Uyuni Salt Flats.
    Alison

    • We are vacillating about spending any more time there. As soon as we left the big city and arrived in Punta Arenas we began to decompress. 🙂

  • LuAnn, I am finally home from kenya and just reading this post! Love it and love too some of your amazing finds in Bellavista, a couple I recognize but others that I must have missed! (Also like the mention to me! 😌). We didn’t make it up the hill as it was very hot one day and another day they were having a strike and it was closed! Next time! So excited to continue reading all your posts!

    • Thanks Nicole! Since I decided to focus on the street art, I scoured that barrio. I would have liked to go to the San Miguel neighborhood as well but ran out of time. Looking forward to hearing more about Kenya.

  • What a vibrant looking city, loving your photos as ever. I am glad you didn’t have problems with the pollution and that the beer was saved, what an odd situation.

  • Amazing art, LuAnn! Thanks for photo-ing… It says something about a society when it puts much effort into beauty/art along the streets. Something good.

    • Yes it does. I love learning about other cultures but sadly, right now, it seems to shine a light on the ugly Americans that we see so often.

  • What a story! Holy Cow! If someone took my beer I would go nuts! And she was half naked too!

    The murals are amazing and quite beautiful! And to see them in person in all their large glory… must have been something!

    Continued safe travels!

  • We have never been to Chile, so thanks for the introduction to Santiago. The street art is quite impressive. We both particularly like the woman with the blue head scarf and the woman embracing the doorway. Of your list of places still to visit on your way back, we fancy the market and if the cemetery is anything like the one in Buenos Aires, then it would be worth checking out for sure. Sounds like you have an exciting adventure ahead of you!! Enjoy!

    Peta & Ben

    • Thanks Peta and Ben! The market in Santiago looks wonderful, as well as the cemetery, so if we get nothing else accomplished, those two are high on the list.

    • As Terry and I are sitting here drinking a wonderful Argentine IPA at our hostel, we are chuckling. You are absolutely right. Terry put up a struggle as well then realized what he was doing. As it was we were the victors as we had already had some of that beer and got another one from our waiter for our troubles. Been thinking about you. Hope all is well.

  • A big wow! on your many photos of Barrio Bellavista’s vibrant street art. I especially loved your first photo of the girls walking by the life-size trees and the picture of the colorful turban clad woman with the maracas. It looks like you covered a lot of miles in the city during your brief time there and even have a bizarre story to tell, which no doubt, will get more humorous as time passes! 😁 Anita

    • I have always loved street art and Santiago had plenty of discoveries. Valparaiso is another city that is noted for their artistry and we will be exploring that gritty city down the road. Thanks for checking in Anita.

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