With over 7 million people in the greater Santiago area (a third of Chile‘s population), all the different communas and barrios can be hard to decipher. Here’s a guide:

1. Providencia

Providencia is a good place to start a Santiago visit. It’s safe for tourists who stick out like a sore thumb — yes, unfortunately that probably includes you.

This is mainly an upscale community with many restaurants and places to shop. I highly recommend sampling Chile’s buffet pizza at Los Insaciables, located at Hernando De Aguirre #148.

The waiters walk around with trays of pizzas, just waiting for you to say you’d like another. As soon as your plate is empty, a server is filling it with a new variety: fugazza, ham and olives, even one with corn. All feature a thin crust and flavorful tomato sauce.

Beyond the pizza obsession, when I’m in Providencia I like to catch a show at Teatro Oriente (which will re-open its doors in December 2014).

There’s also a good English bookstore, Librería Inglesa, located at Avenida Pedro de Valdivia #47 — good for a break from the castellano.

And to pick up some clothes, try Avenida Nueva Providencia, formerly Avenida 11 de Septiembre. There are plenty of shops, including the larger department stores Falabella and Paris and a small mall called Drugstore.

2. Bellavista

Bellavista street art. Photo: Juan Nosé

For nightlife, it’s Bellavista. Start with dinner at Como Agua Para Chocolate or the Peruvian restaurant Barandiaran, located in Patio Bellavista.

After a fortifying meal, your bar and club options are plentiful. For something a bit different, try Kitemate, the Rapa Nuian (natives of Easter Island) bar located at Constitucion #256, where they sometimes put on dance performances while you sip your trago.

During the day, check out the neighborhood’s street art. You can also take a tour of Cerro San Cristobal, the zoo, or Pablo Neruda’s house — La Chascona — at Fernando Márquez de la Plata #0192.

3. Ñuñoa

Ñuñoa is a quiet neighborhood and promises a mellower evening out.

If you’re looking for quality Italian food, and that secret that all the locals know about but the tourists don’t, try Golfo di Napoli. Anything on the menu is delicious.
Check it out at Dublé Almeyada #2435.

4. Lastarria

The Museum of Visual Arts. Photo: Juan Nosé

Located on Jose Victorino Lastarria Street, Lastarria is a neighborhood of cobblestone streets and European architecture. The MAVI (Museum of Visual Arts) at Jose Victorino Lastarria #307 features compelling pieces worth your time and money.

Also stop by café Utopia, and Sur Patagónico. Start with Café Utopia for happy hour and a long list of mixed drinks. For dinner, walk across the street to Patagonia, order a wine, and sample from the gourmet menu.

5. Barrio Brasil

Along Avenida Brasil and surrounding Plaza Brasil, there are a bunch of cheaper bars and restaurants. At Huerfanos 1954, near the plaza, they serve what I consider to be the best empanadas in the city.

Barrio Brasil is also a popular place to grab a drink during happy hour, and many locals frequent Blondie Snack Bar at Avenida Brasil #171, a bar that plays ‘80s music.

6. Parque Bustamante

Parque Bustamante, between metro stations Baquedano and Parque Bustamante, is my favorite area. The tree-lined park with wading pool and a meandering trail is my refuge from the big city.

There’s a little gym called Bio Accion near Baquedano, which offers relatively cheap month-to-month memberships and a long list of classes for those on an extended stay.

Café Literario, an open-air café on the first floor of a library, is a good place to relax. It’s located in the middle of the park and has plenty of couches, chairs, and tables, along with free WiFi and plugs for your computer.

This article was originally published on July 15th, 2010.

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