Photo by Tom Gates.
MATADOR IS CRAZY about Chile. While your guidebook may offer popular sightseeing spots—La Moneda and the museum under it, the teleferico (cable car) in Cerro San Cristobal, and the Pre-columbian Museum—take a break from the norm and discover the city locals love and tourists hardly ever find.
Here are five to start with:
Nightlife: La Habana Vieja
Most of the guidebooks will tell you to head to Barrio Bellavista for a good time, and with good reason. From midnight to 4am, Bellavista is the place to drink cheap beer and carretear (party). But if the fraternity-feel to Bellavista starts to get old, try La Habana Vieja for live music, live dance shows, great food and dance lessons, too.
On Friday and Saturday at 9pm and 10:30pm, you can take salsa lessons with other locals. The live band begins to play at 11:30pm. If you come on the right night, you can catch the Afro-Columbian dancers shaking their hips in authentic long, wide skirts and peasant blouses. The club is three blocks from the Santa Lucia metro.
Remember, the metro closes at 11pm, so call a cab when you’re ready to get back to your hostel.
Boulevard Lavaud is THE best restaurant in Santiago, Chile for its ambiance alone. Boulevard Lavaud is an old French barbershop and salon founded in 1868. The building has been restored to its 1870’s look, complete with its barbershop and antique accoutrements.
Not only are the food and drinks good, but if you have a penchant for antiques, you can buy any of the hundreds you see decorating the walls and shelves.
Boulevard Lavaud is open Monday through Friday 9am to 1am and Saturday from 9am-3am. It’s closed on Sundays. You can find the restaurant/bar at the corner of Compania de Jesus and Libertad in the Patrimonial Yungay Barrio, closest to the Cumming metro station.
Calypso in Cajon de Maipo
Calypso, an Italian restaurant, makes you feel like you’re in Italy. A quaint house with a large patio, the restaurant offers views at every window of the countryside and mountains beyond.
Calypso’s genuine Italian recipes transport you. Their picante (spicy) olive oil and garlic sauce is the perfect blend of spice and rich flavors, adding to the heavenly plate of homemade pastas. Traveling and in love? This is the place to go. You can sit outside to dine on warm summer days, a glass of vino in your hand.
After lunch or dinner, take a nap in the hammocks next to the duck pond. The country air alone will invigorate you for the return trip to city life.
Calypso is open Friday through Sunday from 12pm to 6pm (get there early for a table) and dinner Friday and Saturdays until 10pm. Calypso is in an hour outside of Santiago. You can take a colectivo from the Puente Alto metro station, or rent a car for the day.
Art: Pequena Gigante (last weekend in January)
From January 3rd through the 31st, Santiago has their theater arts festival featuring music, dance, and theater productions throughout the city, all at very reasonable prices.
The grand finale is a marionette show of gigantic proportions featuring a team of French puppeteers called Royal de Luxe and their two marionettes. The girl marionette, named La Pequena Gigante or The Little Giant, is over 20 feet tall and her uncle, is 35 feet tall. Thousands of people gather each day to watch the marionettes wander through downtown Santiago.
The marionettes walk, sit, blow bubbles, sleep, and even drink water, thanks to a few firemen. The puppeteers, dressed in long, red coats, pull the marionette strings (or, more accurately, ropes) by grabbing the ropes and jumping from the base of the crane which supports the marionettes. Their body weight moves the marionette. The last production brought more than 600,000 Chileans to watch in awe at the giants moving through their city.
One of the best ways to feel like a local is to take a dance class–after all, it’s a great way to practice Spanish without having to know a whole lot of vocabulary. And since you will have already done salsa at La Habana Vieja, try hip hop at Arte en Movimiento.
The studio offers a wide variety of hip hop classes from Girly Style and Hip Hop Dance to Popping and Street Style. Popping with J. Popp is a technically difficult class but teaches you how to trick the eye through movement. Hip Hop Dance with Power Peralta, a popular hip hop twin duo in Chile, is a great beginner class.
The studio is located in Barrio Bellavista at 172 Antonia Lopez de Bello on the 8th floor. Most of the hip hop classes are offered between 7pm and 9pm.
Curious about Chile? Check out the country’s hot spots, like the best coast towns and maybe even what NOT to do while visiting . Keep an eye on the Chile’s politics, from unique protests to its debates about natural resources.