Bursting with cultural attractions, creative chefs, an all-night club scene and a glorious wine country nearby, the Chilean capital has become one of South America’s hottest cities
Author Justin Goldman Photography Yadid Levy
Chile has always felt a little cut off. It’s boxed in on all sides, by the rugged Andes to the east, more than 2,500 miles of Pacific coast to the west, the turbulent Drake Passage to the south and the searing Atacama Desert to the north. The dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, meanwhile, formed a political barrier through the 1970s and ’80s.
Even in the 25 years since democracy returned to Chile, its capital city has remained isolated by history and geography. Most travelers have tended to view Santiago as a stopover on the way to the stunning landscapes of Patagonia or the Atacama, the wine valleys to the north and south, the Andean ski slopes or the charmingly disheveled coastal city of Valparaíso. But this city of more than 6 million people has lately claimed its place among the cosmopolitan capitals of South America. It’s home to a growing number of wildly inventive chefs, museums and cultural centers that bristle with creative talent, and a bouncing nightlife scene, with bars and clubs that stay open until sunrise.
The city is also one of the safest and most hospitable in South America. The parks are filled with lovers, the sidewalks swell with students, buskers dash into intersections to entertain at red lights. Even the stray dogs seem friendly. Santiago has turned the page on history, and now it’s writing a chapter in which it becomes one of the shining metropolises of the New World.