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
DAY TWO | Having pried yourself from your kingsize bed, you head for the Aubrey’s breakfast buffet table, which is dominated by a towering calla lily centerpiece. The waitress, a Somali immigrant named Rachel, frowns at your humble bowl of yogurt. “You must have some eggs,” she says,“with bacon!” You assent to the eggs, which come laced with ham and cheese, accompanied by thick-sliced bacon. You top it off with a trip back to the buffet for a fluffy berry tart. Rachel is pleased the next time she glances at your table.
Fueled up, you head out, negotiating a sidewalk packed with food carts and vendors hawking jewelry. Crossing the Mapocho River, you find an intersection jammed with young people carrying placards. It appears you’ve wandered into a student protest. You stand and watch, intrigued but slightly unnerved, given Chile’s history of being, um, less than tolerant of civil disobedience. But the police calmly usher the marchers through and get traffic moving again, and you continue toward leafy Parque Forestal.
At the far end of the park, you encounter the Beaux-Arts masterpiece Palacio de Bellas Artes, which houses both the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. You opt for the former and are rewarded with an exhibit of ethereal black-and-white portraits by Chilean photographer Luis Poirot, their subject a woman in a variety of strange poses and levels of dress (and undress).
From here, you wander through Barrio Bellas Artes to hilly Cerro Santa Lucía, one of the city’s nicest parks. On the other side, you cross Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins—the city’s main thoroughfare—to Fuente Alemana, Chile’s most famous sandwich shop. You shoulder your way to a seat at the counter and order a lomito completo con palta, with roast pork, tomato sauce, sauerkraut and heaps of mayonnaise and avocado—palta—which Chileans adore. The sandwich is a behemoth. You stare at it, trying to figure out how to pick it up, but are spared embarrassment when you notice that everyone else is eating with a knife and fork. Even properly armed, you’re not sure how you’ll get the whole thing down. Somehow, you manage.
With 800,000 calories to burn off, you head back to the park and ascend Cerro Santa Lucía, which was used as a lookout by conquistadors as far back as the 16th century. At the top, you find a 19th-century fort, which has cannons on the battlement and a narrow, slippery staircase leading to a watchtower. You scan the skyline for invading armies, but the only legions you spot are the young Chilean couples lying arm in arm on the grassy hillside below.
Back at street level, you stroll through Barrio Lastarria, a pleasant neighborhood of upscale shops and restaurants. After a little browsing, you take a table outside wine bar Bocanáriz (literally, “mouth-nose”) and scan the list of 362 wines, nearly all Chilean, before ordering a flight of reds from various regions. As you sip the vino tinto, a delivery driver pulls up to the curb. “Where’s the white?” he says, gesturing at your table. “Try a chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley.” Everyone’s a sommelier.
On the way back to Bellavista, you come across Emporio La Rosa, which has a sign in its window proclaiming it one of the 25 best ice cream shops in the world. You grab a cup of dulce de leche and continue back through Parque Forestal, across the Mapocho and through Patio Bellavista, a posh courtyard of shops, restaurants and bars. You bypass them for Peumayen, a new restaurant that’s dedicated to exploring the roots of Chilean cuisine.
The menu here is a bit of a mystery. Your waiter, Sandy, recommends you get an appetizer sampler and an entrée called pulmay. The starters come on long stone plates, first a diverse bread course and then seven meats, including hake with seaweed, horsemeat tartare and lamb tongue with green chile. The pulmay is a stew from the Chiloé Archipelago that is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves and buried with hot coals. You dig through layers of shellfish, chicken and sausage to find a baby-back rib hiding in the depths of the salty broth. Those ancients knew how to eat.
Bellavista, with its rows of bars, is also home to some of the best nightlife in Santiago. You opt for one called Bar Constitución, a long, fashionably dark, warehouse-like space packed with stylish people nodding their heads to a pounding bass line. You order a golden ale from Chilean microbrewery Guayacán and, incongruously, watch an episode of MTV’s “Daria” on a wall-mounted TV. By the time you leave, the streets are filled with late-night crowds, young people laughing and chattering their way toward sunrise.