Line one in Santiago has something for everyone. The crowded markets of Estacion Central to the restaurants and cobbled streets of Lastarria, quirky café’s and leafy streets of Providencia, the swish glass buildings and corporate businesses in Las Condes and the mansions nested into the foothills of the Andes in Los Dominicos. As an English teacher for 3 different companies, I make the journey from Republica to Los Domincos and everywhere in-between several times a day. I have even been nicknamed the ‘metro master’, a title I will proudly accept. I therefore feel somewhat qualified to give my opinions as to some of the most memorable stops along linea uno. Here are a few of my favourite haunts along the oldest and busiest metro line in Santiago.
In my opinion, this is one of the most beautiful areas in Santiago. Home to Barrio Lastarria, a European-esque street lined with al fresco restaurants, cafés and bars with cuisines and drinks from all round the world. An ideal place to wonder or people watch, this buzzy area is perfect for spending a day drifting from café to bar to restaurant to bar sampling sangria, pisco and asados (although maybe not an English teacher’s salary). Just past this gastronomic sphere is the market, in the shadow of beautiful white washed buildings covered in ivy. This relatively small and authentic market sells second hand books, jewelry and other crafts. The size of the market works in its favour, as it has kept its quaint and authentic feel without crossing over into the tacky and commercial side of knock off adidas trackies or genuinely fake ray bans.
A short walk away from Universidad Catolica is Santa Lucia. Despite the Lonely Planet dismissing Santiago as a city lacking a strong coffee culture (sadly not altogether untrue), Santa Lucia houses many café’s and lunch spots. However, the standout USP of Santa Lucia is the hill. Santa Lucia is like the younger and more ostentatious sibling to San Cristobel, the tallest hill and look-out-point in Santiago. Sure, the serious hikers and bikers would naturally opt for San Cristobel and it is a must for tourists- but Santa Lucia has more charm, tranquility and beauty, and the gardens, fountains and amber Spanish-styled buildings more than compensate for its lower platform. Particularly after a rainy day (few and far between in Santiago), the stone steps leading to the viewpoint offers incredible views of the city’s skyline against the backdrop of the Andes.
As a rural Southern Englander, when I first arrived in Santiago I was constantly in awe over the Andes visible from the city and would frequently stand and gawk like an idiot in the middle of the street, admiring their enormity and proximity. I have seen comparable mountains before in the Alps, but seeing them on your daily commute to work and against a bustling cosmopolitan city setting was a new one. Nowadays, they fade into the background somewhat as they have gradually evolved into a normal part of the landscape, but sometimes it is nice to climb the cerra Santa Lucia to see them up close and remind myself how magnificent they really are.
Down the road from Santa Lucia (a common area emerging here) is Baquedano, the gateway to Providencia. A fifteen- minute walk and you will find yourself in the leafy, wide avenues of Providencia surrounded by parks, vegan café’s and Scandinavian styled furniture shops. Providencia covers a pretty large space and deserves its own blog post, but one area of this zone easily accessible from Baquedano is Bellavista, just below the San Cristobel hill. In the daytime: a quirky and peaceful area, with brightly coloured houses, shops and restaurants with people spilling out onto the street enjoying a civilized lunch and glass of wine. At night …. The area is almost unrecognizable. I guess you could call it the strip of Santiago, with bars and clubs in every direction blaring out mostly regaton (the music you hate to love after a few drinks), and the word ‘civilised’ nowhere in sight. I personally enjoy a Bellavista night, but it definitely splits opinion. Maybe not everyone does love these misogynistic Latino beats- I can’t think why.
Anyway, Baqueadano is a good introduction to Providencia which is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque, charming and relaxed areas of the city (bar Bellavista at night). An afternoon can happily be spent meandering along the wide avenues, passing by tranquil café’s, markets, parks and beautiful houses. More on Providencia later.
Being an English teacher for private companies means travelling around the city, which at times can be a pain, but also allows me to see a many different areas of Santiago which I probably would not have discovered otherwise. One of these is Los Dominicos, located at the very end of line one. A residential area for some of Santiago’s wealthiest inhabitants, Los Domincos can perhaps be termed the Chilean version of Beverly Hills. Well maybe not quite, but there is a very Hollywood-y feel to the huge houses tucked away into the Andes, surrounded by lush perfectly manicured lawns and exotic palm trees. There is a huge gap between the rich and the poor in Chilean society, and this is extremely evident here: the rich are very rich. Modern and stylish large houses line the boulevards, most with huge windows, balcony’s and extravagant gardens. It never hurts to have a wonder and fantasize. If maybe a little depressing.
Almost at the other end of the spectrum is my own area, Barrio Republica, which would be rude to omit. To give some perspective; if Los Dominicos is comparable to Beverly Hills, Republica is Santiago’s equivalent of Hyde Park in Leeds. You get the picture. Located in the middle of several Universities, it is one of the largest student areas in the city, which naturally means that it is generally a bit shitter (for want of a better word) than most other areas. But although Republica does not have the attractiveness of the other areas mentioned above, I suppose it does have its own special charm and has come to feel like home. And that’s not to say it isn’t close to other beautiful parts of the city. A short walk away from Republica metro station is Barrio Yungay, a vibrant and colourful area with much street art, grand historic houses and restaurants. Barrio Yungay has a rather more bohemian and authentic feel to it than other areas further up linea uno, and this quirky and relaxing neighbourhood is one of my favourite places to spend an afternoon. Barrio Brasil, another lively street filled with numerous bars is also easily accessible from Republica. That is always an advantage of living in student areas; you are never too far from a reasonably priced beer.