Santiago is not an obvious city. The variety of people, places and sights contained within the Chilean capital is astounding. From the skyscrapers of “Sanhattan”, the New York(ish) look-a-like business district; to Patronato where locals, South American and Asian immigrants have set up street markets and small shops. There is a lot to be explored in this urban centre at the South of the World.
Santiago de Chile is divided into Comunas and, within those, distinct neighborhoods or barrios. These barrios represent the many faces that inhabit the city, Chilean and foreign. Visiting them you can start getting acquainted with life in the city. Picturesque, colorful and full of character, the barrios of Santiago de Chile are a wonder for travelers and photographers.
Let me take you around on a photo-walk around 3 of my favorite barrios in Santiago de Chile:
This is the most touristy neighborhood in Santiago, but it is so for a reason. This is where the former home of the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda sits and the artistic vibes are felt all over the place. The form of expression that stands out the most around here would have to be graffiti. Chilean street artists are often commissioned by home and business owners to decorate their building’s facades and the results range from eye-catching to truly impressive.
If natural views are what you are into instead, then a funicular ride up the touristic Cerro San Cristobal will present you with an almost 360 degree view over Santiago. This is a favorite spot for sunset photography. If you are keen on taking home a souvenir from Chile clicked by yourself, make sure you go up San Cristobal on a clear day. The city is (in)famous for the smog during the winter months. So a day after it rains would be ideal for visibility and beautiful photographic results. If the day is indeed clear, this is the best place you’ll find in town to take panoramic shots. If you plan to stick around as it becomes dark and the city lights come on, the use of a tripod like these would be best. Keeping your camera locked in a given position will ensure your images are not shaken up and they capture all the beauty your own eyes will see atop this viewpoint.
Barrios Brazil & Yungay
The neighborhoods of Brazil and Yungay are often excluded from the touristic path, but they shouldn’t! Head to Plaza Brazil to grab a drink in a down-to-earth atmosphere in the evening. But come earlier and take a stroll observing how people live around here. Known as an immigrants area, this is exactly where you’ll find some of the best comfort food, the greatest outdoor family atmosphere and groups of young people hanging out in the public parks.
Still, the single greatest thing about these neighbourhoods is, once again, the street art. Chile has some of the most impressive graffiti I have come across around the world, but it is unfortunately not as known as it deserves in the international scene. Around the neighborhoods of Brazil and Yungay, some of the best examples of this type of art are to be found and photographed.
When photographing graffiti, you don’t need to get too creative, as you are already in front of a finished piece of art. The wider the frame the better. Sometimes, it adds to the photo to give a bit of surrounding background too, for the sake of context.
Back to tourist land! European influenced, bohemian, posh with a historical twist… this is what Barrio Lastarria is all about. The streets make you feel like you could be strolling around France. The gelato in hand (even during Winter) will remind you of Italy. But the volume of people hanging out in outdoor cafes and laughing out loud will reassure you that you’re still in Latin America!
It doesn’t matter where you go during the day, Lastarria is a pleasant place to end the day, sipping a glass of Chilean wine and feasting on Patagonian BBQ.
The barrios of Chile are full of personality. And the best way to get to know them and their people is to walk a lot. Ideally, with a camera in hand!
Zara is a Portuguese blogger who quit her job in Dubai in 2011 to travel around the world with her now husband Ashray, from India. They’re the team behind Backpack ME, a travel site that aims to share tips and ideas with people all over the place, inspiring them to go travel, no matter where they come from!