Cities in miniature
Santiago’s mini-barrios: Concha y Toro, Paris-Londres, La Bolsa
Now nearing their centennials, these three tiny neighborhoods stand apart from the larger areas that surround them with distinctive architecture and atmosphere.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The old Santiago Stock Exchange in mini-barrio La Bolsa. (Photo: Turismo Chile)
Santiago is a city of neighborhoods, some characterized by raucous markets, others by crumbling turn-of-the-century mansions, and still others by soaring glass towers.
Within the city’s many neighborhoods, or barrios, are a handful of mini-barrios, miniature cityscapes that evoke the cobblestone lanes of Europe, or the concrete jungle of Manhattan’s Financial District.
Tucked away in hidden corners of Chile’s capital, these three neighborhoods were all constructed in the first three decades of the 20th century, and reflect the European aesthetic ideals and grand aspirations of the time.
Barrio Concha y Toro
Bounded to the south by Alameda, central Santiago’s largest avenue, to the north by Erasmo Escala, and on the east and west by Brasil and Cumming Avenues, Barrio Concha y Toro is hidden amongst the faded early 20th-century mansions of Barrio Brasil. The handful of cobbled lanes that make up this small neighborhood converge on a picturesque circle complete with a fountain and park benches where couples congregate on weekend afternoons.
Built in the first part of the 1920s, the houses that line the streets represent a variety of nostalgic styles designed by the most important Chilean architects of the day. The neighborhood takes its name from the venerable Concha y Toro family, now known internationally for their wine company, one of the world’s ten largest producers. Since 1989, the neighborhood has been protected as a national historical monument. Today, ambling down the streets of Barrio Concha y Toro is a quiet respite from the action on Alameda and around nearby Plaza Brazil.
To arrive, take Metro Line 1 (red) to República and walk north from Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins (still popularly known as Alameda). Alternatively, take Metro Line 5 (green) to Cumming or Brasil and walk south along the Avenues of the same names, which bound the neighborhood on the east and west.
Even more diminuitive than Barrio Concha y Toro, this neighborhood in central Santiago, just south of Alameda , holds just two streets: Paris and Londres. Designed to evoke their namesake cities, the two streets and their collection of attractive houses, are contemporary with Barrio Concha y Toro, though slightly less flamboyant in design. Near the Universidad de Chile and the five-star San Francisco Park Plaza Hotel, Paris-Londres is an elegant oasis of gently curved, cobbled streets and cherry trees.
Located near the 16th century San Francisco monastery, the oldest church in Chile, the neighborhood occupies land that was given up by the church in the early 20th century due to fiscal difficulties. European architects were then commissioned by city authorities to develop the pint-sized barrio, resulting in a pair of streets that look less like Latin America than like Paris’ Latin Quarter.
Perhaps the area’s most famous building, Londres 38, is a reminder of a less-lovely period in Santiago’s past. Used throughout the dictatorship as an illegal detention center, the house and the small plaques adorning the area in front of it now stand as a memorial to the men and women who suffered government oppression there. The majority of the houses here are residential, though an increasing number of small hotels are taking advantage of the area’s central location and appealingly calm atmosphere.
From the Universidad de Chile stop on Metro Line 1 (red), walk south from Alameda Serrano street. You can enter the neighborhood at the intersection with Pirs to the left. From the other direction, take Metro Line 1 to Santa Lucía, pass the San Francisco Church on Alameda and walk south on San Francisco street, then turn right at the intersection with Paris.
Among the orderly grid of downtown Santiago, the streets Nueva York, La Bolsa, and Club de la Unión cut at a distinctive angle between Moneda to the north, Alameda to the south, Bandera to the west, and the pedestrian street Paseo Ahumada to the east. Home to the Santiago stock exchange, which gives the area its name, the handful of narrow streets are lined by tall, staid buildings constructed between 1912 and 1930, lending them a precipitous, Gothamite atmosphere.
Designated a historic area in 1980, this mini-barrio is no longer the heart of Chile’s financial district, which has largely shifted to the eastern neighborhood of Las Condes, but it is perhaps the best architectural example of Chile’s grand economic and cultural aspirations in the early 20th century. Of the buildings in the area, the most iconic is undoubtedly the stock exchange building itself, which was designed by Emilio Jecquier, the Chilean architect who also designed Santiago landmarks like the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Mapocho Train Station, which now serves as a cultural center.
Just across Alameda from Barrio Paris-Londres, La Bolsa is most easily reached by Metro Line 1 (red) at Universidad de Chile. Enter the neighborhood on Nueva York where it intersects with the Alameda.