When the New York Times declared Santiago among the world’s hippest cities at the end of 2011, they probably had the city’s buzzing nightlife, music and art scene in mind.
But beneath the chic modern face of the Chilean capital, many charming aspects of the city remain off the tourist map.
One of Santiago’s unknown wonders is hidden away among the bohemian inner-city neighborhood of Barrio Brasil, in a vast warehouse that is one of only two buildings in Santiago – the other being Estación Mapocho – to be designed by famed French architect Gustave Eiffel.
Eiffel, as you may have guessed, was also the man behind the construction of the famous tower in Paris.
The warehouse in question began its life as a terminal and garage for the city’s train and tram network over one hundred years ago and, while it may seem a little on the dilapidated side at first glance, this is a building that’s withstood more than its share of geological activity… and besides, it’s all part of the atmosphere.
Today, the building is no longer home to heavy machinery, but has become a repository of the city’s history, as told through a world of antiques and oddities that stretch literally from floor to ceiling.
It’s called the Centro Comercial Balmaceda-Brasil: Antiguedades Parque Los Reyes, a collective of around 227 individual vendors, some specialists, others specializing in just about anything.
Curios from around the world have found their way into these little stores, from retro to ancient to downright strange: clocks, chandeliers, antiquated weaponry, books, religious relics and clothes are haphazardly displayed among lush plants and played upon by beams of light that shine through cracks in the building’s vaulted ceiling.
And while the place is a favourite haunt of the local characters, students and musicians that give the neighborhood its flavor, it is still off the tourist radar.
Centro Comercial Balmaceda-Brasil: Antiguedades Parque Los Reyes is located on Avenida Brasil 1157. It is open from 10:30 am until 7:00 pm daily, except Sunday, when it closes at 6:00 pm.