If disco makes you think John Travolta and leather fringe, prepare to broaden your definition: in Chile, the disco is the club that will keep you dancing all night long.
Learn how to party like a Chilean and don’t hit the clubs until the wee hours of the morning, when the places fill up and the real show begins. And if you’re staying in a hostel, make sure you have established the “lock-out” hour with the owner to avoid any unpleasant surprises after your night on the town.
Below, This Is Chile looks at the club scene in five of Chile’s biggest cities, plus a bonus look at one little city that packs a lot of party, thanks to its bohemian roots and notable student presence.
A whole new side of Chile’s cosmopolitan capital comes to light once the sun goes down. The university students, young professionals and international tourists make Santiago’s club scene a rapidly evolving and always interesting blend.
Barrio Bellavista is a classic nightlife hub, including gay-friendly dance clubs, a reggae club or two, and plenty of places to drink a cheap beer. Barrio Brasil is popular with Chilean university students and a certain bohemian-intellectual crowd, while downtown Santiago hosts a selection of discos with crossover appeal. If you want to party among the young and beautiful, head to Providencia, Las Condes or even up to Vitacura, where the cover charges may be as much as double the cost but where you’ll find a good variety of DJs and dance moves.
2. Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
The sister cities by the sea make up the second largest population center in Chile, and while Valparaíso proudly identifies itself as the grungier of the two, the distinction isn’t so marked at night. Both cities offer a rockstar variety of nightclub options, characterized by a generally young clientele and lots of live music.
Nightclubs abound in Valparaíso near the hills Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre. What look like abandoned buildings by day become trendy, multi-story dance halls by night; just look for the long lines of university-age kids and you won’t miss them. You can also find a selection of clubs in the shadow of the hill Cerro La Carcel, on Subida Ecuador. In Viña del Mar, head to downtown’s Plaza Sucre for some of the best of the city’s plethora of nightclubs, which may be a hair classier than what you’ll find in Valpo.
Settled on the River Bío Bío and filled to brimming with university students, Concepción is one of Chile’s most important cities, with a wealth of nightlife options priced to fall within a student budget.
Head to Barrio Estación along Avenida Prat, across from the old train station, where you’ll find everything you need for an evening in the bohemian city: restaurants and bars for a good dinner and mellow conversation while you wait for the nearby discos to heat up, plenty of popular dance clubs where you can dance the night away, and a hotel to call home the next morning.
4. La Serena
Even though the pretty seaside city has plenty of university students during the school year, La Serena defies being pigeon-holed as a college town because it really starts to heat up during the summer vacation months, when Chileans and international tourists flock to its sandy beaches.
Accordingly, the best time to enjoy La Serena nightlife is during the summer months of December to March. A string of nightclubs extends along the seafront, reaching past the lighthouse and all the way up to Barrio Inglés in the nearby city of Coquimbo. You won’t find many hostels in the neighborhood, however, so plan on taking a cab back to the city center at the end of the night.
The best clubs and discos in the city are clumped in the Bajo Molles neighborhood, where you can find a variety of music and levels of intimacy. Plan on paying for a taxi at the end of the night, though, as there aren’t many lodging options nearby and it’s not easily-accessible by public transportation.
Bonus City: Valdivia
Technically a little city, your party options in Valdivia easily surpass what you can expect to find in the much bigger, much quieter metropolises of Rancagua or Osorno, thanks to its vibrant student population. Plus, Valdivia gets a special nod for being the home of some fine microbreweries.
One upside to Valdivia’s size is that your entertainment options and lodging options are all within walking distance. Bundle up, and take the opportunity to stroll the streets of the river city, which light up with life during the night. Whether you’re looking for a good jazz club, an all-night rock-and-roll fest, or a warehouse blasting reggaeton, you will probably find it in Validiva. But seriously, bundle up.