Everything you need to know about Chile’s capital in 10 icons

A group of architects, designers, and artists lists the top ten places, people, and things that define the city, and we join the fun with our own list of icons. 

A group of ten architects, designers, and artists recently got together to make a list of ten iconic places, people, and objects that capture the soul of Chile’s capital.

But in a city as vibrant and eclectic as Santiago, any list of symbols is bound to generate controversy, and plenty of much-loved sites are bound to be left out.

So in the second of this two part series, we’ve come up with our own list of ten symbols of Santiago to throw into the mix.

1. Chess players, Plaza de Armas
At the beating heart of Santiago lies Plaza de Armas, a bustling square surrounded by some of the most graceful colonial era buildings in the capital and home to every category of its inhabitants, from circus performers to bankers, tarot readers to clergymen. It’s also home to the Club de Ajedrez Plaza de Armas, an island of tranquility amid the sea of commuters – that is until a group of particularly boisterous chess players comes along. . .

2. Estatua de la Virgen MaríaThis statue of the Virgin Mary sits high above the city atop Cerro San Crístobal. At night she is illuminated, taking on an angelic quality that can be seen from just about anywhere in Santiago.

3. La Vega Central
La Vega is an institution among Santiaguinos, a huge, rambling market, filled with the cheapest produce in town brought in fresh everyday from the surrounding countryside. It is a must-see from December to February, when strawberries, cherries, peaches, and other summer fruits are in season, and a great place year-round for a cheap, traditional meal and to see everyday Chileans in action.

4. Musicians in the Micro
Catching a bus is always a different experience in Santiago thanks to the many musicians that busk inside the moving vehicle. Not only talented musicians, their ability to keep their feet in Santiago’s stop and start traffic is remarkable.

5. Terremoto in La Piojera
The terremoto is an iconic Chilean cocktail, and La Piojera is the place to try one. Just a warning though, don’t expect refined dining at La Piojera.

6. Cine Arte Normandie
An icon of bygone era in Santiago, going to see a movie at Cine Arte Normandie is like entering the world of a black-and-white film. Amid this modern metropolis, it is truly a one-of-a-kind establishment.

7. Mercado Central
For seafood so fresh it’s still squirming, head to Mercado Central, not only packed with classic seafood restaurants and stalls, but housed in an elegant cast-iron building.

8. Bella Vista nightlife
At the feet of Cerro San Cristobál, Barrio Bella Vista is the center of Santiago’s nightlife, a leafy district of bars, outdoor dining, galleries, and street art.

9. Street art of Barrio Yungay and Brasil
The neighboring barrios of Yungay and Brasil are the epicenter of the bohemian and student scenes of Santiago, and amid the slightly run-down mansions of another era you’ll find some of the best street art in Santiago. Definitely worth exploring.

10. Parque Forestal and Parque Balmaceda
Parque Forestal and Parque Balmaceda form an unbroken stretch of parkland that runs along the banks of the Mapocho for the length of downtown Santiago. It’s a great place to go on a sunny weekend, when thousands of locals head to the park to play sport, read, or just hang out.

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