Santiago was winning hearts all over the world last year: reviews in Lonely Planet, The New York Times, The Guardian, Der Spiegel and El País all raved about the culture and entertainment on offer in the Chilean capital in the 21st century.
Now it’s the turn of UK national newspaper The Independent, which published a travel piece on Sunday under the headline “Santiago: Poetry and Motion in the Chilean Capital.”
And while The Independent guides readers on a tour around some classic Santiago sights – Palacio de la Moneda, Plaza de Armas, Cerro San Cristóbal – it gives special mention to the human, political and artistic history that makes the city such an engrossing South American destination.
This conflicted history is on show at every turn. Take La Moneda, Chile’s presidential palace. “A fine, late 18th-century building, it was designed to house the national mint,” writes The Independent, but it was also “the site of socialist leader Salvador Allende’s (still-disputed) suicide in 1973, as he succumbed to General Pinochet’s military coup.” Just a few blocks away, in the National History Museum at Plaza de Armas, “President Allende’s broken spectacles are a stark symbol of the onset of dictatorship.”
The contrast between old and new and the effect of Chile’s rapid economic growth add color to the city. “Post-Pinochet Santiago is a capital that’s coming to terms with itself,” says The Independent.
“The modern is embraced in the growth of areas such as Vitacura, where Beverly Hills-style boulevards are lined with high-class boutiques. Yet, it is still protective of its past. This is evident in the regeneration of the central, historic barrios such as Lastarria.”
And Santiago is full of the Chilean artistic voices that, over the years, have reflected the country’s changes, traditions and spirit.
The Independent highlights Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, two leading national art galleries, where “the focus of the permanent collections is on homegrown talent.” Nearby, it points out “another local talent, Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda,” whose house, La Chascona, lies just north of the Mapocho River in the Bellavista neighborhood.
Santiago is at the geographical center of a long, thin country (“from north to south it stretches further than the distance from London to Baghdad”), which means almost every traveler will pass through at some point, says the Independent. But it’s much more than just a jumping-off point. This capital, “wedged between the Andes and the Chilean Coastal Range […] is well worth a stay.”