Most visitors to Santiago stop by its famous market, La Vega, for a taste of the exotic and some cheap lunch options. Those that linger longer browse Patronato in search of budget clothing or unusual ingredients in one of its many Asian food stores. The adventurous head over to the General Cemetery to soak up history that seems to press down beneath gigantic mausoleums and cramped casket towers.  Few people really explore this area and quickly dash elsewhere in Chile, despite this being a suburb that holds the history of Santiago in its palm.

Recoleta was originally the Wild West of Santiago, known as La Chimba. The Incas lived here (Avenida La Paz & Independencia was their ancient route north) and Mapuches too, and today there remains strong indigenous presence (particularly around metro Cerro Blanco). The Mapocho river was an imposing barrier between the Spanish colony of Santiago and La Chimba, but it eventually became a stronghold for religious institutions such as the Domincan order, and wine-making. As more bridges were built traversing the river, Recoleta became an attractive spot for immigrants, most notably from Palestine and Asia, but this has continued right through to the current day with communities from Peru, the Domincan Republic and Haiti.

Some people have emailed us asking to see the “real Santiago” after having spent most of their time in the modern city. Recoleta is a place that is gritty and real – there are no glittering high rises here – but this is a suburb that many Santiaguinos have called home for centuries. There is nowhere more “real” than Recoleta!

Some of the places you could uncover include:

  • Recoleta Dominica Heritage CentreParque Bicentenerio de la Infancia
  • La Vega, La Vega Chica and the Tirso Molina
  • The brightly painted bohemian sector known as Bellavista, famous for its street art, stores, great food and nightlife
  • General Cemetery
  • Catholic Cemetery
  • San Jose Hospital (now a museum)
  • Avenida Recoleta and the various historical buildings
  • Local street feria (market)
  • Parque Bicentenario de la Infancia, a spectacularly maintained park for adventurous children of all ages. There are toboggan slides, water fountains, tree houses and a furnicular train.

There are also excellent places to eat at excellent prices, from Palestinan to Syrian, Peruvian to Chilean.  We want to show you Recoleta because it is an important place, not only in Santiago’s history, but in its present. No trip to Santiago is complete without delving a little deeper into its secrets, and you will be supporting local businesses along the way!

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