By Ellie Greenwell for ContactChile
Santiago is the place to do it. Whatever you’re looking for, Santiago most likely has an area dedicated to exactly that kind of item. But living in such a big city and with little prior knowledge of your neighborhood, it can be hard to know where to catch the best bargains, or which areas will give you the most choice. But don’t panic! We’re here to help. Simply read on and let us give you a run-down on where to find all your Santiago essentials, from food, to clothes, to gifts and beyond. Just don’t blame us when you check your bank account…
Almacenes are your classic Chilean corner store. They’re a great place to pick up some essentials, snacks, a palta or two and maybe an afternoon empanada. You’ll likely get familiar with the almacén closest to you, and become fiercely loyal to them when someone tries to tell you their corner store is superior. I don’t think so, friend! Try not to do all your grocery shopping here, however, as almacenes can often be pricier than your average market or supermarket.
One of the most amazing things about living in Santiago is your access to some incredible fresh produce. Your standard supermarkets such as Lider and Unimarc are fine for your store-cupboard supplies, and the supermarket giant Jumbo is good for finding some of those products you miss from back home. But to really make the most of Chilean produce, head away from the supermarkets and into the city’s many outdoor markets.
For the best array of fresh fruit, veggies, and pretty much anything else you can think of, you have to head to La Vega. One of Santiago’s biggest markets right in the heart of the city, La Vega is a bustling frenzy of action and the best place to find cheap, fresh produce.
Go prepared for a big haul – it’s often wise to take a small trolley or big backpack so you can stock up, plus some produce bags if you have them. Bartering is not standard in Chile, plus these prices are as low as you’ll find anywhere – so enjoy and fill your boots!
After you’re done with your shop, stop to try an amazing Venezuelan empanada or sit down for a cheap menu del dia at one of La Vega’s many lunch places.
La Vega can be an overwhelming experience, so if you fancy a more chill veggie run (or maybe you had one too many piscolas last night…), head across the road to La Vega’s little sister market Tirso Del Molina.
Here you can still find a bunch of cheap fruit and veg – plus, the second floor has a ton of yummy Chilean and Peruvian-style eateries to reward yourself after your shop!
La Vega Italia plus other smaller markets are dotted around the city for a quick veggie run, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled for your local feria!
Clothes can be a little pricey in Chile compared to your country back home, but there are plenty of places to find some bargains and a ton of choice when it comes to clothes shopping.
Mall Costanera Center is your go-to for all the brands and names you see back home – H&M, Zara, Topshop/Topman…plus it’s right off Metro Line 1 at Tobalaba, so will often be your most convenient place for some retail therapy. Parque Arauco is another glossy mall full of the biggest Chilean department stores and extranjero imports (as well as a huge movie theatre!).
The mall at Estación Central, Arauco Estación, is great to wander through, especially if you’re looking for some shoe bargains or need to stock up on some cheap gym clothing. And speaking of bargain-hunting – Corona, Tricot and Fashion’s Park are all stores to look out for for seriously cheap clothing (men and women).
If you’re into thrifting, Calle Bandera is the place to be. Countless second-hand, vintage and thrift stores line the street, which is also worth a visit for its beautiful painted artwork that covers the roads and is popular among selfie-takers everywhere. Take your time and wander down the full street while you search for some great clothes at a very reasonable price (and do your bit for the planet!).
Hot tip: head there early-ish on a Saturday, as many stores close during the afternoon – and pretty much everywhere will be closed on a Sunday.
Gifts and souvenirs
It’s pretty much inevitable that at some point during your stay in Chile, you’ll be thinking about what cool gifts and trinkets you can take home to your friends and family when you return. Here’s a rundown of some col gift spots:
Tienda Nacional (Merced 369) has a whole host of Chilean-inspired gifts that are perfect to take home to friends and family. Whether it’s a keychain with Chilean modismos (slang) on them, a mug featuring famous Chilean phrases (Tranquilein, John Wayne!) or some Chilean art, music or literature, this store is perfect for some authentic, quirky trinkets to take back home.
Barrio Italia is a popular hotspot when shopping for gifts. Head there on a Saturday and take a long stroll through all of the little galerias off the main streets of Italia and Condell to find handcrafted Chilean gifts such as woodwork, leather, jewellery and artisan manjar or spices.
Feria Santa Lucia is your place for a whole world of cheap and fun little trinkets, and is cool to walk around – although don’t be surprised if some of the things you buy actually come from China!
BONUS SHOPPING TIP:
Santiago has a really fun quirk of often clustering the same types of stores around one street. While this might mean that things aren’t very spread out, it also means that usually there is a clear answer when you’re trying to find something specific. Here’s a starter list of some streets and what they’re known to sell:
San Diego – used books and bikes
Mac-Iver – opticians and glasses
Independencia – fabric/curtains
Rosas – sewing supplies and costume/fancy dress/party things
21 de Mayo – knitting supplies
Antonia Lopez de Bello – Chinese/Korean ingredients
Bandera – second-hand clothes
Do you know other cool areas or places to shop in Santiago? Let us know in teh comments!