Feeling the buzz of Bellavista

Trendy, modern, and full of life — Bellavista has an unmistakable vibe. It might not be as bohemian as Buenos Aires’ San Telmo or Boedo neighborhoods, but there’s a fair splash of artistic graffiti adorning the walls of antique mansions-cum-hostels, and the artisanal market on Pío Nono and Santa María is jam-packed with original designs — some traditional, others quite funky.

Located neatly between Providencia and Recoleta, I emerged from Baquedano subway station, crossed the main road, and walked smack bang into the hype of Pío Nono — Bellavista’s central avenue. There were people walking in all directions and chatting freely in a range of languages. It didn’t take me long to realize that I’d stumbled across Santiago’s vivacious hub for the young, hip, and single.

The cable-car ride up Cerro San Cristóbal was a real highlight. I arrived to the Pío Nono entrance and soared my way up almost to the very top in just a few minutes. The look-out point, where the Virgin Mary looms over, is awesome, the gardens and forests are pretty, and the zoo seems to be popular — home to lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

If you’re not a fan of cable-cars, there are other ways to climb Cerro San Cristóbal. You can drive, cycle, or even run. The hill was packed with healthy-looking, energetic people when I visited, and the ascent is nothing short of challenging — 880 meters above sea level.

I soon found out that Bellavista is a pretty good place to eat. Top quality restaurants keep punters happy along Constitución — particularly between Dardignac and Antonia López de Bello. Loreto, the street which separates Bellavista from the Patronato neighborhood, is characterized by 19th century antique mansions, housing some of the best restaurants in the local area.

But I wasn’t looking for a sit down meal. I wanted fast food. A cheap snack that would fill me up, and probably do very little for my figure. Patio Bellavista didn’t let me down. There were burgers, fries, fresh fruit juices, cakes, ice-creams, the lot. In the end, I went for a couple of chocolate and banana crepes from Cool Crepes and continued exploring.

Casa “La Chascona” was one of three properties owned by the late Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. Built in 1953, La Chascona is the only one in Santiago. Entrance costs $5.000 pesos — $1.500 pesos for the retired and students — and it’s closed on Mondays. I’m not a huge fan of Neruda’s work — dare I say it! — but the house is very pretty, the exhibitions were interesting, and I enjoyed looking at the artefacts that he must have used on a daily basis.

I had a couple of hours to spare and so went for a wander down Antonia López de Bello and around the residential parts of the neighborhood. I stumbled over a cute, backstreet Korean restaurant, a row of stores specializing in jeans at knockdown prices — just $4.000 pesos a pair — and a whole host of workshops imparting courses in art, music, and theater. I also jotted down the details of a few clubs which offer classes in yoga, pilates, and zumba.

It’s good to know that Bellavista comes up trumps when the sun goes down too. I had the pleasure of seeing Gustavo Cordera (an Argentinian musician) live in Club Chocolate that evening for about $17.000 pesos — not bad — and I highly recommend the venue. It’s not so small that I was uncomfortable, but it’s definitely what you would call an intimate spot. You can reserve a table or, do what I did, and jump around with the best of them in front of the stage all night long. 

About the Author:
Tracey Chandler is press and publicity manager for The Santiago Times and has worked as a freelance writer in Latin America since 2009. Originally from London, she left the UK in 2008 and has lived in Venezuela, Argentina, and Chile. She has written for over 15 different blogs/online magazines on subjects relating to Latin American travel and lifestyle. Contact her directly via tracey@santiagotimes.cl with ideas for possible long-term partnerships and/or creative projects.