Yungay and Brasil — Community Plazas and Bohemian Nightlife
Yungay and Brasil are two neighborhoods to the west of Santiago Centro, famed for being two of the most traditional residential communities within the entire capital. Every time I’ve strolled across to spend a lazy afternoon in either neighborhood — the one sat directly beside the other — I’ve always returned home feeling refreshed and happy.
Barrio Brasil is the more upbeat of the two, and it has its very own website to prove it. Once the central hub for the upper class of the 19th century — evidence of such shining through its mixture of neo-gothic and neoclassical architecture — Barrio Brasil since the 1940s experienced a slow, withering decline, which began when the rich migrated to the east of the city. The neighborhood has, since that time, gradually developed into the bohemian part of town.
Its central plaza is one of the best open spaces in the city for an afternoon of lounging around on the grass, sharing a few snacks with friends, or getting stuck into a really good book. There’s never a dull moment in Plaza Brasil either. Lots of circus performers frequent the area because it’s a great place for them to improve their skills, while other people use the space to meditate, or practice yoga. Sometimes there are even a few groups dedicated to capoeira and tai chi. Musicians tend to hang out until the sun goes down, jamming along until they find that genius riff they’d been looking for.
Families bring their children to the plaza to play on the climbing frames and swings found in the center of the square. On the weekends, there’s sometimes the opportunity to swap your clothes or other items that you no longer use, for something that you think might come in handy. The “drop and swap” fair that hangs out in Plaza Brasil on Sundays is a great place to find cool bargains and get rid of stuff that’s just clogging up your storage space.
Barrio Brasil also tops Barrio Yungay in terms of nightlife. Avenida Brasil is lined with bars and restaurants that stay open until late and which serve a full range of alcoholic beverages to suit all tastes. There are the large bars like Baires — Avenida Brasil 255 — and Cosmopolitan — Avenida Brasil 268 — which offer lots of two-for-one deals at happy hour and discounts on drinks when you decide to order food at the same time.
These bars are great places to hang out in during the summer months, because they have lots of outside tables to position yourself at. I really enjoy sitting outside on Avenida Brasil at night, with a chilled beer in hand. The street itself is quite pretty, despite being a main road. I find the huge palm trees which line the middle of the street really relaxing. They almost convince me of being by the coast.
If you’re not someone who enjoys large bars with two-for-one offers, the steakhouse, Juan y Medio — Huérfanos 2076 — serves up an awesome meaty meal, and Café Paris — Huérfanos 2080 — is a lovely little spot, tucked away to the side of the plaza, which offers one of the widest coffee menus in the neighborhood.
Barrio Brasil is, by far, my first option when I want to laze about in the sunshine, sip on a coffee, or while the night away with friends, but nothing beats the beauty of the colonial architecture in Barrio Yungay.
The walls of Barrio Yungay are covered with some of Santiago’s most creative and more politically charged graffiti. Those buildings which aren’t covered in graffiti are just as fascinating — the colors are cool, soft, pastel colors, and most of the constructions are built just on one floor. Trees line the streets, buses rarely pass by, and there are a couple of traditional pastry shops around the edges of the plaza which serve some great empanadas if you happen to get hungry.
The best reason to visit Barrio Yungay is to want to leisurely walk around the streets, put things in perspective, and appreciate the silence which is hard to find in most areas of Santiago.
If on foot, start with the Cerro Santa Lucía behind you and walk up any of the vertical street — Agustinas, Moneda, Huérfanos, for example — until you meet with Avenida Brasil. Turn right onto Avenida Brasil and within a few minutes you’ll be walking by all the bars and the central plaza, which will be on your left. Barrio Yungay is situated directly next to Barrio Brasil, between the streets San Pablo, Alameda, Ricardo Cumming, and Matucana.The nearest metro stop for both neighborhoods is Cumming, on Línea 5.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas for possible long-term partnerships and/or creative projects.