Smart Cities: Santiago, Chile

Architectural innovation, an active arts scene, and eco-friendly transportation are bringing new energy to the Chilean capital.

Chile’s capital city is rising to its dramatic setting next to the Andes. And beneath these majestic mountains, Santiago’s rincones (nooks) now delight locals and visitors alike.

A steady economy has fostered developments such as downtown’s Paseo Bandera, a colorful pedestrian zone showcasing themes of community, sustainability, and heritage, and the government is offering incentives to nurture a “Chilecon Valley.”

On top of that—or, rather, beneath it—Santiago’s Metro system, one of the largest in South America, serves barrios once dependent on diesel buses. Car restrictions in city center minimize traffic jams, and cyclists ply a growing network of paths.

“The old image of Santiago as a somewhat grey, dull city has given way to a very different one that is also enriched by the steady stream of immigrants,” says Ambassador Jorge Heine of his hometown. And travelers are saying, “Vámonos!”


When Anthony Bourdain came to town, he made a beeline for sandwich shops such as Barrio Borgoño’s Fuente Alemana. Traditional fare also stars at grilled beef specialist Las Vacas Gordas and seafood classic Ostras Azócar, which has oysters sent directly from Chiloé Island. Casual wine bar Bocanáriz serves up small plates grouped by flavor (salty, citrusy, sweet) to pair with vino from lesser-known bodegas, while next-door neighbor Chipe Libre offers Chile’s largest selection of piscos. Helmed by innovative chef Kurt Schmidt, hot spot 99 draws foodies for dishes like “fungal textures.”


In a newly renovated downtown mansion at the foot of Cerro Santa Lucia park, Hotel Magnolia won UNESCO’s Prix Versailles 2017 award for its inventive architectural remix. Nearby, the chic Lastarria neighborhood hosts two recent additions—the stylishly rehabbed Lastarria Boutique Hotel and the family-owned Singular Santiago, featuring a classic-meets-contemporary design and a magnificent rooftop terrace that looks toward the promontory of Cerro San Cristóbal. For amazing views, though, nothing beats the rooftop bar and pool at the sleek W Santiago.


The easterly high-rises of “Sanhattan” mimic the skyscraping Andes. For 360-degree panoramas, take the Sky Costanera elevators to the Torre Costanera’s observation deck, perched more than 60 stories up. At street level (and below), catch exhibitions or shows at the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral (once HQ for the Pinochet dictatorship) and the Centro Cultural Palacio la Moneda, beneath a reflecting pool next to the presidential palace. You can take public transportation to Viña Santa Carolina and Viña Cousiño Macul, wineries within city limits, for tours and tastings.


Brimming with crafts, the adobe-walled shops of Pueblito de los Dominicos sit alongside a 19th-century church at the east end of Metro’s line No. 1. Here find Artesanías de Chile, which has several locations around town, and look for elaborately carved wooden stirrups of the huasos, Chile’s counterpart to the Argentine gaucho. For art, antiques, and fashion, check out Barrio Italia. Travel agency Upscape partners with arts advocacy nonprofit Antenna to offer custom studio visits for shoppers interested in Chilean works.