For a quick foray into the city’s history, without visiting a single museum or church (unless you’d like to), try these three little neighborhoods that retain their stone facades, old style lamp posts, and even their cobblestoned streets, which keeps car traffic to a minimum.
This area, squeezed into a triangle by the Gabriela Mistral Center, Cerro Santa Lucia and Merced Street in hip Bellas Artes, is the most-visited of the three neighborhoods. Parts of it have recently been remodeled with a new plaza set up on the south side. Around the plaza are a few stores, including a bookstore, but the main draw is the bustling restaurants with outdoor seating, which do brisk business all week long. On the other (north) side of the neighborhood, there is a daytime antiques market near the MAVI museum. Check out the side streets for quieter bars, restaurants and cafés. This area, especially the side streets is often used for commercials and fashion photography.
Named for two of its main streets, Paris and Londres (Paris and London), this neighborhood is right across the Alameda from the busy downtown, and is accessed from behind the San Francisco church. This neighborhood is mainly visited during the day, as, due to its downtown location, most of the restaurants are open for lunch, though it does have a few mid-range hotels, as well as the more upscale Hotel Plaza San Francisco (across from the church of the same name, also at the entrance of the neighborhood). Its beautifully curved streets and well-maintained apartment buildings stand in contrast to the more hectic pedestrian streets of Estado and Ahumada, just on the other side of the Alameda, the city’s main thoroughfare.
Plaza Concha y Toro
This is the least well-known of the three areas, with most Santiaguinos being more familiar with the winery of the same name than this little plaza. There is no through-traffic, and the peaceful plaza has a central fountain surrounded by benches, where you can find people sitting and reading, waiting for friends or sketching at most times of the day. There is also a café that overlooks the whole plaza, and an upscale restaurant. On weekends there are sometimes crafts fairs and small, mainly folk music concerts. The narrow, cobblestoned streets give the impression that you’re in an old, European city, even as you’re just steps from Avenida Brasil, one of the main nightlife strips in the city.