The Recoleta district of Santiago is home to what I think are some of the most interesting parts of the city. I got a good glimpse into daily life in Santiago by walking through this area.
I started by walking through Barrio Patronato. This is a commercial area with lots of shops and it’s also very cosmopolitan. Here, you can find specialty stores with imported goods being snatched up by the city’s Korean, Chinese, Peruvian, Palestinian, Lebanese, and Syrian communities. There are also lots of stores with things like clothes, kitchenware, and household items. This is where I will be coming often to eat Middle Eastern food.
Next I visited La Vega Central, the main market in Santiago where you can find everything, and at very low prices. The most interesting part for me was the fruit and vegetable market. It was colorful and loud and made me very hungry. There are lots of bargains to be found, but it’s best to shop around before making a final decision – not all of the stalls have the freshest goods.
Barrio Patronato and La Vega are both easily reached by taking the metro to Patronato. You exit at Recoleta, a wide boulevard. On one side is La Vega and a church, Recoleta Franciscana, and on the other side is Barrio Patronato.
The only points of interest I found north of La Vega were the Iglesia de la Recoleta Dominica (a large church) and Colegio Padres Dominicos (a historic school). They’re located about 15 minutes walk from the market or just one metro stop. It’s not really worth going out of your way for.
There are lots of crimes of opportunity here. Watch your bags, especially at La Vega. Nothing happened to me, but I was told by locals that it wasn’t a good idea to take my camera there.