Santiago is getting seriously crowded. It’s not just the Canadian in me speaking—“Oh, my God, two or more people are walking in the street, must run away to a safe, empty place!”—, Chile’s capital has been experiencing a massive population boom in recent years. All around Latin America, the word got around that the economy is doing okay, no political coup can be foreseen, and the weather is nice.
Old one- or two-storey buildings are being torn down, the new typical Santiago apartment is on the 20th floor of a tall tower. More high-rise apartment buildings are under construction everywhere in the city. I almost feel like I’m in China in the early 2000s, when a new storey was added to skyscrapers every night.
But Santiago doesn’t feel stuffy and overpopulated yet. There are still plenty of quiet neighbourhoods with small almacenes and empty streets. When I don’t feel like being stuck in a crowd, I have options—the parks (including San Cristóbal Hill), Providencia (a posh suburb), Quinta Normal or Barrio Brasil.
I like Barrio Brasil best because it’s just minutes from Plaza de Armas, and it’s both relaxing and artsy. Once home to wealthy families, it was seriously neglected for years. Art nouveau, neo-Gothic, Haussman and neoclassical-Spanish buildings are falling apart, but they do it with style and the result is a fascinating barrio full of colours, churches, plazas and stunning murals.