Discovering Romanticism in Chile’s Bohemian Cities

Poets, murals, and boutique hotels hint at Chile’s artistic soul

Discovering Romanticism in Chile's Bohemian Cities

Michaela trimble

While on a recent trip to Chile, Santiago and Valparaíso were two of my final stops. I had always dreamed of walking the same roads that Pablo Neruda once walked, and I wanted to see the murals of the local street art scene in Valparaíso. When I finally got my chance to visit the two cities, I was able to explore the cities’ bohemian souls. Here are a few ways that you can, too.

1. Stay in Santiago’s Lastarria Neighborhood

My first stop in Santiago brought me to my hotel, The Singular Santiago, in the Lastarria neighborhood which is known as the city’s bohemian haven. The Singular’s rooftop has a perfect view of the area—it’s a great spot to grab an evening cocktail and watch the sun set over the Andes mountain range. The neighborhood is lively, with many shops and restaurants. A friend and I visited Bocanariz, a wine bar and restaurant known for its Chilean wine tastings.

2. Navigate the markets of La Vega Central

La Vega Central is the intersection of many vibrant nuances of life in Santiago. The bustling, chaotic market is full of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats beautifully displayed in the aisles. Vendors yell out over rows of ripe pineapples and freshly picked carrots, each offering a better price than their competitors. Rows and rows of eggs are at shoppers’ disposal and weighing stations are constantly full of locals measuring out the precise pounds of their purchases. My favorite moment in the market happened while I was passing a tomato stand. The vendor had a few rotten pieces in her load, and started playing a game of trashcan basketball to throw them out. I joined in and hurled a tomato through the air. Thankfully, I made the goal.

3. Visit La Chascona, the Santiago home of Pablo Neruda

Anticipating my trip to Santiago was, in essence, anticipating my visit to Nobel-prize winning poet Pablo Neruda’s home, La Chascona. In true poet form, he built the home to honor his love for his second wife, Matilde Urrutia. The ironwork in the windows display a P and M woven together and paintings of Matilde decorate the house, with the most famous being by Mexican artist Diego Rivera. La Chascona doesn’t directly translate to English but is meant to represent the famous tangled, wild hair of Matilde. The home is reminiscent of the Gatsby era, where you can’t help but imagine the parties and scholarly conversations that took place in the artistic compound.

4. Sip the Vino at Matetic Winery

A short drive from Santiago along Route 68 will deliver you to Chile’s Casablanca Valley, where some of the country’s finest wines are produced. I met up with my friend and local expert Christian Ramke, owner and founder of Pionero Travel Chile, to explore the valley and visit his favorite winery in the region, Matetic Vineyards. Matetic is known as Chile’s largest organic and biodynamic winery, and takes precious care to put the environment first in the production of their award-winning blends. The vineyard is known for many of its wines, but my favorite was the Matetic EQ Syrah 2010 which Wine Spectator awarded a score of 90.

5. Discover Valparaíso’s Street Art

Walking up the steep, winding streets of Valparaíso offers a glimpse into bohemian life in Chile’s UNESCO port city. Art is everywhere, and the city is alive and thriving with a pulse of creation. I met up with a local street artist named Al Ramirez, owner and founder of Valpo Street Art, who took me through the city and gave me a lesson on how the art form took shape in the city. The Valparaíso street art movement dates back to the 1960s, when Pablo Neruda encouraged the locals to campaign for government reform by expressing themselves artistically as opposed to putting up political posters. Murals began to dot the city’s walls, and are still used today as a form of implicit messaging.

6. Relax Poolside at Casa Higueras

At the end of a long day exploring Valparaíso, I can think of no better gift from the city than a gorgeous sunset view of the port. Casa Higueras was the first boutique hotel in the city, and offers the best view in all of Valparaíso. The hotel’s infinity pool is nestled into the hill, and colorful, cascading staircases of homes can be viewed from the other side.

>> Next: Street Art Activism in San Juan

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