Most visitors to Santiago stop by its famous market, La Vega, for a taste of the exotic and some cheap lunch options. Those that linger longer browse Patronato in search of budget clothing or unusual ingredients in one of its many Asian food stores. The adventurous head over to the General Cemetery to soak up history that seems to press down beneath gigantic mausoleums and cramped casket towers. Few people really explore this area and quickly dash elsewhere in Chile, despite this being a suburb that holds the history of Santiago in its palm.
Recoleta was originally the Wild West of Santiago, known as La Chimba. The Incas lived here (Avenida La Paz & Independencia was their ancient route north) and Mapuches too, and today there remains strong indigenous presence. The Mapocho river was an imposing barrier between the Spanish colony of Santiago and La Chimba, but it eventually became a stronghold for religious institutions such as the Domincan order, and wine-making. As more bridges were built traversing the river, Recoleta became an attractive spot for immigrants, most notably from Palestine and Asia, but this has continued right through to the current day with communities from Peru, the Domincan Republic and Haiti.
Some people have emailed me after reading my blog asking to see this “real Santiago” after having spent their time in the modern city. This is a place that is gritty and real – there are no glittering high rises here – but this is a suburb that many Santiaguinos have called home for centuries. There is nowhere more “real” than Recoleta!
Our transport and tour company, Miles & Smiles Santiago, are just getting established but one of the first places we wanted to show people was Recoleta. There is a lot more here than originally meets the eye and a heck of a lot of beauty too. Our tours go at your own pace, in a private vehicle seating up to four passengers, and costs 25,000 pesos per tour (so if four of you book it’s cheap as chips!). Luis leads each trip and not only is he qualified and fluent in English and Spanish, but he’s a history buff from Recoleta!!
Here are some of the places you will uncover:
- Recoleta Dominica Heritage Centre
- Parque Bicentenerio de la Infancia
- Tirso Molina and La Vega Secrets
- Bellavista and Patronato
- General Cemetery
- San Jose Hospital (now a museum)
- Avenida Recoleta
- Avenida Peru
- Local street market
There are also excellent places to eat at excellent prices, from Palestinan to Syrian, Peruvian to Chilean, and we will point out the best.
We want to show you Recoleta because it is an important place, not only in Santiago’s history, but in it’s present. No trip to Santiago is complete without delving a little deeper into it’s secrets, and you will be supporting local businesses along the way!