Barrios of Santiago

Walking around Santiago's many interesting barrios (neighborhoods) is the best way to experience the capital city of Chile. The historic neighborhoods of Barrio Brasil and Barrio Yungay have an abundance of vibrant street art, leafy gardens, unique restaurants and funky cafes that can almost seem a bit overwhelming. Add to that unique museums such as Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory & Human Rights) opened in 2010, which is an architectural masterpiece in its own right.

Toss that map aside and wander the streets with your camera while photographing funky street art. Then take a break over lunch at Peluqueria Francesca, a French barbershop that sits in an elegant corner building dating from 1868 with an adjoining restaurant serving French and Chilean cuisine and decorated with antiques that are all available for purchase (that is if you can fit that turn-of-the-century birdcage in your luggage). Before you go out exploring again, grab a free map that details the many sights of the barrio and make your way to Parque Quinta Normal, a leafy park where locals gather to enjoy their afternoons. Then head back to the tiny barrio of Concha y Toro for a drink at Bistro Tales overlooking a quiet cobblestoned central square surrounded by art deco and beaux arts mansions. For a unique dining experience, get a table at Restaurant El Huaso Enrique where you can enjoy a parillada and a terremoto (literally "earthquake" in English, a drink made with sweet fermented wine with ice-cream) before hitting the dance floor for a quick round of cueca brava, a folkloric dance that is experiencing a comeback in Santiago.

For the art lover in you, a top choice is the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Art) and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo that boast an eclectic collection of Chilean art and are both housed in a stately neoclassical building. In contrast, the super-contemporary Centro Gabriela Mistral (GAM) Arts Center matches its striking architectural presence with equally cutting edge exhibits and film screenings. While in that neighborhood, try Peruvian ceviche (Chile's "other" cuisine) at Tambo or stroll the many street side cafes and restaurants in this hip Barrio Lastarria.