Chile comes out from the cold - Sarah Marshall clues up on culture in the capital city Santiago
Experimental restaurants, a sophisticated arts scene and a general, all-round nod to eccentricity make Chile’s mountain-fringed capital one of the most intriguing cities in South America.
Small enough to discover in a long weekend, Santiago is made up of several easily navigable neighbourhoods, all radiating their own special character.
Considered a cultural heartland, the leafy Lastarria district offers pleasant pavement cafes and distinctive boutique hotels, many housed in the few colonial-style buildings spared by a succession of devastating earthquakes.
Influenced by neoclassical French architecture, the grand Singular Santiago is one of the most spacious and atmospheric hotels in the city. Sip coffee in an elegantly cluttered lounge supervised by waiters attired in smart waistcoats, or zip right up to the 21st century at the hip rooftop cocktail bar.
Many museums and historical buildings can be found in the 16th century Plaza de Armas, the city’s main square, where old men furrow brows over games of chess beneath the shadow of the ornate 18th century Metropolitan Cathedral.
But a more offbeat attraction is La Chascona (meaning ‘wild mane of hair’), the house built in the mid-Fifties by Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda for his lover Matilde, who had striking curly red locks. Like the man himself, the property is wonderfully eccentric: a secret doorway links the dining area and bedroom, allowing the host to surprise guests or disappear for a quick nap; and decorations include an enormous pair of men’s brogues, once used by a shoe shop to advertise their wares to the illiterate.
The poet, along with his friend, social activist and singer Violeta Parra, has also posthumously inspired a dinner/dance show not far from his house in the same Barrio Bellavista district. De Pablo a Violeta skips, hops and strums through the cultural history of Chile, exploring dance, music, food and wine from different regions. Stick around afterwards to enjoy a limitless bar, as folklore bands do their best to lift the roof on one of the area’s typical 100-year-old houses.
* Doubles at the Singular Santiago cost from £198 per night with breakfast.
* Get Your Guide offer tickets to De Pablo a Violeta with hotel pick-up and drop-off from £68pp
Travel in brief
Wake up in Eiffel Tower pop-up apartment
Wake up in one of the world’s most iconic locations by staying at a pop-up apartment in the Eiffel Tower. Opening on June 10, the first day of the UEFA EURO 2016 games in France, the temporary property is being let by HomeAway, official fan accommodation providers of the tournament. For a chance to kip in the tower, travellers should apply at homeaway.com/Eiffel-tower, telling organisers how they’d spend a night in the space. Four winners, each bringing five guests, will have the chance to stay on dates in June and July.
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