Santiago's Specialized Streets

Imagine this: It's three days before the mid-semester dance recital and you, as the token foreigner, have just been placed in charge of finding "flecos" (specifically, yellow, medium-seized fringes) for the dance company as part of the costumes. Natural instinct would have you panicking, having no clue as to where to find something so specific in a large city like Santiago. Look no further.

 Photo by Mallory Bracken
Photo by Mallory Bracken

Now, if you were, for example, somebody who grew up in the suburbs in the United States, your immediate instinct might be to look for one of the many large retail stores that specializes in crafts. But ask a local Chilean, and you will likely get the answer, "Calle Rosas po'!"

Here is one of the most useful secrets of the capital of Chile: there are many streets that specialize in specific types of products. In some cases, this tradition dates back to as early as the 1950s, when the installation of small boutique stores was an attempt to preserve the intimacy and friendliness of family owned businesses in the midst of a city slowly filling with retail malls.

So for all your seemingly random needs, don't bother going to Costanera! Here is a guide to some of Santiago’s most popular streets that specialize in particular products:

For the crafty one:

 Photo by Mallory Bracken
Photo by Mallory Bracken

Head to these three streets for literally anything under the category of sewing/crafts. Products that can be found here include: buttons, threads of any color imaginable, ribbons, trimmings, materials needed to make stuffed animals or dolls, sewing machines, fabric, knitting needles, yarn, and so much more.

  • Sewing, arts and crafts – Calle Rosas
  • Nearest metro: Plaza de Armas

  • Textiles and fabrics – Calle Independencia
  • Nearest metro: Cal y Canto

  • Knitting supplies - 21 de Mayo
  • Nearest metro: Vicente Valdes

For the one who’s ready for a new wardrobe:

  • Shoes – Calle Victoria:
  • Shoe lovers, meet your new paradise in Santiago. This street is dedicated to a wide collection of footwear that is dedicated to the newest trends, needs, good prices and above all, quality. Many of the shops are also factories where artisanal shoemakers both make and sell the shoes at the same location, thus giving them more credibility and unbeatable prices. If you’re looking for any kind of dance shoes (Cueca, ballroom, tango, etc), you can find a wide selection here with various sizes. Aside from actual purchases, Calle Victoria also has local businesses, such as Color Shoes, that will repair, recolor, and clean even the most delicate materials.

    Nearest metro: Parque O’Higgins
    Between Calle Nataniel Cox y Calle Chiloé

    Note: Many of these stores only accept cash, so make sure you make a trip to the ATM beforehand.

     Photo by Mallory Bracken
    Photo by Mallory Bracken

  • Optical Stores – Mac Iver
  • So you’ve made your way to South America from the motherland and you’ve broken your glasses, or let’s be honest, you just want a new pair of funky frames to channel your inner Elton John. Either way, Calle Mac Iver has everything you need including repairs, frames, contact lenses, opticians and sunglasses.

    Nearest metro: Santa Lucia

  • Thrift Shopping - Calle Bandera
  • With more than 30 second-hand stores on this street, you're bound to find a gem underneath the piles of clothing and accessories, ranging from wedding gowns to purses. These stores are the perfect spot if you're traveling on a budget. Forgot your bulky ski outfit for the Andes or wetsuit for your surf lessons in Pichilemu? No worries. Many of the stores offer a wide variety of gently used sports clothing and gear at much lower prices than what you would find at the mall. Make sure to come with a lot of time on your hands, since sorting through all of the boxes and racks in the stores will take some patience.

    Nearest metro: Plaza de Armas
    Between Calle Catedral and Calle San Pablo

For the sporty one:

 Photo by Mallory Bracken
Photo by Mallory Bracken

  • Bicycles – Calle San Diego
  • There's no better way to truly become a hip santiguino than to join the increasingly popular bike scene. With a projected 48% increase in the number of bike lanes in Santiago within the next two years, you definitely don't want to miss out on the benefits of getting your own bike. Head out to Calle San Diego for all bike needs including purchasing second-hand bikes, assembling your own bike and purachasing accessories such as helmets.

    Nearest metro: Parque O’Higgins
    Between Santa Isabel and Copiapo


  • Car Replacements – 10 de Julio
  • Head over to Calle 10 de Julio for any autmobile needs including sales, specific replacement parts and mechanics.

    Nearest metro: Toesca

  • School Supplies – Enrique Meiggs
  • If you've got a little one in need of new notebooks, uniforms or books, make sure to check out this street during the beginning of the semester.

    Nearest metro: Estacion Central

  • Home Appliances - Calle Tenderini
  • This is the place to go for all of your domestic needs. Pots, pans, blender parts, laundry machines - Calle Tenderini has it all.

    Nearest metro: Santa Lucia
    Between Alameda and Moneda

Although it may be frustrating not knowing where to buy something at first, chances are, you will be able to find an entire street devoted to that product in Santiago. And checking out a specialized street, while it might mean going more out of your way, is well worth it. Not only are you supporting local businesses, but you also often end up saving a lot more money. The concentration of similar shops in one area allows you to compare prices quickly and easily, thus giving you the opportunity to pick the most bang for your buck (or peso is this case). Plus, since these streets are filled with store-owners that have decades of experience, you’re more likely to get the inside information about whatever product you’re looking for. It's a Santiago tradition you won't want to miss.

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