Why San Antonio is My Favorite Street in Santiago

 San Antonio, the Everyman's street. All photos by Kevin Dorney.
San Antonio, the Everyman's street. All photos by Kevin Dorney.

After living here for six months, it’s become pretty clear that Santiago is another one of those crazy cities that is organized into "districts." I began to realize this soon after moving into my first apartment in Concha Y Toro near Metro Republica, aka Auto Part City. Now, after living in El Centro for several months, I’ve come to adore San Antonio, which I like to think of as the street with A Little Bit of Everything.

In other parts of the city, you might have to commute from place to place to run all your errands. Looking for trendy new clothes on the cheap? Patronato. Knitting and crochet supplies? Surrounding Mercado Central, oddly enough. Or you can spend your whole afternoon, comfortably, on this one street. It’s conveniently located running vertically between Metro Santa Lucia and Puente Cal Y Canto, and offers easy access to Lastarria, Bellas Artes, and Plaza de Armas.

Amidst the myriad of opticas there are banks, pharmacies, copy shops, and phone stores. There are souvenir stores hawking striped genie pants and fanny packs (bananos). There are shops packed with home repair items, art supplies, and trinkets for less than a dollar. There are cosmetic shops, lingerie shops, and tunnel-like entrances to a half dozen secret galerias. There is a Mapuche medicine shop and even a smoke shop.

If there’s something missing from your wardrobe, that’s covered too. Paris, one of the higher quality department stores, can be found at the corner of San Antonio and Alameda. There are shoe stores for both men and women. There are two Nostalgics, which are less picked over than the ones on Bandera Street and somewhat cheaper than the ones in Providencia. I was able to exchange a pair of shoes at one of these locations without having a receipt- a rare instance of fantastic customer service here in Santiago.

I also learned quickly that if you’re going to eat out, then do it during the lunch hour. There are three Peruvian restaurants on one block between Monjitas and Santo Domingo; while I was unimpressed by Los Tesoros del Inca, the unassuming Restaurant El Super Gordo (#522) across the way made up for it. A liter sized Fan-Schop and an even bigger bowl of Peruvian chicken soup can be had here for about 3500 pesos. A block or two away, there is an Ecuadorian restaurant called Marimba (#376) that offers great lunch deals and an impressive array of juices. If you just want to take a break the uniquely Chilean way- with a cup of coffee and a nice, classy pair of legs- then there is both Cafe Haiti and Caffe Caribe.

If culture a bit more high-brow is what you’re after then check out the impressively affordable events at Teatro Municipal de Santiago, situated on the corner of Augustinas. The southern end of San Antonio dead ends at Alameda, where you’ll gaze up at the giant red facade of Iglesia San Francisco, the oldest building in Santiago. The 16th century church houses the colonial museum, which is open every day except Saturday and is only 1000 pesos for entry ($500 CLP with student ID). While the abundance of statues and paintings depicting bloody martyrs may not be for everyone, the old wooden beams and lush courtyard complete with ancient Araucaria are enough to make the stop worthwhile.

If the sun’s going down, you can catch a film at Cine Hoyts, where I highly recommend asking for a mix of salty and sweet popcorn (super rico). Perhaps before and/or after, grab a beer at La Picá de Clinton (#148) just for novelty’s sake; apparently the ho-hum fuente was originally called San Remo until one day in ‘98 the parched Prez himself spontaneously stopped in to have a Coke, and now the glass bottle (complete with pucker mark) is on display.

Sure, it’s not the prettiest street - in fact at times it can look pretty bleak. There is dirt. There are dogs. Somewhat ironically, north of the intersection at Monjitas (meaning “nuns”) you’ll find women barely pretending to peruse wares who are actually there to be perused themselves. Yes, late at night, the buddy system is recommended. There are bums, drunks, punks, pimps, and transvestites. But there’s hustle, bustle, and a genuine cross section of urban life here that reminds me of my hometown of Oakland, California. Perhaps the slight grittiness strikes me as authentic. It’s more diverse, and certainly less sterile, than comunas further east. Like its inhabitants, San Antonio’s got a lot of character with plenty to offer.

To get there:
-Take the Miraflores exit out of the Santa Lucia metro station and walk two blocks west, or 3 blocks west from metro Bellas Artes.
-Walk two blocks east from either metro Plaza de Armas or Cal Y Canto.

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