A Taste of Old Santiago in Barrio Yungay

The tranquil streets of Barrio Yungay show a side of Santiago that often goes unseen as a hushed beauty takes over from the hustle and bustle of the city.

by Miranda Stolfo
by Miranda Stolfo

It happens to the best of us. Whether you are visiting Santiago and trying to hit all the hotspots in the shortest time possible, or a real life Santiaguino caught up in your daily routine, it often seems out of the question to commit your precious time and energy to exploring the quieter, out-of-the-way corners of the city. Barrio Yungay, situated just outside of Santiago Center, gives an excuse to get away. The neighborhood stretches from the Alameda north to Rosas, between Matucama to the west and Cumming to the east. This rectangle of the city doesn’t boast sleek, modern office buildings or alpine views, but it is full of history and, when you look closely, new life.

Barrio Yungay by Lauren Martinez
Barrio Yungay by Lauren Martinez

The calm, unassuming atmosphere of this old residential neighborhood seems more characteristic of a small provincial town than a centrally-located area of a capital city. Whole blocks lie hidden behind flat stretches of wall like in a typical South American village and the old-fashioned carts and cobbled streets help further set the scene. The only reminders of modern life come when passing open doorways or windows and catching a glimpse of a living room not so different from one's own or overhearing snippets of familiar Chilean slang spilling out into the streets.

The Pasajes Patrimoniales, (Patrimonial Alleys) which wind their way through the straight-laced grid of Barrios Yungay and Brasil, add an almost fantastical element to the historic charm of the area. With their European-influenced architecture and old-world stoicism, the passages feel more like Prague or Paris than Santiago.

La Peluquería Francesa by Lauren Martinez
La Peluquería Francesa by Lauren Martinez

Speaking of Paris, Barrio Yungay is also home to the Peluquería Francesa, or the French Barbershop. This establishment has been in the same location since 1925, and the same neighborhood since the 1800s. The old-school feeling of the décor and the barbers themselves offer a window into the history of the neighborhood.

Just next door to the Peluqueria, the restaurant of the same name but also known as Boulevard Levaud entices diners with mouthwatering aromas and eye-grabbing knick-knacks. The walls have been covered in art and antiques, with everything from sewing tables and record players to dust pans and obscure musical instruments. Main dishes range from CL$5,500 to $10,500 (US$11.80 to $22.55). And everything on the walls can be taken home, for a price of course.

El Antiguo Almacén by Lauren Martinez
El Antiguo Almacén by Lauren Martinez

The man responsible for resuscitating the Peluqueria Francesa and the surrounding blocks, Cristian Levaud, seems to be starting a new empire. His other projects, located on the same block, are the Antiguo Almacén, an old-fashioned grocery with gourmet and organic items, and Los Coleccionistas, a fascinating little antiques shop. However, Levaud doesn’t seem particularly interested in empires. One quiet afternoon in the antiques shop he and his architect, Andres Valenzuela, spoke about bringing life and movement back into the neighborhood but maintaining its historical qualities. Rather than gentrification, they see restoration and awareness as the goal.

A few blocks away at a little hole in the wall restaurant called Chancho Seis, different traditions and narratives take the stage. The interior, whilst certainly a bit retro, probably wouldn’t appear in a design magazine and no prices tags are in sight. Signs instruct customers to order at the counter. But history and awareness certainly abound.

by Gonzalo Morales Leiva
by Gonzalo Morales Leiva

In this dim, smoky establishment, topics of art, history, and politics bounce across and between the wooden tables. If offers a meeting place for friends and strangers and often hosts periodic Poetry Readings. More like a Chilean home than a restaurant, Chancho Seis has a friendly environment conducive to good conversation over a few drinks. Charquicán, a typical Chilean dish originally made with ground horse meat which these days is substituted with beef, costs CL$2,500.

Barrio Yungay on the whole feels more like home than much of Santiago. Its quiet, small-town feel has a nostalgic air, reminding us of how Santiago used to be. But its true charm lies in the co-existence of old and new. Here perhaps more than anywhere else in the city, the presence of modern life resonates all the more for its historic backdrop.

Barrio Yungay
Access by Metro: Line 1 to República, line 5 to Cumming or Quinta Normal

Peluqueria Francesa
Barrio Yungay
Compania de Jesus 2789 at Libertad
682 5243
Restaurant hours:
Monday to Thursday: 9 pm to 1 am
Friday and Saturday: 9 pm to 3 am
Sunday: 11 am to 5 pm
www.boulevardlavaud.cl

Chancho Seis
Barrio Yungay
Huérfanos 3025 between Maipú and Herrera
681 4447
Monday to Saturday, 12 pm to 12 am

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