The best places to live in Santiago
Santiago is a big city with a massive range of neighbourhoods and suburbs, some of which are more popular with expats than others. What works for some expats won't work for others, and it largely depends on an expat's budget, lifestyle and priorities. Some foreigners prefer family-friendly suburbs with quiet parks and plenty of green space, while others opt for a bohemian vibe or somewhere with a lively nightlife.
Communes and suburbs in the southern areas of Greater Santiago, including Puente Alto and San Bernardo, and western areas, such as Pudahuel, are well-served by public transport. The more affluent areas often favoured by expats are towards the northern and northeastern parts of the city.
Much like any large world-class city, Santiago has it all. Here is a snapshot guide of expat-friendly areas and suburbs in the Chilean capital.
Family-friendly areas in Santiago
Lo Barnechea District
Located in the east of Santiago, this district is divided into three main areas: El Arrayán, Los Trapenses and La Dehesa. Characterised by luxury houses and mansions, beautiful green areas and private security, this residential space is considered the most exclusive in the city.
Here, expats will find silence, tranquillity and low pollution levels. Accessible hiking trails around Cerro del Medio Park give relief from Santiago’s developed city lifestyle. There are also shopping malls, social clubs, a golf club and international schools in the area, perfect for families with kids.
Las Condes District
Las Condes is a wealthy district bordering Lo Barnechea. This area is a hub for commercial activity, and many expats work and enjoy drinks in cocktail bars in this area, aptly referred to as ‘Sanhattan’. Comprised of modern and spacious apartments and luxury offices, Las Condes includes one of the largest shopping centres in the country and some verdant parks, specifically Parque Arauco and Parque Araucano, that create a pleasant ambience. Expats will certainly not be short of things to see and do in Las Condes.
Las Condes District is home to many lavish neighbourhoods. San Damian and San Carlos de Apoquindo are the most exclusive residential areas of Las Condes, and expats may find it easier to get around by car. From this neighbourhood, the Andes mountains and ski resorts are a stone's throw away.
Vitacura, a family-oriented district with international schools close by, is reputed for offering its residents an exceptional quality of life in Chile. It's divided into residential areas such as Santa María de Manquehue, Lo Curro and Jardín del Este.
Santa María de Manquehue and Lo Curro are both beautiful and luxurious. Embassies often choose to place their representatives in the area, and as such, property can be costly. Each house tends to be completely different from the next. They all present plenty of space to exercise, and each boasts unique architecture. A car is needed to live in these areas, as distances to the city centre and the other regions are considerable.
Jardín del Este is an area favoured by local Chilean families, with both old and new houses and apartments. The area has choice boutique stores, fabulous restaurants and the popular Club de Polo y Equitación San Cristóbal. Public transport is accessible, and it is easy to get around by buses and taxis.
City-living in Santiago
Being in Santiago’s city centre, Bellas Artes is full of life, with the National Museum of Fine Arts within walking distance. Expats will find cosy coffee shops, restaurants, bars and many local designer boutiques and handicraft stores. Expats choosing accommodation in Santiago should note that this is a cosmopolitan area with great architecture, but it's noisy during weekdays because of the surrounding offices and street traffic.
An artistic district at heart, Lastarria is home to many theatres, art galleries and restaurants and is characterised by French Neo-Classical architecture. Nearby is Cerro Santa Lucía, a leafy park and hill perfect for exercise or just a simple escape from daily stress. Like Bellas Artes, this area is noisy during the daytime.
Areas for young expats in Santiago
A cosmopolitan and popular neighbourhood, Orrego Luco in Providencia is just as packed with stores, bars and restaurants as it is with traffic. Although the area is bustling during the day, expats who live here can still find some peace inside their own homes. Providencia attracts plenty of young expats from around the world, giving the area a unique atmosphere. If expats are looking for entertainment, the Teatro Oriente with its classical feel is recommended.
Although Salvador and Manuel Montt are quieter residential areas of Providencia, they are still busy during rush hours. Expats will find beautiful parks and small squares throughout. As a predominantly residential area, there are fewer stores, bars or restaurants than one would find in other neighbourhoods in Santiago. Public transport is easily accessed in these areas, both by bus and metro.
For a more chilled and relaxed atmosphere, Ñuñoa’s neighbourhood is one to look at. Football fans can watch matches at the Estadio Nacional Julio Martínez Prádanos, while those looking for Italian and Peruvian restaurants don’t have to look far.
The bohemian neighbourhood of Bellavista in Recoleta is packed with restaurants, bars, dance clubs, theatres and art galleries. It is a lively area in which to live, ideal for the young and adventurous expat. Its bohemian vibe flows through Pío Nono, where the local market sells lapis lazuli craftwork. At the end of Bellavista Street are the city zoo and the entrance to Cerro San Cristóbal, a hill that offers magnificent views of the city. Cerro San Cristóbal also boasts cable-car rides and is an ideal spot for running, biking, picnicking and more.
La Reina and Peñalolen
These areas are well-known for their image as low-population-density residential areas with plenty of parks and green spaces, and expats can find several ecological communities, mainly in Peñalolén. Both areas have middle-income inhabitants, and for those who want calm in their lives and can't afford to live in Lo Barnechea, this could be a suitable option.
Areas to avoid in Santiago
While Santiago boasts many attractive and expat-friendly neighbourhoods, certain areas might be less suitable for living, especially for foreigners unfamiliar with the city.
Some areas that are generally advised against for expats and newcomers include parts of the downtown area (El Centro), particularly at night due to higher crime rates and a lack of residential amenities. Parts of the communes of La Pintana, Lo Espejo, and El Bosque in the southern region of Greater Santiago are also known for their higher crime rates and may not offer the standard of living expats are accustomed to.
It's always recommended to visit any potential living area in person and during different times of the day to get a true feel for the neighbourhood. Consulting with other expats and using local resources can also provide valuable insights into the best areas to live in Santiago.
What areas and suburbs in Santiago do expats recommend?
"The Vitacura/Las Condes area is referred to as 'Sanhattan'. The buildings are modern with climate control, there is a Starbucks on almost every block, and it is the most expensive part of Santiago to live and eat in." Read Jenny's thoughts on different areas of Santiago.
"Most expats tend to gravitate towards Las Condes, Lo Barnechea and El Golf." Read more about typical expat areas in Nina's interview.
►Accommodation in Santiago gives more details on how to find and secure housing in the city
►Getting Around in Santiago provides an overview of local transport options
Photo credits: Diego Marín; Caroline Pasarin; Luis Alfonso Orellana. All sourced from Unsplash.
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