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Santiago is a big city with a huge range of neighbourhoods and suburbs, some of which are more popular with expats than others. What works for some expats won't for others, and it largely depends on an expat's budget, lifestyles and priorities. Some foreigners prefer family-friendly suburbs with quiet parks and plenty of green space, and others opt for a bohemian vibe or a youthful and lively nightlife.
Communes and suburbs in 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 and surrounded by parks, great shopping malls, gyms, restaurants and coffee shops. 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’. Expats are not short of things to see and do in Las Condes.
Comprised of modern and spacious apartments as well as luxury offices, Las Condes includes one of the largest shopping centres in the country and some excellent parks, specifically Parque Arauco and Parque Araucano, that create a pleasant ambience.
San Damian and San Carlos de Apoquindo
These 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.
This space is far quieter than the other Santiago districts and claims a completely different style of coffee shops, bars and restaurants serving international cuisine, and there are always performances and exhibits to watch at the Municipal Theatre and the Museo Interactivo. It should be noted that it is also definitively more expensive, but most expats consider it worth the higher price. The closest metro stations to this residential area are El Golf and Alcántara.
Vitacura, a family-oriented district with international schools close by, is reputed for offering its residents an excellent quality of life in Chile. It is divided into residential areas such as Santa María de Manquehue, Lo Curro and Jardín del Este.
Santa María de Manquehue and Lo Curro
These areas are both beautiful and luxurious. Embassies often choose to place their representatives in the area, and as such property can be quite expensive. Each house tends to be completely different from the next, and they all present plenty of space to exercise and each boasts unique architecture. A car is needed to live in this area, as distances to the city centre and other areas are great.
Jardín del Este
This is an area favoured by local Chilean families, with both old and new houses and apartments. The area has great boutique stores, amazing restaurants and the popular Club de Polo y Equitación San Cristóbal. Public transport is accessible, and it is easy to get around with 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 is 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 then 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. For the football fans, matches can be watched 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 a great spot for running, biking, picnicking and more.
La Reina and Peñalolen
These areas are famous 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 Peñalolen. Both areas have middle-income inhabitants, and for those who want calm in their life and can't afford to live in Lo Barnechea, this could be a suitable option.
►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
"The Vitacura/Las Condes area is referred to Sanhattan for a reason. 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.
Photo credits: Diego Marín; Caroline Pasarin; Luis Alfonso Orellana. All sourced from Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Santiago?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Santiago. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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