Shopping in Santiago
Chile is one of the few places in the world where lapis lazuli, a brilliant blue mineral, is found in abundance. In Bellavista, a cluster of shops deals solely in lapis lazuli, selling a range of products made from this semiprecious stone, such as paperweights, jewelry, and chess sets. Several larger shops selling lapis lazuli are dotted around the rest of the city.
Vitacura is, without a doubt, the destination for upscale shopping. Lined with designer boutiques where you'll find SUVs double-parked out front, Avenida Alonso de Córdova is Santiago's equivalent of Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles. "Drive" is the important word here, as nobody strolls from place to place. Although buzzing with activity, the streets are strangely empty. Here you'll see names like Emporio Armani, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès. Other shops are found on nearby avenidas Vitacura and Nueva Costanera.
In Santiago, the shopping malls are so enormous that they have become attractions in their own right. Some even provide free transportation from the major hotels.
A cluster of bookstores can be found along Avenida Providencia in what is known as the Galería El Patio, a courtyard lined with shops.
Galleries are scattered around the city, and admission is usually free. The newspaper El Mercurio lists current exhibitions in its Saturday supplement Vivienda y Decoración.
Providencia, another of the city's most popular shopping districts, has rows of smaller, less luxurious boutiques. Avenida Providencia slices through the neighborhood, branching off for several blocks into the parallel Avenida 11 de Septiembre. The shops continue east to Avenida El Bosque Norte, after which Avenida Providencia changes its name to Avenida Apoquindo and the neighborhood becomes Las Condes.
Bohemian Bellavista attracts those in search of the perfect woolen sweater or the right piece of lapis lazuli jewelry. Santiago Centro is much more down to earth while the Mercado Central just to the north in Parque Forestal is where anything fishy is sold, and nearby markets like Vega Chica and Vega Central sell just about every item imaginable.
Shops in Santiago are generally open weekdays 10-7 and Saturday 10-2. Malls are usually open daily 10-10.
Bellavista, which is full of small galleries and where restaurants often put on exhibitions, is the place to scout the work of young artists—but it is Vitacura that is the heart of the more consolidated gallery scene.
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