I have always loved street art and while Valparaiso is world renown for its amazing, slightly overwhelmingly large collection of street art, in my opinion Santiago is not too far behind. Despite not having the sheer size and scale of murals as found in Valparaiso, the street art scene in Santiago is equally as colorful and fascinating. If you adore street art, it is definitely worth your time exploring the Barrios Bellavista, Brasil and Yungay. Since our time was limited, we picked the trendy Barrio Bellavista for our first flavor of Chilean street art. We were not the least bit disappointed.
We began our stroll from our wonderful hotel, the CasaSur Charming Hotel in the Barrio Italia -an up and coming tree-lined neighborhood loaded with delightful restaurants, boutiques and shops- and followed the Parque Bustamante towards the Plaza Italia and the Rio Mapocho, the main river that meanders through the heart of Santiago.
It was a typical hot, summery day in Santiago and the city was alive with the bustle of people and students going to and from class at one of the country’s top universities in Bellavista. As we crossed the bridge at Pio Nonio, I couldn’t help but notice that even the walls surrounding the river were painted in graffiti. It was a sign of what was to come. I also wondered why the water was so brown in color and was soon to learn that it was due to all the sediment coming from the melting glaciers that feed and nourish the entire Maipo Valley surrounding Santiago with water and life.
As we crossed the river, I saw that the bridge was covered in locks. Curious, I asked our hotel what it meant and they said that the locks are placed on the bridge by couples to represent unbreakable love. The couples write their initials on the locks and then throw the key into the river to symbolize everlasting love. I found it quite interesting.
After we crossed the river, we were finally in the infamous Barrio Bellavista, a bohemian neighborhood known for its artists and intellectuals as well as dining and late night partying given its numerous bars and discos all smooched together within the narrow streets between the river the the Cerro San Cristobal. Bellavista is also home to “La Chascona“, the historic home of Chilean Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda, which is now a museum open to the public. We didn’t have time to visit but did see his other house in Valparaiso which is definitely worth a visit.
While the nights are known for its wild carrete (nightlife), the quiet, calm afternoons in Bellavista are perfect for exploring its colorful streets and snapping photos. I felt ridiculously giddy at my luck at having such brilliant sunshine and not a soul in sight as we wandered the charming streets. I instantly noticed that the colors felt like they were bursting off the walls and sides of the buildings. They were so incredibly vibrant and bright.
Within just an area of three or four blocks, I spotted an immense variety of street art ranging from comic-bookish, to large walls of graffiti and cartoons, and finally to more powerful works of art. All of it was brilliant and made me wonder what the message is behind each work of art. I secretly want to name each piece.
I loved how the sun caught this side of the buildings and made the gold colors shimmer in the light. Apparently some of the street art was painted by professional artists while others were done by amateurs. The sheer level of creativity blew me away. I felt like I was walking in one giant outdoor work of art.
I also adored the bright colors and themes featuring people. These murals were painted on the outside of restaurants and clubs. It is hard for me to pick a favorite.
Last but not least, I included a collection of colorful murals I found along walls, sides of buildings and painted over garages and storefronts. There seems to be not a single space wasted and unpainted into a work of art. What an incredible way to beautify a city!
After an hour of shooting street art, I could tell that my dad was becoming a bit impatient with me and it was time to head back to our airy Barrio Italia for a glass of red Chilean wine. All in all, it was a successful first day in Chile. I was already smitten and little did I know my love of the art, culture and ethereal beauty of Chile had only just begun. I still had the mountains, the vineyards and the epic Valparaiso waiting ahead.
If you go:
Barrio Bellavista is easy to navigate all by yourself. I’d highly recommend staying at the delightful CasaSur Charming Hotel in Barrio Italia. It is rated number 1 on TripAdvisor and only has six rooms but is a fantastic place to stay and explore all that Santiago has to offer, and is only about a fifteen minute stroll to Bellavista.
Terry and I were just reading about the street art in the various Santiago neighborhoods last night, as I was putting together our itinerary. Thanks so much for this post. I can’t wait to see the street art in Santiago and Valparaiso.
Yes it is amazing! I loved it so much! 🙂
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Thanks Iris! I checked out your blog and it looks wonderful!
Nice street art.
Inspirational public art!
Thanks Sally! It was fun to see!
I’m a big street art fan too and love to find it in new cities. Such vibrant colours too. The padlocked bridge appears to have gone global. The act became well known in Europe due to a bridge in Paris becoming so ‘locked’ it suffered damage due to the immense weight of all the padlocks.
Thanks so much! Yes street art is pretty amazing and fun. It sure beats looking at run down buildings. I heard about the locks on bridges but didn’t hear about the one in Paris. I wonder if when people break up they get a lock cutter to try to remove the locks! 🙂
Beautiful post, and yes, the quality of the work is outstanding…. it’s great to experience the ‘day tour’ of an area that’s known for the nightlife.. to see it when the actors are resting yet the backdrop is in place.. reminded me of natalie merchant’s song:
Thanks for a great assortment of eye candy for the weekend! now about that wine…….
Thanks Lisa! It was fun. I just love all the bright colors. It is incredible to see. Yes I love Natalie Merchant too. She is one of my favorites.
Amazing, always love reading your posts. No wonder am great fan and follower of you. You do amazing work as well
Thanks for the nice compliment! 🙂 I really appreciate it!
This street art is terrific! Oaxaca also has some extremely talented artists who have painted wonderful murals on various city walls. Last year, the city fathers in their infinite wisdom, decided that this art didn’t belong on certain walls, and painted over them. Now, of course, the walls are just covered with ugly graffiti. What a loss.
Your comment about the glacier silt making the rivers brown was interesting – in Alaska the glacier silt (it is called glacier flour there) turns the rivers and lakes a turquoise blue.
Thanks Marilyn! I have never been to Oaxaca so would love to check it out some day. As for the rivers, I see what you means. Perhaps I misunderstood my guide but he did say the rivers were clean yet carried lots of dirt in them from up above. I thought the brown color meant it was dirty. But we drank out of these rivers higher up of course. Will have to look into it more. I did see the turquoise blue lagoons high up in the mountains at the foot of the glaciers however the rivers run hundreds of miles down from the glacier into the city of Santiago. Perhaps it picks up some sediments along the way?
I think you are right about the glacier water. The ones we see easily are close, so as they recede the water doesn’t have to flow very far to reach the Kenai River, which is the main river that runs through the Kenai Peninsula. Exit Glacier, which is about 80 miles from us, is a glacier that people can walk to. Many years ago signs were erected as to where the face of the glacier was at that time, the earliest being in the late 1800’s, and then again every 30-50 years. It’s an eye-opener to see how far it has receded in those 100+ years. You can’t walk up to the face of it anymore, but a trail leads to an area where there is a great view.
thanks for sharing Marilyn! I can’t believe I’ve never been (yet) to Alaska! It is on the list. Someday I’ll get there as I’d love to see it on foot.
Fascinating murals! Great captures, Nicole. 🙂
Thanks Amy! Wait until I show the ones from Valparaiso! They were incredible and so many of them!
Fabulous post Nicole. What an amazing place. We found some great street art in Santiago – but not THIS! Wow.
Thanks Alison! So how are you healing? I hope all is well!
Healing really well. Thank you for asking. Off to Montreal for family Christmas today. Yay!
That’s great to hear and enjoy Montreal! A lovely city to be in for the holidays! 🙂
That was a very cute part of Santiago; I remember it well from our Paine Circuit trip a few years ago. Did you also go to the Barrio Lastarria by any chance? We loved that area, too! I’m surprised with all your world travel that you had not seen the love locks before! They can look cool, but they cause so many structural problems when they start to overload the bridges or whatever else they’re attached to. At the Pont des Arts in Paris, they had to cut off tons of the locks to keep them from damaging the bridge. I actually saw a bunch this past summer in Ljubljana and Salzburg, too. They were a fun idea for a while, but it’s a bummer that in some places they have now gotten out of control!
Thanks Lexi! We did walk around Lastarria a little bit however we had very little time in Santiago during the day as we spent at least 2 hours each way to travel to our hikes and for our wine tours! We often didn’t get back to Santiago until 7 or 8 pm and then were having dinner at like 10 pm which is crazy for us. As for the love locks, no I haven’t seen them! Funny as another blogger left the same comment about the bridge in Paris. What a shame it did damage. I guess I haven’t traveled to Europe that much in the past decade as I’ve been going other places. But that will change with the summer family adventure! I am hoping I’m not disappointed. I feel like I am really like more off the beaten path places that aren’t westernized or touristy. The last few times in Europe I’ve felt a little sad about how much it has changed since the glory days in the 80s and 90s.
Striking artworks, Nicole. I especially like the woman in the dress. 🙂 🙂
Thanks Jo! 🙂
Love this post and seeing all of the beautiful street art! it is such a great way to capture a place.
Thanks so much Elisabeth! hope you are well!
So beautiful ! I love street art !
Thanks! I have much more to come. I took a ton of photos of street art in Valparaiso.
Thank you so much!
I think thats the most beautifully done street work I’ve ever seen. Terrific job shooting those, really spectacular.
Thanks so much! I have so many photos it was hard to narrow down and figure out which ones to keep and which ones to not share. Glad you enjoyed!