For photographers and seafood lovers head along Calle Puente, Santiago to Mercado Centro (Central Market). This market is not only a culinary feast, but also a sight and sound fiesta.
Designed in Chile, built in England and of 19th century French design, this striking building with a wrought-iron roof houses the city’s principal food market. The seafood is shipped in every morning – and all the seafood stands also serve as restaurants. With 4,300 kilometres of coastline, the variety of seafood is very varied, for example, there are over ten varieties of clams. The din of hawkers and fishmongers vying for attention can be annoying, but that and the colours are part of the atmosphere at the market. One may as well join in the fun, find something of interest and bargain for it. The morning hours are crowded with Chilenos shopping for the daily, fresh catch of fish and local produce. You will find here dozens of inexpensive small restaurants specializing in the catch of the day. Choose your fish, then sit down and take a bite out of the ocean. Just remember to order your fish a la plancha (grilled) – otherwise the waiter will assume you want your fish fried. Sample some of the country's national dishes. Sea urchins and loco (abalone) are popular, as are fried congrio (sea bass) and corvina.
It was conceived and built as an exhibition hall for Chilean painters and craftsmen. It served that purpose well as it looked like a work of art itself, but its life as such was short. The government felt the building would better serve the community by making it the central location for all the scattered vendors and sellers on the streets and in the plazas throughout the city. Therefore, it is now a marketplace with not only fish, as there are lines of stalls filled with fruits, vegetables, nuts, flowers, herbs and medicinal remedies.
Across from the Plaza de Armas at Ahumada and Huerfanos Streets, is one of the many pedestrian walkways in the city with hundreds of small shops and restaurants of every variety. This is where you will find some of the city's renowned coffee with legs establishments, so called because the waitresses wear very mini-skirted uniforms and serve coffee to admiring patrons on lunch break and during the day. Most do not have chairs, standing only, at tables watching the world go past, sipping superb coffee and complimentary sparkling water makes the perfect break while touring Santiago. If you visit one establishment regularly, you will be surprised that the charming, mini-skirted girls will take time to have a friendly chat and offer advice where to eat and what to see.
Santiago is a cosmopolitan city and ask any of the
green-uniformed policeman on their beat and they will tell you
that Chile has the safest streets of any large city. It has all
the things one would expect of a modern, sophisticated city,
theatre, a very good symphony orchestra, an opera house that
draws the worlds most well known artists, many museums, good
restaurants, several parks and an active night life. However, a
visit to Santiago is not complete without the seafood, coffee and