Less than a year after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake wreaked havoc in Chile, its capital, Santiago, has largely recovered, the economy continues to grow, and tourism is in an upswing.
Though the quake, which caused hundreds of casualties, was centered more than 200 miles away, many of Santiago’s older buildings were damaged, including the Museum of Fine Arts.
But the earthquake last year — and another in Chile last week that caused more panic than damage — seems to have only briefly paused a cultural shift that had begun to take hold in the city. Known as a buttoned-up place, Santiago has in recent years added modern museums, smartly designed hotels and sophisticated
restaurants. The city has become decidedly more vibrant.
This year, it has even been chosen as the first foreign city to host a rather unbuttoned event: Lollapalooza. The 20-year-old American music festival picked Santiago for its first overseas outing because of its open space and the variety of cultural offerings, and because locals have a passion for contemporary music, said Lollapalooza’s founder, the musician Perry Farrell. The festival takes place in April in O’Higgins Park.
This musical awakening owes much to the government’s investment in the arts. The new Centro Gabriela Mistral, for example, a 200,000-square-foot center made of glass and weathering steel, has a varied calendar of concerts, dance performances, plays and art exhibits.
Perhaps the most remarkable cultural space to open in the last few years is the Museo de la Moda, a privately financed fashion museum inside a revamped 1960s Modernist mansion. It has a permanent collection of nearly 10,000 pieces of couture and memorabilia (of which 800 are typically on display), including a light-blue jacket worn in 1966 by John Lennon and a black strapless gown worn in 1981 by Diana, Princess of Wales.
Luxury hotels are not new to Santiago, but when the W opened in 2009, it was the first to feature truly modern design. The recently opened Aubrey is equally chic and much more intimate. With an attractive mix of vintage and new furniture (Tom Dixon lamps, 19th-century Parisian rugs, tufted leather sofas), the 15-room property raised the bar for boutique lodgings in the city. It occupies two renovated residences in the Bellavista neighborhood, a creative district where Lollapalooza’s fans would feel right at home.