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Introducing Santiago

Surprise: the Chilean capital is suddenly cool. Santiago has always had its measured charms – fine dining, perfectly landscaped gardens, a famous seafood market, the stunning backdrop of the Andes – but in the past few years it has undergone a cultural metamorphosis. In celebration of Chile's bicentennial, the city poured millions of pesos into the construction of sleek new cultural centers, thoughtful museums and gorgeous green parks. The upscale neighborhoods of Vitacura and El Golf bloomed with stylish new art galleries, the new W Hotel started drawing A-list celebrities to its rooftop bar, and the faded but beautiful Barrio Brasil was infused with vibrant public art and funky youth hostels. True, Santiago may never be as glamorous as Rio or as dynamic as Buenos Aires, but now it's more than a stopoff on the way to Chilean Patagonia or the Atacama. Understated but up-and-coming, Santiago just became a destination in its own right.