There is no way to narrow down the best neighborhoods or even best cities to visit in South America, as each one has its own celebrated flavors and artisans. If you do find yourself in any of the below cities, be sure to spend time in the following neighborhoods, barrios, or comunas. Each one known for something vastly different but all sharing one element - they are beloved by locals and visitors alike. You will discover a unique vibe different from the sometimes overrun and packed “top” neighborhoods these cities are known for by straying from the guide book path and checking out these communities.
Barranco (Lima, Peru) Searching for the sun in a coastal Peruvian city? Lima may not be the brightest of spots, but it’s niche artist-filled Barranco neighborhood can make up for the city’s often grey skies. The bohemian Barranco holds some of the city’s best street art, cafes, bars, and restaurants. Drinking well-crafted cocktails in a beautiful old colonial mansion is the norm here and the main spot Ayahuasca should not be missed. Neither should spending time in their Plaza de Armas, eating all the ceviche, or taste testing gelato at both Crem dela Crem and BLU Gelateria. The lack of sun is easily made up for in this vibrant neighborhood.
Barrio Italia (Santiago, Chile)
This bohemian treasure with it’s colorful original architecture is Santiago’s most stylish neighborhood and the best place to find furniture along with courtyard coffee shops and maze like boutiques inside larger venues like Estacion Italia. Calle Caupolican, from Girardi to Condell, is the number one street for fabulous furniture workshops where workmen line the sidewalks renovating and creating new pieces out in the open. If furniture won’t fit in your carry-on, Barrio Italia is also known for its various food offerings, especially it’s very own chocolate shop, Xoco Por Ti. Although it is one of the most vivid, it is still a very peaceful neighborhood with a delightfully sleepy energy lending itself to afternoon strolls and evening drinks at famous cocktail joints like Ruca or Pepperland.
Chapinero Alto (Bogotá, Colombia)
Beloved members of Colombia’s lively cultural scene call Chapinero Alto home, this includes the largest LGBTQ community and thriving nightlife as well (do not miss a night out at Theatron - possibly the world’s largest LGBTQ nightclub). Bogotá’s Eastern hills house this epicenter of design, experimental venues, and culinary treats. Geographically and for touristic purposes, Chapinero Alto is an ideal home base while visiting Bogotá, it also helps that one can stay in beautiful Airbnbs for 30-50% less than 4-star hotels. While there, be sure to see a performance at El Teatro Libre, one of Bogotá’s most influential stages that works with universities and has its own governing body and company creating their calendar. Be sure to head to the Plaza Del Mercado De Paloquemao in the morning to try all of the delicious fruits you may have never seen before.
Villa Crespo (Buenos Aires, Argentina)
Just Southwest of the well-known and increasingly trendy barrio (or neighborhood) Palermo, Villa Crespo is yet to be overtaken by expensive rents and still maintains an old-world feel. Informally associated with Buenos Aires’ Jewish community upon an influx of migration in the 1930’s, there are several important synagogues in this barrio. Along with the Jewish community, multiple other vibrant cultures mingle in Villa Crespo’s streets. You can also find delicious kosher asado on Cordoba Avenue or see serious tango danced at one of the many milongas (tango dance halls) found in Villa Crespo.
Vila Madalena (São Paolo, Brazil)
One of the hippest and most colorful neighborhoods in São Paolo, Vila Madalena boasts multiple cafes, plant-based restaurants, and an abundance of stylish Airbnbs. The entire neighborhood is similar to a large open-air gallery showcasing hundreds of murals and graffiti. Beco de Batman is one of Vila Magdalena’s main attractions - a one way street covered in vibrant street art. The boutiques are as diverse as the graffiti, boasting up-and-coming creators as well as established designers. Be sure to make time for a walk down Rua Aspicuelta to sit and enjoy a beer in one of the many botecos, bars where conversations last into the night and football is watched fanatically.
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You wake up every morning, get dressed, caffeinate, feed yourself, and get to work - throughout this Groundhogs Day process you find yourself thinking about that passion project or small online business you wish you could dive deeper into.