As with any major city I visit, I’m always in search of the best markets to go to. I personally feel that they are a fantastic way to get your finger on the pulse of a place culturally, expose yourself to new designs, meet artisans and hopefully get a good deal!
Santiago, Chile was no different. As I had been packing in so much during my three week trip, I only had the opportunity to visit one market. After talking to many locals, they all recommended Los Dominicos.
What you will read / learn in this article:
- How to get to the market
- The bonus of the fruit and vegetable market on the way
- What to expect at the artisanal market
- A detailed look at one coppersmith’s work (as copper is so critical to the Chilean economy, making it a great gift idea)
- My final thoughts on the market
How To Get To The Market
The market is very easy to get to from most parts of the city, as it is at the end of the number 1 metro line (red line). The station is also handily called “Los Dominicos”. See the metro map here.
[Click here for Google Map directions]
The above map shows the location of the market in relation to the metro station.
I’ve indicated both the food and main market as upon arrival it’s not overly apparent where the main market is. Once you walk through the food market, keep walking in the direction of the mountains (you’ll also see the two spires just off to the left of the main market entrance), then through the children’s playground, across the car park and voila, there is the main artisanal market!
It’s only a few minutes walk in total.
Fruit & Vegetable Market Bonus
As mentioned above, we (Trevor and I, my traveling companion and handy Spanish translator!) were slightly confused at first, wondering if we were at the correct market. As all we could see was a very nice, but relatively small food market.
It actually turned out to be a nice bonus, as we were able to buy some fresh fruit at very reasonable prices.
However, our main objective was to find the artisan market.
Santiago’s Best Artisanal Market – Los Dominicos
Upon finding the market, one is welcomed by a large entrance. At first we were relatively disappointed as the shops seemed small, and in places more like a petting zoo with parrots, chickens, etc… But you must persevere as the grounds are much larger than expected, with a maze of side shoots off the main square and walkways.
Strolling through was what can only be best described as an ancient forest of old trees that have grown in and around the shops. I doubt there is a square corner in the entire market. It feels like the market has been here for a few hundred years.
Also it must be noted that “market” might be a bit of a stretch as it’s more of an established shopping center of arts and crafts vendors. Having said that, the boutiques and shops were all well appointed, with very little tourist tat.
What was fantastic to see was the large number of shops that had active workstations with artisans working away. Everything from (and mostly) jewelry making, basket wearing, carving and knitting.
This market is definitely NOT suited for a guy looking to buy clothes, unlike the markets I have reviewed in London for example. But it’s a perfect place to meet some amazing artisans, and pick up an authentic gift or two from one of the many shops.
Below I’ve highlighted one shopkeeper we met called Luis who was making copper goods.
Real Craftspeople: Luis The Coppersmith
Copper is critical to the Chilean economy. In fact it accounts for over 50% of the countries total exports, exceeding $40bn a year.
As a former student of economics, and a general geek for these kind of facts, I was in search of a gift for some people back home and copper was a perfect fit (along with a close second of alpaca, as many of these animals are reared in the Patagonia region where I had spent six days the week before hiking in Torres del Paine).
Having walked around the market for some time, we stumbled across Luis towards the back north section where he had been working away in his shop called “Artesania en Metals”.
Above you can see a pano of the inside of the shop, with Luis off to the right at his workbench.
He was the most welcoming gentleman and was more than happy to show us what he was up to.
He was even kind enough for me to get some really close up shots of his workbench and current work in progress.
From outside the shop, I was initially drawn in by these colorful bracelets. Trevor (seen top right in picture below), was able to talk to Luis in Spanish, and asked him about the process.
He told us that he paints the metal, and lets it sit out in the sun for about a week. This is because he is unable to bake / force dry the paint on the copper as it causes the paint to crack. Once the paint has dried, he gets to work engraving his Chilean-inspired personal designs and finally forms the strips into bracelets.
Both Trevor and I really liked Luis and his work, so promptly bought an array of designs for family and friends back in the USA and UK.
Above I’m pictured with Luis. I hope many of you get to meet him in person, and support his work.
You can contact Luis via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Final Thoughts On The Market
Overall I would highly recommend Los Dominicos market to anyone visiting Santiago.
It has a great mix of arts and crafts, that should meet the tastes of most, especially if one is looking for something traditionally Chilean.
I felt lucky to have met Luis on the day we went, which was only one day before leaving back to the US. If, however, you have more time, it is possible to get unique pieces commissioned as Luis and other shop merchants told us.
If I go back to Santiago, I would strongly consider this option, as it’s always great getting something custom-made, supporting local artists and having a great backstory.