Hot to shop: Santiago

From lapis lazuli to designer shoes, fine wines and fabrics, Chile's capital hosts high style at low prices, writes Belinda Jackson.

Staple diet

Chile's largest department store, Almacenes Paris, is ensconced in the Parque Arauco mall, home of the fledging Chile Fashion Week, as well as an ice-skating rink and cinemas, other Chilean staples Falabella and Ripley and brands such as Versace and Valentino. And hey, they have Zara, too! (Avenida Kennedy 5413, Las Condes.) Upmarket mall culture is also explored in Mall Panoramico (Avenida 11 de Septiembre 2155, Providencia).

Must-buys

Lapis lazuli. Chile is one of the world's few producers of the turquoise semi-precious stone. It's everywhere, from the duty-free shops at the airports to the boutique-lined strip of Avenue Alonso de Cordova in Vitacura . Patio Bellavista (see Insider trading, below) will also please lapis hunters.

Cheap trick

Handicrafts are one of Chile's great specialties. Dive into Feria Santa Lucia, a budget-price outdoor market with everything from antiques to T-shirts and handmade jewellery, open Monday-Saturday from 10am. The nearby Centro de Exposiciones de Arte Indigena Santiago has handicrafts by indigenous Chilean groups (Alameda 499, Santa Lucia). The rather twee Pueblito de los Dominicos has 150 workshops and is guaranteed to serve a medium- to high-end handicrafts hit (Apoquindo 9085, Las Condes). On weekends Calle Pio Nono morphs into a colourful crafts market with local music (between Constitucion and Pio Nono, Bellavista).

Market madness

More a foodies' market, the Mercado Central (central market) in the city centre is in a 19th-century landmark building, open daily from 6am until about 4pm. Snap up quirky food such as palm honey and sweet cucumber pickles and do a seafood lunch. On Sundays antique hunters head to Paseo Estado, off Plaza de Armas, then wander down to another colourful flea market around Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes and Parque Forestal.

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Home help

Check out the traditional pottery and blankets from the north of Chile and renowned, distinctive black ceramics from the village of Quinchamali, both stocked at Fundacion Artesanias de Chile, a non-profit group that supports local groups and artists (Avenida Bellavista 0357, Providencia). For custom-made rugs in sheep or llama wool, visit the simply named Wool (Avenida Nueva Costanera, Vitacura 4010). Art collectors should cruise Santiago's main plaza, Plaza de Armas, where locals set up easels from sunrise to sundown.

Insider trading

Patio Bellavista is a little enclave in the boho 'burb of Barrio Bellavista, home to cafes and high-end artisan shops selling handmade jewellery, lapis lazuli and unusual tea blends. Otherwise, the area around Lastarria and Vitacura is good for cafes and aimless boutique hopping.

Fash and trash

The so-called architect of Chilean fashion, Ruben Campos, can be found at his eponymous boutique (Presidente Errazuriz 3337, Las Condes) while shoe guru Arturo Chiang, of Nine West fame, brings some funk to Santiago's shoe scene (Avenida Americo Vespucio Norte 1128, Vitacura). Emerging Chilean designers share a space at GAM (170 Calle Roman Diaz, Providencia). Worth a look for what young Chilean designers are doing is the gift shop at Museo de la Moda (Av Vitacura 4562, Vitacura) and little Cuenco is recognised by UNESCO for its handmade accessories from woven horsehair (Root 537, Santa Lucia).

Locals love

Wine. Try the classics of shiraz, sauvignon gris and viognier but also Chile's signature carmenere and the ensamblaje blend. For serious wine shopping, visit comprehensive wine retailer Wain, which has regular tastings (Av Nueva Costanera 3955, Vitacura) or El Mundo del Vino in the W Hotel (Isidora Goyenechea 2931, Las Condes).

The fine print

Let's be frank: Chileans are not early risers. Many shops don't open until 11am but, on the upside, trading continues way after dark - at least 9pm for many of the malls. chile.travel.

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