The barrios east of the city centre spreading into the foothills of the Andes are home to Santiago’s moneyed elite; the farther and higher you get, the richer the people, the bigger the houses and the higher the gates. It’s hard to believe that up until the beginning of the twentieth century there was virtually no one here; it was for its isolation and tranquillity that the Sisters of Providencia chose to build their convent on what is now Avenida Providencia in 1853 (the parallel street running in the other direction, Avenida 11 de Septiembre, takes its name from the date of the 1973 military coup, not the 2001 terrorist attacks in the US). Later, following a slow trickle of eastbound movement, there was a great exodus of wealthy families from their traditional preserves west of the city over to the new barrio alto in the 1920s, where they’ve been entrenched ever since.
The barrio you’re most likely to visit is Providencia, home to Sernatur, and various hotels, restaurants and travel agencies. Further east in Las Condes the atmosphere is more residential, and apart from a few notable exceptions such as Los Dominicos market, there’s less to pull you out here. If you’ve access to a car, however, it can be quite fun to drive around the fabulously wealthy uptown barrios of El Arrayán, La Dehesa and Vitacura (home to numerous art galleries and a fashion museum). You could even just sit on a bus to the end of Avenida Las Condes to watch the Andes get closer and closer and feel the city creep higher and higher.