The sprawling, fast-paced metropolis of CONCEPCIÓN is the region’s administrative capital and economic powerhouse, and Chile’s second-largest city, sitting at the mouth of the Bío Bío, 96km southwest of Chillán. Surrounded by some of Chile’s ugliest industrial suburbs, Concepción’s centre is a spread of dreary, anonymous buildings. This lack of civic splendour reflects the long series of catastrophes that have punctuated Concepción’s growth – from the incessant Mapuche raids during the city’s days as a Spanish garrison, guarding La Frontera, to the devastating earthquakes that have razed it to the ground dozens of times since its founding in 1551. It does, however, have the energy and buzz of a thriving commercial centre, and the large number of students here at the Universidad Austral de Chile gives the place a young, lively feel and excellent nightlife.
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