Santa Lucia Art and Craft Market – a society of dedication

SANTIAGO – In every neighborhood, in every commune in Santiago you’ll find markets, mercados and ferías. The markets are a great place to get to know real Chilean culture. Chile Today reviews some of Santiago’s best markets. Today part II: Santa Lucia Art and Craft Market.

Located in the center of Santiago, right across Santa Lucia Hill, Santa Lucia Market or Feria Artesanal Santa Lucia is one of the best stops for anyone in need of a Chilean souvenir, gift or momento.

While it may look unassuming from the outside, it is far more appealing once inside and fully capable of keeping anyone’s attention with its immense variety of knick-knacks, handmade crafts, souvenirs and unique gifts.

Due to the large amount of different items on offer browsing this market can be particularly time consuming, although thoroughly enjoyable as you never know what you may discover.

Humble Origins

What makes Santa Lucia Market fairly unique is that the shop keepers are not simply renters of the land on which they sell, but the collective owners of the property, making them personally invested in the success of the market.

In 1989, a group of artisans, now the Santa Lucia Artisan Society, decided to create a market to showcase their work. Composed of 150 members, the society managed to gather enough financing to purchase the centrally located land from a real estate holding company.

The Society worked hard to build the market themselves and spent nine years paying off their loans. This explains why the market has a slightly run-down look from the outside as it is an initiative put together solely by the artisans themselves, lacking any major investors.  

Due to the highly lucrative location of the land the Society is constantly approached by large-scale developers and retailers such as Cencosud (parent company of Jumbo, Easy, Paris, etc) and SMU (owner of Unimarc, OK Market, etc) with offers to buy the land in order to turn it into a large scale mall, entertainment center or hotel.

Rejecting all the offers, the society has been discussing plans for several years to create their own modern two-story artisan center complete with restaurants and perhaps even a hotel, the cost of which would be more than $3 billion Chilean pesos.

Nonetheless, lack of funding and disagreements within the society have kept the project from being realized. Regardless of the difficulties, the main objective cited by the society is to keep the spirit of the fair but channel it into a more modern structural form.

What to buy

With over 100 stalls, Santa Lucia Market has a lot to offer. Prices here are noticeably lower than those in Pueblito Los Dominicos or Patio Bellavista markets as it is aimed at tourists and locals alike. Most shops are stocked to the point of spilling over, with items covering all the walls, floor stands and even the ceiling.

Taking time to slowly browse is key to not feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of options. The easiest items to spot are the typical souvenirs such as magnets, postcards, t-shirts, caps, mugs and keychains. These are all mass produced and thus sold very reasonable prices.  

The Market also offers a variety of handmade and artisanal products, from Chilean traditional musical instruments, woodwork, Mapuche Silver and textiles, copper items, lapis lazuli to leather handbags.

Moreover, it houses handcrafted items from Peru, Bolivia and Mexico, most commonly wool scarfs, hats, sweaters and rugs with indigenous motifs. The more adventurous shopper will also discover a variety of other items not corresponding to traditional craft, such as marijuana paraphernalia, bohemian handmade clothing or shoes, paper crafts, paintings, carved gourd cups for yerba mate and, unexpectedly, even Turkish lamps.

Know before you go

While the surrounding area is very crowded at all times, the market is safe as long as visitors stay vigilant over their valuables. Those used to bargaining may be disappointed as this is not common practice in Chile.

The best strategy for obtaining a discount would be to buy several items from one shop and ask for a slightly lower price for all, but don’t expect the price to be dropped as significantly as in bargain-oriented cultures.

English is not widely spoken by the merchants, however, they have mastered the art of hand gestures and will happily write the price on paper or state it in US dollars. It is also important to bring cash as most shops will not accept card payments.   

Getting there

Situated at the bottom of Santa Lucia Hill, the Santa Lucia Market is very centrally located. It is just a few minutes’ walk from Santa Lucia Metro Station (Red Line). The Market is open every day from 11am – 7pm, although on Sundays some stalls remain closed. It is recommended to check ahead before visiting during public holidays. For more information please visit the official Facebook page of the market

Missed Part I of the series on Santiago markets? Read it here:

Pueblito Los Dominicos – Santiago’s Heritage Artisan Market

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