Some of the highly desirable neighbourhoods in Caracas belong to the Eastern district (a prime area). It is a mix of residential and commercial zones. The most popular ones are Las Mercedes, Chacao and Altamira. The wealthy Las Mercedes is the country’s fashion capital. Chacao is a highly modern business and financial centre with gigantic shopping malls. It has Caracas’ main street, Francisco de Miranda Avenue lined with offices of foreign companies. Altamira has the best restaurants in the city. Its neighbouring suburb of Los Paolos Grandes also has great dining.
Despite the world-class atmosphere and indulgent lifestyle in these neighbourhoods, the district does not lack poverty-stricken barrios. In some areas, the great divide between the rich and the poor are highlighted. In El Pedregal, for one, shantytowns are surrounded by elegant homes and luxurious condominiums.
The neighbourhood of Las Mercedes began as a residential area when Caracas underwent expansion before the 1970s. But commercial activity was already present. The first mall of the city, Cada de Las Mercedes was opened here in 1955. After the 1970s, the neighbourhood developed into a purely commercial zone.
Nowadays Las Mercedes is Caracas’ centre of fashion and nightlife. It is the hippest and most commercial area in the city, and has the best shopping boutiques, restaurants, pubs, bars and nightclubs. The main shopping strip here is the Avenida Principal de Las Mercedes. Exclusive and luxurious clothing brands are tucked quietly along the area’s side streets.
Dining in Las Mercedes is an exciting gastronomic experience. Its restaurants serve varied international cuisines. Over 100 restaurants are closely packed in a 30-block area. This very popular and busy neighbourhood also has many art galleries and popular venues for cultural activities, such as Plaza Alfredo Sadel and Avenida Rio de Janeiro.
Unfortunately, the neighbourhood is not pedestrian-friendly. SUVs and status vehicles jam the streets, and sidewalks function more as parking spaces than pedestrian thoroughfares.
The municipality of Chacao is so populous and modern, it’s hard to imagine that livestock farming once dominated its economy and that its history goes back centuries. Chacao is one of the wealthiest areas in Venezuela, with residential and commercial real estate prices that are among the highest in the country.
Chacao is the headquarters of many banks, transforming the once residential neighbourhood of El Rosal into a financial centre. The municipality is the playground of the wealthy and many luxury hotels and grand mansions are built here. Large shopping complexes like the Centre Sambil and Centro San Ignacio provide an alternative lifestyle and a safety haven away from Caracas’ dangerous streets.
The highest priced real estates in Chacao and in the country are found in the residential neighbourhood of Campo Alegre. Neighbourhoods like the Caracas Country Club, Chuao, and La Castellana cater to diplomats, expatriates and the local well-to-do families. Residents and visitors patronize the great spread of restaurants in Altamira and Los Paolos Grandes.
The Chacao Culture Centre is a public space dedicated to performance, cultural and fine arts.
Chacao’s efficiency in terms of service tops other municipalities in Venezuela. It is also highly accessible, as it has a metro station and major highways and avenues lace through it.
The wealthy neighbourhood of Altamira belongs to the Chacao municipality. It is an important business area, with upmarket hotels and restaurants, trendy cafés, discos and bars, and is serviced by the metro station.
Altamira is particularly well-regarded for its numerous restaurants that serve international and traditional Venezuelan dishes.
Altamira is an old neighbourhood, created in 1577. Many monumental landmarks can be found here such as the large obelisk of Plaza Francia. The square and the city were built by Luis Roche who owned most of the land here in 1943.
Altamira has seen its fair share of political strife in recent years. It was the scene of a massacre in 2002, and of an assassination in 2004. In spite of these, the modern area continues to draw crowds of locals and tourists.