Valparaíso is located 69.5 miles northeast of Santiago over an ample bay of the Pacific Ocean. Valparaíso has a population of 274,310.
The travel distance to Valparaíso from Santiago is 74.5 miles on Route 68. From Mendoza is 252.2 miles on Route 60. From the Customs, at the Libertadores Complex (Complejo Libertadores), is 128 miles on Route 60. From Zapallar is 51.5 miles on the coastal road. From Algarrobo is 42.2 miles on the Casablanca route and Route 68. From Viña del Mar (square of Viña) is 3.7 miles, from Retoca 9.3 miles and from Concón 15.8 miles.
Valparaíso is an important maritime port and industrial center of South America, as well as one of the biggest cities in Chile. Among its economical activities stand out food processing, confection and manufacturing of fabrics, and petrochemical, metallurgic and skin products production.
Valparaíso is the headquarters of the Chilean legislative power, offering a great variety of beautiful and picturesque places such as squares, hills, neighborhoods, fishing creeks, beaches, avenues, streets filled with nooks and crannies offering the visitor gorgeous, beautiful and typical landscapes.
Since Valparaíso is part of a select group of the Humanity Cultural Heritage, all its important characteristics must be described.
Valparaíso, a port city, is located in the southeast coast of South America (central area of Chile), at coordinates 33º01’ South latitude and 71º38’ West longitude, at 74.5 miles to the northeast of Santiago of Chile (the country’s capital). It’s Latin America’s hidden jewel. This is a city full of history and nostalgia, an urban and architectonic curiosity, a city that was never founded.
Valparaíso is a natural bay surrounded by a type of mountainous range landscape that bathes its hillsides in the ocean and transforms the city into an amphitheatre facing the Pacific.
The inhabitants of Valparaíso built the city spontaneously by climbing the hillsides, and turning them into clusters of multicolor houses challenging gravity and vertigo. Different architectonic styles coexist at natural ease that, without any prejudice, is a mix of different types and quality of construction materials. You can appreciate big mansions with marble steps next to small houses supported by weak stilts; woods finely worked next to a piece of wood badly spotted with paint. Beautiful alleys coming out into eternal steps, where the wind becomes your partner, invite you to be amazed and discover the vertical life. It’s a labyrinth where the light going through the windows indicates a road to some viewpoint, where the Pacific Ocean opens up showing us the port’s agitated life with its multicolor ships and boats, and the unlimited horizon’s perspective.
A story of splendor and nostalgia
Nostalgia stayed for good in this town as history pulled out one by one it yellowish pages over its streets. Discovered in 1536 by the Spanish captain Mr. Juan de Saavedra who arrived aboard the “Santiaguillo” caravel, Valparaíso sealed its destiny tied to the sea. It first grew as a village, and later started to become important. Already in the XIX century, Valparaíso became a thriving place for economical activity, one of the main ports of the Pacific Ocean, the must stop port after crossing the Hornos Cape (Cabo de Hornos) and a platform for reaching the coasts of North America. Life stirred up in the growing city that became a cosmopolitan and dynamic urban centre. The immigrants, brought along the esthetical influences from their own countries and the memories of their lands, and started shaping a space and a form that today characterizes the old Valparaíso. This romanticism and traditional hale confer to the city a nostalgic feature, which is an inspiration for poets, filmmakers and artists who gather at coffee places and bars unfolding the intellectual and bohemian life. Charles Darwin went to Valparaíso after crossing the Hornos Cape; the Nicaraguan writer Rubén Darío worked as an official in the Valparaiso Customs, and it’s said that his book “Azul” was based upon this experience; Pablo Neruda built one of his delirious houses called “La Sebastiana” in Valparaíso, where the poet inflated the sails of his poetry with the wind of inspiration.
As any port, Valparaíso has an interesting night life where the bohemians go out cruising along mystical coffee places and enjoying wine with poetry, movies, and bolero and tango lovers.
Valparaíso is the V Region of Chile and its capital is Valparaíso. The climate along the area of Valparaíso is template, with temperatures varying between 41º F and 59º F during Winter and between 53º F and 86º F during Summer. The rain season is from May to August. The language spoken is Spanish, and the coin is the Peso. Credit cars and traveler’s checks are widely accepted in Valparaíso. Communications are based on international direct dial and transportation in the area of Valparaíso along a good network of highways connecting specially with Santiago of Chile. The electrical power used in Valparaíso is 220 volts.
In Valparaíso we find the must see lifts attraction; curious funiculars going up and down the hills, finding their way through the patios of the houses encountered in their trajectory. Today there are 15 operational lifts, taking the “porteños” (locals) to their neighborhoods. All of the lifts travel along an extensive stretch and have a beautiful view almost always facing the ocean.
The Prat Dock
It’s a place for embarking and disembarking sailors, as well as for loading and unloading enormous ships. The Prat dock, a great tourist attraction, has an intense activity.
Inside the dock there’s, all year round, a complete crafts fair where diverse typical and artistic articles brought from all places of Chile are sold.
A full size replica of the “Santiaguillo” caravel can be visited as well. The Spanish Captain Juan Saavedra arrived on it when he discovered this bay in 1536. At the same place, there’s also an important tourist information office belonging to the Distinguished Municipality of Valparaíso (Ilustre Municipalidad de Valparaíso).
The Valparaíso bay is an attraction that subdues with its particular and stirred marine life unfolding here. This can be enjoyed very closely by taking a thrilling trip on a motorboat for 30 minutes, where you will sail between the ships, the boats for fishing albacore (albacora) and the giant cargo ships; from the ocean the marvelous natural amphitheatre of Valparaíso and its hills can be observed.
When you return you’ll have the sensation of having been part for a minute of the magnetic life style of the sailors of the world, since the wind and saline air would have shown you their unlimited horizons and would have whispered in your ears the liberty promise. “I love the love of the sailors that kiss and go away…”
“La Sebastiana” Museum House of Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971, built one of his three delirious houses, “La Sebastiana”, in Valparaíso. Today, just like his other two houses, it’s a museum dedicated to the memory of the poet that exhibits his belongings and collections of objects. At “La Sebastiana” you can get close to the particular and playful life style of the poet, unraveling part of the secret of its poetry.
All the hills of Valparaíso have a viewpoint. These are real balconies from where the ocean and the rest of the city can be appreciated. These are the best places to take panoramic pictures, to distract yourself, write, read and dream away.
The sunsets in Valparaíso
A sunset in Valparaíso is an experience that will delight your sight. They always end up being overwhelming sights with red and violet tonalities produced by the sun setting in the ocean. From any point of the city, walking along a lonely beach, from a viewpoint, some lift, there’s one thing cannot be missing… somebody to hold your hand.
Valparaíso night life
The beautiful night in the port of Valparaíso is unparalleled.
The city becomes entirely lit up and the lights climb from the ocean to the hills, mixing with the stars in an overwhelming spectacle that invites you to walk between the streetlamps to discover the night in Valparaíso.
The Bohemia of Valparaíso
If we’re talking about night life, Valparaíso has an interesting night life with many and diverse places located in different areas. All of them are identified by a particular style. You will be able to find the most avant-garde places with alternative music and style, nice discotheques, magical coffee places and hidden restaurants in hills surrounded by a romantic environment, besides typical restaurants from the traditional local bohemia.
Social Club J. Cruz
Hidden in an alley and located at the heart of Valparaiso’s downtown lies this beautiful restaurant and night club. When you go inside you will meet the spirit of the past. Its small room is packed with shelves having the most curious collection of diverse objects and antiquities. Its walls are covered with ancient photographs, paintings, hat collections, fireman helmets, torpedoes and propellers hanging from the roof. Its tight space among tables confers it an exquisite bohemian environment inviting to converse and stay up very late at night next to a bottle of wine. The old community members are mixed with the newcomers amongst an environment of friendship and cordial relationship because they know that J. Cruz would for sure come back one day to sit at his table. The Social Club J. Cruz is located at Calle Condell 1466 – house 11 – Valparaíso.
The Cinzano Bar Restaurant
The Cinzano is an old bar and restaurant in this port. Dating from 1896, it has been a witness of many periods of the city. Its style shows its tradition with an old bar inviting you to seat on it. The tables and the scenery are placed on a small elevated platform, and in the background you can appreciate a curious board where the classifying results of the last Soccer World Cup are exhibited. Its walls have also been witnesses of many animated bohemian nights. It really has loyal clients that have stayed suspended in the magical time of the “porteña” night. The tango came to stay at Cinzano’s for ever. Old musicians go up the scenery, every night during the weekends, animating the night with old songs from past times. Songs that become popular again each time they are played by these unconditional musicians who, from time to time, ask the public which tango or bolero they want to hear.
At no traditional club of Valparaíso you may request the tango “Adiós Muchachos”, since the old musicians believe it brings bad luck because it reminds them of Carlos Gardel, and for them Gardel has not died. The Cinzano is located at the Aníbal Pinto Square1182, Valparaíso.
To Start or finish the night, this exquisite plate raises the dead. It was born in the “Social J. Cruz Club”, a mythical club of the local bohemia. As a plate for night birds, the Chorrillana has become one of the trademark flavors of Valparaíso.
The preparation of a delicious Chorrillana consists of abundant meat, onion, potatoes, and eggs, which are all fried and mixed together to later be served in a big plate for snacking.
The Fishermen Creeks of Valparaíso
The fishermen “caletas” is the name given in Chile to the places, especially beaches, dedicated to the local fishing activity. In Valparaíso there are two creeks: “El Membrillo Creek” (Caleta el Membrillo) and “Portales Creek” (Caleta Portales). At those creeks you can closely appreciate the fishermen working, selling recently caught fishes that are scream out from the same boats. The seafood is also exposed in the thriving markets, all surrounded with a picturesque and typical environment.
If you wish to get close to the distinctive character of the people in Chile, there’s no better place than the markets and fairs. In these places, in the midst of smells, typical flavors and the non stopping screaming out of the sales men, you can acquire fruits, vegetables, all type of farm produce and seafood and fishes as well. If you tune your ear, you will also notice a singular accent, the musicality of the common way of talking that, amongst the continuous noise, brings out the particular Chilean life style.
There’s a fair held on Wednesday and Saturday at the Avenida Argentina and two markets: “El Mercado Cardonal” (Cardonal Market), located in the Almendral neighborhood, and “El Mercado Puerto” (Puerto Market) located in the neighborhood bearing the same name. These are very old buildings that on the second floor have small restaurants commonly called “cocinerías” (cooking places) or “pensiones” (small family restaurants), whose specialty are the seafood, the beans (frijoles) and the “cazuelas” (an exquisite stock with potatoes, meat and vegetables). All of these plates can be tasted at very convenient prices.
On December, 2001 a “new tradition” or “a new party” was born. From December, 28, the city’s streets are packed with many artistic and cultural activities performed entirely free for the entire community. Thus, theatre plays invade common spaces using the stairs of the city as stands. Poets recite their poems in coffee places while a rain of poem showers the city. Popular singers are at the squares. Jazz, painting and fireworks spectacles are enjoyed by the population that actively and massively participates. These fantastic three days culminate with a carnival around giving the way to the much awaited New Year’s night.
For each carnival of this city of the fifth region, a foreign city is invited to send artists as ambassadors, who actively participate, developing a cultural exchange. The first carnival invited the city of Barcelona and the ambassadors were the theatrical performance group “Les Comediants”.
New Year’s night at Valparaíso
During all the nights of December, 31, the Municipality prepares at the Valparaíso bay a spectacular firework festivity. On the 31st, the city it’s full with visitors that gather very early at the hill viewpoints, beaches, houses with ocean view or any space that will serve the purpose. During the entire day, there’s a festivity sensation on the air while waiting everybody waits for the night to come. And just before midnight the firework spectacle starts with all the hills of the port converted in spectators within a giant amphitheatre.
After the spectacle, the neighbors go to the streets to give each other the popular hug and deliver a very happy new year wish. The New Year’s night is never ending. The bohemia it’s lit up by parties since every night club prepares something special for that night.
Do not forget to arrive ahead to your party and make early reservations in hotels, lodging houses and restaurants. Traffic becomes a bit hectic on that day.
Historical Monuments of Valparaíso
Valparaíso has a good variety of monuments built in homage to many different characters and historical moments of importance for the city and the country. Therefore when you walk around the streets, you can find many monuments in different squares or places, each one representing something; for example the “Monument of the Naval Heroes” (Monumento a los Heroes Navales), that was inaugurated on May 21, 1886 in homage to the heroes of the Naval Battle of Iquique and Punta Gruesa during the War of the Pacific (1879 – 1883). The remains of Arturo Prat, Serrano, Riquelme and the Unknown Sailor are in this crypt.
We can also find the following monuments: British Arch (Arco Británico), Bernardo O’Higgins Riquelme, Camilo Henríquez, Carlos Condell, Cristóbal Colón, Diego Portales, Duque de Caxias, Luis Alves de Lima e Silva, Eduardo de la Barra, Eleuterio Ramírez, Eloy Alfaro, Francisco Bilbao, Francisco de Paula Santander, Guillermo Wheelwright, Ignacio Carrera Pinto and Isabel La Católica.
The History of Valparaíso
In 1536, Mr. Juan de Saavedra, one of the captains of the Spanish colonist Diego de Almagro, conqueror of Chile, discovered the Alimapu bay and, with it, the Quintil valley (these were all names given by the natives), which he named Valparaíso.
In 1544, Pedro de Valdivia confirmed its name, defining it a as the natural port of Santiago.
Its privileged geographical situation assisted in consolidating the process of founding the new lands given by Mr. Pedro de Valdivia to the King of Spain. This is the reason why it’s ordered in November, 1552 the construction of a port in the bay discovered by Saavedra. The city, first a village, grows very slow during the Colonial period. The activity of the Colonial Valparaíso is relatively poor. Under the Spanish crown, the monopoly that exercises Lima, being richer, and the Callao, main port of the Viceroyalty, affects negatively to the commercial growth of Valparaíso.
In 1559 a draft of a city began to appear with the construction of a chapel, where today is the Church of Matriz (Iglesia de la Matriz) – which during that time was very close to the coast, but today is enclosed by buildings and streets. Next to it houses and warehouses are constructed. The San José Castle (Castillo San José), a fortification to protect the bay and the population, was built over the Cordillera hill (cerro Cordillera). And later, more of this fortifications were built in the hills of Artillería, Concepción and Barón. During the beginning period, Valparaíso gets the unexpected visit of all the ships with flags and corsair patents that devastated the village looking for the Spanish gold. Distinguished corsairs like Francis Drake made terrifying stops in Valparaíso.
Valparaíso was also visited by the pilot Juan Fernández who arrived in 1574, after discovering the islands name after him, and that are known around the world today because of the novel “Robinson Crusoe” by the writer Daniel Defoe.
In 1795 the city was declared the very noble and loyal city of “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes de Puerto Claro de Valparaíso”, name with which was known since the middle of 1600. On March 9, 1802, the title of “city” was conferred to it and it also obtained the helm of arms. This was later approved by a Royal Decree on August, 9 of 1811. The commerce regulations of 1822 legally recognized it as “Main Port of the Republic” and capital of the recently created province bearing the same name.
With the Free Commerce decree between the Peninsula and the colonies in 1778 and later with the independence of Chile, the port will confront its real physiognomy and start living a continuous development.
In the XIX century, Valparaíso became the thriving place for economical activity. In 1849, a year later of the discovery of gold in California, it could be counted up to 800 ships anchored in the port, converted in a big platform to get to the coasts of North America. During that time, Valparaíso rises itself as the economical center of the Pacific.
It’s this type of development that allows the daily publishing of the newspaper “El Mercurio de Valparaíso”, since September 12, 1827, being the first newspaper of the Chilean press and the oldest of the Spanish language, still existing today. Due to the high cultural level of the population, the first library in the country, directed by Santos Tornero, and the first female Public School (Liceo Fiscal femenino de Chile) of Chile were created.
It’s also the first city that had light functioning with gas, a telegraph and telephone. Only due to bureaucratic delays, it was the second city that had a railroad, which started operate in 1885 from Valparaíso to Santiago, as well as the Stock Exchange, and the first vapor shipping company of the Pacific, the “Pacific Steam Navigation Company”. Due to the high level of urban density reached with the growth of the city and by the dramatic and destructive fires at the middle of the century, it was founded the first body of firemen of the republic, on June 30, 1851.
Valparaíso saw the First National Squadron (of the incipient navy) set sails on October 10, 1818, under the command of Blanco Encalada. Then it felt the hard strike given by the Spanish squadron under the command of Méndez Núñez, when they bombed the city on March 31, 1866, during the wars with Spain.
It also received in 1915, the injured and casualties of the German cruise “Dresden” that was sunken in the Juan Fernández island during the First World War. In 1939 it saw the refugees of the Spanish Civil War, embarked by the poet Pablo Neruda onboard of the “Winnipeg”, arrived as heroes and welcomed as citizens of this port.
Valparaíso also received immigrants from a Europe devastated by wars and poverty, who came with the hope of building new lives. The port was a loyal confident of many stories told by its corners, stories that stayed for ever facing the Pacific.
Valparaíso is located in front of the bay, called Quintil by the Changos culture that inhabited the coast; it was visited in 1536 and baptized Valparaíso by Juan de Saavedra, in homage to his birthplace in Spain. Saavedra arrived on the Santiaguillo, a diminutive ship that sailed from Callao to deliver provisions to the expedition of Diego de Almagro. In 1542, Pedro de Valdivia designated this bay as Port for dealing with these lands and the city of Santiago. In 1559 a chapel was raised in the place where today is the Church of Matriz, surrounded by ten humble houses.
Just like the majority of the ports in the Hispanic America, Valparaíso did not have a foundation charter, but grew spontaneously. During the centuries XVI and XVII, the ships came down on summer from Callao and the port became filled with activity, to later languish the rest of the year. Bit by bit and in order to attend the harbor services, stable houses started to appeared, a church, and a fortification with a garrison in the Cordillera hill, over where the actual Serrano street is today.
After the Independence, the ports of Chile and America opened up to the world’s free commerce. Valparaíso became a strategic enclave for sailing routes that came through the Hornos Cape (Cabo de Hornos) from the Atlantic Ocean towards the coasts and islands of the Pacific Ocean. Valparaíso served as stopping and supply port; the merchandise that would be re-embarked to ports of the Pacific and Oceania were kept in its warehouses.
English, German and French immigrants settled in Valparaíso and took charge of the exportation commerce. They brought the necessary capital to develop the copper, silver and later nitrate in the north, mining industry and the great public works from the middle of the XIX century as well.
With the foundation of the first banks and the first stock exchange, Valparaíso became the main financial a commercial site in Chile. The pioneers of the new economic class, arisen from the richness brought by the mining industry in the North, settled in Valparaíso. They built mansions that are still in place, however now as “conventillos” (a house divided in rooms for rent).
Valparaíso it was a pioneer in regards to all the urban advances: the first streetcars, the first public and residential electrical installation, the first phones and the piping gas installation were implemented here. Besides, the railroad, coming from Valparaíso to Santiago, construction was started , and the telephone and telegraph network were installed.
This peak ended up between 1914 and 1930; the construction of the Panama Channel transformed Valparaíso from a stopping port to and ending port for shipping routes. At the same time, the new political an economical norms imposed by the president, favoring the internal industrialization of the country, made the headquarters of commercial a financial institutions move to Santiago, to be near the political power. The main people behind the industrial peak also moved to the capital.
Valparaíso is today the commercial and administrative center of the V Region of the country and a place where people from Viña del Mar, Reñaca, Concón and the inland towns of Quilpué, Villa Alemana and Peñablanca come to work. It’s also the headquarters of the National Congress (Congreso Nacional) and an important university center.
The city intertwines the present and the past. With an amphitheater shape, the city lies on an ample bay bordered by high hills, on which streets, small streets, passages and stairs climb to the top.
Between the ladder of the hills and the ocean converges the Valparaíso “plan”, where there are the commerce, financial center, offices and old residences. All the border of the ocean is occupied by the port, standing out the protection wall, the docking jetties for ships, and the big patios with stock of containers.
A visit to Valparaíso is a constant surprise, not only for is life of port-city, but also for its unusual architecture and the design of its streets. The wit of the “porteño” has made this rough and steep nature into a land where it’s easy to develop an imaginative urban distribution, creating one of the most picturesque port cities in the world. That is why the historical land of the city has been declared as Humanity Cultural Legacy.
Among the interesting trips that you can make by foot in Valparaíso are visiting the beautiful historical, cultural legacy, and bohemian sites, which are meeting points for many people. The big majority of these trips can also be made by car, since there are good signs on the streets among this winding geography. Nevertheless, to appreciate the uniqueness of the architecture and the topography is better to go walking.
The three walking trips can be done in one day, having lunch at the restaurants on the hills, to continue walking alter lunch. At the Prat dock, many boats offer traditional trips on motorboats by the bay. It costs $1,000 per person.
This is a visit to the foundation center of the city of Valparaíso, in front of the most protected part of the bay, where old ships used to anchor. Today it has changed with the construction of the harbor sites. It extends between the Aduana and the Sotomayor squares. No original buildings remain here, due to the earthquakes and precarious construction.
From Viña del Mar it can be reached by train going to the Port Station (Puerto estación). If you take the bus, get off at Sotomayor square. By car, you can park at the Sotomayor square or the Prat Dock.
For those coming from Viña del Mar it’s recommended to enter Valparaíso using the coastal highway and park at Errázuriz street or in the new parking lots at Sotomayor square (cost of $750 per hour). Another way of avoiding parking problems is to leave the car in Viña del Mar and travel to the dock on the Metro rail wagons, that besides offering a beautiful trip to the Port station, it can be used to program fun trips to the inland valleys.
The Prat Dock is located in front of the Port Station, the only place with public access where it can be observed at day and night, the harbor activity of big ships and cargo cranes. You can access it by a small square with buildings of the Port Captaincy (Capitanía del Puerto) and the Customs (Aduana) on its side, both with towers forming a portal towards the ocean.
In front there’s the ocean pool, with docking docks of oceanic ships on both sides. At the center there’s a place for anchoring for small boats of harbor services, coastguards and the lifeboats. The personnel of harbor services embark here.
At the dock there’s a craftsman fair, house of the volunteers of the Lifeboat (Bote Salvavidas), a noble maritime institution; on the second floor functions the excellent restaurant bearing the same name with a nice view over the dock. In a dry dam there’s the replica of the Santiaguillo caravel (carabela Santiaguillo) on which Juan de Saavedra traveled from El Callao to bring provisions to Diego de Almagro; on the side there’s the Tourist Information Diffusion Room (Salón de Difusión Turística), open every day, during summer from 10 am to 7 pm. At this room, a slide presentation in many languages is exhibited when requested and it’s free. Here a company that offers tours around Playa Ancha (Ancha Beach) or the Cerro Alegre (Alegre Hill) can be contacted.
There was a dock here going all the way to the ocean before the construction of the current one. It was used by passenger embarking big transoceanic ships via motorboats from the dock, when these big ships where the only means of international travel. This was the access and exit door of Chile.
Behind the Prat dock towards the hills, there’s the Sotomayor square, an old civic centre described at the end of this trip. The dock is located in front of the Prat dock and only a part of it can be seen. The Valparaíso port was projected in the 30’s when the protection wall, of 3,287 feet of length, was finished. This encloses the protection puddle, a space protected of storms coming from the North, which is open to the public the last Sunday of each month.
The wall can be seen on the background, enclosing the horizon. On its side berth the ships of the War Naval Force. Its construction is an achievement of the harbor engineering, since it has more than 1076 feet of depth. It was built over an artificial hill made of stones and sand, with a wall created with concrete boxes on top. The bay is so deep that up to today it has been impossible to build new protection walls.
The docking sites of merchant ships are to the left of the Prat dock. The jetty, to the right of the deck, has another three docking sites. The rest of the dock it’s not visible from the Prat Dock.
On the border of the protection puddle the dam is anchored, a huge iron floating box that fills its tanks with water in order to submerge and let the ships access it. Then, it drains the water and raises the ships for repairing and maintaining the hull and propellers.
At the far right end of the bay is the Barón dock (muelle Barón), with two docking sites, currently not in use due to its usage risk, thus it only houses tourist facilities. At the bay there are always revolving ships, called that way since they’re only tied with one anchor and revolve according to the changes of the wind direction. They’re waiting for a space to dock, the load arrival or are being repaired or maintained.
To continue this trip from the Prat dock, walk five blocks on Av. Errázuriz toward the West. This street offers harbor services. It has hotels, some good restaurants on the second floor with view to the docks, and on the ground, some underground cellars, typical from Valparaíso, where fruits and provisions are kept. You will also see in you way the classical naval hardware stores with nautical articles such as diving helmets, big lamps and compasses.
The Errázuriz avenue ends on the Customs Small Square (Plazuela Aduana), with a triangular shape and with the beautiful Customs building on its side, declared national monument. With an American colonial style and red painted, it was built in 1854 and it’s still a very active place. Visit its big interior rooms, where the harbor’s daily brokerage activities take place. This building, along with a few old that still remain at the harbor, it was part of the great public works that set up the port as functional at the beginning of its period of glory.
If you are traveling by car, go up on Carampangue street and on the first block turn right to get to the top. Then go down by a short stretch on the Artillería street. To keep on going by foot, on the side of the Customs building, take the Artillería lift (Ascensor Artillería), declared national monument. It climbs the Artillería hill and was inaugurated in 1893, operating with charcoal. Its carts have wide windows to look upon the bay and at the singular architecture of Valparaíso. It’s open from Sunday to Friday, from 7 am to 11:30 pm and Saturday from 7 am to 11 pm. The way up costs $120 and the way down $100.
The superior terminal station is on the 21 de Mayo Walk (Paseo 21 de Mayo). It’s a viewpoint located over an esplanade at the border of a cliff. It has trees, benches and a balustrade with a kiosk looking over the city and the port that appear here in all its extension. You can see the large warehouses, cranes and patios full of containers just disembarked. It’s the most beautiful angle from where you can appreciate the city of Valparaíso.
Travel by the esplanade until its end, where you will find the coffee place Mirador, and descend later to the kiosk on the sidewalk passing underneath the lift. At the street that goes down, there’s a big house with beautiful architecture, suspended over the cliff. It was built by the Italian architects Barrison and Schiavon at the beginning of the XX century in American oak. This pedestrian walk, also from the beginning of the century XX, it was the center of the social life of the Playa Ancha hill, which was used by the population to watch the sunset after coming back from work. You can still see the rail lines of an old streetcar that used to go up to different neighborhoods in the hill.
The walk has gardens and the old Naval School (Escuela Naval) building on its side. Today there’s a Naval facility there. In one of its wings, there’s the Maritime and Naval Museum (Museo Naval y Marítimo). It presents interesting samples of the Naval History of Chile and its Navy Force, that it’s developed in a series of rooms divided in four periods: Wars of the Independence, 1810-1826, War Against the Peruvian-Bolivian Confederation, 1836-1839; War against Spain, 1866, and War of the Pacific, 1879-1883. It exhibits an important collection of historical objects, ships in scale, photographs and old documents, pieces of armament and nautical elements. On the second floor there are four theme rooms dedicated to the Group of friends of the Captains of Hornos Cape, the Coast Brotherhood, the Admiral José Toribio Merino and the Marina Infantry. It has professors as guides for visits of delegations previously coordinated. Visiting hours are from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 6 pm, access allowed until 5:30 pm. The admission ticket costs $500, children and seniors pay $200 and school delegations $100.
You can come back using the lift or by foot through a typical small street descending to the Customs. To go back by car, go up the Artillería until its end and, there, turn to the left on the Camino Cintura until finding the Carampangue street, first street going down to the left.
Continue from the Aduana square and enter Bustamante street –the closest one to the hill- passing by old bars of the port. During that time, the ships took up to 40 days to unload and load. Today they take from 20 to 30 non stopping hours and the sailors have little time to go down to the land. Continuing two more blocks you will see an alley against the hill where appears in perspective the (Matriz del Salvador Church and Square) (Plaza e Iglesia La Matriz del Salvador), declared national monument. Its current construction dates from 1837 and it was projected by father Antonio Riobó. It’s the fifth church raised in the place; the first one was raised in 1559. Its name refers to the first temple of Valparaíso. Until the beginning of the XIX century, the beach and the disembarking boats were placed on the border of the square. Then, due to space necessity, land was taken from the ocean, refilling the border to construct streets, buildings, docks and piers. Today, La Matriz is in the middle of the city surrounded by streets and with a beautiful square fenced by balustrades and steps, to adjust a slope that goes down the hills. The church, an imposing tower of neoclassic style, it has in its interior a Christ of Agony (Cristo de la Agonía), of the Sevillian school of XVII century, donated by the kings of Spain. Masses are held from Tuesday to Saturday at 7 pm, Sunday at 9:30 am and 12 pm.
Continue and enter the Santo Domingo street, on the right side of the church, to visit the neighborhood around the church, declared Typical Zone (Zona Típica). This was the first inhabited site of the port, and during the Colony there was here a small residence of the Jesus Company (Compañía de Jesús) that in 1767 was occupied by the Santo Domingo Order. Currently occupies the place of the burnt Severín building, which waiting to be restored. After the Independence, this place was used for theater plays and, in 1828, the first Congress Bicameral of Chile met here.
Continue on Santiago Severín street, one of the most antique ones and where many regents of the first Town Council of the city lived. The road ends where the small streets Matriz and Cajilla meet. On this corner there was the building where the El Mercurio in 1827, the oldest newspaper of Hispanic language, was created.
Continue going down on Cajilla until hitting the Clave street and the big building of the Salvation Army. Then, turn left to come out to Echaurren Square. It’s surrounded by an old buildings, from which the Echaurren store still remains, being one of the biggest emporiums or stores of Valparaíso, with its mixed shelves mahogany color and its beveled edge displays.
The square was the first civil esplanade of the port and where the troops staying at the San José Castle presented arms. It was built on the Cordillera hill, from which there’s nothing left today. Against the ocean a beach opened up where port works were done.
Continue on Serrano street that runs on the steps of the Cordillera hills. By 1850 it was the main commercial street and a luxurious residential center. Steps from the Echaurren square there was the Monza, a fine store of masculine clothing that dictated the fashion in the port and the country.
Take a close look at the buildings, of thick walls and austere facades; these are combined with warehouses on the first floors and residential departments upstairs. At the N ° 543 observe the luxurious construction with Gothic-Venetian style, with carved mahogany door and an onyx stair going to the second floor.
In the middle of the street, there’s the Cordillera lift, declared national monument, from 1886, along a straight stair with one of the biggest slopes of the city (262 feet of height). Get to the small square Eleüterio Ramírez, where many streets are born along their sides houses covered with zinc paneling that, in the past, were opulent residences of families of the port. These lands belonged to the San José Castle, a walled fortress started to be built in 1692 that occupied the entire front of the Cordillera hill. Continuous earthquakes destroyed it and in 1838 the place was parceled and the residential neighborhood was created.
From the small square turn left at Merlet street. At its end, the English Juan Mouat built in 1841, a colonial style house with an octagonal corner where the first astronomical observatory in Chile was installed.
The house built on the cliff border, just over Sotomayor square, has a privileged view of the city. It has been restored and here is located the Museo del Mar Lord Thomas Cochrane, with a naval exhibition of ships in scale. Located in Merlet 195, visiting hours are from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 1 pm, and from 3 pm to 8 pm. Admission is free.
Use the lift in Serrano street to go down and continue until the end to go back to Sotomayor Square. This was the civic center of the city of Valparaíso from the first third of the XX century until 1980. But, traditionally in Valparaíso, downtowns have been moved to other parts of the city, and this one was not the exception.
Some crystals on the pavement, by Cochrane street, indicate the place of the Site Musuem (Museo de Sitio). Through those crystals you can appreciate the vestiges of the first dock that Valparaíso had, found during excavations for the underground parking lot. The Site Musuem was built by the Governor of Valparaíso José Ignacio Zenteno in 1825, over the remains of the old Esmeralda captured by Lord Cochrane in the Callao. On the side of the square there are high buildings and the square borders the ocean by the access to the Prat dock. It stands out the former town council building, declared national monument. Inaugurated in 1910, it was constructed in the same place that occupied the first town council building. The former one was designed by the architect Ernesto Urquieta, of 26,246 square feet. It houses offices, halls and two residential wings. It was the headquarters of the Province Government, residence of the Intendant, place for official receptions and the summer residence of the President of the Republic until 1930, when the Presidential Palace was built in Viña. Today is occupied by the Navy General Command of the Chilean Navy.
In front and against the ocean is the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique (Monumento a los Héroes de Iquique). Inaugurated in 1886, in its foot is the crypt with the remains of Prat, Serrano, Condell and other heroes (the monument is not open to the public, in order to visit you must contact the Public Relations of the Chilean Navy).
Another place that must be visited in Valparaíso is the Tribunals of Justice (Tribunales de Justicia), next to Navy General Command of the Navy, by a small square and the Statue of Justice, represented without blindfold and with the balance plates on the arm. To the left, almost simulating a building door, is the access to the El Peral lift (Ascensor El Peral), declared national monument, that climbs the Alegre hill (Cerro Alegre).
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