Torres del Paine National Park

Valparaiso, a World Heritage City

View from a hill of Valparaiso
Image: Hostal Escalera al Puerto

Note: In February 2024, some places in central Chile suffered significant damage from devastating fires, including certain areas of Valparaiso. Reconstruction will take a long time and tourism could be restricted in some spots. 

The city of Valparaiso, capital of the homonymous region, is one of the most important commercial and military ports in Chile. It is located 116 km NW of Santiago, the national capital. The port city is characterized by its rugged geography and the idiosyncrasy of its inhabitants, it has also been the source of inspiration for many songs about its hills, the beautiful "porteñas" (women of Valparaiso) and all kinds of life stories.
Valparaiso has more than 300,000 inhabitants, making it the third largest city after Santiago and Concepcion, but Greater Valparaiso, which includes the neighboring communes to which is currently connected, reaches a population of over one million inhabitants, the second urban center in Chile. 
The city is also called 'Pancho' by its residents and 'La Joya del Pacífico' ('The Jewel of the Pacific') due to its seascape, history, and picturesque architecture with houses built on dozens of hills. During its greatest splendor in the second half of the nineteenth century, Valparaíso was also known among sailors as 'The Little San Francisco.' The city was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO on July 2, 2003.

One of the most emblematic buildings in Valparaiso is the seat of the Congreso Nacional which was moved here during the military government to give more importance to the regions. However, this has been a controversial issue because the Legislature and the Government are located in different cities. 

As an important commercial and military port, Valparaiso is also home to the Chilean Navy Headquarters and numerous organizations related to maritime life.  

In terms of weather, this city has a Mediterranean climate with mild and sometimes rainy winters and extremely dry summers, which often lead to forest fires. The average annual temperature is 14°C. 

Below is a list of interesting places to visit in Valparaiso.

Hills of Valparaiso 

The chain of more than 40 hills that surround its bay is one of the city's quintessential postcard images, its architecture uniquely adapted to the steep slopes. These hills, hallmark of the port, are actually different areas of the same mountain range. Among the most representative "cerros" (hills) are:

Cerro Concepcion, whose name comes from the old fort that stood there for the defense of the city. The old buildings show the influence of the first European settlers who arrived in the area. Cerro Concepción was chosen by the German immigrants responsible for the current urban layout of this area, highlighting its viewpoints, beautiful gardens and elegant mansions.

Also one of the most prominent places in the neighborhood is St. Paul's Anglican Church, built by the English engineer William Lloyd in 1858, which was the first temple of this religion in Valparaiso, professed by most of the members of the British colony resident. For their part, in 1897 the Germans built the Lutheran Church of Valparaiso, located a few blocks from the Anglican. Also worth mentioning are the Ascensor Concepcion, the first funicular in Valparaiso, dating back to 1883; the viewpoints, with spectacular views of the bay; "Paseo Atkinson", "Paseo Gervasoni", "La Casa de Lukas", house - museum and cafe exhibiting the most outstanding works of a famous Chilean cartoonist, Renzo Pecchenino, whose pen name was "Lukas"; Galvez, Fischer and Templeman alleys.


Hotel Palacio Astoreca, Valparaiso, Chile.
A view of Hotel Palacio Astoreca
Cerro Alegre                                                      
Cerro Alegre, next to Cerro Concepcion, whose first civilian resident after the Spanish conquistadors was the English merchant William Bateman. Bateman was followed by other compatriots who came to the city as immigrants, creating a residential neighborhood with houses of a higher level of construction than was usual at the time, with amenities and gardens that contributed to the beautification of the place. 

Among the typical places of the hill we can mention Palacio Baburizza, a historical monument built in 1916, located in the Paseo Yugoslavo of Cerro Alegre, whose name comes from its second owner, a Croatian entrepreneur of the first half of the twentieth century. The house became the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts of Valparaiso in 1971. Next is the Victorian-style Palacio Astoreca, built in 1923 by the Croatian immigrant Francisco Petrinovic, who made a fortune during the golden age of saltpetre, today with a renewed air as it has been turned into a hotel-boutique.

Cerro Bellavista, owes its name to the beautiful view it offers over the Bay of Valparaiso. Cerro Bellavista was chosen to create the Museo a Cielo Abierto de Valparaiso, outdoor tour to admire 20 street art murals until now, by renowned artists who have visited the city. You can hire guided tours to see the murals and graffiti of the hills, making visitors can observe in detail the dozens of these works and even paint their own creations. In Cerro Bellavista is also the Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), inaugurated in 1904 and destined to protect the port. This sculpture is attributed to Eduardo Provasoli, a famous Italian architect of the time, who designed a number of churches throughout Chile.

Cerro Artilleria, another of the hills that stands out for its incredible architecture of houses almost hanging from the hillsides. Its name comes from the Artillery Barracks located at the top. Among the attractions is the Museo Maritimo Nacional, Paseo 21 de Mayo, one of the many natural viewpoints of Valparaiso, the Artilleria and Villaseca Funicular Railways, craft fairs, Casa Artilleria No. 156 (or Casa Cuatro Vientos) ancient house built between 1908 and 1909 by the Italians Renato Schiavon and Arnaldo Barison, one of the most photographed sites in Valparaiso because of the location on which it is built.

Polanco Palace, Valparaiso, Chile.
Palacio Polanco, Barrio El Almendral 
Image: Robert Cutts on Flickr 
Cerro Baron, at the East end of the "Plan" (lower part of the city). On this hill stands the "Iglesia de San Francisco" (San Francisco Church), a temple full of history and which has suffered at least two major fires. San Francisco Church gives the nickname "Pancho" to Valparaiso as in the past this temple was the most recognizable point for sailors arriving at the port. (Spanish, name Francisco= nickname "Pancho"). 

Nearby is situated El Almendral neighborhood, with many important places like the National Congress, the Municipal Theatre, the Cathedral, Plaza Victoria (Victoria Square), the Iglesia de los Doce Apostoles (Church of the Twelve Apostles), O'Higgins Square, the Mercado Cardonal, whose two-story meccano type construction dates from 1912. It was designed by Eduardo Feuereisen, disciple of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel; Palacio Polanco which since 1942 is used as the headquarters of the Prefecture of Carabineros de Chile, and many other interesting places.


Funicular Railways of Valparaiso

Valparaiso, funiculars
Due to its rugged geography that includes more than 40 hills, the displacement of people is often through the mistakenly called "ascensores" (elevators) which are actually
funicular railways. The only elevator in the strict sense is that which leads to Cerro Polanco (Polanco Hill), it has more than 100 years since it was inaugurated in 1916, National Monument of Chile from 1976. Although there is a comprehensive restoration program of the local lifts, it must be pointed out that all the funiculars are long-standing, such as the one located in Cerro Concepcion which was the first built in Valparaiso, in 1883. At some time there were more than 30 funicular lines working in Valparaiso, today only some of them are in operation.

Other important "ascensores" are the Ascensor Artilleria, from 1893, built to transport officers and sailors of the Naval Academy, its wagons are the largest and interesting for its colorful painting, including modern designs. Its upper station is located at Paseo 21 de Mayo, one of the main lookout points of the city. Ascensor Baron, since 1906, located in the homonymous hill, connects Avenida España at the lower part of the city with Avenida Diego Portales at the top, Baron was the first funicular to work with an electric motor, thus replacing the old system of water counterbalancing. As we said before, Ascensor Polanco is the only true elevator of Valparaiso. It is also very original because its gateway is preceded by a 150 mts. long tunnel that recalls an old abandoned silver mine. 

Ascensor Reina Victoria, at Cerro Alegre, built in 1902 and Historical Monument since 1998, thus called in honor of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, who died in 1901, one year before its construction. Its route is very short, only 40 meters, but the gradient is very steep, 52 °. Ascensor El Peral, since 1901, connects Plaza de Justicia in the lower part of the city with the Paseo Yugoslavo in Cerro Alegre, one of the important tourist areas of Valparaiso, with stunning panoramic views of the city and where Palacio Baburizza is located, seat of the "Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes",  the main pictorial art gallery in the city.

"Miradores" of Valparaiso (Lookout points)  

Mirador Plaza Bismark, Valparaiso
Mirador Plaza Bismarck
A must see are the lookouts nestled in its many hills, to take nice pictures and admire the port city, the most visited because of their strategic location are: 

Paseo Atkinson, located in Cerro Concepción, along a beautiful row of gardens of old large houses belonging to the nineteenth century. Paseo Atkinson is constantly visited by national and foreign tourists, attracted by the particular view, arrangement and maintenance of the large houses.

Paseo Gervasoni, adjacent to Paseo Atkinson, with a privileged view towards the bay and also surrounded by large houses of the nineteenth century, featuring the Casa- Museo of Renzo Pecchenino, Cafe Turri and Hotel Gervasoni, which is the oldest building of the hill.

Paseo Yugoslavo, which was one of the first promenade viewing-platforms of the city, located precisely above the Plaza Sotomayor, one of the nerve centers of Valparaiso.
This is one of the favorite observation points for those who visit Valparaiso since from here you can get the best views of the port and the entire "plan" (sea level part of the city). Here is situated Palacio Baburizza, currently converted into the Museum of Fine Arts of Valparaiso.

Paseo 21 de Mayo, traditional and attractive promenade located at Cerro Artilleria, daily visited by tourists from around the world, is one of the most important sites of interest of Valparaiso to get an excellent view of the harbor and city, easy and fast to arrive from the downtown.


Boat Tours 

One of the attractions of the country's main port are its bay and the panoramic views of the city from the coastline. Either at the port or local agencies, you can take a boat trip in colorful boats that offer trips around the bay to observe marine fauna, merchant and warships, all the port activity and the city. Tours last around 30 minutes leaving from Muelle Prat. 

"La Sebastiana" House - Museum

"La Sebastiana" House - Museum, La Florida Hill, Valparaiso, Chile.
"La Sebastiana"
One of the houses where the famous Chilean diplomat, writer and poet Pablo Neruda, Nobel Prize for Literature, lived for periods. The name was given by Neruda in honor of his friend and first owner, the Spanish architect Sebastian Collado.
"La Sebastiana is located at 692 Ricardo de Ferrari Street, La Florida Hill (Cerro Florida), the museum has a system of audio guides available in English, French, Portuguese, German and Spanish. During the 1973 coup d'état, the house was badly damaged in the raids and for 18 years "La Sebastiana" became a ghost house. From the 90's the house was restored with the help of Telefonica of Spain and opened to the public as a house museum on January 1, 1992. It is a 5-storey architectural work with spectacular views, housing collections of the artist and curious objects brought from all over the world. ("La Sebastiana", see more...)

Museo Maritimo Nacional de Chile

The coast of Chile covers more than 4300 km. in length, so the history of the country and life experiences of its people are closely related to the sea. The exhibition is located in the facilities of what formerly was the Escuela Naval (Naval Academy) at Artilleria Hill, the aim is to preserve and spread the Chilean naval history, with exhibition of various objects such as model ships, weapons, uniforms, flags, logbooks, letters and many valuable documents and relics. Its collections contain more than 3,000 three-dimensional objects and with respect to literature and documents there are more than 30,000 volumes. 

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Valparaiso

It is the main pictorial exhibition of this important region of Chile, since 1971 its seat is Palacio Baburizza, building dating from 1916, property that belonged to the Croatian businessman Pascual Baburizza, located at Paseo Yugoslavo of Cerro Alegre. The museum shows important collections of Chilean and European painting of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the pieces have been gathered since 1895 and today is rated within the four most important art collections of Chile.

Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaiso

Museo de Historia Natural, Valparaiso.
The Natural History Museum of Valparaiso was founded in 1878 and from 1988 is located at 1546 Condell Street, building known as Palacio Lyon. The first owner of the construction was Santiago Lyon, whose father was a direct descendant of the Scottish Royal Family. The compilation is organized into four types of collections: archaeological, ethnographic, anthropological and bio-anthropological areas. 

Other places to visit: