Valparaíso is a city, port, and commune of Chile, center of its third largest conurbation (Greater Valparaíso). It is located 69.5 miles (111.8 km) northwest of Santiago and is one of the country’s most important seaports. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region. Although Santiago is Chile’s official capital, the National Congress of Chile meets in Valparaíso since 1990.
Valparaíso played a very important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco” and “The Jewel of the Pacific.”
Examples of Valparaíso’s former glory include Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world, El Mercurio de Valparaíso. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.
Though nearby San Antonio has become the country’s most commercially important seaport in terms of tonnage moved, the City of Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture. The Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area (which includes Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Quilpué and Villa Alemana) has the third-largest concentration of population in the country after Greater Santiago and Greater Concepción.
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, Valparaíso was declared a world heritage site based upon its improvised urban design and unique architecture. In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso’s unusual system of funicular elevators (highly-inclined cable cars) one of the world’s 100 most endangered historical treasures. In 1998, grassroots activists convinced the Chilean government and local authorities to apply for UNESCO world heritage status for Valparaíso. Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso boasts a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy. Valparaíso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Iglesia de la Matriz
- Plaza Aníbal Pinto
- Plaza Sotomayor
- 16 remaining funiculars (called ascensores): 15 public (national monuments) and 1 private (which belongs to “Hospital Carlos Van Buren”).
- The Concepcion and Alegre historical district
- The Bellavista hill, which has the “Museo a Cielo Abierto” or “open sky museum”
- Monument to Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald
- Monument to Manuel Blanco Encalada, first Chilean President
The peculiar geographical distribution of Valparaíso, where the hills invade the coast, makes the hill a sea view is remarkable. Therefore, places like Mirador Portales, Mirador Hope, Bay O’Higgins, Bay Marina Mercante, 21 May, Paseo Yugoslav Paseo Gervasoni, Paseo Atkinson and Dimalow, ideal when in a panoramic view port city . During New Year’s holidays, many of these rides are full lookout for tourists late morning, all for having a more privileged fireworks, just as there are routes between the hills of the city’s oldest (Cerros Alegre and Concepción), in which, in addition to providing English colonial architecture of its houses and churches of the early nineteenth century, visitors can delve into contemporary museums, gardens and small squares, hidden viewpoints between houses and balconies and a unique magic that ranges between hills neighborhoods. Not only viewpoints and port elevators lives; around the hills and Almendral Plan there are several museums to know and admire, among which are: the Naval Museum (whose entrance is in the middle of Paseo 21 Craft Fair May) and Maritime Museum of the Sea Lord Thomas Cochrane , Baburizza Palace, seat of the Museum of Fine Arts in the city, the Casona Mirador de Lukas , Clown Museum and Puppet, the Casa Museo La Sebastiana , one of the mansions of the legendary Chilean poet Pablo Neruda and the Natural History Museum and Municipal Art Gallery, among others.