Valparaíso, Chile

The Historic Quarter of Valparaíso in Central Chile is a major seaport with a kaleidoscope of vibrant colors. You will quickly see why it is called the “Jewel of the Pacific” and an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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1 City Surrounding Seaport in Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso was a quiet fishing village until Chile became independent from Spanish rule. Then, the Chilean Navy established its headquarters, academy and port here in the early 19th century. Within decades it grew into a major commercial seaport. Although nearby San Antonio is now Chile’s largest port, the Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area has become the country’s second largest city with a population of over 900,000 people.

Bahía de Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

2 Historic Quarter of Valparaíso, Chile

Carved into Valparaíso’s 43 hills are five neighborhoods painted in a kaleidoscope of colors. The picturesque buildings are connected by a labyrinth of narrow alleys, steep staircases and century-old funiculars. The Historic District is shaped like a giant amphitheater with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean seaport. Valpo, as the local porteños call their city, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

Bahía de Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

3 Monument to the Heroes of Iquique in Valparaíso, Chile

The Battle of Iquique consisted of two naval confrontations against Peru during the War of the Pacific in 1879. The Monumento a los Héroes de Iquique was erected at Plaza Sotomayor in 1886 in memory of the fallen Chilean sailors. On top is a statue of Arturo Prat who died while commanding the Esmeralda. Below him are other sculptures by Pierre Dennis. Beneath this tribute is a vault with several of the heroes’ remains.

Blanco 625, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

4 CSAV Headquarters in Valparaíso, Chile

The Ionic columns and fluted pilasters of this classic façade compliment the architecture surrounding Sotomayor Square. Attached to it, however, is a modern high-rise with blue glass cladding. Both are part of the CSAV headquarters. Since Compañía Sundamericana de Vapores was founded in 1872, it has become one of the world’s largest shipping and freight transportation companies. In 2014 it merged with Hapag-Lloyd in Germany.

Sotomayor 50, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

5 Hotel Reina Victoria in Valparaíso, Chile

When it was constructed in 1902, this narrow pink building was the English Hotel. For a short period of time in the late 1930’s it was remodeled into the Queen Victoria Hotel before it was severely damaged by an earthquake. It is now the Hotel Reina Victoria located at Plaza Sotomayor. The square’s namesake is Rafael Sotomayor. He was the Minister of War and the Chilean Navy at the onset of the Pacific War in 1879.

Sotomayor 190, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

6 Chilean Navy Headquarters in Valparaíso, Chile

Soon after Chile declared its independence from the Spanish Empire in 1818, the First National Fleet was founded leading to the creation of the Chilean Navy. It was a logical first step to help defend its 2,500 miles of Pacific coastline. When this building along Plaza Sotomayor was built in 1901, it was a municipal building. It is now the Edificio de la Comandancia or the Naval Command headquarters and includes the offices for the navy’s commander-in-chief.

Sotomayor 592, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

7 Ornate Entry of Social Elite in Valparaíso, Chile

During Valparaíso golden age in the late 19th century, Europeans flocked to the booming seaport of Valparaíso. German and English immigrants built modest wooden homes on two hills called Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción while the social elite and rich merchants constructed elaborate mansions and offices like this one around Sotomayor Square and Plaza Justica. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 marked the beginning of the end of Valparaíso’s prosperous era.

Plaza de La Justicia 99, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

8 Palace of Justice in Valparaíso, Chile

The Court of Appeals in Valparaiso was established in 1892. It has the legal authority to hear disputed legal decisions from several Chilean courts. Since 1939, the courthouse has been housed in the Palacio de Justicia. It replaces two earlier buildings. One collapsed during the 1906 earthquake and the second was demolished in 1927.

Plaza de La Justicia S/N, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

9 Greek Goddess of Justice in Valparaíso, Chile

In Greek mythology, Dikē was the goddess of justice who hailed from Mount Olympus. The deity is typically portrayed with two scales in her outreached hand. This bronze version in front of the Place of Justice, however, is holding her iconic symbol collapsed against her side. The Roman equivalent Justitia normally wears a blindfold.

Plaza de La Justicia S/N, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

10 Magnificent Building on José Tomás Romos in Valparaíso, Chile

Across from the Palace of Justice are two magnificent connected buildings on José Tomás Romos. This one has an elaborate gate flanked by Corinthian columns, ornately carved molding and two coat-of-arms with lion rampants and a crown. The street is named after a successful 19th century entrepreneur in foreign trade, importing and the sugar industry. I spent hours trying to identify this magnificent edifice that resembles Wedgewood porcelain but without any luck. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

José Tomás Ramos 22 Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

11 Semilla de Color Staircase in Valparaíso, Chile

This brightly colored staircase is by Semilla de Color meaning “Seeds of Color.” The project was sponsored in 2012 by the Miguel Woodward Community Center. They frequently recruit children to help paint risers in the city. Their goal is by planting a seed of color, they seek to build a better world and join to form a mountain.

Gálvez 48, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

12 Terraced Restaurant in Cerro Concepción in Valparaíso, Chile

From 1914 through most of the 20th century, Valparaíso experienced a significant decline. As the port became less prosperous and the wealthy moved to nearby cities, the homes along the cerros (hills) began to deteriorate and businesses struggled. During the 1990s, a major revitalization effort was spearheaded by the Fundación Valparaíso. With a renewed public spirit and $73 million in funding, the neighborhoods were revitalized by residents and artists with a rainbow of colors. Today you will enjoy views of terraced charm that earn the city’s nickname “The Jewel of the Pacific.”

Papudo 427, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

13 Colorful Houses in Cerro Concepción Neighborhood in Valparaíso, Chile

Cerro Concepción is one of the five neighborhoods in the Historic Quarter. German immigrants first settled on this hill during the 19th century. Today it is populated with lovingly restored and colorful houses like these along Templeman Street. Galería Pierre Loti does business in the lavender building. It is a jewelry and clothing boutique combined with a coffee shop offering light snacks.

Pierre Loti 9-77 Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

14 St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Valparaíso, Chile

Freedom of religion did not occur in Chile until 1865. However, British immigrants to Valparaíso began construction on the Anglican Church of Saint Paul in the Concepción neighborhood in 1857. Because it met with significant resistance among the Catholic majority, it was finished in 1858 with a very humble design by architect William Lloyd. Iglesia Anglicana San Pablo has been designated as a historical monument.

Pilcomayo 566, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

Rudimentary Graffiti in Valparaíso, Chile

Like most major cities, the walls of Valparaíso have historically been tarnished by graffiti. During the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1974 – 1990), the defacing had radical protest and political overtones. Although graffiti is illegal in Chile, street art is now embraced in Valparaíso. As result, it is rare to see rudimentary work like this. Instead, quality artistry is encouraged and often financially supported. An example is the Museo a Cielo Abirto. Since 1992, the Open Air Museum has sponsored over 20 murals in the Cerro Bellavista neighborhood.

Blue Face Woman with Pink Lips Mural in Valparaíso, Chile

According to the cultural development director of Valparaiso, the city promotes graffiti as long as it is of a creative nature. As a result, vibrant street art fills nearly every flat surface in Valparaíso’s neighborhoods. The kaleidoscope of colors and designs would make Salvador Dalí and Pablo Picasso envious. An example is this mural of a woman with a red eye mask, blue face, pink lips and wearing a bird headdress.

15 Piano Keys Stairs in Valparaíso, Chile

In any other city, these 29 steps would only be a practical means to climb or descend from one street level to the other. In Valparaíso, they become a canvas for creativity. This piano stairway elicits universal delight from anyone who passes. The mural also has its own Facebook page (with only 14 likes). But no one seems to know the artist’s name or why there are commercial handwheels and a Menorah shaped with rocks on the adjoining wall.

Abtao 682, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

Left Detail of Stylistic Woman Street Art in Valparaíso, Chile

The Historic Quarter of Valparaíso is a virtual outdoor art gallery. Usually a street artist paints alone to create artwork reflecting their unique style and expression. However, they will often work as a team on elaborate and oversized murals. This is a detail of a huge mural created by INTI, Lrm, Cern, Cekis and Sker. Several of these accomplished painters are part of a group called STGO Under Crew.

Right Detail of Stylistic Woman Street Art in Valparaíso, Chile

This stylistic woman mural is wedged between real windows of the building. It is a detail of street art bordering a steep hill that stretches for nearly a block. Unlike most major cities, muralists in Valparaíso rarely name and sign their work. So if you want to learn more about the gifted people behind the spray cans, sign up for a walking tour like those offered by Valpo Street Art Tours.

16 Lutheran Church of Valparaíso in Valparaíso, Chile

A population of German immigrants who were attracted to Valparaíso’s prosperous seaport grew on Concepción Hill during the early 19th century. Their first attempt to establish an Evangelical Lutheran church in 1867 soon dissolved. However, in 1897, they finished building La Santa Cruz. It is historical significant as South America’s first Protestant church with a bell tower.

Abtao 689 Cerro Concepción, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

17 Hotel Brighton in Valparaíso, Chile

This bright orange building perched on Concepción Hill overlooking the Bay of Valparaíso is the Hotel Brighton. Ideally located along Paseo Atkinson, this charming boutique hotel has nine guest rooms. Each one is named after a famous author such as Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens and George Elliot. They all come equipped with a memorable experience.

Paseo Atkinson 153, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

18 Sideways Ekeko Mural by INTI in Valparaíso, Chile

In 2012, a Valparaíso-born artist named Inti Castro painted this mural spanning three buildings. This sideways image is a stylized Ekeko, the Andean god of luck and prosperity. His artwork commonly features puppet-like faces and has become iconic in a city filled with murals. INTI, whose Incan name means Sun, has gone on to be a world-renowned artist with enormous outdoor works in India, Spain, Germany, Poland, Sweden, France and several other countries. This delightful painting is best viewed from the overlook along Paseo Atkinson in Cerro Concepción

Paseo Atkinson 106, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

19 Ascensor Villaseca in Valparaíso, Chile

The first funicular railway was built in Valparaíso in 1883 along the Concepción Hill. At the system’s peak in the early 20th century, the city had 26 funiculars transporting an estimated three million people a year. Today only eight lifts are operational. The Ascensor Villaseca was built in Germany and opened in 1913. Its pair of 508 foot tracks carried passengers 194 feet from the port to a street named Pedro León Gallo on Playa Ancha Hill. This National Monument stopped operations in 2006.

Taqueadero 502, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

20 Upper Station Gazebo of Ascensor Artillería in Valparaíso, Chile

A must-do experience while vacationing in Valparaíso is riding a funicular. One of the best is Ascensor Artillería. Built next to an earlier elevator in 1908, the lift’s 574 foot assent takes only 80 seconds to reach this station at the top of Artillería Hill. The ride is fun, the views of the city and harbor from Paseo 21 de Mayo terrace are terrific and the Playa Ancha neighborhood is interesting to explore, especially the nearby National Maritime Museum.

Paseo 21 De Mayo Valpo Paseo Veintiuno de Mayo 108, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

21 National Maritime Museum in Valparaíso, Chile

This “White House” on Playa Ancha Hill was the headquarters for the Arturo Prat School for naval cadets when it opened in 1893. Since 1988, it has been the Museo Maritimo Nacional. The naval museum, which was established in 1915, has a collection of over 3,000 military artifacts and 30,000 documents in 17 rooms.

Artillería 301 Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

22 Café Mural at Paseo 21 de Mayo in Valparaíso, Chile

Paseo 21 de Mayo is an extended balcony on top of Artillería Hill. From a height of almost 600 feet you will enjoy a gorgeous, panoramic view of Valparaíso and its bay. Additional tourist attractions include kiosks offering Chilean handicrafts and souvenirs, tree-lined gardens along a promenade, quaint cafés to rest your feet plus full-service restaurants and boutique hotels.

Artillería 301, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

23 Playa Ancha Victorian Mansion in Valparaíso, Chile

Playa Ancha is Valparaíso largest hill and home to about a third of the city’s residents. Since development began in the 1830s, it became a center for the university, the naval academy, sports and magnificent mansions. Many of the colonial Victorian homes were designed after the 1906 earthquake by an architect named Esteban Orlando Harrington. He is also credited with several of the hotels in the Historic Quarter.

Artillería 433, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso, Chile Composite of Seven Photos

Splashes of color are everywhere in Valparaíso, Chile, known as the “The Jewel of the Pacific.” Its rows of houses cling to steep hills with a kaleidoscope effect. Among the maze of narrow streets are ornate wall murals. The cobblestone alleys are connected by brightly painted stairs that challenge your lungs. For the less hearty, there are funiculars that clatter and groan to the next neighborhood. A tour guide is essential here, not because the town is big but because you can easily get lost in the labyrinth. Plus a good guide can share the rich history that started with the Spaniards in 1536. For example, why are the houses such bright colors and sided with corrugated steel? The answer: they were decorated with left over paint and scrap metal from the shipyards.