Walking Tour of Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaiso, Chile, a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the base of the coastal range of the Andes, is a charming town whose wealth was acquired from Chilean wheat which fueled the California Gold Rush in the mid-1800’s. Since there was no Panama Canal, shipping to the west coast of the United States involved travel around the southern tip of South America and up the coast. Valparaiso was a major port in South America at the time.
The rich merchants built their beautiful Victorian homes in the hills (cerros) above the town and, to get a true picture of the culture and its history, these areas must be visited. There are steep roads and numerous funiculars which allow access. In the past there were more than 30 of these funiculars, but today there are only about 15 or so.
My walk begins at Plaza Sotomayor, one of the city’s most impressive squares. Here, you will find the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique. The “heroes” in question are buried beneath the monument. The Palace of Justice building dominates the square.
Next, hop on the funicular (Ascensor Peral) which brings you to the top of Cerro Alegre and the Paseo Yugoslavo, one of the city’s many terraces/walkways. Look for the Palacio Baburizza, a handsome Art Nouveau mansion which now houses the Fine Arts Museum.
Return to Plaza Sotomayor, and turn right onto Calle Prat, to reach the Ascensor Concepcion. Again, take the funicular to Cerro Concepcion. Paseo Gervason offers fabulous views of the city, while the narrow, cobblestone streets in this district provide access to an intriguing neighborhood.
Take the funicular back down from the hill, and turn right on Calle Esmeralda, then left on O’Higgins, and right on Belle Vista. Now, turn left on Calle Condell, where you will find Palacio Lyon, now the home of the Natural History Museum. Then, turn right on Calle Huito to reach another funicular, Ascensor Espiritu Santo, which leads to Cerro Bellavista and the Museo a Cielo Abierto, a series of twenty or so murals, by various Chilean artists. Note: The adventuresome will want to walk from here to La Sebastiana, a unique home which offers perhaps the best views in the city, and which will intrigue visitors with its design and furnishings. To get here, walk south on Bernardo Ramos to its end, then turn right and left to reach the house.
After your visit, return to the funicular and descend, then turn right (east) on Condell to reach Plaza Victoria, a beautiful park-like square, featuring an interesting fountain. The Cathedral is across the street.
Now, walk north on Molina to Avenida Errazuriz and turn left, walking along the waterfront. On your right, after you pass Plaza Sotomayor, you might want to walk down to Muelle Prat (Prat Wharf), to watch the activity or to take a boat ride.
Now, continue west on Avenida Errazuriz to Plaza Advana. Take another funicular, Ascensor Artilleria, up to Paseo 21 de Mayo. Here, you will find the Museo Naval y Maritimo de Valparaiso, housed in an elegant palace. Then, return to Plaza Advana, via the staircase or the funicular, and walk east on Calle Cochrane to Plaza Sotomayor, where your walk began.