Valparaiso Introduction Walking Tour, Valparaiso

Valparaiso Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Valparaiso

Nestled along the picturesque Bay of Valparaíso on the coastline of central Chile, Valparaíso (or Valpo to the locals) is a vibrant city steeped in history that captivates visitors with its unique allure. The story of Valparaíso is as diverse as its colorful streets. It begins with the Picunche natives, who were the first ethnically identifiable inhabitants of the region.

In 1536, Spanish explorers arrived aboard the Santiaguillo ship, led by Juan de Saavedra, who named the area Valparaíso after his birthplace in Spain; the latter's name translates from Spanish as "Paradise Valley" (Valle Paraíso). During the Spanish colonial era, Valparaíso remained a small village, occasionally facing attacks by English pirates, such as the infamous Francis Drake.

The 19th century brought transformation and prosperity. After Chile's independence in 1818, Valparaíso became the main harbor for the Chilean navy and a hub for international trade, opening doors to global commerce. The city was a crucial stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Straits of Magellan. This era, known as its golden age, witnessed rapid growth and attracted European immigrants, earning the city the monikers "Little San Francisco", “The Jewel of South America”, and "The Jewel of the Pacific."

However, the 20th century brought challenges as the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 diminished Valparaíso's port-based economy. In the 21st century, the city experienced a youthful revival, drawing artists, cultural entrepreneurs, and tourists to its historic districts, characterized by cobbled alleys and vibrant buildings. Known for its bohemian culture, the city hosts annual festivals and embraces street art and music, making it a dynamic and inviting destination.

One of Valparaíso's most iconic landmarks is Plaza Sotomayor, a grand square with the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique at its center, paying tribute to the courageous sailors who perished in the Battle of Iquique, in 1879, during the War of the Pacific.

Not far from the square, the Chilean Navy Building (Edificio Armada de Chile) stands tall, symbolizing the city's maritime heritage. Nearby, the El Peral Elevator (Ascensor El Peral) offers breathtaking views of the city and the Pacific Ocean.

A paradise waiting to be explored, Valparaíso is the place for those who love getting lost in alleyways full of street art, craft beer, and cocktails, or just want to escape the sweltering South American summer heat in Santiago. It leaves an indelible mark on all who visit it. So, how about you?
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Valparaiso Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Valparaiso Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Chile » Valparaiso (See other walking tours in Valparaiso)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.0 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Plaza Sotomayor (Sotomayor Square)
  • Monument to the Heroes of Iquique
  • Edificio Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy Building)
  • Ascensor El Peral (El Peral Elevator)
  • Palacio Baburizza (Baburizza Palace)
  • Cerro Concepción (Concepción Hill)
  • Lutheran Church in Chile
  • Muelle Prat (Prat Pier)
Plaza Sotomayor (Sotomayor Square)

1) Plaza Sotomayor (Sotomayor Square) (must see)

Plaza Sotomayor holds a significant place as the city's most vital civic square. Originally known as(Customs Square, it underwent various names like Palace Square and later Intendancy Square. Named after Rafael Sotomayor, the square is flanked by buildings that occupy entire block-fronts along its surrounding streets. The central focus of the square is a monument dedicated to the Chilean sailors who bravely fought in the Battle of Iquique and the Battle of Punta Gruesa. The entire plaza and the adjacent buildings were designated a Zona Típica (historic district) on January 23, 1979.

Two similar towers at the northeastern side of the square create a distinctive gateway from the city to the port. On the opposite side stands the building that once housed the Intendencia de Valparaíso, now serving as the headquarters of the Chilean Navy. Other notable structures facing the plaza include the CSAV building and the National Council of Culture and the Arts.

In 1873, Valparaíso saw the construction of its first sculpture, commemorating the Scottish seaman Lord Thomas Cochrane.

The square underwent a significant transformation in 2000 when the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development initiated a remodeling project, overseen by architect Harken Jensen. This project included the establishment of subterranean parking lots and the inauguration of a museum due to archaeological findings on-site. Subsequently, in 2004, the square's design extended to the Prat Wharf, transforming it into a scenic walkway and embarkation point for crossing the roadstead of Valparaíso from the sea. The Prat Wharf features a replica of the Santiaguillo, a small sailing boat representing the first Spanish vessel to dock in the bay known as Quintil.
Monument to the Heroes of Iquique

2) Monument to the Heroes of Iquique

The Monument to the Heroes of Iquique, originally named the "Monument to the National Navy," is a poignant tribute situated in the heart of Plaza Sotomayor. Erected through popular subscription, this monument stands as a solemn memorial to the courageous heroes who valiantly fought in the naval battles of Iquique and Punta Gruesa on May 21, 1879. Its unveiling on May 21, 1886, marked a significant moment in Chilean history.

Dominating the apex of the monument is the striking statue of Arturo Prat, a revered naval officer and national hero. The second level features statues commemorating other notable figures, including Ignacio Serrano, Ernesto Riquelme, Juan de Dios Aldea, and a representation of a generic sailor.

The main body of the monument is adorned with intricate reliefs depicting the naval battles of Iquique, Punta Gruesa, Angamos, and Arica, each inscribed with the respective dates of these historic events. On the front and back of the central body, poignant inscriptions read: "To its martyred heroes" and "The Homeland recognized."

Beneath the monument lies a sturdy vault containing niches that safeguard the remains of revered figures such as Prat, Condell, Serrano, Aldea, and other chiefs and officers who played pivotal roles in these battles. Surrounding the monument is a well-tended garden and an ornate iron fence, adding a dignified touch to this solemn commemoration of Chile's maritime heroes.
Edificio Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy Building)

3) Edificio Armada de Chile (Chilean Navy Building)

The Chilean Navy Building is an architectural masterpiece. Designed in an eclectic style with Renaissance Revival elements, the building stands five floors high, covering an impressive 8,000 square meters. Its prominent location facing Plaza Sotomayor and the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique adds to its significance.

Declared a Historic Monument of Chile on January 23, 1979, along with the surrounding Plaza Sotomayor and buildings, the Edificio de la Comandancia en Jefe has been witness to numerous historical and social events. The architectural design draws inspiration from the French Renaissance Revival style, reminiscent of palaces like the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, with added elements of Louis XVI style. The building features a slightly protruding central wing and two side wings, housing a multitude of rooms and halls. The three lower floors are dedicated to offices, while the upper two serve as official residences.

The main facade showcases a blend of recessed and projecting bays adorned with ornamental plaster and cast stone. Crowned by a mansard roof overlooking Plaza Sotomayor, the central wing boasts a facade clock topped by an elegant cupola. The building's color has evolved over the years, initially blue, later adopting a pastel hue in the early 1970s, and a gray shade during the military dictatorship.

Inside, the well-preserved interior features exquisite light fixtures and fine furniture crafted in 1884 by Leroux from Paris. A marble staircase leads to the second floor, where a skylight, supported by columns adorned with relief sculptures, adds to the building's grandeur.
Ascensor El Peral (El Peral Elevator)

4) Ascensor El Peral (El Peral Elevator) (must see)

The El Peral Elevator having undergone recent renovations, offers a picturesque journey from near the Law Courts close to Plaza Sotomayor, ascending towards Cerro Alegre. This hill is distinguished by the Palacio Baburizza (1916), now housing the Museo de Bellas Artes, and the elevator allows access through its facing façade.

Spanning a total length of 55 meters and ascending to a height of 40 meters, the Ascensor El Peral exhibits a notable slope with a gradient of 45.2 degrees and an incline of 39 meters. This historical elevator holds the distinction of being the first in the city to feature a steam engine, representing an innovative marvel during its early years.

Notably, the El Peral elevator played a crucial role in facilitating the movement of residents from foreign colonies residing in Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. Alongside the Concepción and Reina Victoria elevators, it formed a vital link connecting the urban plan of Valparaíso with the elevated neighborhoods, serving as a testament to the city's rich transportation history.
Palacio Baburizza (Baburizza Palace)

5) Palacio Baburizza (Baburizza Palace)

Palacio Baburizza stands as the former residence of Croatian businessman Pascual Baburizza. Constructed in 1916 by Italian architects, the palace was initially commissioned by the influential Zanelli family. In 1925, Pascual Baburizza, a prominent investor in saltpeter mines, acquired the palace. Known for accumulating substantial wealth in Chile, Baburizza devoted a significant portion of his fortune to philanthropic endeavors.

In 1971, the local government of Valparaíso purchased the palace, transforming it into a museum and a school of Fine Arts. The museum boasts an impressive collection of artworks, many of which were bequeathed by Pascual Baburizza himself. Renowned painters such as Mauricio Rugendas, Alfredo Valenzuela Puelma, Alfredo Helsby, and Carlos Hermosilla Álvarez are among the contributors to this noteworthy collection.

Closed for renovations in 1997, the museum reopened its doors in 2011. The architectural charm of Palacio Baburizza lies in its art nouveau chalet design, adorned with intricate woodwork, wrought iron details, and a distinctive central turret.

The palace exhibits an eclectic style with evident Art Nouveau elements on its façade, featuring ornamental towers, columns, balconies, bow-windows, terraces, and attics. Inside, a remarkable carved wooden copper-coated door welcomes visitors. The dining room showcases a unique Renaissance-style fireplace constructed from marble, adorned with embossed medallions and braids. Above it, an exquisite linen tapestry from the 18th century adds to the palace's rich interior decor.
Cerro Concepción (Concepción Hill)

6) Cerro Concepción (Concepción Hill)

Concepción Hill is one of the most renowned hills in Valparaíso, celebrated for its architectural legacy and rich history, leading to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Originally named La Concepción, the hill housed a fort constructed around 1678 to safeguard the city. Over time, it has been known by various names, including Cerro del Cabo and Cerro del Chivato, the latter linked to a mythical creature believed to inhabit the hill's foothills. The myth gained prominence when a significant cave, named Cueva del Chivato, was discovered after part of the hill was dynamited.

The first documented civil structure in the area dates back to 1822, owned by William Bateman, an English merchant who met a tragic end at the hands of his own servants in his mansion. By 1840, these neighborhoods boasted a European ambiance with a predominant English architectural style. Notable structures include Saint Paul's Anglican Cathedral, built by the British in 1857, and the Lutheran Church of the Holy Cross, erected by the Germans in 1897. In 1883, the Concepción Elevator, the city's oldest, was inaugurated. This elevator links Elías Passage, facing the Turri Clock, to the Gervasoni Walk on the hill and was designated a Historical Monument in 1998.
Lutheran Church in Chile

7) Lutheran Church in Chile

The Lutheran Church in Chile holds a distinct position as one of the two denominations of Lutheranism in the country. Its roots trace back to 1975 when it separated from the historical Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile. The division arose due to differences in political perspectives among pastors and bishops, particularly during the early years of the military dictatorship led by Augusto Pinochet. Affiliated with the Lutheran World Federation since 1991, this denomination emphasizes bilingual services, conducted in both German and Spanish.

The Lutheran Church in Chile boasts a rich history and unique architectural features. Erected in 1897, it holds the distinction of being the first non-Catholic church in Chile permitted to have a bell tower. Positioned atop a hill, the church exhibits a distinctive exterior with German design elements, featuring a high tower and a retaining wall. The classic German architectural characteristics, such as the green color and tile roof, contribute to its unique charm.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by an interior characterized by a square ship outlined by pointed arches and balconies, all constructed from wood. A notable feature within is the antique organ, still playable, originally housed in the nearby Anglican Church of Saint Paul from 1855 to 1901. The journey to the Lutheran Church can be embarked upon by foot, utilizing an ascensor, climbing stairs, or strolling from the base of the city.

This historic Lutheran Church holds significance not only for its religious heritage but also as a cultural and architectural landmark. Situated within the area designated as a World Heritage Site, it stands as a testament to the diverse cultural and religious tapestry that enriches the city of Valparaíso.
Muelle Prat (Prat Pier)

8) Muelle Prat (Prat Pier)

Prat Pier is a pier with a rich history dating back to its establishment in 1850. Situated to the west of Plaza Sotomayor and opposite the Puerto Station, it stands as a prominent feature in the city's landscape. Today, Prat Pier serves as an excellent vantage point from which to observe the bustling activities of the port, offering a unique perspective on the maritime operations.

In addition to being a hub for observing port activities, Prat Pier has become a popular starting point for tourist boat tours around Valparaíso Bay. The pier is not only a functional space but also a recreational area featuring a pedestrian promenade. Visitors can explore a craft fair showcasing local artistry, indulge in diverse culinary offerings at nearby restaurants, and marvel at the replica of the Santiaguillo caravel. Notably, the Santiaguillo caravel replica has historical significance, as it retraces the journey of navigator Juan de Saavedra from Callao to deliver provisions to conquistador Diego de Almagro.

Walking Tours in Valparaiso, Chile

Create Your Own Walk in Valparaiso

Create Your Own Walk in Valparaiso

Creating your own self-guided walk in Valparaiso is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Street Art Walking Tour

Street Art Walking Tour

The beautiful, vulnerable, bustling hillside port of Valparaíso is known primarily for its susceptibility to earthquakes and as being one of the homes of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. More recently, though, the city has also gained recognition as a global street art hotspot famed for its colorful and expressive murals.

These exquisite wall paintings flourish virtually everywhere, attracting...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.2 Km or 0.7 Miles