From the Port to the Heights of Valparaiso
Start: Muelle Prat (Prat Pier).
Finish: Ascensor Concepción or Calle Esmeralda.
Time: 1 to 3 hours.
Best Times: Any day except Monday, when most museums and restaurants are closed.
The Fundación Valparaíso has done an exceptional job of mapping out a "Bicentennial Heritage Trail," a looping 30km (19-mile) walking tour divided into 15 thematic stages. I urge visitors to pick up a copy of the trail guide to supplement the walking tour described below; the guide can be found at the Gato Tuerto bookstore, located at Héctor Calvo 205 (Espíritu Santo Funicular), or bookstores (if you are cruising, you may find the book at the Baron's Pier shopping gallery). Or better yet, download a copy of the map on their website at www.senderobicentenario.cl, although this option does not come with interpretive information, only the map. Each stage takes approximately 90 minutes to 3 hours to walk, and the guide provides historical data, literary gossip, architectural information, and fun anecdotes about the city. To help you navigate, the fundación has placed arrows on the street at various stages of the trail. For visitors with limited time in the city, the walking tour outlined below will take you to the city's finest viewpoints and top attractions.
1. Muelle Prat (Prat Pier)
Begin at the Prat Pier. There is quite a bit of hullabaloo at the dock here, with skippers pitching 20-minute boat rides around the bay to tourists aboard one of their rustic fishing skiffs. It's not a very professional operation, but for $2 (£1.30) per person, what do you have to lose? There are few places in the world where you can get so close to commercial ships (docked here in the harbor). Valparaíso has changed little in the past century, and to view the city from this perspective is to see the city as many a sailor did when arriving here for the first time after a long journey around Cape Horn. A row of curio shops line the dock, which are packed with tourists when a cruise ship docks in Valparaíso.
Head away from the pier and cross Errázuriz to reach:
2. Plaza Sotomayor
Until the late 1800s, the sea arrived just a few feet from the edge of this plaza, lapping at the gates of the Naval Command Headquarters on the west side of the plaza. Built in 1910, the grand neoclassical building was once the summer residence for several of Chile's past presidents. At the plaza's entrance you'll encounter the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique. The heroes of the War of the Pacific -- Prat, Condell, and Serrano -- are buried underneath this monument. This tremendous battle in 1879 pitted Chile against a Peru-Bolivia confederation, and Chile's victory against the two resulted in the capture of the mineral-rich northern territory, cutting Bolivia off from the sea and extending Chile's size by nearly a third (to learn more about the war, visit the Naval Museum). Underneath the plaza, where you now stand, are shipwrecks and remains of the old pier, which you can view at the tiny underground museum (at the plaza's center, daily 10am-6pm). The pier and artifacts such as anchors, ballast, and cannons were discovered while excavating land to build the parking garage at the northeast edge of the plaza. Next to the old post office is the "American Fire House," the first volunteer fire station in Latin America. There is also a visitor kiosk here. Cross the plaza toward the Justice Palace.
To the left of the plaza, next to the Palacio de Justicia, ride the Ascensor Peral (ca. 1902) for 15¢ (10p) to the top of Cerro Alegre and there you'll find:
3. Paseo Yugoslavo
Nitrate baron Pascual Baburizza built this pretty terrace walkway and dubbed it Yugoslavian Promenade in honor of his heritage.
Continue along the terrace until you pass:
4. Palacio Baburizza
This Art Noveau palace was built in 1916 for Ottorino Zanelli and later sold to nitrate baron Pascual Baburizza, who lived here until his death in 1941. The palace is a fine display of the best European handiwork available during the early 1900s; today it is the city's Fine Arts Museum, housing a collection of 19th- and 20th-century Chilean and European paintings. The museum is most interesting for its paintings of early Valparaíso by local artists Juan Mauricio Rugendas and Thomas Somerscales. Note: The museum has periodically closed for reparations, and at press time it was busy seeking funds to continue; hard to say if it will be open when you visit, but hours are generally Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm, and admission is free.
Continue along Paseo Yugoslavo, past the La Colombina restaurant. The road curves to the right around a tiny plaza; follow it until you reach Calle Alvaro Besa. Take Alvaro Besa as it winds down the hill, or take the shortcut down Pasaje Bavestrello, a cement stairway at the left. Continue until you reach Calle Urriola, which you'll cross, then walk up 20m (66 ft.) and turn left into another stairway, Pasaje Gálvez. The narrow walkway twists and turns, passing the colorful facades of some of the most striking homes in Valparaíso. At Calle Papudo, climb the stairway and turn left into:
5. Paseo Gervasoni
Another of Valparaíso's characteristic promenades, this paseo fronts a row of stately 19th-century mansions.
At the end of the walkway, you'll find Café Turri, a popular Valparaíso restaurant and a good spot for a snack or coffee. Before the cafe, to the right, is the:
6. Casa Mirador de Lukas
This museum is dedicated to the much-loved "Lukas," aka Renzo Pecchenino, a brilliant cartoonist and satirist who worked for years for the newspaper El Mercurio. Lukas dedicated his career to drawing Valparaíso and the eccentric characters found here; a collection of his drawings is available for sale, Apuntes Porteños, which makes an excellent Valparaíso souvenir. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 11am to 7pm; admission is $2 (£1.30). It is possible to terminate the walking tour here and descend via Ascensor Concepción, but I recommend that you keep walking.
Continue around Gervasoni until you reach Papudo. You can take a detour here 2 blocks up Calle Templeman to visit the:
7. Anglican Church of St. Paul
Built in 1858, this Anglican church was not officially recognized until 1869, when the Chilean government repealed a law banning religions other than Catholicism. The church houses a grand organ donated by the British in 1901 in honor of Queen Victoria. You can hear this magnificent instrument at work at 12:30pm every Sunday.
Double back to Calle Papudo, head southeast (turning right if returning from the church) until reaching:
8. Paseo Atkinson
At the entrance to Paseo Atkinson, you'll pass the city's Lutheran church, built in 1897 for the large German population here in the early 19th century. Paseo Atkinson is another breathtaking pedestrian walkway, bordered by antique homes with zinc facades and guillotine windows popular with the British in the early 20th century. Continue down the pedestrian stairway until you reach Calle Esmeralda and the end of the walk. You can also descend by doubling back and riding the Ascensor Concepción to Calle Prat.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.