Inspiring poets and writers such as Rubén Darío, Gonzalo Rojas and Pablo Neruda, Valparaíso World Heritage is the cultural capital of Chile, a unique city and an explosion of color. Thanks to its maze-like hills (Cerros), its mysterious landscapes and historic center, Valparaíso, as it is affectionately known to locals, was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. On the other hand, its sister city, Viña del Mar, was conceived from the beginning as the main vacation spot for Chileans. The “Garden City” offers the complete tourist experience, with hotel chains, casinos, clubs and beaches.
There is some uncertainty regarding the exact date when Valparaíso was founded, but it is estimated to be around 1559 when Spanish conquerors built the La Matriz Church. The port reached its heyday in the 19th century, when it became an obligatory stop for boats coming crossing Cape Horn from the Atlantic Ocean, helping it develop a strong presence in international trade.
Waves of English, German and French immigrants came to Valparaíso for the chance to do business and establish themselves. This is reflected in the architectural styles of the buildings built at that time, which mimic those found in Europe from the mid-19th to early-20th centuries.
Some of these buildings include the Governors’ office building in Plaza Sotomayor (currently housing the Navy Commander in Chief’s Office), the Saint Paul Anglican Church in Cerro Concepción, the Ross Palace, a tradition building which is now home to the German Club; Lyon Palace, now the Museum of Natural History, located at the heart of Valparaíso between Plaza Victoria and City Hall; and the new baroque style San Francisco Church found in Cerro Barón.