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Valparaíso (literally in Spanish: Valle Paraíso (Paradise Valley) and also called "Valpo" locally) (Mapudungun: Aliamapu or "burned land"') is a city in central Chilemarker and one of that country's most important seaports and an increasingly vital cultural center in the hemisphere's Pacific Southwest. The city is the capital of the Region of Valparaísomarker. Although Santiagomarker is Chile's official capital, Valparaiso houses the National Congressmarker.

Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlanticmarker and Pacificmarker oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellanmarker. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Franciscomarker” or “The Jewel of the Pacificmarker.”

Examples of Valparaíso’s former glory include Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world. The opening of the Panama Canalmarker and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years.

Though San Antonio, Chilemarker has taken the reins as the country’s most commercially important seaport (greater tonnage moved), the City of Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture, and the Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area (which includes Valparaíso, Viña del Marmarker, Quilpuémarker and Villa Alemanamarker) has the third largest concentration of population in the country after Greater Santiagomarker and Greater Concepciónmarker.


View of Valparaíso Bay in 1830
Valparaíso's bay was first populated by Changos, an ethnic group dedicated to fishing and gathering. Spanishmarker explorers arrived in 1536, on the Santiaguillo, a supply ship sent by Diego de Almagro, who is considered the first European explorer, or discoverer, of Chile. The Santiaguillo carried men and supplies for Almagro’s expedition, under the command of Juan de Saavedra, who named the town after his native village of Valparaíso de Arribamarker in Cuencamarker, Spainmarker.

During Spanish colonial times, Valparaíso remained a small village, with only a few houses and a church. After Chile’s independence from Spain, Valparaíso became the main harbour for the nascent Chilean navy, and opened to international trade, which had been limited to commerce with Spain and its other colonies. Valparaíso soon became a required stopover for ships crossing between the Atlanticmarker and Pacificmarker oceans, via the Strait of Magellanmarker and Cape Hornmarker, and gained particular importance supporting and supplying the California Gold Rush (1848-1858). In its role as a major seaport, Valparaíso received immigrants from many European countries, mainly from Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy. German, French, Italian and English were commonly spoken among its citizens, who also had newspapers in these same languages.

International immigration transformed the local culture from its Spanish origins. Football was introduced to Chile by English immigrants, and the first private catholic school in Chile was founded by French immigrants in Valparaíso: Le Collège des Sacrés Cœurs (The Sacred Hearts School) which has been operating for about 170 years. Immigrants from Englandmarker and Germany founded the first private, secular schools, (the MacKay School, and Die Deutsche Schule respectively). Immigrants also formed the first volunteer fire-fighting units (still a volunteer activity in Chile), while their architecture reflected various European styles, not just Spanish traditions.

The golden age of Valparaíso’s commerce ended after the opening of the Panama Canalmarker (1914), as most ships sought to avoid the Strait of Magellan, and the port’s importance and use was reduced substantially. Traffic has increased in the last few decades with fruit exports, increasing opening of the Chilean economy to world commerce, and Post-Panamax ships that do not fit the Panama Canal.


Valparaíso is located in central Chile, 120 km (74 miles) to the northwest of the capital Santiagomarker. Valparaiso, like most of Chile, is vulnerable to earthquakes. The last catastrophic earthquake to strike Valparaiso devastated the city in 1906, killing nearly 3,000 people though significant earthquakes occurred in 1985marker and the 2008 Papudo earthquake.


Sotomayor Square
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, Valparaíso was declared a world heritage site based upon its improvised urban design and unique architecture. In 1996, the World Monuments Fund declared Valparaíso’s unusual system of funicular elevators (highly-inclined cable cars) one of the world’s 100 most endangered historical treasures. In 1998, grassroots activists convinced the Chilean government and local authorities to apply for UNESCO world heritage status for Valparaíso. Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003, thanks to its historical importance, natural beauty (large number of hills surrounding a picturesque harbour), and unique architecture (particularly, a mix of 19th century styles of housing). Built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific Ocean, Valparaíso boasts a labyrinth of streets and cobblestone alleyways, embodying a rich architectural and cultural legacy. Valparaíso is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Landmarks include:
  • Iglesia de la Matriz
  • Sotomayor Square
  • Courthouse
  • The "4 season women", bought by Francisco Echaurren in 1877, in Plaza de la victoria
  • The late "Cafè Riquet" which was a classic amongst "Porteños" or locals, along with the otherevents that often take place at the Anibal Pinto Square
  • The 16 remaining "Funiculars", 15 public(national monuments)/ 1 private (that belongs to "Hospital Carlos Van Buren"), of which at one point there were up to 29 of them.
  • The Concepcion & Alegre Historical District
  • The Bellavista hill, which has the "Museo a Cielo Abierto" or "open sky museum".
  • Monument to Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald.
  • Monument to Manuel Blanco Encalada, first Chilean President, Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Economy and transport

Major industries include tourism, culture, and transport.

Approximately 50 international cruise ships call on Valparaíso during the 4-month Chilean summer. The port of Valparaíso is also an important hub for shipping of container freight, and exports of many products, including wine, copper, and fresh fruit.

Funicular in Valparaiso
A new regional Metro system, opened to the public on 24 November 2005, updated parts of the railroad that joined Santiago to Valparaíso and cities in between (originally built in 1863). The new metro constitutes the so-called “fourth stage” (“Cuarta Etapa” in Spanish) of Metropolitan improvements. The metro railway extends along most of Gran Valparaíso and is the second metro system in operation in Chile (after Santiago’s), and includes an underground section that crosses Viña del Mar’s downtown.

Valparaíso’s road infrastructure has been undergoing substantial improvement, particularly with the completion of the “Curauma — Placilla — La Pólvora” freeway bypass, which will allow trucks to go directly to the port facility over a modern highway and through tunnels, without driving through the historic and already congested downtown streets. In addition, roads to link Valparaíso to San Antonio, Chile’s second largest port, and the coastal towns in between (Laguna Verde, Quintay, Algarrobo, and Isla Negra, for example), are also under various degrees of completion. Travel between Valparaíso and Santiago currently takes about 80 minutes via a modern toll highway.


Although technically only Chile’s 6th largest city, with an urban area population of 263,499 (275,982 in municipality), the Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area, including the neighboring cities of Viña del Marmarker, Concón, Quilpué and Villa Alemana, is the second largest in the country (803,683 inhabitants).


Calfulafquen Bar Restaurant, Valparaiso

During Valparaíso’s golden age (1848-1914), the city received large numbers of immigrants, primarily from Europe. The immigrant communities left a unique imprint on the city’s architecture. Each community built its own churches and schools, while many also founded other noteworthy cultural and economic institutions. The largest immigrant communities came from England, Germany, and Italy, each developing their own hillside neighborhood, preserved today as National Historic Districts or “Zonas Típicas.”

During the second half of the twentieth century, Valparaíso experienced a great decline, as wealthy families de-gentrified the historic quarter, moving to bustling Santiago or nearby Viña del Mar. By the early 1990s, much of the city’s unique heritage had been lost and many Chileans had given up on the city. But in the mid 1990s, a grass roots preservation movement blossomed in Valparaíso.

The Fundación Valparaíso” (Valparaíso Foundation), founded by the North American poet Todd Temkin, has executed major neighborhood redevelopment projects; has improved the city’s tourist infrastructure; and administers the city’s jazz, ethnic music, and opera festivals; among other projects. Some noteworthy foundation projects include the World Heritage Trail, Opera by the Sea, and Chile’s "Cultural Capital".. During recent years, Mr. Temkin has used his influential Sunday column in El Mercurio de Valparaíso to advocate for many major policy issues, such as the creation of a "Ley Valparaíso" (Valparaiso Law) in the Chilean Congress, and the possibility that the Chilean government must guarrantee funding for the preservation of Valparaíso's beloved funicular elevators.

Valparaíso’s newspaper, El Mercurio de Valparaíso is the oldest Spanish-language newspaper in circulation in the world.

“Fundación Renzo Pecchenino, LUKAS” maintains the drawings and paintings of the artist/cartoonist who came to symbolize Valparaíso in popular culture, in a newly restored building on Cerro Concepción, overlooking the bay.

Valparaíso is also home to the so called “School of Valparaíso”, which is in fact the Faculty of Architecture & Urbanism of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso. The “School of Valparaiso” was in the 60s and 70s one of the most experimental, avant garde and controversial Architectural schools in the country.

In 2003, the Chilean Congress declared Valparaíso to be “Chile’s Cultural Capital” and home for the nation’s new cultural ministry.

Valparaíso stages a major festival attended by hundreds of thousands of participants on the last three days of every year. The festival culminates with a “New Year’s by the Sea” fireworks show, the biggest in all of Latin America, attended by a million tourists who fill the coastline and hillsides with a view of the bay.

The Chilean Congressmarker meets in a modern building in the Almendral section of Valparaíso, after relocation from Santiago during the last years of the government of General Augusto Pinochet. Although congressional activities were to be legally moved by a ruling in 1987, the newly built site only began to function as the seat of Congress during the government of Patricio Aylwin in 1990.

Nightlife activities in Valparaíso are claimed to be among the best in the country . Sailors and students alike favour the harbour sector due to the various traditional bars and nightclubs, among them “Bar La Playa”, “La Piedra Feliz,” and “El Bar Inglés”, which can be found near Plaza Sotomayor. University students now meet at a number of local nightclubs, bars, and discothèques. A vivid guide to Valparaíso can be found in the novels of Cayetano Brule, the private detective who lives in a Victorian house, in the picturesque Paseo Gervasoni, on Cerro Concepción.

Health and education

The public healthcare system mainly relies on the Hospital Carlos Van Buren located at the plan and Hospital Valparaíso (officially Hospital Eduardo Pereira) located at St. Roque Hill. There are also several clinics like Universidad de Chile's Clinica Barón, Hospital Aleman (due to close), and the former Naval Hospital on Playa Acha Hill.

The city is an important educational centre with nine universities. The city has the third largest concentration of universities in Chile, and is home to four major universities:


“Valparaiso Downhill” [10905] is a new mountain bike race that takes place in February, and that has bicycle racers compete down stairs and alleys, going from the surrounding hills down to the "plan" (Valparaiso's "lowlands").

The local football team is Santiago Wanderers, which is the oldest professional football team in Chile, Dating back to 1892.

II Half Marathon Puerto Valparaíso 2007 was the continuation of Valparaíso Maratón Bicentenario 2006, an international event that mixes athletics and tourism through the streets of Valparaíso. On September 30, 2007, was the second race, over two distances: 10 km and 21 km, in 12 categories, for male and female runners. The race started at Muelle Barón, and the course passed by the sea side, crossing diverse architectural and geographical landmarks.

Notable residents

Valparaíso is the birthplace of many historically significant figures, including:

International relations

Main article: List of twin towns and sister cities in Chile

Twin towns — Sister cities

Valparaíso is twinned with:

Valparaíso is twinned with:



  1. Martland, Samuel. 2007. "Reconstructing the City, Constructing the State: Government in Valparaíso after the Earthquake of 1906." Hispanic American Historical Review 87, no. 2: 221-254. Academic Search Premier, EBSCOhost (accessed September 13, 2008)
  2. Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas, Censos 2002, accessed March 28 2009

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