Funiculars or ascensores
Before 1883 the residents of Valparaiso had to climb thousands of stairs “las escaleras” going up and down from their houses on the hills. The city’s funiculars or elevators were built between 1883 and 1915, the oldest one being the Concepción elevator. In the early 1900s there were as many as 30 working elevators, today many have been restored and there are 15 of them around the city. Aside from providing public transportation between the central area and the neighborhoods on the hills, they are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Valparaiso and Chile. They now carry 3.4 million passengers a year, down from a peak of 12 million. The cars maintain their original wood or metal designs and are mounted on a platform which are attached to the wheels, usually there are two cars moving simultaneously in opposite direction. These elevators add the unique charm that Valparaiso offers. Many of the entrances are located in long narrow alleys.
Today there are 15 working elevators:
Reina Victoria, Mariposas, Espiritu Santo, Florida, Artilleria, Cerro Monjas, San Agustin, Cordillera, Concepcion, El Peral, Larrain, Polanco, Baron, Villaseca and Lecheros.
The most unique ones are:
Concepcion – The oldest of them all, built in 1883 to provide transportation to the neighborhoods located on Cerro Concepcion where most German and English immigrants lived. The station to this elevator is located on Calle Prat and Pasaje Elias and ascends to Paseo Gervasoni. This elevator moves using a hydraulic system which uses water as counter weight.
Polanco- Built in 1915, Polanco is the only vertical elevator in the city. It is located on Cerro Polanco, the station is on Calle Simpson and reachable by a 150 meter long tunnel. The carriage has a capacity for just eight passengers and climbs for 60 meters inside the hill, there is a midway station.
Artilleria – This elevator is the most popular one as it provides the best views of the bay and the harbour. The Artilleria elevator is a national monument and was opened in 1893 on Cerro Artilleria to assist students reach the Navy School. Its lower station is on Plaza Wheelwright and it reaches the top at Paseo 21 de Mayo.
La Matriz Church and Santo Domingo Square
Located between the hills and the plain this area is part of the five contiguous neighborhoods that make the UNESCO Cultural Heritage Site. Built on the original 1559 church, Iglesia Matriz was the founding church of the city; it was rebuilt in 1837 after an earthquake partially destroyed it. Its neoclassical structure is more attractive than the cathedral.
Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaiso is now a museum depicting his life and artwork collection. The house was designed by Sebastian Collau, a Spanish architect, for himself but died before finishing it. In 1961 Neruda and his third wife Matilde Urrutia bought it. Neruda’s other two houses are more eccentric, La Chascona in Santiago and Isla Negra, which are also museums and open to the public.
Pablo Neruda and his wife Matilde Urrutia bought the house in 1961.
Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion
Both hills are separated by Urriola Street. They form a network of open public spaces such as promenades and interconnected alleyways, viewpoints and the elevator’s top stations. This neighborhood was developed in the first half of the 19th century by German and English immigrants.
The main covered markets are Mercado Puerto on Plaza Echaurren and Mercado El Cardonal also known as Mercado Brasil north of the bus terminal. For souvenirs the best markets are Feria Artesanal, Muelle Prat and Feria de Antiguedades.
This territory was originally inhabited by Chango Indians who belonged to the southernmost section of the Inca Empire.
Nobel Prize of Literature Award winner, Pablo Neruda was a communist who fought for world unity and peace, persecuted in his country and forced to exile, his work is a reflection that safeguards the cultural heritage of Chile and the entire South American continent.
The capital of Chile, Santiago, is Chile’s largest city and the center of economic activity.