Gran Valparaíso – staying in Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar is Chile’s fourth largest city with a population of around 325,000. The city is Chile’s principle beach resort and the biggest tourist destination in the country. It shares a bay with Valparaíso (Valpo), Chile’s second city and political capital, and is part of the wider Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area (population 800,000). I like Valparaíso very much for its bohemian atmosphere (see coming posts) but Viña leaves me cold as it’s very built up and modern, and markedly wealthier than it’s neighbour.

Vina del Mar

Someone told me that Viña is where all the blood money from the Pinochet years was invested which wouldn’t surprise me as it is essentially a playground for the rich with its casino, up-market restaurants and expensive shops. Some of the oldest and most exclusive private schools in the country are also here.

I’ve been twice, in 2011 and 2018, both times in mid-November when they were gearing up for their summer. In 2011 it was grey and cloudy for most of the time I was there but in 2018 there was plenty of sunshine. I’m told the the sea is quite cold to swim in though, not that I get much beach time anyway.

The best thing to do in Viña is to take a stroll along the waterfront at dusk when the sun is going down. At night you can see the lights on the hills of Valpo twinkling on the other side of the bay which is a lovely sight. You can get a good walk or run in along the promenade.

Ironically given all the money washing around, I found it very hard to eat well in Viña. The posh restaurants are terrible except for one or two exceptions, so much so that I’ve created separate posts about food; this one for all my negativity and this one for the good places! I’ve also written a post about Concón, a fishing village just to the north of Viña. You’ll find everything on my map.

The map has suggestions for some museums and other sights to see, including Castillo Wulff; formerly the residence of a wealthy family but now the city’s heritage centre.

However, whenever free time allows, I strongly recommend jumping on the metro to go to Valpo as it’s much more interesting and historical, as you’ll see in my coming posts.

In 2011 I stayed at the Best Western Hotel Marina del Rey which was fine if unremarkable. In 2018 I was put up at the boutique Hotel Cassinetta which is a little out of the way but very pleasant. Both are respectively about ten and fifteen minutes’ walk from the promenade.

Next, some of the better places to eat in Viña…

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