Valparaíso has played a very important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century. It was one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports. The city then served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Strait of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age. In 2003, the historic quarter of Valparaíso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A new national law named the city “Chile’s Cultural Capital.”
The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso. The second half of the 20th century was not kind to Valparaíso, as many wealthy families abandoned the city. Over the past 15 years, the city has staged an impressive renaissance. It has attracted many artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have set up shop in the city’s hillside historic districts.
Today, thousands of tourists visit Valparaíso from around the world to marvel at the city built upon 45 steep hillsides (cerros) overlooking the Pacific Ocean. With its unique labyrinth of cobbled alleys and colorful buildings, Valparaiso embodies a rich architectural and cultural legacy. There is a debate about visiting Valparaiso. The city looks a bit rundown and some areas are unsafe however I really appreciated the arty and bohemian atmosphere of the cerros with many attractive boutique hotels, shops and restaurants. I definitely vote for it!