Viña del Mar • Chile

Viña del Mar, meaning “Vineyard by the Sea”, is a city on central Chile‘s Pacific coast. Its long stretches of white sandy beaches are a major attraction for national and international tourists.

Visitors and locals enjoy the parks and water fountains of the city, including a large flower clock (Reloj de Flores) with its numbers made up of flowering plants, near Caleta Abarca beach. The Valparaiso Sporting Club horse racing track is another major landmark.

A few buildings from the 19th century still remain after multiple earthquakes that have destroyed most of the old areas of the city. Most of the older buildings that remain are located along Avenida Libertad (Liberty Avenue), Quillota Street and Quinta Vergara, a rather large park in the middle of the city. The presidential summer residence,Castillo Presidencial (Presidential Castle) is located on Cerro Castillo (Castle Hill).

The city’s casino was designed with art deco style and is surrounded by well-tended gardens (hence the city’s nickname). In 2002 a hotel (Hotel del Mar) was added to the 1930s building, resembling the architectural features of the original building. Palacio Rioja, a mansion built by Fernando Rioja in 1907, located on Quillota Street, houses an environmental museum.

The Fonck Museum, located in Cuatro Norte Street, has a large exhibition of pre-Columbian articles, and a large moai (Easter Island statue made of volcanic rock), the only one in mainland Chile, is also on display. Palacio Carrasco, built by Emilio Carrasco in 1912, now houses the Municipal Library and also is used for arts exhibitions. The building is also surrounded by nice gardens adorned with fine sculptures including a Rodin.

Palacio Brunet (also known as “Castillo Yarur”) was built in 1923 by Adolfo Brunet on Cerro Castillo, close to the presidential mansion. Currently it is owned by Carabineros de Chile (Chilean police) and is used as a reception center for important visitors. It was declared a national monument in 2005.

I can see why it would make such a lovely seaside escape, its location facing westward means you will always get fantastic sunsets looking out to the ocean horizon. The city is clean but doesn’t have much, day trips from nearby Valparaiso are easy via the local train/metro, or vise-versa is you choose to stay in Vina del Mar instead, which feels and is more modern than its neighbouring city.