Viña del Mar, the Belle of the Pacific

The Garden City, as Viña is popularly known, is right next to Valparaiso and has its own irresistible personality and charm.

Friday, July 24, 2009 Category: Culture - Tourism - Daily life - Food
Viña del Mar Viña del Mar (Photo:Turismo Chile)

According to the tale, Viña del Mar was born as a dream. In 1874 it was founded when José Francisco Vergara decided to create a city that would be near Valparaíso but would have a separate identity. If Vergara saw Viña del Mar today he would feel proud: In little more than a century, Viña has become the leading city of Chile’s tourism industry.

The city is located 120 kilometers west of Santiago and just 8 kilometers north of Valparaíso. It is aptly named the Garden City, for its large parks and beautiful, windswept seaside drive, overlooking the bay and giving strollers a view, on one side, of the neighboring port city of Valparaiso, and on the other, the peninsula of Concon.

A number of high rise buildings have been built along the coast, and scores of restaurants that offer a variety of gourmet seafood cuisine. The casino is the city’s entertainment center, open every night and featuring international shows. The casino is on Avenida Peru, popular with strollers and perfect for watching the sun set over the sea.

In the summer, thousands of tourists flock to Viña del Mar, especially from Argentina, who turn the beach into the place where golden-tanned bodies, bikini-clad girls, paddle tennis players and surfers come together. [Reñaca] and Las Salinas are the most frequented beaches during the day, and the disco and pubs prolong the fun at night.  For many vacationers their time for rest and leisure activities reaches its culminating point when the Viña International Song Festival begins. The Festival has been held each year for the past five decades and is visited by international music stars.

But the city’s diverse offering for tourists does not end here. There’s more. The Wulff and Brunet castles, great palaces, parks and buildings that date back to the early 20th century, ready to welcome visitors with the character of their classical styles.  The Garden City Garden is built according to human scale, it is friendly and can be covered on foot.  Its Mediterranean climate means it is pleasant to visit the year round. Viña is always surprising, and its nearness to Valparaíso is yet another reason for choosing it as a destination for pleasure travel.

Main Attractions

Quinta Vergara 

A park full of huge, very old trees and a plethora of plant species. Considered one of the most beautiful parks in the 5th Region, it is the setting of the Vergara Palace, built in 1908 and today transformed into Viña del Mar’s Museum of Fine Arts. It features an interesting exhibit of images of Chile’s history. Another attraction is the amphitheater that houses the Song Festival If there is a show scheduled, take advantage of the opportunity to get acquainted with the Quinta Vergara. Av. Errázuriz 596.

Valparaíso Sporting Club

Of course, Viña del Mar has a racetrack. 124 hectares of land with racing and training tracks, corrals and exercise paths for the horses. It was founded officially on September 5, 1882 by a group of British residents. The Sporting Club hosts one of Chile’s classic races: the Derby, a veritable summer festival. Avenue Los Castaños 404, Telephone: (32)-2655600.

Avenida Peru

This is the most traditional walk along Viña’s coast.  The manicured gardens of Plaza Colombia flank the seaside and enhance the formal elegance of Viña’s Casino, built in 1930 and houses a modern five-star hotel. The promenade ends on the Vergara Pier next to  an attractive man-made breakwater. Along the way  are tearooms and two- or three-person bicycle rentals. Not to be missed is a ride on a Victoria, or old carriage thrown by a horse.

Flower Clock: Located at the foot of Cerro Castilo, within a walking distance from the Caleta Abarca beach. It was brought from Switzerland and launched on May 15, 1962, the same day that the Football World Cup in Chile would start. The flowers are changed every 3 months, and the height can't exceed 10 cm.

National Botanical Garden

Viña’s Botanical Garden is located in the western part of the city. It has been open to the public since the 1930s.  It was donated, along with the rest of the property, to the Chilean State in 1951, to be made into a Botanical Garden and Agricultural Experimentation Station. It features over 3000 plant species, a forest and a palm grove, as well as a lagoon bordered by a promenade for strollers that leads to a forest trail. What is the latest news at the Park? A canopy that will take you over the tree tops, with  different levels of difficulty. Camino El Olivar s/n (s/n: unnumbered), El Salto, Telephone (32) 672566.

Reñaca

This is certainly Chile’s most famous beach, distinctive are its white sands and always wild surf, and the pyramid-shaped condominiums all along the highlands overlooking the beach.  Reñaca is located 7 kilometers north of Viña del Mar, and the resort is divided up into sectors within an area of 1500 meters. Section 4 is for families, while Section 5 is where the lean, tanned and toned crowd hangs out. You can admire the view from any of the terrace-restaurants lining the beach.  It’s a seaside stroll you won’t want to miss.  The waves make for good surfing throughout the day and at sunset the discos and pubs welcome  the fun seekers who want to party. Reñaca is a major summer action epicenter.

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