Valparaíso, 14 years as a World Heritage Site

Its history, architecture and urban development are some of the reasons that became relevant at the moment of declaring Valparaiso a World Heritage Site of UNESCO.

Clément Varanges | Flickr
Clément Varanges | Flickr

At the beginning of July, Valparaíso turned 14 years since it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. After a first try in 1999, in 2003 the 21 members of the Executive Committee of UNESCO made the decision of assigning this category to our popular harbour.

One of the main reasons why Valparaiso was given this status, is its historical value. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Valparaíso was one of the most important harbours of the South Pacific, promoting the growth of South American trade beyond its boundaries. Today, it can be considered as a testimony of the beginnings of globalization.

Among other aspects that made this city stand out over other candidates, it is possible to mention its architectonic value which is also a true reflection of the urban development of Latin America during the 19th century. It surprises with its urbanistic colonial design that adapts to the mountains forming the city, and that also contrasts with the geometric forms of the flat places.

Among the buildings highlighted by the UNESCO for their architectural value are:
Iglesia de la Matriz. It is placed in the historical neighbourhood, and from an architectural point of view it mixes classical and colonial design.
The Agustín Edwards Building, or commonly known as the Reloj Turri, is placed in the financial neighbourhood of the city and it serves as a point of reference to all the people living in Valparaíso.
The Chilean Navy building, with a French Neoclassic design.
The houses in Gran Bretaña Avenue in Playa Ancha. All of them were built after the earthquake in 1906; built in a clear Victorian style, mainly with the purpose of resisting earthquakes.
La Sebastiana. One of the three houses of the national poet Pablo Neruda, that today works as a museum dedicated to the life of the artist.

Due to the big amount of hills that form the city, a different kind of transportation had to be implemented and today is considered to be one of its biggest attractions. The elevators meet to purpose of connecting the highest area of the hills with the flat part of the city. In the beggining, 30 elevators were created , but today only 15 work properly. Between 1974 and 2010, all the elevator were declared Historical National Monuments.

Other mean of transportation that is typical of Valparaíso is the trolley bus (trole) that has been present in Valparaíso since 1952. These electric carriages were declared National Monuments in 2003, which contributed to its permanence in the municipal transportation plan and was the reason to buy new models.

During the last years, Valparaiso has been facing challenges in order to preserve and maintain the heritage values of the city. The technological and urban development have been an issue both for authorities and UNESCO, which has led to create commissions in charge of preserving the urban landscape.

All of the details that convinced UNESCO of declaring Valparaíso a World Heritage Site, are also the attributes that attract tourists and locals. It is not only a city with a special architecture; it is also a place where every one of its corners is full of colors and life, being a reflection of its people and history.

This post is also available in Spanish