Viña del Mar is located 8 km north of Valparaiso, in the central part of Chile on the Pacific Coast: the Mediterranean climate experienced here brings many people to its sandy beaches. Viña del Mar is Chile’s fourth largest city with a population of about 324,826 people. It’s known as Garden City because of its many parks and fountains, as well as buildings with interesting architectural styles, and elegant palm trees decorating the boulevards.
The city became important in the mid to late 1800s, when Francisco Javier Alvares authorized the construction of the railway that connects Santiago to Viña del Mar. The establishment of the sugar refining company, and the introduction of military and naval resources in the city also led to its economic growth. Today, the city is known for its resorts, shopping centres and high standing buildings and is an attraction both nationally and internationally. There are lots of great things to do in Viña del Mar, such as visiting the magnificent Castillo Wulff and the Parque Quinta Vergera. Below is our Viña del Mar travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
CASTILLO WULFF – This prominent building is set on the edge of the coastline of the city. You can enjoy the art exhibition held here, and at the back of the building you can walk onto the glass floor which hangs from the edge, letting you look straight down onto the rocks and waves below.
PARQUE QUINTA VERGARA – This is one of the most beautiful parks in the city and was once home to the famous Alvares – Vergaras families. The beautiful mansion on the property stands out and once held an abundance of different art exhibitions. It was closed in 2010 due to the damage from an earthquake.
MUSEO DE ARQUEOLOGIA E HISTORIA FRANCISCO FONCK – This museum contains some of the more famous items that were found during archaeological digs on Easter Island, and upstairs large insects are exhibited. Here you’ll find tours available in English, and you can learn a lot about the culture of native Chileans as well as the people of Easter Island.
MUSEO PALACIO RIOJA – This beautiful old-fashioned mansion from a century ago has many gardens as well as a municipal museum. Here you’ll see many examples of decorative art, including furniture, textiles, and ornaments from the Chilean aristocracy. It also hosts theatrics and plays throughout the year.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Viña del Mar and the neighbouring seaside resorts of Concon and Reñaca have beautiful beaches, with wide expanses of sand looking out to the Pacific, but be warned: the water is cold! This is due to the Humboldt Current, but that same current also accounts for the marvellous seafood you'll eat when you're ready to leave the beach.
The International Song Festival, which takes places in February.
One of the popular treats to try here is the alfajor, a type of biscuit that is normally filled with caramel. The seafood here is quite common too, and worth trying out in some of the restaurants. One such place is Empanadas Los Roldan (Avenida Borgono 14777), conveniently located by the beach, and with a variety of seafood options. Visit Empanadas Mauricio (Angamos), for the best, freshest empanadas in the city – also on offer is pizza and lasagne. If you’re after a delicious sandwich, hit up Huacatay (Variante Agua Santa 24) for generous portions, and grab a fresh fruit smoothie whilst you’re there.
There are a couple of different places to find good drinks, including a casino that overlooks the ocean, and an old-school bar which draws the attention of quite a crowd. Most of these spots are better to have a drink with friends and relax for the night. Go to 3er Tiempo (7 Norte 153) to try the famous Terremoto – the nation’s favourite drink – which consists of white wine, rum, and pineapple ice cream. If you’re into clubbing, go to Ovo (Av. San Martín 199).
In the months from January to March the temperature ranges from about 18 – 20 degrees Celsius, and in the winter months from June to August it is a bit cooler, around 15 degrees Celsius. The rainfall comes mostly in July and August. Many people from Santiago visit during the summer months to enjoy the great weather and beaches.
There are plenty of bus trips running from the main cities in the country to Viña del Mar, including from Valparaiso. They run most hours of the day and include going to and from Santiago with stops along the way at other cities and towns. There is also the option of traveling by train from Valparaiso to Viña del Mar. This train also makes stops at other towns along the way between the two big cities.
There is good accommodation found throughout the city, with all sorts of good places to stay that are also affordable. The summer months in Chile from December to March are when the hotels fill up quickly, so best to make reservations ahead of time. One place is Jaguar Hostel & Living (Pasaje Massot 12), which is clean, welcoming, and sociable, and only a few minutes walk to the beach and bars. The breakfast is delicious, and varies day to day. Another option is Street Garden Hostel (Tres Poniente 379), which has a nice courtyard to relax in, and is close to supermarkets and bars. The vibe is relaxed, and attracts many younger travelers.
Be careful when walking the streets at night, and always be vigilant as stray dogs often wander the streets and can be dangerous.
Fraud is also common with the tourist crowd, so be aware of false bills or other kinds of scams.