Viña del Mar, known as Chile’s garden city, is a short drive from the capital of Santiago. It’s a coastal city, with castles and gardens, museums, long pedestrian walkways and an enviable boardwalk to walk along at night and watch the sun set over the Pacific ocean.
Nearly every group that comes to Viña will stop for a few minutes at the Reloj de Flores (flower clock) to take a picture. The clock is opposite the Caleta Abarca beach, at the foot of Cerro Castillo, a hill with a castle on top, with a staircase leading up to the top.
Planning a trip to Chile? Book a three-day tour including Viña del Mar.
Music lovers will want to visit the park Quinta Vergara for its significance as the location of the music festival that takes place in Viña (as Chileans call it) every summer. It’s a quiet park with flowers and trees, and some paths leading up a hill. It is home to the Palacio Vergara (Vergara Palace), which has been closed for restoration since the February, 2010 earthquake.
The Castillo Wulff (Wulff Castle) sits out on a promontory close to one of the main hotels in Viña del Mar. It has a typical rounded turret, and is a great place to watch the sunset. There are free tours daily.
The best museum in Viña del Mar is without a doubt, the Foncke Museum, an old mansion-turned-museum with two important, unrelated exhibitions. One is related to the flora and fauna of Chile, with many mounted insects (great for kids), and the other side has an impressive exhibit of archeological finds from all around Chile, including the largest collection of artefacts from Easter Island outside of Easter Island. There is a moai (statue from Easter Island) in the front garden.
If you’re tired of home-grown Viña del Mar, or are just itching to spend some money, the large, classic white building along the beach is the Viña del Mar Casino, which is a hotspot day and night and has several good restaurants inside.
For evening activities as the sun sets, sit on the boardwalk near the Muelle Vergara (Vergara Pier), or take a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city.
Viña del Mar is accessible from Santiago via highway 68, which is the main highway to the coast. Buses leave every 15 minutes from the main bus terminal, as well as a smaller one at Pajaritos Metro. During daytime hours, buses go directly there from the airport (about once an hour), without passing through Santiago. From Santiago it is about an hour and twenty minutes’ drive. From the airport, it is about an hour.
- Eileen Smith