At the bottom of Cerro Cordillera is Plaza Sotomayor. It’s an important plaza of UNESCO World Heritage listed port city of Valparaíso and basically the gateway between the port area and the rest of the city.
There are three prominent landmarks in the plaza. The first is the big blue building, Comandencia Jefe de la Armada, or the Headquarters of the Chilean Navy. Built in 1910 and modeled after the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, it was a summer residence for the presidents of Chile and the city’s mayor’s office. Since the 1970s, the Chilean Navy has called it home.
The second landmark is the pink building to the right of the Chilean Navy. It’s the Hotel Reina Victoria. This historic hotel was built in 1902 to replace the older Hotel Ingles, which burned down in 1896.
In the center of the plaza is the third landmark, the Monumento a los Heroes de Iquique. It was built to commemorate the Esmeralda, a Chilean ship sunk in the Battle of Iquique against Peru in 1879. The captain, Arturo Prat, was killed in the battle and is buried in a crypt under the monument. An eternal flame burns for Prat and the heroes of the battle. I really liked the reliefs on each four sides commemorating the major naval battles of the War of the Pacific.
From Plaza Sotomayor, I walked down Calle Serrano, which has lots of colorful buildings from the late 19th and early 20th century. One interesting bar on the street is Bar La Playa, opened in 1934. It was once a place where sailors would come to meet working girls, but is now a popular hangout for Bohemians and students.
On Calle Serrano, hidden in a small alley, I rode up Ascensor Cordillera. At the top of the hill, I walked past a small park, turned left, and found the Museo del Mar Lord Thomas Cochrane. It was a house built in 1842 for British naval officer Lord Thomas Cochrane, although he never lived there. He played an integral part in Chilean independence while commanding the Chilean Navy against Spain. There’s no charge to visit but visitors must sign in at the gate.
The house itself isn’t that interesting, but the views, as on every hill in Valpo, are amazing. It’s worth going up there for the views alone. There are excellent views of Plaza Sotomayor below, Cerro Alegre with Palacio Baburizza, and the port.
I decided from there not to take the ascensor back down, and I followed the street to the left instead. At the bottom of the street, I found myself at Plaza Echaurren. This was the original landing spot of Spanish explorer Juan de Saavedra in 1543 and the historical birthplace of Valparaíso. It’s very, very seedy, and I felt a little uncomfortable there.
Nearby Plaza Echaurren is a historic church, Iglesia de la Matriz. It was originally built in 1559 and rebuilt in 1837. I found the exterior uninspiring and didn’t like the looks I was getting from the local homeless men hanging out right in front of the doors, so I declined to go inside. You can skip it and not be too upset.