East of Cerro Concepción, also bounded by the port, Avenida Argentina, and Avenida Colón, El Almendral is Valparaíso’s commercial, as opposed to the administrative, heart. When Maria Graham lived here in the 1820s, though, it was “full of olive groves, and of almond gardens, whence it has its name.”
El Almendral still has fewer conspicuous architectural landmarks than the Barrio Puerto, but its several plazas—Plaza Simón Bolívar, Plaza de la Victoria, Parque Italia, and Plaza O’Higgins (home to Chile’s finest antiques market)—are the axes of Valparaíso’s street life.
At the barrio’s west end, dating from 1888, the almost rococo Palacio Ross (Salvador Donoso 1337) was home to one of Valparaíso’s elite families before they moved to Viña del Mar; it later became (and still is) the Club Alemán, social center for one of the city’s most important ethnic communities.
Dating from 1881, the neoclassical Palacio Lyon (Condell 1546) holds both the Museo de Historia Natural (Natural History Museum) and the Galería de Arte Municipal (Municipal Art Gallery). Two blocks north, on Avenida Brasil, the Arco Británico honors the port’s British colony.
At the southwest corner of Plaza de la Victoria, the Club Naval (1895) shows French influence. At Avenida Brasil and Avenida Argentina, architect Ernesto Urquieta designed the Universidad Católica.
On Avenida Pedro Montt, between Barroso and Avenida Argentina, rises Valparaíso’s most conspicuous single monument, the pharaonic Congreso Nacional (1990); Pinochet’s custom constitution dictated the move of the national legislature from Santiago, though there is frequent talk of moving it back to the capital.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition