Visitors are reaping the benefits of an ambitious program to preserve this port city’s heritage. Last fall, the 23-room Palacio Astoreca Hotel, and its destination restaurant, Alegre, opened in a Victorian mansion. The Palacio Baburizza, built in 1916, reopened last year as a fine arts museum, and Chilean architect Emilio Marin has transformed a former prison into a cultural center that now welcomes 170,000 visitors per year.
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Slumber in Valparaíso's Hippest Hotel
Palacio Astoreca, a national monument, underwent a two-year renovation before opening its doors in October 2012. Located in the heart of Valparaíso's UNESCO world heritage site, this charming 23-room design-driven hotel has stunning views of the bay and eclectic hills from many of its rooms. The perfect base for an overnight exploration of this funky port only 70 miles from the capital, Valparaiso today is a food and art mecca. The hotel is home to Alegre restaurant, whose young chef has received international acclaim for its innovative menu. Hang out in the piano bar or high-ceilinged library, decompress in the chic spa, or breath in some fresh seaside air on the terrace with a glass of Carmenere.
Alegre is the creation of talented young chef Sergio Barroso. Housed in the cool Palacio Astoreca boutique hotel, the restaurant has caused a quiet, but constant, buzz among local foodies who drive 1 1/2 hours to experience his seasonal, ever-evolving menu of what he likes to call "simple, modern" cuisine. The restaurant overlooks an iconic plaza of Valparaiso with bay windows opening out on the bay. What stands out here are the contrasts: Sugary and salty, bitter and spicy notes, along with delicate textures, all mingle in one dish. Try the tasting menu with wine pairings for the most memorable meal.
Hotel Palacio Astoreca: A Mansion of Your Own In Valparaiso
While downing my second Pisco Sour on the terrace of the newly renovated Hotel Palacio Astoreca overlooking Valparaiso, I had a fabulous idea: I’d start a global chain called “Pisco Disco” (a combination bar and dance club). It was less a stroke of business genius than it was a testament to the mixologist’s bartending skills.
The cocktail was not the only winner at this 1920s-era Victorian mansion turned hotel. From the moment we arrived on its doorstep we found ourselves caught between the past and present. The remodeled inn retains the charm of the iconic palace it once was; at the same time it’s a modern-day wonder with clean lines and spaces (signature elements of architect Mathias Klotz).
Not to be missed is the hotel’s spa with a heated indoor pool and an authentic wood-burning hot tub, where you can relax after a day of hiking up and down Valparaiso’s narrow streets. The centrally located hotel is directly across from the Palacio Baburizza Fine Arts Museum (originally an Art Nouveau mansion), which features an eclectic collection of mostly European and Chilean paintings and is not far from the museum honoring Nobel Laureate poet Pablo Neruda.
While the hotel boasts of its membership in the Relais & Chateaux group, you’d be wise to hone your expectations a bit, as service needs to be bumped up a tad. But no worries about the mixologist -- he sure knows how to make one of Chile’s best Pisco Sours.