I've never been much of a fan of Viña del Mar- i've always found it to lack charm and anything to really make it special. But Viña's starting to grow on me these days. Whereas Valpo is crumbling-buildings and pavements alike-Viña is all shiny and new. It's kind of nice to walk around and not have to worry about breaking my ankles from time to time. In Viña, behind the mall the streets are generally pretty quiet and there are some cool old houses and the odd monster palace to admire. The city's got some really good bars and restaurants and, out of the summer months of January and February, it's a pretty chilled out city despite being home to around 250,000 people. In summer, it's hell. The journey from Valpo to Reñaca usually takes 25 minutes. In summer, it can take well over an hour and a half. The place also fills up with screaming children high on sugar and parents unable to control them. Not fun.
Viña's jewel is Cerro Castillo. Cerro Castillo is Viña's equivalent of Cerro Concepcion in that it's where the stinking rich built their homes back in the day. Many wealthy families from both Valpo and Santiago had second homes in Viña, when the city was a highly exclusive beach resort (and not the slightly flaite city it's now become). Cerro Castillo is so known because it has, well, a few castles dotted around the place. The Carabineros de Chile now occupy the most visible one and there are two at the foot of the hill-the Club Arabe-Siria and the Castillo Wulf, now the local council. The area is full of huge old houses with gardens (something lacking in Valpo). It's also home to the summer presidential residence. Between the police HQ and the Presidential Palace, it's one of the safest places to live in Chile.
It's more than worth an afternoon exploring the hill so if you're in town, make sure you stop by.
The Presidential Palace
Main entrance to the Presidential Palace
View of the new Sheraton
An apartment block that i quite like
The Cap Ducal restaurant and hotel
Big ol' house