“Posh 1930s mansion turned boutique hotel, overlooking the sea in the culturally captivating, quixotic city of Valparaíso”
Atop Cerro Alegre ('Cheerful Hill'), Hotel Casa Higueras exemplifies the new standard. Its US$2million restoration tucked 20 spacious rooms (many with ocean-view terraces) into a former mansion's elegant craftsman-style interior with 5-star flair. Expect mod cons (keyless entry, noise-reducing windows) and plenty of pampering (double-sheeted linen, Belgian chocolates). A Mediterranean-style terraced garden cascades to an infinity pool. Step out to explore a maze of cobbled streets lined with homes painted a rainbow of vivid colours, or ride the century-old El Peral ascensor (funicular) to the harbour.
- Sublime marriage of period architecture, up-to-the minute design and luxe amenities; all the warmth of a home stay polished with sleek boutique style
- Panoramas of the city, bay and Pacific Ocean from 5 levels and the roof terrace; there's also easy access to the harbour beneath
- Warm, genuine, anything-you-please service
- Stylish bistro with imaginative euro-local menu
- Palatial terraced garden cascading to an infinity pool, plus a 12-person, partially enclosed Jacuzzi
- Reawakening Valparaíso is still a bit shabby around the edges (the hotel's dining terrace faces a littered hillside); if you prize master-planned glam over bohemian colour, opt for neighbouring Viña del Mar (8km north), the darling of Chileans on summer holiday
- Valparaíso is a working port with military and container ships docked at its harbour; water views are prettiest at night
- This is an earthquake zone - we were awakened early one morning by the hotel creaking on its foundation
- There are only 5 parking spaces (2 blocks away), and these are reserved for guests staying in the suites
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- Restaurant and bar (open daily)
- Ages 12+ only
- Open all year
- Outdoor Pool
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
There are 20 guest rooms which fit neatly into the rich interior spaces of the original mansion. Despite an abundance of dark wood wainscoting, beamed ceilings and built-in cabinets, rooms feel light and expansive thanks to vaulted ceilings and plenty of windows. The simple sophistication of the furnishings is completely in tune with old-world elegance.
The kingsize bed in our Premium Room (number 18) was super-comfy and the use of raffia and natural linens reflects Valparaíso's marine history. Double-paned, thermal windows blocked street noise. We could connect to the world via cable TV, a telephone with voicemail or WiFi (a laptop-sized digital safe box was tucked into the closet). Or just enjoy the pampering pleasures: a nightly turn down service, a bag of chocolates, double-sheeted linens (a blanket sandwiched between 2 sheets) and terry robes.
Suites have spacious private terraces furnished with sun loungers and dining tables facing the pool, port and surrounding hills. "Everyone who has a terrace asks for room service," the manager told us (the tree-shaded terrace of number 3 is most private.) One suite, already a favourite with government ministers, has a small living room alcove with a (non-working) Victorian fireplace insert.
Traditional Rooms are the smallest and lack a sitting area and separate tub. Some adjoining rooms in different categories can interconnect; Premium Room 5 (romantic four-poster bed and a sunken tub) and Traditional Room 4 (twin beds) share an interior patio with a waterfall wall.
Bathrooms are grey-and-white-tiled sybaritic sanctuaries, outfitted with sleek Italian fixtures including an adjustable-arm makeup mirror. Many have both an oversized height-adjustable shower and a freestanding or sunken tub, plus everything from separate his-and-hers amenity kits, a hairdryer and toiletries (natural herbal shower gel, shampoo, conditioner and bath salts) to a telephone in the toilet.
- DVD player
- Extra beds
- Safe box
- Satellite TV
The bistro-style Montealegre Restaurant is cosy (it seats up to 16); hotel guests have a private entrance from the elegant lounge. The windowed is done in polished oak and black-on-black, including historic black-and-white photos of Valparaíso. An adjoining salon - with cushioned banquettes and an antique crystal chandelier - can be closed off for private celebrations of up to 8.
Guests are treated to a traditional Chilean breakfast: a choice of juices, dry cereals, breads and pastries, fresh fruits (kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, red grapes and oranges), yoghurts, scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced meat and cheese. Linger over coffee or tea at a white linen-topped table inside or - if the fog has lifted - enjoy a view of the sparkling bay at umbrella-shaded tables on the spacious open-air terrace.
The à la carte lunch and dinner menu highlights seafood along with contemporary international cuisine. An 'evolving' wine list includes a wide range of fine, mostly Chilean, wines at varying prices. Enjoy a glass in the elegant guests-only living room with its picture-window panorama of the city. Beers, cocktails and aperatifs are also available.
Throughout the day, light dishes, snacks and beverages are served on the terrace or poolside. Room service is available until 1am; in-room minibars offer a selection of fine liquors, beer and soft drinks along with bottled water and snacks.
There are plenty of options for eating out. The most traditional food in Valparaíso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. Stop into a local bakery for oven-fresh bread smothered with palta (avocado) and homemade empanadas (meat or cheese filled pastry). Neighbouring Viña del Mar features a much larger (and more expensive) variety of international cuisines, including Thai, Mexican, and Argentine.
- Restaurants nearby
- Room service
- Relax at the hotel: enjoy lunch with a view on a garden terrace overlooking the swimming pool, swim, sunbathe or soak in the Jacuzzi; have a cocktail and game of chess in the living room/lounge or schedule a massage
- Soak up Valpo’s bohemian vibe: the chimerical maze of cobbled streets, meandering alleys and steep stairways straddling a handful of hills surrounding the city’s harbour oozes character. Homes, ranging from Victorian mansions to clapboard and angular corrugated iron, radiate vibrant colours on their freshly painted façades. Follow emblems marking a winding path along city streets and walkways called the Museum of the Open Sky to see 20 murals painted by Chile’s top artists and accented over time with impromptu graffiti art
- Explore history and culture: a major merchant port supporting global expansion during the 19th-century, Valparaíso is a trove of naval history. The Naval and Maritime Museum and the Lord Cochrane Museum of the Sea, as well as quirky La Sebastiana (one of 3 homes built by Chile’s beloved Nobel Poet Laureate Pablo Neruda) are worth a visit. You will constantly be offered a free map/brochure - with tear-off Metro tickets and discount coupons - that conveniently folds to pocket size
- Cruise around the bay: shop for local crafts, then grab a launch at the lively wharf (Muelle Prat) for a close-up of Navy, cruise and cargo ships and a harbour-front perspective of the city hills
- Party: Valparaíso is famous for its bohemian pubs and bars, where poets, writers, tango aficionados, sailors, university students and just about everyone else drink, dance and socialise until the wee hours
- Take a daytrip: spend a day at the beach in neighbouring Viña del Mar via the Merval (Metro Valparaíso) train. Local companies offer tours of the Casablanca Valley Wine Route, 30 minutes away, and Pablo Neruda's stunning oceanfront home in Isla Negra is an hour away
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Historical sites
- Museums / galleries
- Shopping / markets
- Traditional cultures
- Wine tasting