La Quinta Vergara is best known as the site of the Festival de Viña (short for Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar) – one of the largest music events in Latin America. But, there is a lot more to this venue than all the booing and clapping it witnesses at the festival every February.
Photo by Silvia Viñas
Outside the gray concrete amphitheater hides an old mansion depicting a typical rich family abode right out of a Victorian novel. The palace actually belonged to the founder of Viña del Mar, José Francisco Vergara, and has now been turned into the museum of Bellas Artes of Viña del Mar.
The palace was built under the orders of Vergara’s daughter - Blanca Vergara Álvares, with the guidance of Italian architect, Ettore Petri Santini, who designed the structure in Gothic Revival style. It was finished in 1910, and thirty years later the palace was sold to the Municipalidad of Viña, to be used as a museum and school for fine arts.
The museum showcases old European furniture and sculptures and old and contemporary paintings. The paintings range from baroque artists like Peter Paul Rubens, Spanish impressionists like Joaquin Sorolla and Chilean artists like multi-stylistic Camilo Mori. Around the house you come across a lot of portraits of both the Vergara family and other Chilean and international aristocrats. The palace gives visitors a feel of what it was like to live a privileged life in the early 1900s.
Surrounding the Vergara palace is a mix of plants and trees brought in from around the world - a dream come true for every horticulturist. Signs under the trees or on their trunks show their exotic origins: “South Africa,” “Brazil” and “China,” among others.
Benches around the park are the perfect sitting arrangement for young pololos (couples), families visiting the park and solitary adults resting from the hectic city that surrounds the establishment. These gardens also hide small reminders of Chile’s cultural richness: rocks with engraved plaques showing poems by Chilean writers such as Gabriela Mistral.
To the left of the museum and the park you can see the Quinta Vergara amphitheater from the entrance. It was first opened in 1963 as a wooden structure with a seating capacity of 15,000; but in 2002 it was renovated to a concrete structure that can now hold 20,000 people. When there are no events planned, visitors can walk into the sitting area, take pictures and see what it’s like to visit the famous venue where the internationally renowned Festival de Viña takes place.
The whole visit can take more time than expected, if you take the time to enjoy the park, the museum and the amphitheater. So if you get hungry and you want to complete the Chilean immersion experience, a small kiosk that sells typical Chilean fare like chorrillana (French fries, friend onions, eggs and shredded beef) and empanadas is your best choice.
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 1:30pm and 3pm to 5:30pm. Adults pay CP$600 (about US$1.50), and students and children pay CP$300 (about US$0.50).
Errázuriz 596, Viña del Mar, Quinta Región
Park and amphitheater open from 7am – 6pm
Museum open from 10am – 1:30pm and 3pm – 5:30pm