Once a palace, the Palacio Astoreca Hotel is now a whimsical and chic 23-room retreat that clings to the hillside of the hip neighborhood of Cerro Alegre. Without a doubt, the hotel is the prime pick in the city of Valparaiso, Chile's cultural hub which bubbles with vibrant restaurants, artisan boutiques, and quaint sidewalk cafes.
Photo Credit: Rabih Ayache/Hotel PA
Although found along a quieter end of Cerro Alegre, the hotel is difficult to miss. Its salmon pink and sharp-white trim coloring is as bold as the many murals splashed around the jutting hillside neighborhood. The stunning 1920's Victorian-style mega-mansion was a Croatian businessman's anniversary gift to his wife. Last I checked, "palace" was not a traditional gift to bestow upon one's spouse, but this couple was in a class of their own. Nearly a century later, in 2009, another couple, Swiss-Chilean Vincent Juillerat and Francisca Joannon, bought the house and restored it to its former glory.
Both a national monument and cultural icon, the palace demanded a delicate two-year restoration, the couple's $5 million investment, and the collaboration of some of the country's finest architects and designers. Mathias Klotz Germain, a nationally-noted Chilean architect, was wooed by Juillerat and Joannon to apply his clean approach to design and careful attention to historical places. The original parquet wood flooring throughout the hotel, elegant crown molding under curved domed ceilings, and an invisible spiral staircase nearby the piano lounge and front desk are evidences of his job well-done. The interior design elements, from European-imported foil wallpaper to bed frames by artist Sebastian Yrarrázaval, were just as carefully selected and perfectly apt.
It's a pleasure to lounge in a place so well-designed and positioned. I spent many moments marveling at the bay from the hand-painted tile patio of the hotel, enjoying the clawfoot bathtub in my suite and gazing at the charming garden under the stoop of the grand entrance. Well-selected embellishments allow the home's historical charm to radiate and showcase its stunning position above the bay of Valparaiso. The result is a modern upgrade of a true masterpiece.
One of the joys that comes with staying in a former estate or home is all of the nooks and crannies provided for guests to explore and linger in. The piano lounge, which centers around a lacquered black piano with a handsome bar to the side, is a particularly inviting spot. Locals linger here for a drink prior to dinner downstairs at Restaurant Alegre, named for the hillside upon which it is located.
Photo Credit: Rabih Ayache/Hotel PA
The 40-seat restaurant is demure, allowing the artfully plated dishes from the molecular gastronomy menu to be the real feature. Guests of the hotel are spoiled by the restaurant every morning, as complimentary breakfast is included in every stay. During fog-free mornings, travelers can sit underneath a giant queen palm on the patio, and sip both fresh watermelon juice and strong coffee as the sun warms up the white tiled patio and harbor water below. Breakfast can be enjoyed in bed, free of charge, on colder mornings.
Another spot to enjoy is the spa, which welcomes guests with a two-story wall of live ivy and ferns. Darkened by floor-to-ceiling slate-covered walls, the spa is a contrast to the sun-filled, airy interior of the mansion. It’s a lush retreat, complete with an indoor heated pool, a Hammam (Turkish steam bath), massage salon and a firewood-fueled hot tub from southern Chile.
Photo Courtesy of Palacio Astoreca Hotel
Getting to the palace is as stress-free as a visit to the spa. LAN Airlines, based in Santiago, is the flag carrier of Chile with more than 115 South American destinations.
A carefully upgraded palace, the Palacio Astoreca Hotel is just as vibrant as Chile’s beloved Valparaiso. Fit for royalty, but now refurbished for elite travelers, this is the place to linger in the city.