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Valparaíso’s antiquated lifts

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Most of Valparaíso’s fifteen ascensores, or funicular “lifts”, were built between 1883 and 1916 to provide a link between the lower town and the new residential quarters spreading up the hillsides. Today only a handful of them are still operating, and appearances would suggest that they’ve scarcely been modernized. However, despite their rickety frames and alarming noises they’ve so far proved safe and reliable. What’s more, nearly all drop off passengers at a panoramic viewpoint. The ascensores generally operate every few minutes from 7am to 11pm, and cost around CH$300 one-way. Here are a few of the best, from east to west:

Ascensor Polanco The most picturesque ascensor, and the only one that’s totally vertical, Polanco is on Calle Simpson, off Avenida Argentina (opposite Independencia). It’s approached through a cavernous, underground tunnel and rises 80m through a yellow wooden tower to a balcony that gives some of the best views in the city. A narrow bridge connects the tower to Cerro Polanco, with its flaking, pastel houses in varying states of repair.

Ascensor Concepción (also known as Ascensor Turri) Hidden in a small passage opposite the Turri clock tower, at the corner of Prat and Almirante Carreño, this was the first ascensor to be built, in 1883, and was originally powered by steam. It takes you up to the beautiful residential area of Cerro Concepción, well worth a visit.

Ascensor El Peral Next door to the Tribunales de Justicio, just off Plaza Sotomayor, this ascensor leads to one of the most romantic corners of the city: Paseo Yugoslavo, a little esplanade looking west onto some of Valparaíso’s most beautiful houses, and backed by a flamboyant mansion housing the Museo de Bellas Artes. It’s worth walking from here to Ascensor Concepción.

Ascensor Artillería Always busy with tourists, but highly recommended for the stunning vistas at the top, from the Paseo 21 de Mayo. It was built in 1893 to transport cadets to and from the naval school at the top of the hill, now the site of the Museo Naval y Marítimo.

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