National Maritime Museum

Museo Marítimo Nacional - Valparaíso - Chile

National Maritime Museum Valparaiso Chile

Statue of Bernardo O'Higgins at Museo Marítimo Nacional Valparaíso

The National Naval and Maritime Museum in Valparaíso sits just above the touristy 21 de Mayo walkway.

If you are not interested in Chilean history you still may want to visit the museum because of its amazing views of the entire city from the front lawns (you don't need to pay to enter this part).

The museum shows the history of the Chilean navy with numerous exhibits in over 17 showrooms. On the ground floor there are 9 rooms that show a general overview of the most important aspects of the history of the Chilean navy since its founding in 1818 through to the War of the Pacific, highlighting the heroes of the institution.

On the second floor there 8 rooms with different themes including Famous sailors of the 20th Century, Cape Horn, a Model boats display and more.

These are some of the main rooms that are on permanent display:

Bernardo O'Higgins Room

In the center of the room you will find a statue of Bernardo O'Higgins in an unusual pose (see photo above) looking at a painting of the Batalla de Chacabuco (12 Feb 1817) in which a joint Chilean-Argentine army defeated the Spanish. His hand is pointing to a painting on the opposite wall of some ships of war. At the base of his statue are inscribed the words "Esta batalla y cien más son insignificantes si no dominamos el mar" (This battle and a hundred more are insignificant if we do not dominate the sea.)

In the same room you will find copies of some documents related to the creation of the navy as well as some of his belongings.

Lord Cochrane, Arturo Prat, Bernardo O'Higgins

Sala Glorias Navales (Naval Glories Room)

This second room honours the three main heroes from the history of the Chilean navy, each appearing in their own leadlight window. In the middle is Arturo Prat Chacón who died in the Sea Battle of Iquique (21 May 1879) as he boarded a Peruvian ship. On the right is Bernardo O'higgins and to the left is Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane who commanded the navy from 1818 to 1823.

On the left side of the room is a list of all of those who fell in battle during the Sea Battle of Iquique.

On the right side of the room are another two leadlight windows based upon nautical maps from the 17th Century.

Leadlight of a map of the Old World

Cochrane Room 1

A room dedicated to the life of Thomas Alexander Cochrane. He was born in Scotland and became an officer of the English nave during the war of Independence of the United States and also fought against Napoleon before heading to Chile where O'Higgins gave him command of the newly formed Chilean Navy. In 1820 he successfully took Corral and Valdivia (two powerful Spanish forts) and also took a fleet to Paracas in Peru. He also managed to capture the "Esmeralda" ship in the Peruvian port of El Callao (Lima). Did you know his remains are now at Westminster Abbey in London?

Cochrane Room 2

The second room of Lord Cochrane is mainly about how he took the forts of Valdivia (including a large 3d map of the area) as well as a large painting of when the admiral captured the Esmeralda.

Diego Portales Room

This room is divided into two main history events. The left side is about the war against the joint Peruvian-Bolivian army (1836-1839) on the right the war against Spain (1865-1866). You will see a painting depicting the capture of the Spanish ship "Covadonga" by the Esmeralda.

Sala Blanco Encalada

A room about Manuel Blanco Encalada, the first official President of Chile. Of note in this room is the original table of the Officers chamber of the Spanish frigate "Reina María Isabel" which has captured by Chile in Talcahuano (1818) under his command.

Cripta al Loor de Chile

Before you enter this "crypt" you find some old relics from both Chilean and Peruvian ships that fought during the War of the Pacific. The "crypt" itself is more like a small wooden temple where portraits of the 27 heroes of the War of the Pacific can be found, most died in the famous Sea Battle of Iquique. An important article in this room is the slightly crushed bugle from the Esmeralda, the same one played by a 15-year old boy to motivate his fellow crewmen. For many years it laid at the bottom of the sea in the Bay of Iquique.

Sala Guerra del Pacífico (War of the Pacific Room)

The room refers to the conflict between Chile against a joint Peru-Bolivia army. Here you will find many items that were used during this war as well as some model ships.

Arturo Prat Room

Lots of documents about Arturo Prat including his grade reports as a cadet, photos of him at different ages, as well as personal items that belonged to him. There a cabinet that displays the original uniform he used when he was 14 years old up to items rescued from the bottom of the sea from the Esmeralda ship (one is a clock that shows the exact time the ship sank). In this room are two model ships of the Esmeralda and Huáscar at 1:20 scale making them the largest in Chile.

Sala Arturo Prat Museo Marítimo Nacional - Valparaíso

Sala Marinos Ilustres (Illustrious Sailors room)

On the second floor, this room contains 15 different oil paintings of famous sailors as well some items used by the first Chilean expeditions to Antartica.

Cape Horn Room

This room contains the history of sail navegation around Cape horn from when it was first discovered in 1616 to present day. Homage is also paid to the 20 Chilean sailors that lost their life when the Lautaro frigate caught fire off the coast of Peru.

Sala Hermandad de la Costa

Kids absolutely love this room as probably do adults too. In the middle of the room is a large replica of a pirate ship and around it are many flags from around the world. Pirate Ship at Museo Marítimo Nacional - Valparaíso

Admiral Merino Room

A room about Admiral José Toribio Merino Castro who was commander in chief of the Chilean navy between 1973 and 1990 and highlights his 50 years of dedication to the navy. Check out the letter from Margaret Thatcher, the ex-Prime Minister of England written during the border crisis between Chile and Argentina in 1978.

Marine Infantry Room

A room showing the history of the marine infantry including displays of the uniforms used over the years.

Model Boat Room

Many displays of model boats belonging to the Valparaiso Model Boat Club.

The central patio courtyard of the Museo Marítimo Nacional - Valparaíso

Where, When and How much?

Paseo 21 de Mayo Nº 45
Cerro Artillería,
Phone: (56-32) 243-7651
Website: (in Spanish)

Open: Tuesday to Sunday - 10am to 5.30pm
Cost: Adults $700 Children $300 (Chilean Pesos - July 2012)

From Plaza Sotomayor (the main square) head south along Blanco (street) towards the closest hills (about 8 or 9 blocks). At the end of the street you will see Plaza Aduana and the right an iconic hillside elevator called Ascensor Artillería. It costs $300 pesos (July 2012) each way. You pay for it once you get to the top.

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Last Updated: 14 March 2014
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