Don’t believe for a second, that once you have passed the capital of Santiago, and the unofficial midway point of Chile, that you have left all cities and civilization behind and are traipsing into the lone wilderness. The next main city you will encounter south of Santiago, happens to be the second biggest in the country and is worth a visit on your way south. And no matter how much you loved the capital, Concepción will have you forgetting all about Santiago.
Set on the grounds of the University of Concepción, the House of Art is possibly the most boring exterior on campus but has an interior that is the polar opposite. A square, concrete block houses almost 2,000 works of art, the second largest in the country behind the capital, including a striking, colourful, giant mural that takes up the whole interior of one of the rooms and lights up the inside of the building.
Casa del Arte, Universidad de Concepcion, Concepción, Chile, +56 41 220 4000
The boat that sunk the famous Esmeralda, in the Battle of Iquique during the War of the Pacific, was captured from the Peruvians, and commissioned into the Chilean navy. Today it is on show for you to take a little boat out to where it rests, just a few meters offshore, and get a hands-on history lesson on the Chilean fight for independence.
RH Huáscar, Il Zona Naval, Talcahuano, Chile, +56 41 274 5520
If you are wanting to take in something historic while in Concepción but maybe not interested in making it up to Parque Pedro del Río Zañartu, the Natural History Museum of Concepción is both very easy to get to, located just off one of the main streets in Concepción, and is also very informative and interesting. You might notice the park first, which is scattered with model dinosaurs, that sort of takes the learning outside, and when you walk into the museum you are confronted with a number of different displays from animals, to carvings, to fossils from a number of different eras.
Museo de Historia Natural, Maipú 2359, Concepción, Chile, +56 41 231 0932
This national park provides an easy refuge away from the city for locals looking for some peace and quiet, and is a great place for travelers to explore, and get their first taste of lush Chilean wilderness before they head further south into Patagonia. The park can be difficult to get to without your own transportation as the local busses do not take you directly to the entrance, but it is big enough to fill a full day of exploring.
Nonguén National Reserve, Bío Bío Region, Chile, +56 94 243 7679
See Concepcion in a new light, and from a new angle atop the Cerro Caracol. This leisurely walk begins at Parque Ecuador, an open green space in the south of the city, as you climb the gradual gradient the winds up the side of the Caracol Hill. As you ascend, you will feel completely removed from a big city, only meters from the main road, and the open view from the top makes the busy city of Concepción look quite peaceful.
Parque Ecuador, Victor Lamas 567, Concepción, Chile, +56 94 588 9767
Although Concepción is a port town, the actual center of Concepcion sits back from the water on the Bío Bío River. However, the tiny coastal extension of Concepción, known as Caleta Lenga, is a minuscule network of about five criss-crossing streets that is a tourist hotspot for its peaceful beauty, but also dense number of great restaurants for such a tiny area.
A 40 kilometer drive or bus ride south of Concepción will place you in the old mining town of Lota, where you can visit the local museum that gives you insight into the history of this area, the growth of neighboring Concepción, and the mining past that has played a big part in the growth of Chile. After taking in some history, continue a few minutes south of the city and visit the curling coast and beach town of Playa Colcura.
A new take on the local market, Mercado Gran Concepción is both modern and clean, two things you never associate with normal markets in Latin America. Expect to find the same ingredients, fresh produce, and local foods, but you will be pleased to find it in an immaculately clean environment. It slightly takes away from the authentic feel of a traditional local market, but on the other hand it also manages to take away the pungent odor as well.
Mercado do Gran Concepción, Bernardo O’Higgins 50, Concepción, Chile, +56 9 8260 2192
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