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Walking Tour of Arica - City Walk Arica - Chile

The historical center of Arica is on Bolognesi, between San Marcos and 7 de Junio, near the base of El Morro.This area was destroyed by tidal waves in 1868 and 1877. Many of the buildings are from the late 19th century.


On Bolognesi is Iglesia San Marcos de Arica, which looks like a church from a model train set town. This all-metal church was designed by the French architect-engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame). Arica’s original temple, constructed of adobe with a straw roof, was swept away by the 1868 tsunami. At the time, the parts of the present church were in a warehouse in Ancón port. In 1870, the Peruvian government ordered it to be erected in Arica. The church was officially consecrated in 1876. The neo-Gothic church has a single nave with the classical basilic floorplan. The baptismal font is in a half-octagon recess to the right of the main entrance. Metal trestles worked in a rose design form the vaulting. The stations of the cross are set in the same rose motif, with the figures dressed in medieval garb (daily 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Entry: free).


From Iglesia San Marcos, steps lead down to Parque Colón. This broad palm-tree-lined plaza has benches beneath bougainvillea trellices. The park is laid out in terraces leading to a fountain of seabirds spreading their wings to dry and squirrels eating nuts. The final level of the plaza has a bust of Christopher Columbus.


To the north of Parque Colón is a small park honoring 100 years of peace since the Guerra del Pacífico and the Ariqueños who died during that war. A statue, El Roto, is dedicated to the “Genuine Expression of the Chilean Race.”


At the corner of Prat and San Marcos is the Gobernación de Arica, a low red metal building trimmed in white, which is another Eiffel creation dating from 1876.


The terraces of Parque Colón flow down to the newer part of the Plaza de Armas. A statue of Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna overlooks the sweeping space with evenly planted palms and a low fountain. This plaza is a favorite for families and skateboarders.


North on Calle Montt is another Eiffel building: the ex-Aduana, constructed 1871-1874. This brick and quarried stone edifice served as the customs headquarters until 1977. It is now the Casa de la Cultura, with galleries exhibiting itinerant art displays (Monday-Friday 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., Saturday, Sunday 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Entry: free). Occasional theater, concerts and dance shows are performed on the amphitheater in front.


On the green space to the north is a steam engine that was used on the Arica-La Paz rail line. On 21 de Mayo is the former Arica-La Paz station. From 1913 to 1997 this train connected the two countries. Inside the station is the Museo Ferroviario (Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Entry: free) and the upscale Restaurant El Andén.


Strolling along the west side of the train depot is a fish market. Finish this tour of downtown Arica with a ceviche or seafood empanada (try La Chipola, which makes good jaiba-queso pies).

Arica, Chile

City Walk

Travel Tips: To keep up the progress of the possible reopening of the Arica-La Paz train line, visit:

Price Description: Free

Relative price: Free

Travel Skills: None

Visit the several museums of Arica; journey through Valle de Azapa and Valle de Lluta; practice surfing, bodyboarding, paragliding or other adventure sport; hang out at the beaches; take a launch tour of the bay; go birdwatching.

Currencies accepted
Chilean Peso

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

06 Jul 2009

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