I just recently visited the Natural History Museum in Valparaiso
for the first time. The museum itself wasn’t anything to rave about, however I am excited about their new plans to expand and develop their permanent exhibits with state of the art installations covering all of Chile’s landscapes (translating to 90% of the world’s landscapes!). As of now there is no inauguration date which is the safest bet since large plans like these usually take much longer than expected.
During my visit I came across a beautiful café located inside the National History Museum. Once you step inside, the café demands attention with its red walls, detailed ceilings and walls.
I’m not a fan of museum cafés. Despite offering a relaxing cup of coffee and a space to unwind and reflect, they tend to be more expensive for the same product I can get down the street. Not only that, it gives off a touristy, prepackaged vibe. In Valparaíso, all of my favorite local coffee shops have a lot of character, so the last thing I would think of is to visit a museum café.
On the other hand, I was really intrigued by this café – it look so different both as a café in Valparaiso and as a room within this museum. I couldn’t resist my curious mind and took a seat immersed in luxury hoping to discover its narrative.
At the entrance of the museum, there is a small sign indicating it was once the Lyon Palace / Palacio Lyon. It didn’t register until after I sat inside the café, one of the few rooms reminiscent of what the palace used to look like. Walking around the museum, you wouldn’t have assumed it was once a palace as it’s small and plain, but I discovered that the museum only used a fraction of the entire building.
|Book store and reading room, another room that has been restored. (Photo: www.sumo.cl)
My favorite part about the PuroCafé is the curious vintage mirror above the original fireplace creating a crisp, luxurious scene that you don’t see quite often in Valparaiso, unless you dig a little deeper! With a fading reflection, it gives the room so much more character along with the glass case of original pieces form the Lyon Family.
So what’s the verdict on the coffee? I had a macchiato and Francisco had a cappuccino, and we were definitely happy with our choices, the service was great, and we were tempted to get our hands on the sweets in their display case! Unlike most museum cafes, PuroCafé wasn’t overpriced, and it’s a warm and colorful place to slip into another time period making it very fitting with the museum.
PuroCafe has been in Valparaiso for 8 years serving some of the best coffee in the region. This is their second location – a ”heritage café” since the building is part of Valparaiso’s heritage. How do you like your coffee? PuroCafé has 17 different ways to enjoy coffee!
Unlike the majority of countries in Latin America, the hot beverage of choice in Chile is tea and coffee is often sub-par. Fortunately, PuroCafé is a Colombian café solving the coffee issue in Valparaiso one cup of joe at a time. With an emphasis on quality, they take special care and attention to detail importing some of the best quality coffee beans directly from Colombia, Peru, Guatemala and toasting them all in house, a tradition that has been lost at most coffee shops and a rarity in Chile.
The Lyon Palace
Now a historical national monument with typical Victorian 19th century style and French Neo-Classic interior, it was constructed in 1881 as the residence of Santiago Lyon Santamaría and Gertrudis Pérez Izquierdo, an important Chilean family in the mining industry.
Ornately decorated with with baroque details, glass windows shipped in from Europe, towering columns, bow windows, and a large basement for the house hands, the palace transports you into Valparaiso’s Golden Age.
It is one of the few buildings that survived the devastating 1906 cataclysm with a total of 2.030 m2 (21,850.7 ft2), three floors, and more than 50 rooms.
We spoke with Ruth Pérez, the museum’s Librarian and Archives specialist, who told us that it originally had a larger entrance with iron railings, but as Valparaiso’s landscape changed, so did the palace which now sits lower on the street that in its heyday. You also notice that the central exhibit room’s floor turns from wood to tile allowing natural light to shine into what used to the central patio once decorated with a central fountain, garden and palm trees.
Later the palace became an educational institution and in 1988, it transformed itself yet again into the Natural History Museum with 8 permanent exhibit rooms. In a couple years we’ll be able to see the majority of the building open to the public when the newly renovated Natural History Museum is completed.
Carlos Condell 1546, Valparaíso, Chile (Natural History Museum)
Other location: Edwards 301, Valparaíso, Chile. (Plaza Victoria)
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La Casona en Coyhaique
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Ruta de las Picadas
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