Concepción is not a tourism hotbed, but most nearby attractions are accessible by public transportation. Altaluz Turismo (tel. 0412/813154) offers tours in and around the city. South Expediciones (tel. 099/5177368) operates activities-oriented excursions such as mountain biking, horseback riding, and rafting on several regional rivers.
Concepción’s repeated earthquakes have leveled nearly all its colonial structures—the last remaining one is the Muro de la Merced, a crumbling convent wall on Castellón between Maipú and Freire that’s a national monument.
Surrounded by architecturally drab but seismically sensible buildings such as the Catedral de la Santísima Concepción, Plaza Independencia is still the heart of the city. Its centerpiece is the Pileta de la Plaza, a fountain originally planned in 1750 but unfinished until 1856. Lavishly landscaped, the plaza serves as a stage for mimes, musicians, and other street performers; the Barros Arana and Aníbal Pinto peatonales encourage foot traffic through the area; west of the plaza, Barros Arana’s recently widened sidewalks still allow one lane of automobile traffic.
Southwest of Plaza Independencia, where Barros Arana intersects Arturo Prat, the Barrio Estación is an area of trendy bars and restaurants on and around Plaza España. A new railroad station has replaced the former Estación de Ferrocarril (1941–1943), notable for the columns on its facade, the work of modernist architect Luis Herreros; the former station’s waiting room features Gregorio de la Fuente’s spectacular mural Latidos y Rutas de Concepción, depicting scenes from pre-Hispanic regional history, the Araucanian wars, Chilean rural society, the mining industry, and its manufacturing offshoots. They also show the natural disasters—earthquakes, fires, and tsunamis—that have devastated the city throughout its history.
Northeast of downtown, in the vicinity of Plaza Perú, the Barrio Universitario enjoys a vigorous cultural and student life. On the Universidad de Concepción campus, the university’s Casa del Arte (Chacabuco and Eduardo Larenas, tel. 0412/204126) features Mexican muralist Jorge González Camarena’s La Presencia de América Latina, along with smaller galleries of portraits and landscapes. It’s open Tuesday–Friday 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m.–4 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.–1 p.m. Admission is free.
Four blocks southeast of Plaza Independencia, Parque Ecuador stretches for nine blocks along Avenida Víctor Lamas; immediately behind it, the woodsy summit of Cerro Caracol offers panoramas of the city. At the park’s southwestern edge, the Galería de la Historia (Lamas and Lincoyán, tel. 0412/231830) relates regional history through Rodolfo Gutiérrez’s dioramas of pre-Columbian Mapuche subsistence and their post-Columbian guerrilla resistance, the garrison origins of Spanish colonial society at nearby Penco, negotiations between the indigenous nation and the invaders, Spanish soldier-poet Alonso de Ercilla, the catastrophic 1939 earthquake, and the city’s 20th-century industrial development. Unchanged since its debut in the mid-1980s, the gallery is open weekdays 3–6:30 p.m., Tuesday–Friday 10 a.m.–1:30 p.m., and weekends 10 a.m.–2 p.m. and 3–7 p.m. Admission is free.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition