Valparaiso (vălpərĪˈzō) [key], Span. Valparaíso bälpäräēˈsō [Span., = vale of paradise], city (1992 pop. 276,737), capital of Valparaiso region, central Chile. It is the chief port of Chile and the terminus of a trans-Andean railroad. An important industrial center, it manufactures textiles, shoes and leather goods, paint, and chemicals. From a narrow waterfront terrace, steep hills rise to make Valparaiso an amphitheater, with wharves and business quarters at the base and residential sections above. So steep is the ascent that funicular railways are used. The city faces a wide bay, which, although partly protected by breakwaters, often carries severe northern gales in the winter. However, Valparaiso's climate is generally mild, and thousands of tourists visit the region, particularly nearby Viña del Mar. Earthquakes are common, at times causing significant damage.
Valparaiso was founded in 1536 by the Spanish conquistador Juan de Saavedra, but it was not permanently established until 1544 by Pedro de Valdivia. It was frequently raided by English and Dutch pirates throughout the 16th and 17th cent. Relatively unimportant in colonial times, the city grew in the late 19th cent. In 1990 it became the seat of the Chilean congress. Valparaiso has several museums, a Catholic university, a technical school, and a naval academy.