As capital of Chile’s Coquimbo region, the commune of La Serena has become one of the country’s premier tourist destinations. It forms part of the Elqui province, extending as far as Coquimbo and Andacollo to the south, La Higuera to the north, Vicuna to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west.
La Serena is also the country’s second-oldest city of Spanish origin, having been founded in 1544 - three years after the country’s capital Santiago sprung up on the banks of the Mapocho river.
Following the Great Depression of 1929, the then Chilean President proposed the La Serena Plan, the aim of which was breathe new life into the local economy. The plan also encompassed large scale urban redevelopment using traditional architecture. This is still evident today in many of the buildings of the old quarter, which have managed to retain their ancestral hallmarks.
Many of these buildings are now national monuments. Thus protected, many fine examples of neo-colonial architecture remain in excellent condition, including traditional balconies, small plazas, promenades and long residential buildings with unbroken facades.
Places of interest
Close to the city centre and just in front of Japanese Garden you can find the Parque Pedro de Valdivia, an area of some 26,000 square metres ideal for enjoying the surrounding natural charms. Inside there is a small zoo where children can interact with the animals, as well as extensive meadows for families to relax or roam in, all the time surrounded by grazing sheep, goats and other animals. The park also contains a sports centre with pitches where you can play football, rugby, basketball and hockey, as well as a children’s playground and various walking trails.
At the very heart of the city is La Recova street market, one of the most attractive of its kind in Chile. Founded in 1795, it served as a supply centre in colonial times, though nowadays it specialises in culinary products and local handicrafts. There you can find a huge range of pottery inspired by the Diaguita culture, semi-precious lapis lazuli stones and jewellery, alpaca wool garments, books, musical instruments and much more. After sightseeing, tourists can dine at one of the city’s numerous restaurants and terrace eateries, where the local seafood is exquisite.
La Serena’s popularity as a tourist destination owes much to its fine beaches, which flank one of the busiest esplanades in Chile. In total, there are 12 beaches – Canto del Agua, Las Gaviotas, Hipocampo, El Corsario, El Pescador, Quatro Esquinas, La Barca, Blanca, Mansa, Los Fuertes, La Marina and El Faro – all apt for swimming and water sports. These run the length of Avenida del Mar, where modern high-rise apartments, hotels, restaurants, bars and nightclubs jostle for space.
Founded on 9 December 1955, Club de Deportes La Serena grew out of the city team that won three successive national amateur titles in the early 50s. This run of titles earned the club an invitation to join the country’s professional league, culminating in their promotion to the top flight in 1957.
With rivals Coquimbo Unido, they make up one of the country’s most keenly fought derbies, which has at times been interrupted when promotion or relegation has left the pair in separate divisions.
Known as Los Granates (The Garnets) after the stone by the same name that adorns the entrance of their Estadio La Portada. Indeed from 1750 to 1930, that entrance functioned as the main gateway through the fortified walls of the city. The original pitch was a dirt field until upgraded to coincide with the club turning professional in 1955.