Valparaiso, Chile is a colorful seaside town with UNESCO World Heritage Site status, where the only thing more impressive than the colors of the buildings and the freshness of the seafood is the steepness of the hills (of which there are over 40!).
There’s so much to do there, but without further ado, here are my Top 5 To-Dos in Valparaiso, Chile:
5. Walking Tour of Street Art
Valparaiso has some pretty amazing street art, and there’s no better way to see it all than to take a walking tour of the city with a guide. We did the Valparaiso Highlights Tour with Tours4Tips, which wasn’t a street art-only tour, but we covered a LOT of great murals and learned about the famous street artists that have works throughout the city. The tour meets daily at 3pm at Plaza Sotomayor.
You’ll see some works by famous Chilean street artist Inti Castro (or just “Inti“), as well as some works by other high-profile artists from Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Santiago like Charquipunk, and Un Kolor Distinto.
You’ll find this piece when you come off of the Ascensor Reina Victoria (see below for more):
Even international street artists like France’s Mr. Papillon have pieces here:
Learn more about Chilean street artists here.
4. Cerro Concepción
There are so many hills in this city. To see the best of the best, you’ll only need to see two of them. The first is Cerro Concepción. Get there by taking the Ascensor Concepción up from Calle Esmeralda/Prat to Paseo Gervasoni. Please note: the Ascensor Concepción is closed until 2018 for repairs, so take the Ascensor El Peral to get up to the top of the hill instead (or you can always take the stairs).
Wander along Paseo Gervasoni and check out the street performers and artisans selling their wares along the street. Listen to some of the musicians playing and look out, down towards the port. There’s a beautiful view from here.
Museo Lukas is a cute little museum dedicated to the cartoon and comic strip works of a famous Italian-Chilean artist Renzo Pecchenino, aka Lukas, which is temporarily closed at time of publication.
Grab a drink at one of the outdoor tables at the Hotel Brighton or the Gran Hotel Gervasoni, which boast fabulous views of the city atop its perch high on the side of the hill. It’s also a very popular spot for viewing New Year’s Eve fireworks (the largest display in South America!).
There are two major churches: one being the white and green Anglican church, and one being the green and blue Lutheran church. The Anglican Church (Iglesia Anglicana) of St. Paul was built in 1858 by the English and British community that made parts of Valparaiso its home. Since there was no religious freedom when the Church of St. Paul was built, the building was pretty non-descript. There’s no steeple or cross outside, as a result.
The Lutheran Church (Iglesia Luterana de la Santa Cruz de Valparaiso) is a bit more obviously a church, with a large steeple. The building dates to 1897. A devastating earthquake hit the city in 1906, but the church was quickly repaired. In 2011, it went through a massive restoration. It’s beautiful, and still holds masses.
Check out SaborColor on Templeman Street for some delicious cocktails and a sit-down meal.
Casa Luisa Bistro & Wines was also amazing for dinner – and is currently (at the time of publication) rated #2 on TripAdvisor. We had a fantastic, flavorful dinner there on our last visit to the city.
3. Cerro Alegre
The Cerro Alegre, right next to Cerro Concepción, doesn’t get as much press as its neighboring hill. But, this Cerro is definitely worth a wander. Get there by taking the Ascensor El Peral at Plaza de la Justicia.
In particular, wander down El Paseo Yugoslavo, which is home to the Palacio Baburizza, site of the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes. The fine arts museum is a beautiful place to check out some Chilean and European masterpieces dating from 1800-1990, in a beautiful building. The building was constructed in 1916 by two Croatian-Italian architects and you’ll notice that the façade has a definite Croatian influence! A visit, including an audio guide in English, French or Portuguese costs only $4,000 CLP. Open daily from 1030am, Closed Sundays from 2pm-230pm.
I’ve done previous posts on on Cerro Alegre – which is home to some great cafes, bars and restaurants. Check out Restaurant Samsara for Thai food.
2. Ascensor Reina Victoria
One of the city’s first ascensores (funiculares, elevators), opened in 1902, the Ascensor Reina Victoria. These rickety old treasures transport you from port-level to high up on the hills, saving a huge staircase or steep, winding roads to amble up or down. The ascensor is not free, but is super cheap (100 Chilean pesos each way!).
If you want to check out the brewery/brewpub at the base (Casa Cervecera Altamira) before you make the trip, you can, but it’s nothing to write home about. In my humble opinion.
And my #1 Thing to do in Valparaiso, Chile is… (drumroll please):
1. LA SEBASTIANA – PABLO NERUDA’S HOUSE
When people are into things that are a little quirky, they’re considered weird. But, when rich and/or famous people are into quirky things, they’re eccentric. My goal in life is to be considered eccentric! Poet and author Pablo Neruda was no exception; his houses are now museums that hold some of his earthly belongings show how this true artist once lived – partying with friends in his seaside retreat, in the case of La Sebastiana.
Complete with a carousel horse, mismatched furniture and tons of great glassware, old nautical objects and maps, this house is awesome. My particular favorite area is the bar (naturally), where Pablo himself would bartend for his artists pals into the wee hours. You should definitely get the audio guide and actually listen to it while you’re touring. The rooms are well marked with the number corresponding to the guide, and it will give you some great context for what you’re looking at.
Pro-tip: If you’re tall, watch out; the narrow staircases with low ceilings can invoke all the claustrophobia your heart desires, especially if someone is descending while you’re ascending.
Check out the gardens and gift shop when you’re done touring the house!
Location: Ferrari 692, Valparaíso.
Phone: +56-32-225 6606 / +56-32-223 3759
Hours: March to December: Tuesday to Sunday 10:10 am to 6:00 pm
January and February: Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 7 pm Closed on Mondays
Cost: General admission: $7,000 CLP, Special admission: $2,500 CLP (Students and Chileans over 60 years old)
Check out the Mercado El Cardonal if you like to wander produce markets (although the ones in Santiago are way more impressive). Here’s some info on those.
Visit Plaza Sotomayor to see the statues and the Navy building (Comandancia Armada de Chile).
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