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Here Is Your Ultimate Guide For Things To Do In Valparaiso Chile
There is no shortage of things to do in Valparaiso Chile. This vibrant port city, whose name means “Valley of Paradise” has an artistic, alternative vibe that combined with its grittiness and historical significance entices the visitor from the get-go.
Is Valparaiso Chile Safe for a Solo Female Traveller?
I had heard mixed reviews of Valparaíso Chile. Backpackers I had recently met all spoke highly of this city however others had warned me to be careful of its dangers, filth and pickpockets.
I travelled solo to Valparaiso Chile and found that I had to be aware, as in all solo travel, but never felt unsafe. I did have my camera around my neck at one point and a vendor from the market told me to put it away. A good reminder.
I stayed in the more touristy areas exploring all the things to do in Valparaiso Chile and didn’t venture out after dark.
How To Get To Valparaíso Chile
Getting to Valparaíso Chile from Santiago is a 90-minute trip by public transit. Here is how:
Take the red line on Santiago’s Metro to Parajitos station. I went the day before to purchase a bus ticket to Valparaiso but it is perfectly doable to buy a ticket the day you are planning to travel as there are plenty of buses.
Bus From Parajitos Station:
Pullman, Turbus and Condor bus companies all have plenty of buses each day between Santiago and Valparaíso Chile. It’s a 90-minute trip.
Cost Of Bus From Santiago to Valparaíso Chile:
CLP$6000 to get there and CLP$4000 to return. Not sure why there was a price difference – the day of the week? time of the day? Regardless this return trip will set you back about $14 Cdn.
Where To Eat In Valparaíso Chile
One of the tasty things to do in Valparaiso Chile was to follow restaurant suggestions from locals and other travellers.
El Pimenton was recommended to me by Mauricio at The Travelling Chile. It was the perfect little place to eat some authentic, homemade Chilean cuisine. My favourite is Pastel de Choclo a kind of meat pie with a few olives, a wedge of hard-boiled egg, a handful of raisins and a crust that is made of mashed (and grilled) corn.
I am getting up my courage to try Chorrillana -french fries covered in various meats, caramelised onions and fried eggs. Can I do it?
Café Turri: Café Turri with its irresistible views overlooking the water came recommended to me. It is overpriced but sitting on that patio sipping a cold white Chilean wine made up for it.
SaborColor: This restaurant is located beside Puerta Escondida so was perfect to sip a glass of wine on the streetside tables. Had a Pastel de Quinoa (a warm quinoa and seafood dish) that was 2 thumbs up!
Delicias Express: Being gluten-free in Chile is a big disappointment. It’s the land of empanadas. This empanada shop was highly recommended with its 80 varieties.
Emporio La Rosa: Grab an ice cream at the Plaza Aníbel Pinto location before going on a walking tour. I tried lúcuma, made from a South American fruit. I was told it was similar in flavour to maple syrup. Being a true Canadian who is a tad obsessed with maple syrup, I would have to disagree even though it was tasty!
Din_399: If you visit the cemeteries, walk along the perimeter road, Dinamarca. Stop for a refreshment at this café with its outstanding views.
Things To Do In Valparaiso Chile
1. Admire The Street Art In Valparaíso Chile
If you are wondering what to do in Valparaiso Chile, start with the street art. Valparaiso has not always been covered in artwork. During the military regime from 1973 – 1990, it did not exist. Artistic expression flourished here after 1990 but the street art culture you see today is fairly new, a mere 14 years old.
Valparaíso is now known for its street art. In fact, it is in every nook and cranny. It is a completely different genre from the street art you find in Prague, for example. Valparaiso’s style is not just random spray paint and tagging although that is also to be found. Detailed, meaningful murals that have been created to provoke, tell a story and entertain cover walls, doorways and stairways.
The artist, INTI born in Valparaiso, created this three-piece mural (one of my favourites!) and has works all over the world.
2. Take A Free Walking Tour In Valpo
One of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile is to take a walking tour through the maze of twisting cobbled streets, long staircases and ascensores (funiculars).
The gringo trail includes the Cerros (hills) Concepción, Alegre and Bellavista. These hills are full of fabulous viewpoints, art, empanada shops and boutiques selling local artisanal goods. I loved the copper and silver jewellery with lapis lazuli, the stone Chile is known for.
There is a lot of choice for free walking tours in Valparaiso. The first one I took was with Free Walking Tour Valparaiso. Meet the guides wearing the solid red T-shirts in Plaza Aníbel Pinto at either 10 am or 3 pm daily. This tour was fabulous and full of interesting facts about Valparaiso’s history and culture.
Here are a few facts about Valparaíso Chile:
- Valparaiso was a major Pacific port way back in the day, but two significant events changed that. There was a devastating earthquake in 1906 and the Panama Canal opened in 1914. Valparaíso Chile was no longer “The Jewel of the Pacific” and fell on hard times.
- Sir Francis Drake raided for gold here and built a fort overlooking the Pacific. Its location now, set quite far back from the coastline, makes you wonder how effective a lookout it was. In actual fact, the ocean has receded a LOT and in Plaza Sotomayer, there is a plaque on the ground marking where the water’s edge used to be.
- The greatest fear in Valparaiso, past and present, is fire. When a fire starts and the cool breezes blow in from the Pacific, a whole hillside can be lost. There are buildings which burned down that have still not been replaced or bought. These add to the dilapidated character of the city.
- Valparaiso gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 2003 for its architectural value and importance as a port before the Panama Canal.
- Both Salvator Allende, who was running the socialist government before the military coup, and Augusto Pinochet who ran the military regime from 1973 – 1990 were born in Valparaíso.
- The murals and graffiti have transformed the city and brought lots of tourism.
3. Take A Street Art Walking Tour
The second tour of Valparaíso Chile that I took was with Valpo Street Art Tours which focused on the graffiti and mural art found all over the city. In the end, this was one of my favourite things to do in Valparaiso Chile.
The tour guide shared the meaning and stories behind the murals we visited and also the skills and techniques used to create such masterpieces. What you can do with a can of spray paint is simply remarkable.
Something that just baffles me is that street art is illegal in Valparaiso. Excuse me? What? Unless it has been commissioned or you have permission to work on the wall, it remains illegal.
Meet the Valpo Street Art Tour guide in Plaza Aníbel Pinto at either 10:30 am or 3:30 pm daily (except Sundays: only the afternoon tour)
Free? After you have been wowed for 2- 3 hours, it just seems appropriate to tip the guide. Between CLP$5000 and 10000 ($10 – $20) is a common amount.
4. Get Lost In The Cerros Of Valparaiso Chile
When leaving Valparaiso, my cab driver told me, “It’s obligatory as a tourist to leave with sore legs from all the hill walking!” Absolutely true! Wandering the tiny streets and up and down the hills is one of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile.
Two of the most popular hills for tourists are Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción which are right beside each other.
Get a little lost – it’s not hard!
5. Things To Do In Valparaiso Chile | Take A Harbour Boat Tour
When you are planning what to do in Valparaiso Chile, it just seems logical to get on the water. Valparaiso is a busy port and taking a small boat out amongst the freighters gives you a different perspective of the city.
With Plaza Stodomayer at your back, walk towards the Pacific Ocean. You will arrive at the docks and can’t miss the offers for a boat tour. Men are calling out and rounding people up to fill a boat tour. They are skilled at this! Just watch them for a few minutes.
During a 30-minute ride in the harbour, you will putter past sea lions, fishing boats and massive freighters being filled with shipping containers full of Chilean wine and fruit.
Tip: Time your visit for dusk and catch a gorgeous view of Valparaiso’s hillsides twinkling at night.
Cost: CLP$4000 ($7.85 Cdn).
6. Things To Do In Valparaiso Chile | Ride The Ascensores
Of all the things to do in Valparaiso Chile, riding the ascensores is a must. All of the ascensores have been declared Historical National Monuments. There are 15 of them, built well over a century ago. The oldest is Ascensor Concepción built in 1883 – yup that’s 136 years old. There are 7 working ascensores in Valparaíso Chile and the city is restoring the others. Legs tired from all the uphill climbing? Hop an ascensor.
Take Acsensor Reina Victoria (the name alone screams historical story). It was built in 1902 and has the steepest climb. It delivers you right between Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepión.
Cost to Ride the Ascensores: Between 100 – 300 CLP (20¢-60¢ Cdn)
7. Things To Do In Valparaiso Chile| Visit Pablo Neruda’s House
If you are a bit of a hopeless romantic then visiting La Sebastiana, home of the famous Chilean Pablo Neruda, is another essential thing to do in Valparaiso Chile. Take the ascensor Espiritu Santo to Cerro Bellavista. Walk up. Straight up Calle Hector Calvo. The prize for the hill work? Pablo Neruda’s Valparaiso house La Sebastiana. This narrow 5-storey house has views overlooking the Pacific Ocean at every turn.
Despite the fact that the house was ransacked after the military coup in 1973, many of Neruda’s artefacts and belongings such as murals, maps and whiskey bottles are there. A wooden horse from a merry-go-round in France sits in the circular-shaped living room evoking whimsy just by its presence.
On the top floor is Neruda’s writing study. Of course, there are books and maps but also hanging is a large photograph of Walt Whitman whom Neruda claimed was his father in poetry.
Entrance: CLP$7000 ($14 Cdn)
8. Visit The Sea Lions In Valparaíso Chile
Sea lions, pelicans and the sparkling ocean make this a worthwhile addition to your list of things to do in Valparaiso Chile. At Caleta Portales the sea lions fight each other to sunbathe on a large concrete structure just offshore. Watching them argue and try to jump up onto the platform is a lovely way to spend some time on a summer’s day.
Walk: If you have time, walk the 2 km to get to Caleta Portales
Metro: Take the Metro from the stations Puerto or Bellavista and get off at Baron. From there cross the tracks.
You have to buy a Metro card for 1500 CLP and the trip there and back is CLP$500 each way. That will set you back about $5 Cdn. The Metro runs about every 15 minutes.
Bus: You can hop a bus from the centre of town as they are frequent and cheaper. But unless your Spanish is really good, you might end up in Viña del Mar!
9. Wander Through The Cemeteries
If you are looking for a little peace, the cementarios are where you will find it (or possibly a patio overlooking the ocean!) There are many graves from centuries ago and just glancing at the names tells the story of many German, French and British immigrants that lived here.
From Cementario #1 there are great views of Valparaiso’s tallest mural.
10. Visit Parque Cultural de Valparaiso
If you climb all the way up to see the cemeteries, then it is mandatory to see the old prison that has been turned into a cultural centre. It’s one of the quirky things to do in Valparaiso Chile.
11. Take a Day Trip: Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar’s manicured gardens, McDonalds and boardwalks by the ocean provide a completely different experience to Valparaiso. Come to sit on the beach and watch the massive waves crash to shore.
Metro: There are 2 stops for Viña del Mar – Miramar and Viña del Mar so figure out your destination before heading there. I intended to take the Metro to get to Viña del Mar but in asking a total stranger for directions, I received a lift straight to my Air BnB!
Bus: There are many buses between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Ride one merely for the experience. Lots of honking and rounding corners on two wheels! Have change ready – you pay the driver upon entering the bus.
knock you down,
because within your southern chest
the waves of the earth.
(excerpt Ode to Valparaiso, Pablo Neruda)