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What to do in Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaiso has mixed reviews; the most colourful city in Chile, you only need to take a day trip, it’s prone to pick pockets, cerro’s, street art, food, only worth going if you like to party, a must see! As you can see, there was a lot of varying opinions. So this guide will cover some of the best things of what to do in Valparaiso.
Once the busiest port in South America and now a melting pot of street art, culture and vibrance. A really unique and just wonderful place and definitely somewhere to add to the bucket list.
What to see when visiting Valparasio
Valpo (as it is known to the locals) doesn’t necessarily have any real stand out attractions, but honestly that is part of the charm. You will really enjoy meandering around the alleyways, steps and streets and discovering what to do in Valparaiso; there is something on offer around each corner.
Still, there are of course some things you can’t miss.
Take a walking tour
As always, such a great way to get to know a city. Highly recommend is the tours4tips tour, which was absolutely fantastic. Our guide was Macarena, who was so excitable and so enthusiastic about the city. It was the best way to uncover the must see’s of the city. If I had had more time, I definitely would have joined the other tour of the city that they host. It’s a brilliant first way of seeing the highlights, and to really discover what to do in Valparaiso.
The tour covers some fantastic sites including the port, two of the cerro’s and a whole lot of street art.
Wander the Cerros
Just take some time to wander and explore all of the Cerro’s Valparaiso has to offer. Made a UNSECO world heritage site in 2003 it is definitely worth taking the time to explore and get to know! It is as simple as wandering around and getting lost. Every corner will surprise you, will afford you more amazing views and make you want to get that camera out.
It would take a very long time to explore them all, but first time visitors should concentrate on Concepion and Alegre. Although these are perhaps the most touristy of the cerros, there is definitely some historic and real Valparaiso to be found here. Full of thrift stores, places to buy knick knacks, cafes and bars – it is the place to be!
Ride a funicular
As you may know, Valparaiso is made up of 45 hills (or cerro’s) with streets weaving in amongst them. These hills get pretty exhausting to hike up and down after a while. The best way to overcome this -to ride one of the funiculars! In Valparasio they are know as Ascensions and there used to be around 30 Ascensors across the city (oddly no one seems to be able to confirm the exact number). There are now 16 remaining and of these 9 can still be used. They rise almost vertically up the hills, giving you a well deserved break on those legs!
During the time of my visit, one of the most famous – Ascensor Concepion was under going refurbishment. But Queen Victoria was still very much active. At 100pesos it is bargain of the century to avoid those hills. Plus, as part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a definitely must on the what to do in Valparaiso list!
What Valparaiso is famous for! If you partake it the aforementioned walking tour, you will undoubtedly have a good intro. But take some time afterwards to wander by yourself. Given Valpo’s reputation for street art, it is hard to miss!
Residents can pay local artists to decorate their houses, even the hospitals have murals adorning them. Valpo makes it clear the difference between ‘Street Art’ and ‘graffiti’. The art varies from huge murals, to smaller beautiful pieces painted on the side of homes. It hard to stop taking photos.
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on the Andes!
This famous house sits perched atop one of the many hills at the top of the city. If you decide to walk to it, it not for the faint hearted; up some fairly lengthy and step hills. However, it does offer the opportunity to explore some of the less frequently and touristy cerro’s – albeit none the less interesting! You can take a cab or bus up here. Or if you want to walk part of the way, take the Ascensor Espíritu Santo.
This is the home of the well known Chilean poet – Pablo Neruda, located in the Bellavista Cerro. It is now a museum which you can explore at will. Full of 1950’s furniture and his artwork collection. Even if you choose not to pay to go inside, the views from the house are worth it. Plus it is some pretty special architecture!
Indulge in a roof top bar (or two)
At the top of the Queen Elizabeth Ascensor there is a rooftop bar which affords the most amazing views over the city. This is a bar I recommend, simply because I have been, but just by wandering around you can find plenty to choose from. Honestly, can you imagine anything more perfect than watching the sunset over a fascinating city with a chilled bottle of Chilean wine or a Pisco sour. It is something you must indulge in.
Take a boat out from the Port
Valpo is more than just the cerro’s and street art. There is a lively, buzzing area of town down by the port. Before the building of the Panama Canal, the port here was the busiest in South America. Now, it is home to huge vessels of shipping containers, brightly coloured fishing boats and lots of impatient seagulls.
From the Prat Pier you can take a local boat out from the port, offering another site of the beautiful town. And they take you to see the famous sea lions that live here!
Visit Vina Del Mar
This is a recommendation only if you are spending a few days in Valparaiso. I had a couple of days in Valparaiso, and planned to spend a day of this in Vina Del Mar. Plans changed after spending a morning there, when I quickly decided Valparaiso had much more to offer, and hop footed it back.
However, if you are planning on spending a few days in this part of Chile, it is worth it for a day or a morning. Chill on the beach and there is also an interesting museum, which does has one of the statutes from Easter Island outside.
How to get to Valparaiso
Visiting Valparaiso from Santiago is the easiest thing. Catch a bus from Terminal de Buses Alameda and buy a ticket for the next Turbus going to Valparaiso. Turbus is one of two companies that go to the city, the other being Pullman’s. For some reason there seemed to be an offer on, so my ticket was 2,700 pesos (around £2.50) rather than 8000. I am not sure why.
The bus took around an hour and 15 minutes, and was extremely comfy! Although do make sure you sit in your allocated seat, as the bus does fill up.
It drops you at the bus station, which is about a half hour walk to the centre of Valparaiso. You can then grab an uber to your accommodation if you would rather not walk.
Where to stay when visiting Valparaiso
There are plenty of options of places to stay in Valparaiso, the city is swarming with hostels. It would be recommended to stay in amongst the Cerro’s so that you feel you are part of the action.
I stayed in Hostal Po, which was a great location from both Cerro’s and the Port. It does also have a rooftop bar. Very simple and slightly hippy! You can book by clicking here.
If you are under time pressure don’t miss out on Valparaiso and take a day trip like the one below:
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