Valparaiso is one of the major cities and seaports in Chile. It is the country’s second largest city and has been home to the National Congress since 1990. Valparaiso has played an important role since the 19th century as ships would dock here on their way between the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans. The later part of the 20th century was a difficult time for the city. During this time, many people abandoned the city, and the opening of the Panama Canal reduced the importance of the city’s port. However, over the past 15 years the city has made a comeback, attracting many artists and cultural entrepreneurs.
Valparaiso is now considered a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The city - with its old cobbled streets - is still a hotspot for tourism. Enjoy its ocean views, colourful houses, and bohemian vibe. There are so many great things to do in Valparaiso, such as visiting the beautiful La Sebastiana and the Congreso Nacional. It’s easy to get around this buzzing metropolis, as it boasts a great public transport system, with punctual and regular departures. Below is our Valparaiso travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
LA SEBASTIANA – This is the residence of the famous poet and artist Pablo Neruda. Unlike in some of his other houses, here you can wander freely, getting a great view of the harbour as well as the items kept within the house. La Sebastiana contains collections of famous ships, as well as artwork done by other friends of his.
MUSEO DEL MAR LORD COCHRANE – This museum was built for the Scottish Naval hero, Lord Thomas Cochrane. Here in this building was Chile’s first Astronomical observatory. There are not too many exhibits but it is still worth a look.
CONGRESO NACIONAL – This is one of the more modern landmarks in Valparaiso. This building is shrouded in controversy around the President Pinochet because it was built on one of his boyhood homes, and mandated by him in the 1980 constitution.
MUSEO NAVAL Y MARITIMO – This museum has a lot of its exhibits dedicated to the famous War of the Pacific. There are also other historical items here such as naval uniforms, weaponry and navigational instruments. These beautiful items are all displayed in rooms along the courtyard of the building.
MUSEO A CIELO ABIERTO – This museum runs through the Cerros Bellavista lower streets, and is where the name Abierto - meaning open - comes from, as it has an open atmosphere. There are 20 giant murals and paintings done by students between 1969-1973 from the Universidad Catolica’s Instituto de Arte. Wander the streets and get lost in the artwork.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
There is an annual carnival held during the last week of the year, which is a great event to attend. There are also gondolas that take you up to the higher parts of the town - definitely something to experience.
Here in Valparaiso you can find one of the traditional meals called Chorrillana, which is a plate of French fries topped with steak, onion and a fried egg. There are plenty of restaurants here, and some of the more common ones are found on top of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion.
There is also a lot of good seafood readily available in the city near the ports and docks, and an abundance of bakeries that can be found on every block.
Visit Café Con Cuento (Almirante Montt 316) for coffee and sweet treats, and relax with a good book in the sun. Café del Pintor (Urriola 652) has great, friendly service, and you can enjoy food and art in one place. Another unique option is Foto Café (Esmerelda 1111), coffee shop which also sells photography products. For more elegant dining, go to Casa Luisa (Almirante Montt 533) – here you’ll find classic Chilean dishes, good wine, and personable, attentive staff.
There is a good nightlife here in Valparaiso. Drinking doesn’t normally start until after midnight, so it is suitable for a younger crowd. There are plenty of bars and discos that remain open until the early hours of the morning. If you want to dance and have fun, go to Terraza Mimi (C/Blanco 375). For some beers, head to Bar el Irlandes (Blanco 1279) where you’ll find a great selection. Tertulia (Esmerelda 1083) has variety of drinks and nibbles, and even stages live performances.
Valparaiso has a mild but warm climate. The average temperature is about 20 degrees Celsius in the summer months (from December to March), and about 17 degrees in the winter months (from June to August). There is not too much rainfall here, and the months that it does fall are June and July.
There is no airport in Valparaiso, the closest being the one in Santiago. You’ll have to catch a bus from Santiago when you land by plane. By bus there are plenty of options to places around Chile as well as Argentina. There is also a train that runs between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar.
Around the area of Cerro Concepcion is where you can find many of the local hostels. These are lower-budget places that for the most part offer a decent service and are good places to stay. There are also some higher-priced hotels found in the same area, as this is a popular place to stay and to eat.
Some options include: Nomada Eco Hostel (Av Brasil 1822) for an environmentally-friendly experience, where you’ll find very friendly staff, as well as organised group activities – you’ll really feel at home here. You’ll be well taken care of by the welcoming and informative owners of B&B La Nona, which has a nice courtyard, and is a short walk to the main attractions. For a more luxurious option, go to Puerta Natura (Hector Calvo Jofre 850), which has a spa and is the perfect place to relax.
It is always a good idea to be on the watch for thieves and pickpockets when wandering. Never wander at night alone and always be careful.