Valparaíso, ‘how absurd you are, you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed. life has always surprised you…’
-Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet.
Valparaíso is a port city on Chile’s coast, known for its street art, colorful clifftop homes and funiculars. This quirky city is a maze of hills with a Bohemian and colorful vibe, that has long inspired poets and writers. Known as the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’, Valparaíso is a visual and gastronomic treat, and here are ten amazing ways to experience this wonder of a city.
Walk and walk some more!
There are some cities that are best explored on foot, and Valparaíso is one of them. The street art being one of the greatest reasons why walking around is such a treat to the eyes! The city is like a maze of cobbled streets, quirky cafes, colorful homes and large scale art murals. One could easily get lost, so grab a map or use gps walking on your phone before you set off. The beauty of Valparaíso lies in the slow pace of life, the tranquility and the splash of colors at every nook and corner. There are moments where it feels like you’ve walked in to an old spanish movie.
Go cafe hopping
Tucked away in the quiet and colorful lanes of Valparaíso, there are numerous cafes and restaurants that form an integral part of the city’s culture. The coffee shops are like abodes of art, with beautiful murals on the walls, potted plants on the window sills, rustic wooden tables, brightly painted interiors, glass jars lamps, vintage style decor and antique collectibles with slow spanish music playing in the backdrop. From hole-in-the-wall eateries serving Chilean snacks to traditional cafes putting together a table of onces, it’s a like a mini paradise for foodies. And as the aroma of fried cheese builds up in the air from a nearby stall frying up empanadas, you’ll be tempted to dig into this scrumptious cheesy wonder!
Ride a Funicular
If you are someone who loves cheap thrills with a great view, then there nothing like riding a Funicular! A funicular is a type of cable railway in which a cable attached to a pair of tram-like vehicles on rails moves them up and down a steep slope, the ascending and descending vehicles counterbalancing each other. Valparaíso constitutes of forty five hills and funiculars connect the lower parts of the town with the hills above. Take a ride in one of the many funiculars spread across the town during the evening to catch breath-taking views of the sunset from the hills. It is of one my most memorable sunsets in Chile!
Witness breath-taking views!
That’s the kind of view you will witness during sunset from the many hills of Valparaíso. The colorful rooftops in the residential communities brighten up even more as the evening sunlight shines upon the area. Valparaíso is made up of a chain of hills, with the south pacific ocean on one side and the Lago Peñuelas National Reserve on the other end. So no matter on which hill you are out of the forty five cerros, you’ll have some interesting views to catch. Cerro Concepción/Alegre is the most popular of the hills, and the views are good, especially at sunset.
Devour the local delicacies
Chilean snacks are delicious, and despite of being a vegetarian I did get to devour some traditional delicacies from the land of Manjar! The selection is limited for vegetarians in savory snacks, but empanadas with cheese and mushroom filling and sopaipillas were incredibly delicious! There’s a lot more variety in sweets, like Alfajores, Cuchufli and Tres leches cake. Other traditional foods like Cazuela, Completo, Pastel de Choclo and porotos granados are must eats! In addition to that, you must not miss the traditional Chilean Onces, a high tea indulgence of freshly brewed coffee, breads, cheese, Avocado, crackers, manjar sweets, milk cakes, fruits and juice.
Go on a boat tour
If you are looking for the best views of Valparaíso and Viña Del Mar, then go on a boat tour! The regular harbor boat tours set out from Muelle Prat (Prat Pier) on the western edge of the bay, about every 15 minutes. It’s a fifteen minute ride around the harbor where you can witness the best views of Valparaíso surrounded by deep blue waters and the coast of Viña Del Mar in the backdrop. And as the guide points at the city’s best attractions in Spanish, you’ll get an amazing perspective to this beautiful city!
Watch sea lions
These playful and lazy sea lions can be found sunbathing on an empty buoy in the middle of the ocean as you take a boat ride around the harbor. You’ll spot them hanging out at numerous cement rocks around the beaches as well. I saw sea lions for the first time in my life and I couldn’t believe my eyes when they were in such close vincity during our boat ride. Some were sleeping, some were making funny sounds and playing around only to get tossed back into the ocean.
Discover the street art
The street art is undeniably the biggest attraction of Valparaíso, and if you are an art lover it has got to move up on your wanderlist! The city is an endless maze of cobblestoned streets full of colorful wall murals. Windows, doors and empty walls are adored with beautiful paintings of everyday life, and if you are a keen observer you will find meaningful lessons, humor, short stories and social messages hidden in a canvas of colors. Also when the coffee shops and restaurants are closed their roller doors usually provide just another “canvas” for street art.
Take a free walking tour
If you want to explore Valparaiso from a locals perspective and not miss the hidden gems of the city, then the walking tour is a great idea. This FREE walking tour will take you through the enchanting hills, magnificent viewpoints of the bay, typical elevators, picturesque paintings, and Valparaíso’s incredible architecture of colorful houses. You will get to see the highlights of Valparaíso through a unique style of combining history with entertainment
The tour lasts approximately three hours and starts at Plaza Anibal Pinto, everyday at 10 am or 3 pm. There’s no booking required, so just show up and look for the guides wearing a red FREE tour T-shirt.
Shop for quirky artefacts and trinkets
Valparaíso markets and boutique stores have some of the best handicrafts and jewelry items that you can take back home as souvenirs. I picked up some magnets, wooden artefacts, cute Alpaca dolls, intricate tea coasters, wine bottle holders, woollen socks, scarves and hats, Manjar sweets, glass painted shot glasses and jewellery made of Chile’s famous copper and lapis lazuli.
The weekly markets and the tiny hole-in-the-wall boutiques in the many lanes of Valparaiso stock someone of the most unique and handmade artefacts.
What is your best memory of Valparaíso?