The colourful seaside city of Valparaíso, affectionately shortened to Valpo, is a firm favourite for Chileans and foreign tourists alike. The summer months, in particular, draw large crowds. So what is it that is so appealing about this working port city? Here are 5 of the many reasons you should visit Valparaíso.
There are great views aplenty in Valparaiso / Photo by Daytours4u
1. THE COLOURFUL GRAFFITI
One of the things that has made Valparaíso so famous is its incredible street art movement. Wandering up and down the steep hills of Valparaíso is like walking through an open-air museum, with extraordinary graffiti around every corner. From huge murals to painted steps and drawings on lampposts, make sure you keep your eyes wide open to see all the beauty. Enjoy it by yourself or take a graffiti walking tour to learn about all the local artists, writers, musicians, and international street artists who’ve added their work to the facades of Valpo.
The fascinating street art is one of the biggest appeals of Valparaiso / Photo by Daytours4u
2. THE HILLS AND THE ELEVATORS
Speaking of the steep hills of Valparaíso - this is one of the reasons that makes this city so unique and wonderful. There are several hills that make up the city, most notably Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre. The lofty streets, cobbled in some of the older parts, look out over the bay, giving you premium views from just about everywhere. The best part is that you don’t have to walk. There are a number of wooden elevators, or funiculars, around the city. Not only are they practical and cheap, but they’re great fun to ride. They’re a wonderful throwback, having been built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and have maintained their old world charm.
If you time your visit right, you might just witness the crazy downhill race: Cerro Abajo. This extreme downhill mountain-bike race, sponsored naturally by Red Bull, usually takes place in February. Watching these bikes hurtle down the narrow streets, stairways and even off buildings and obstacles is an incredible experience.
Riding a funicular is a must-do activity whilst in the city / Photo by Daytours4u
3. PABLO NERUDA'S HOUSE
Chile’s famous poet, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pablo Neruda, was in love with Valparaiso. He called it a “crazy lunatic port” in his Ode to Valparaíso, and built a house here - one of a few across Chile. La Sebastiana is located in Cerro Florida and is now a museum. It’s a must visit, whether you’re familiar with this romantic poet or not. The house is a magical, rambling affair, filled with eccentricities, port holes, and Neruda’s memorabilia. The staircase winds up to the eclectic living room, his bedroom with bay windows that has the best views in town, and all the way to the top of the tall and narrow building to his study, where he penned some of his most memorable work. Get here early - it’s extremely popular.
Fall in love with Valparaiso just as poet Pablo Neruda did / Photo by Daytours4u
4. BEAUTIFUL BOUTIQUE HOTELS AND CAFES
Local businesses have cottoned on to the charm of Valparaíso (or perhaps vice versa), and the city now boasts some of the best boutique hotels in Chile. The modern apartment buildings and hotels were left for nearby Viña del Mar, while Valparaíso has kept its working charm, with small hotels located in the heart of the colourful hillside neighbourhood offering great views from beautiful balconies. It’s definitely a place to spend a few nights. This is complemented by many cute and charming cafés and restaurants, particularly around Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. This all makes for an enjoyable and relaxing stay.
Wander up and down the streets and dip in and out of quaint cafes / Photo by Daytours4u
5. SUPER CLOSE TO SANTIAGO
The beauty of Chile’s geographical shape means that few things are too far - at least in width, anyway. Valparaíso is conveniently situated close to Santiago. This makes it simple to do a day tour to Valparaíso for those short on time - without having to spend hours on a bus. For those looking to stay a night or longer, simply take a bus from Santiago’s Terminal Alameda. Buses leave every 15 minutes and the journey takes approximately one and a half hours.
BONUS: Best NYE in Chile
If you happen to be travelling over New Year’s Eve, Valparaíso has quickly gained a reputation for the best NYE celebrations in Chile thanks to an impressive fireworks display over the bay. The city’s geography means you’ll have great views whichever hill you’re on to see the show.
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With all these and more reasons to visit Valparaíso, you simply can’t skip this vibrant and colourful city if you’re going to be in Chile.
If you are looking for tours in Valparaíso and the rest of Chile, Chile4u has the scoop on what to do.
By: Nicole Eberhard, travel writer and avid explorer, with a Masters in English Literature.