Looking for a destination that is brimming with history, art, and culture? And close to the best beaches in Chile?
1. Visit the historic quarter
Because of its unique location as a major port for the Pacific coast of South America, linking the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Valparaiso grew from a small village to the most important merchant port and economic center in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. An influx of immigrants from Europe, mainly the English, German, French and Yugoslav came and established neighborhoods by the sea and in the surrounding hills. They created businesses and built mansions mostly in the hills.
Set like an amphitheater, Valparaiso consist of the bay, the coastal plain and the surrounding hills. The historic quarter is on the coastal plain and also on the hills of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion. According to UNESCO, the historic quarter is made up of five interlaced neighborhoods:
- La Matriz Church and Santo Domingo Square
- Echaurren Square, Serrano Street, and Port Market
- Prat Pier, Sotomayor, Justicia squares
- Prat Street and Turri Square area around the foothill
- Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion
Join a historic quarter walking tour and explore the alleyways, stairways, promenades, squares, and colonial architecture of the historic quarter.
2. Ride a historic funicular
Take a ride on a historic funicular or ascensor to Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion for great views of the city. Check out the historic buildings, colorful row houses and shops on Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion.
Built in 1883, Concepcion Funicular is the oldest in Valparaiso. It was used to transport European immigrants that live in Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion.
You can use the stairs to walk down from the hills. You must include a ride on the funiculars when visiting Valparaiso.
There were 33 funiculars in Valparaiso built between 1883 and 1915. Today, there are less than 15. Notable ones to take a ride on besides Ascensor Concepcion:
- Artilleria Funicular – built in 1893 to transport staff to the Naval School located on top of Cerro Artilleria. Take the funicular to the top and visit the old Naval School and take a stroll on the 21 de Mayo Promenade for views of the bay and the hills. Cerro Artilleria is home to one of the most photographed Victorian cobalt-blue houses, showing the English influence in Valparaiso.
- Queen Victoria Funicular – built in honor of Queen Victoria, boasts of old English and German architecture of the early 1900s. Take time to look at the historic station’s waiting area.
- El Peral Funicular – built in 1902 to transport residents from Cerro Alegre to Plaza Sotomayor. It offers incredible views of Valparaiso.
Prepare cash of 100-300 CLP per person per ride. And check with your hotel on days and times of operation.
3. Join a boat cruise and relax at Vina del Mar
Take a short cruise on the bay and get another vantage point of the colorful buildings and see sea lions hanging out on the dock. You can catch a boat at Muelle Prat, the pier across the street from Plaza Sotomayor.
After the short boat cruise, head over to one of the beaches in Viña del Mar. The closest is Playa Caleta Abarca and Playa Acapulco.
4. Explore street art
Street art in Valparaiso started during the Pinochet dictatorship. Locals expressed their frustrations anonymously on walls in the city. Now, there’s hardly any walls in Valparaiso that is not covered with art. Explore street art with a Valpo Street Art guide and learn more about the street art culture and to the hidden alleyways, staircases, and streets filled with street art beyond the usual tourist route.
Guests can choose a walking or biking tour, or a tour with a driver to explore Valpo’s street art.
5. Eat chorillana
Valparaiso is home to the famous Chilean chorillana, a dish made of a pile of French fries, topped with sliced beef, onions, sausages and a fried egg. The best place to try authentic and the original chorillana is at Casino Social J Cruz M.
Valparaiso can be full of beautiful surprises and a few unpleasant surprises as well. To avoid the unpleasant:
- Don’t walk in quiet alleyways and streets at night by yourself
- Beware of pickpockets in narrow alleys.
- Be prepared to see many stray dogs everywhere on the streets of Valparaiso.
Photos and article by Claudia Looi