Valparaiso Travel Guide
Introduction in Valparaiso
Your first impression of Valparaiso may not be a pleasant one, especially since the weather here tends to be a bit hit-or-miss throughout much of the year. A cloudy, dreary day will only add to the grit and deteriorated state that much of the buildings in Valparaiso display, which is largely due to a multi-decade period of decline following the opening of the Panama Canal in the early 20th century.
When shipping interests began to take a shortcut through the Caribbean to get to the Pacific instead of going around Cape Horn and coming up the west coast of South America, they no longer had any incentive to make a pit stop in Valparaiso.
As people’s incomes dried up and families moved away to look for better employment prospects, rents fell through the floor, opening the door for artists to move in. In the end, this ended up being Valparaiso’s salvation, as the many works they have done in galleries and in the streets of this city have drawn increasing numbers of domestic and foreign tourists to this corner of Chile.
While this place may seem rough around the edges, it has an inherent charm that will make you want to stay longer, and if you can’t, you will be bound and determined to return in the near future.
Cultural Attractions in Valparaiso
Out of all the hillside neighborhoods located in Valparaiso, the one that you will want to take a funicular (known in the area as an Ascensor) up to first is Cerro Concepcion. Known throughout the city as one of the safest and best kept neighborhoods out of all the barrios on the hills above the downtown center, it is a magnet for tourists.
While this fact may dissuade you from visiting, this place is popular for a reason, as much of the best street graffiti work in the city can be found along the streets and alleyways of this neighborhood. If time is of the essence for you, then making a beeline for Paseo Gervasoni should be at the top of your list, as many of the walls along this laneway are filled with some of the best artwork in the city.
Having said that, there are works of art that can be found throughout this neighborhood and many other hillside barrios, so explore at your leisure, but take care to not stray into neighborhoods that locals deem unsafe, especially after dark.
Cerro Concepcion is not the only barrio in Valparaiso that is worth a visit, as the neighborhood of Bellavista is not only home to lots of graffiti art as well, but it is also the place where you can find La Sebastiana, which was the house where poet and author Pablo Neruda once lived.
Known for hosting fabulous parties whenever the city of Valparaiso had firework displays, the literary mastermind may not be around any longer, but you will still be able to get some of the best views of downtown Valparaiso from his house, as well as being able to admire his private art collection.
While Valparaiso’s days as a major seaport are in its past, the exhibits contained within the Museo Maritimo Nacional does an excellent job of chronicling its rich heritage in this regard.
One of the bigger focuses of this museum is on Chile’s naval history; as such, you will find many period uniforms, models of ships from that day and age, and the weapons that these ships used to help enforce Chile’s maritime sovereignty over its coast.
Other Attractions in Valparaiso
Those looking to people watch within the downtown core of Valparaiso will find spending time in Plaza Sotomayor to be a worthwhile use of this valuable resource. Located at the southern end of downtown, the square and monuments located within are dedicated to Chilean sailors who lost their lives in the Battle of Iquique and Punta Gruesa back in the late 19th century.
A straight shot to the west of the square will lead you to the container Port of Valparaiso, so if you are interested in this sort of civil infrastructure, you can go and watch longshore workers do their thing while eating churros from a street vendor on the waterfront.
Being a major port, there is a lot of fresh seafood that comes in off of fishing trawlers in Valparaiso on a daily basis. A great place to bear witness to it is at Mercado Cardonal.
Located in a mustard colored building with green trim near the northern edge of downtown, there are many fruit and vegetable vendors along its exterior that gives this market its unique character, and once inside, you will find fresh meat and seafood vendors that will help bring this part of town alive for you.
Hungry? Upstairs, there are many restaurants that will prepare the food that you can find downstairs into a meal that will certainly be among the best that you will have during your visit here.
While Valparaiso is located on the Chilean coast, intense industrial development along the city’s waterfront means that there aren’t many great places to go swimming within its limits. However, by hopping on the region’s light rail transit system and heading north, you will reach the resort city of Vina del Mar, which is situated within a ten minute ride from Valparaiso’s downtown core.
Significantly cleaner and wealthier than its counterpart to the south, Vina Del Mar has some of the most hotly sought after strips of sand in the entire country. While this part of Chile lacks the character that Valparaiso has, it makes up for it in its superior selection of restaurants, bars, and luxury boutiques, lending it an aura of prosperity that its cousin simply lacks.