Best things to do in Valparaiso
Find out more about those top places in Valparaiso
One of Latin America’s foremost hidden gems, Valparaiso is a wonderfully chaotic city situated on a spectacular peninsula jutting out into the breakers of the Pacific Ocean. While Valparaiso lacks the sophistication of its neighbor Viña del Mar, it is all the better for it: pastel colored houses tumble down hillsides as if dropped randomly; container ships chug in and out of port daily; and the city’s population is a colorful cast of artists, poets, sailors, prostitutes and dockworkers. The best thing to do in Valparaiso is to simply wander the city’s precipitous streets, alleys and escaleras (stairways) and soak up the city’s unrivaled and lovably gritty charm. What is more, the city’s artistic streak has become ever more visible with street murals popping up on every corner. More than any other Chilean city, Valparaiso has a sense of ‘anything goes’, which makes it a perfectly debaucherous base for exploring the nearby Central Coast.
The former home of Valparaiso’s most famous resident, the writer Pablo Neruda, La Sebastina is a highlight of any trip to the city. Perched atop the top of a precipitous hill, the house is a chaotic assemblage of staircases, annexes and balconies that provide breathtaking views of the port. Characteristically, the house is cluttered with books and other works of art, which can be explored with the help of a local guide.
Built around a former prison, Valparaiso’s cultural center is one of Chile’s foremost artistic spaces. Blending funky wall murals, cutting-edge art, performances of famed historic plays and poetry readings, the center has something to please any visitor.
One of the first things visitors to Valparaiso notice is how steep it is: houses cling to cliff sides; roads snake up vertigo inducing slopes; and precipitous stairways run up and down the city’s hills. Thankfully, it is also served by a series of 19th century funicular railways, the most impressive being the Reina lift. For a bird’s-eye view of the city and a novel transport experience, make sure not to miss it.
Bedecked in cannons, Valparaiso’s Museo Marítimo Nacional explores the rich history of the city’s involvement with the navy. Much of the museum is dedicated to the fascinating and little known history of the 19th century Pacific War where Chile fought neighboring Bolivia and Peru.
Within Chile, the area around Valparaiso is best known for its fantastic wines. On winery tours that leave regularly from the city, you will be transported to some of the region’s finest vineyards for exquisite tastings of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling and Syrah wines that thrive in the area’s cool oceanic climate.
Just north of Valparaiso’s glitzy neighbor Viña del Mar lie the Concon Sand Dunes. Amongst the world’s largest, these dunes tower over all that surround them and are popular with thrill seekers who use them for sand-boarding. For dare devils, thrilling boarding tours of the dunes are available.
Valparaiso is Latin America’s street art capital with murals bedecking nearly every unused wall in the city. To best experience the city’s creative energy, take a guided tour where local experts will be able to point out the best examples of Chile’s distinctive graffiti scene.