Things to do in Valparaiso

By Sydney Tong on May 23, 2017. Read time: 5 min.

The dilapidated buildings built on Valparaiso's hills carry reminders of their importance during a different era. During the second half of the 19th century, Valparaiso was a bustling port for ships traveling between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean via the Magellan Straight.

The port was a magnet for Europeans who brought over wealth and influence. Over time it became known as "Little San Francisco, " and the community was booming.

When the Panama Canal opened the ships left, taking the wealth and grandeur with them. Many of the wealthy families abandoned the city in search of greater opportunities and stronger economies. With the money gone, the buildings began to crumble, and people began to do what they could to survive. Read "How to Get to Valparaiso" here

Near Ascensor Artilleria Near Ascensor Artilleria

Over the past fifteen years, the city has been recovering. Artists and entrepreneurs have set up historical hillside districts which have attracted a lot of attention. Now, people from all over the globe visit Valparaiso to experience the brightly colored alleyways and staircases. There is art around every corner, and there is so much to do in Valparaiso.

I might go as far to say, Valparaiso is the city with the biggest personality and is worthy of a few days of your trip to Chile. Here are some of my favorite things to do when visiting and I hope you enjoy this city just as much as I do. Keep in mind that my list doesn't include all the cool monuments and churches in Valparaiso that are great photo opportunities and should not be missed.

Visit the local markets

Markets are the best place to begin to understand how a community works. Luckily for us, Valpo is full of them. Mercado Cardonal is an old and traditional food market. The building was built in 1912 and is still operational. The lower floor has stalls that sell fruits, veggies and other types of food. The second floor has local restaurants.

If you are in Valpo on a Sunday head over to the flea market in O'Higgins Park to see antique treasures. It is open from 8:30am-5:30 pm.

The last market is a couple of blocks from the bus terminal headed towards downtown. Once I exited the bus terminal, I found myself amongst women selling sweets, men selling potatoes and a bunch of dogs. I've searched for the name everywhere, but I can't seem to find it.

You have to try Chilean empanadas You have to try Chilean empanadas

Local mid-week flea market Local mid-week market

Potato Gains Potato Gains

"La Sebastiana" - The Pablo Neruda Museum

Pablo Neruda was a famous Chilean poet and diplomat. He owned several houses, “La Chascona” in Santiago, "La Casa de Isla Negra” in Isla Negra, and La Sebastiana in Valparaiso. All of which have been converted into museums.

Take an audio-guided tour through the house for CLP $7,000. Tours are available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. Reservations are not required, but only 50 people are allowed in the house at a time. If visiting on the weekend or during the busy season, you may need to wait to enter.

I'm super bummed because the view from the museum is beautiful but none of my photos turned out. So you'll have to check it out for yourself! ^_^

Mirador

Take Ascensor Artilleria for a few hundred pesos to the top of the hill to experience a view of the ships entering and exiting the bay. If the lift is closed for maintenance, then take the stairs around the corner to the top. Pick up some local handicrafts and enjoy ice cream with a view.

a rare photo oppourtunity with both of us in the picture A rare photo oppourtunity with both of us in the picture

This map shows all the different hills in Valparaiso This map shows all the different hills in Valparaiso

A pupeteer with a grand view Puppet show at El Mirador

Ride a boat

Get a close up look of the massive shipping boats in the Muelle Prat Harbor. Half an hour to one-hour boat tours around the bay are available for hire. Prices are determined by the size of your group and if you want a private or an open tour. Negotiate a fair price with the tour operator beforehand. We liked relaxing on the boat after walking up and down many hills and eating lunch.

The harbor is a fun place for kids to look at the boats and seals.

A small tour boat A small tour boat

Seals hanging out on a buoy Seals hanging out on a buoy

A shipping boat A shipping boat

Valparaiso is an active port Valparaiso is an active port hang out for a little to get a glimpse of daily life here.

Ride a funicular

Due to the number of hills, 26 funicular railways were constructed in the late 19th century. Now only eight are still functioning and due to their age are continually undergoing maintenance or renovation. They only cost a few hundred pesos to ride and take you to or from the top of the hills. Ascensor el Peral, Ascensor Cordillera, Ascensor Artillería, Ascensor Reina Victoria, Ascensor Polanco, Ascensor Concepcion, and Ascensor Villaseca are the eight functioning lifts.

Ascensor Artilleria Ascensor Artilleria

Check ascensor status ahead of time. They are constantly under maintenance and construction.

Walk around the cemetery

I enjoy visiting cemeteries from all over the world to see how different cultures honor and decorate their dead. Before the cemetery was built, the dead were buried in ditches next to the churches. Cemetery No 1 is on Panteon Hill and is known for its elaborate mausoleums and ornate headstones.

This photo was in Punta Arenas This photo was in Punta Arenas

See the infamous street art

Nowadays, the main attraction of Valparaiso are the beautiful murals painted on the buildings, stairs, cars and every other space available. These colorful alleyways are a playground for photographers and art lovers. It is hard to pinpoint the most interesting streets to explore because there are so many. The best area for roaming around are in the cerros; especially Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre. I recommend checking out Paseo Gervasoni, Paseo Yugoslav, Paseo Alemania and Paseo Rudolph.

A colorful sign leading the way to galleries and colorful streets A colorful sign leading the way to galleries and colorful streets

Showing family our favorite spots in Valparaiso Showing family our favorite spots in Valparaiso

Gabe scoping out new areas Gabe scoping out new areas

Posing in front of art walls. Posing in front of art walls.

Posing in front of art walls. Posing in front of art walls.

Searching for a place to eat lunch Searching for a place to eat lunch

These stairs have a special meaning to me. I will share the story with you guys someday. These stairs have a special meaning to me. I will share the story with you guys someday.

Famous painted walls Famous painted walls

A view of Valparaiso A view of Valparaiso

Our favorite thing to do is walk around the city without an agenda Our favorite thing to do is walk around the city without an agenda

I wore my cool shoes to explore the area I wore my cool shoes to explore the area

We were trying to figure out where to go next. We were trying to figure out where to go next.

A rare photo of us showing pda. A rare photo of us showing pda.

Dine at eclectic bars & restaurant

The art isn't contained to the exteriors of the buildings, the vibrancy of the city extends to the insides of these bars and restaurants. Valparaiso's eclectically decorated bars also serve some of the best seafood on Chile's coast. Hop from bar to bar to enjoy a glass of Chilean wine or a Pisco Sour and take in the personality of your surroundings.

An interesting cafe An interesting cafe owned by a really cool German woman.

Valparaiso has bars with personality Valparaiso has bars with personality

A great place to enjoy Pisco A great place to enjoy Pisco

This is a walking route from the bus terminal to El Mirador (Ascensor Artilleria). I've written down some of my favorite streets, hills, and things to photograph. This walking tour will take all day so start early. Take the ascensors to the top of hills cut down on walking time. It is a 5-mile route but I estimate it taking 6 hours with eating and photo taking! Stay tuned for more in-depth self-walking tours.

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