Known as Valpo, Valparaíso is Chile’s second largest city, located 1.5 hours north of Santiago on the Pacific coast. A historical city nestled in the hills, Valpo is the heart of Chile’s bohemian culture. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, Valpo is a special place with historical significance. Here are 11 reasons to visit Valpo over Santiago.
Being by the coast means plenty of beaches. Valpo is close to both Viña del Mar and Reñaca, two of Chile’s most popular beaches. Viña del Mar is the ritziest beach resort area in Chile. Reñaca is the hip beach of Chile—it’s a great place to bask in the sun and catch the waves, though they are rough.
You don’t have to be in excellent shape to visit Valpo; there are elevators to take you to the hilltops! Due to Valparaíso’s unique, hilly terrain, people used to climb thousands of stairs to reach their homes on the hills. To ease travel, elevators were built between 1883 and 1915. Today, 15 are in use. The elevators serve as both public transportation for residents from the city center to the hilltop neighborhoods, as well as a big attractions for tourists navigating the area.
In recent years, Valparaíso has undergone a revamp. As a result, boutique hotels are popping up everywhere—many of which are refurbished mansions. The must-sees are Casa Higueras and Palacio Astoreca. Casa Higueras, on Cerro Alegre, offers 20 simple yet sophisticated guest rooms, a spa, a garden pool, and a great view of the city.
Palacio Astoreca, also on Cerro Alegre, offers 23 rooms, a spa, restaurant, wine cellar, bar, and library. The hotel is split in two buildings: the palace and an older, restored home. With a stunning view of the bay and local artists’ work on display, this hotel is luxury at its finest.
Valpo’s coastal cuisine makes it a must-see for the foodie. Valpo’s markets are prime for fresh seafood off the boat. Stop by Caleta Portales and La Mercado Cardonal to meet the local fishermen and find the catches of the day: pomfret, hake, salmon, crab, clams, scallops, and more. On the second floor of La Mercado Cardonal you’ll find La Granja restaurant, which serves seafood from the market. Another great restaurant is La Concepción, located in a refurbished mansion on Concepción Hill.
Mall Plaza Del Sol
A four-story mall that has everything from hardware to Zumba classes, and everything in between plus cafes with WiFi, clothing stores, live music, and more. More than a shopping center, Mall Plaza de Sol, Quilpe is a social center—a place for locals and tourists to gather and have fun.
Valparaíso’s only department store has a food court on the fifth floor. From phones to washing machines to clothes and lamps, Ripley’s has it all.
Feria de Antigüedades and Feria Persa de Valparaíso
If you are sentimental and appreciate things with a history, then antique shopping is for you. Head to Plaza O’Higgins on Saturday for Feria de Antigüedades (Antique Flea Market), where you can peruse hundreds of buttons or lamps or anything you fancy—there’s no telling what you’ll find. The same goes for Feria Persa de Valparaíso. All you need is time to sort through all the treasures.
Local Shops in Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción
If you are looking for locally-made products, head over to Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, the bohemian heart of Valparaíso. Here you’ll find artisans hard at work crafting leather goods, unique jewelry, paintings, and more. You’ll want to wander up and down the streets, taking in the architecture and craftsmanship.
The Bohemian Culture
Bohemian is a vibe and Valpo has got it. Valparaíso is lively, hip, artsy, and inspiring. This culture comes out through the architecture, style, street art, night life, and live music. If you’re boho or wanting to vacation like one, head to the coast and grab a glass of pico sour at the nearest establishment.
The reason for the lifts, and what sets Valpo apart, is the make-up of the city. The city has 45 hills, the most prominent of which is Cerro Alegre. Other popular hills in the city include: Cerro Barón, home of the Iglesia de San Francisco; Cerro Bellavista which boasts a gorgeous panoramic view of Valpo; Cerro Concepción; Cerro Florida, home of Pablo Neruda La Sebastiana Museum & House; Cerro O’Higgins; and Cerro Santo Domingo, where the Iglesia La Matriz is located. Be sure to bring comfy shoes for exploring Valpo’s numerous hills.
Valparaíso has a vibrant night life, offering experiences for all to enjoy. If you like good drinks and live music, be sure to check out La Piedra Feliz, where you’ll find blues, jazz, rock, salsa, and tango. You’ll also find a club in the basement. Also see Bar La Playa, Valparaíso’s oldest bar, where you’ll find wood paneling, strong drinks, and a young, boho crowd. Last but not least, for the most bohemian, check out Viá Viá Café, located in Cerro Alegre. It’s a bar with a view, plants, and Belgian owners, and you’ll find diversity here as you sip Belgian beer or Chilean wine.
From Museo Marítimo Nacional (National Maritime Museum) to La Sebastiana Museum and House, the home of the late poet Pablo Neruda, Valparaíso has some interesting places to visit. Whether you like history or art or something in between, you’ll find entertainment within Valpo’s museums and art galleries.
As Chile’s first major port and a World Heritage City, Valparaíso represents Chile’s maritime involvement. A visit to the navy’s headquarters in the Naval Building presents a connection to Valparaíso’s history. Other points of historical interest are the churches, including Catedral de Valparaíso, Iglesia de San Francisco, and Iglesia de la Matriz. The architecture of these churches are striking and unique; both the primary inhabitants and Spanish colonial rulers were very religious.
Boat tours are available from the harbor. Tours leave from Prat Pier every 15 minutes and cost just 2,000 CLP ($4 USD). There is really no parallel to seeing the city from the water. Specifically, you’ll spot sea lions, the many hills, the Naval Museum, La Sebastiana Museum, and the churches. This 30-minute boat tour is a great way to break up a day of sightseeing by foot.
Prat Pier, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, +5609 4236 5790
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