Once a major stopover for boats traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, Valparaiso is now an intriguing and somewhat eclectic city. Here are the top 10 restaurants that capture its bohemian vibe.
When asked by a foreigner where to eat, a local will almost certainly reply ‘Café Turri‘. Housed in a 19th-century building, the cafe not only has one of the best views in town but also has an incredible menu, with a wide selection of both Chilean and foreign dishes. Scallops and shrimps in whisky and cumin, octopus carpaccio, and lamb ribs in pepper sauce or honey and mint are just some of the sophisticated creations on offer. Great for dinner, Turri also has a cafe if you’re in the mood for a lazy afternoon with tea and cake. Be prepared to spend for the privilege of enjoying one of Valpo’s oldest venues.
Also located in the old part of Valparaiso, not far from Turri, La Concepción has a stunning view and a loyal clientele of locals. Lamb, ceviche, and other favorites figure on the menu. The staff are incredibly attentive to detail, and all of their products are sourced locally. The food is of the highest quality, and the service is second to none. If you choose to opt for an evening meal on the terrace and you’re feeling cold, the waiters will bring you a blanket. It’s a relatively expensive option however, but well worth it if you love food, or you’re wining and dining someone who does.
A visit here is an opportunity to be seated in really close proximity with Nobel prize-winning poets. They may be in the form of mini models, but it’s charming nonetheless. Here you can read Neruda and Mistral away from the bustle of the city while eating tiramisu, or sipping on freshly squeezed orange juice. This is a valuable asset in Chile, where so much of the juice on offer is from a bottle. The atmosphere is 1920s, the coffee is strong, the food is unpretentious while being delicious. Although Café del Poeta is a cheaper alternative to higher end restaurants, it still manages an extensive menu, including seafood, and fish. Opening times: 8:30am-midnight Monday-Friday, and from 11am Saturday and Sunday.
This cafe is run by the family of Magdalena Muencke, a famous Valpo portrait artist. It used to be the site where photographic equipment was sold and photos were developed. Today half of the cafe is a shop, where you can buy photos. It also houses exhibitions both of material from the family archives, and of other artists. Many go to Foto Café for its architecture, and historic location and significance. Expect good quality cafe food in an enchanting atmosphere where the salads and the crepes are particularly delicious.
Pasta e Vino
Hailed as one of the best restaurants in Valparaiso, Pasta e Vino is usually full so it is a good idea to reserve in advance. The chic, sophisticated setting is in line with the food: white clams grilled with ginger and lime, black fettuccine with seafood, araucan pine seeds ravioli, chancaca and shredded beef. Don’t go there looking for grilled fish. The restaurant only serves pasta as a main course. The wine list is limited, but exquisite. End your meal with an amaretto and panna cotta, before strolling through the old town.
Restaurante Alegre distinguishes itself through its avant garde menu. Internationally renowned chef Sergio Barroso trained his staff to the high standards usually expected in the best restaurants in New York or London. Housed in the prestigious Palacio Astoreca boutique hotel, a converted Victorian mansion, Alegre flaunts tasteful decor in which guests can enjoy imaginative cuisine and impeccably presented dishes. The flavors can be surprising: indulging in violet ice cream is an unusual treat. The kitchen relies solely on local products, with a focus on seafood. The service is excellent and fast, and there is a piano bar upstairs.
Bar Cinzano is a turn of the century institution. Go there for the romantic setting and soak up an atmosphere that harks back to Valpo’s heyday. When it comes to experiencing the old 1920s arty Valparaiso by night, it’s hard to beat. Try to plan going at the weekend or on a night when there is live music playing and you might end up staying there the whole night.
Set on a balcony facing the sea, hotel Casa Higueras’ refined restaurant enjoys a spectacular view, and serves Chilean food of the highest calibre. Seafood aficionados will love the exquisite ceviche and conger chowder. Port stew, fig lamb, Easter Island tuna and garden greens with artichokes are also highlights. The atmosphere is very relaxed, with live jazz music and a highly attentive staff. Monte Alegre is one of the only restaurants to open daily: 1-4pm; and 8-12pm.
This is a great outdoor cafe, located in the old part of town. Here you can read and buy recent novels, or check your emails on the terrace. Cafe Con Letras is an excellent spot for fairly priced yet delicious breakfasts, lunches, brunches or tea. The menu is varied, including cakes, calzones, churros with manjar – the equivalent of Argentiniandulce de leche – and soups. The hot chocolate, magallanes salad and avocado sandwich are all highly recommended. The cafe is open Monday to Saturday 11-10pm, and Sunday 4-10pm.
This restaurant is located in the bay of Valparaiso, in a fishing area. Caleta Portales has a lovely view on the beach and the fishing boats. Unassuming, and with a fairly kitsch decor, it remains a favorite among the locals, although it is slightly more expensive than some nearby alternatives. Try the jardin de mariscos (a platter of basically everything Chilean waters have to offer), amazing shrimp ceviche, or machaswith parmesan. There is a direct metro service to Vina del Mar next door which makes it a good option for a pit stop.