The beautiful, bustling hillside port of Valparaíso is known for being one of the homes of the celebrated Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, who died in 1973. This colorful city is recognized worldwide as a Unesco World Heritage Site, a deserved award given its photogenic architecture, its rich history and its cultural currents. If you love history, street art and bohemian life, Valparaíso is must – don’t miss a wander around the Cerro Alegre, Cerro Bellavista, and Cerro Concepcion neighborhoods. Here are the top things to do and see in Valparaíso, Chile, known as the Jewel of the Pacific.
Fancy flexing your creative chops while you’re in town? You’ve come to the right place. This curiosity is part art gallery, part cultural center, providing classes for arty types of all ages. Balmaceda Arte Joven teaches workshops in theater, writing, animation, visual arts, photography and even online courses. Most of the classes, performances and events are affordable or free of charge so it’s a must-stop if you are in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood.
Time now for some invigorating ocean breezes. The bay of Caleta Portales satisfies all the senses – it’s a visual feast for starters, as you watch the fishermen offloading the day’s silvery haul from their colorful boats. The pungent fish market sells fresh produce daily, and if you don’t feel like cooking, rock up to the small stalls that major in fresh mussels and ceviche. Now stroll the boardwalk and pier – you’re assured sightings of yawning sea lions and waddling pelicans.
Near Plaza Sotomayor, Cerro Alegre is a hip neighborhood with a unique bohemian vibe. The hills are steep, so our top tip is to hop aboard the El Peral funicular. Once you reach the top, you’ll be disgorged onto one of the city’s oldest streets, Paseo Yugoslavo. Wander, admiring the many viewpoints to see spectacular expanses of the bay. As you make your way down the hill, you’ll come across cozy cafes, bars and art galleries, as well as swathes of colorful graffiti and murals.
Valparaíso is known for its cleverly designed public spaces, including the city’s well-thought-out paseos, or avenues. The Paseo Rubén Darío takes you along the beach and coastline. To make the most of this self-guided tour of the city, start at Caleta El Membrillo and make your way to Carvallo beach. When you reach the halfway point, you’ll find a park called Plaza Rubén Darío. Take a break and a breather, enjoying mesmerizing views of the landscape and the Pacific.
To reach Cerro Concepcion, take the funicular, known locally as the Ascensor Concepción, and you’ll step out into one of the oldest and most colorful neighborhoods in Valparaíso. You’ll spend hours exploring its winding alleys, happening upon some of the city’s best restaurants and cafes. This area is known for its art, graffiti and lively nightlife. This historic area is a Unesco World Heritage site, an honor bestowed for its plazas, architecture and ocean outlooks.
Up in the north of the city, at the end of Altamirano Avenue, is Playa Torpederas, the city’s most scenic beach. One of only a few in Valparaíso, it can get a bit crowded at times. The water is suitable for swimming but temperatures can get a little icy, and we recommend you come with a picnic lunch. Kayaking and snorkeling are both very popular activities, and here you’ll find Chile’s first lighthouse, Punta Ángeles, which is open to the public – don’t miss a nose-round.
Even if you’re not a history buff, put the Naval and Maritime Museum on your Valparaíso itinerary. It’s blessed with a collection of more than 3,000 artifacts, including uniforms, model ships and war relics, and even a replica pirate ship for kids. The museum focuses on the history of the Chilean Navy, but there are also other exhibits that go beyond the military aspect. With over 17 rooms and numerous permanent exhibits, it’s easy to spend an entire afternoon here.
This is an updated version of an article originally by Maria Angelíca Maia.