Valparaíso is a city of around 300,000 on the Pacific coast of Central Chile. Frequently referred to as simply Valpo, it is located approximately 120km west of the capital, Santiago de Chile. The city is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly colored houses, and beautiful seaside views.
View from downtown Valparaiso (Chile) to one of the hills.
Valparaiso (Chile), focusing on one of the escalators (Ascensores) connecting the harbour area to the hills.
The city's principal economic activities are shipping, petroleum refining, and tourism.
Valparaiso was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
Visiting Valparaiso has less to do with touring specific sites than it is about roaming the chaotic, hilly streets, and taking in the views and ambiance. There is also an active nightlife and a constantly changing variety of artistic events.
While there are some really attractive areas of Valparaiso, unfortunately the overall impression when one leaves them, is one of grubbiness and smells of urine. The potential is there to bring this city, or much of it, back to its former attractiveness.
Valparaiso does not have its own airport. The closest airport with commercial service is Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, some 1.5 hours away, which offers extensive domestic and international service.
To to get to Valparaíso from Santiago's airport, you will catch a bus heading to Pajaritos outside of the airport terminal. This will drop you off at the North side of "Pajaritos" a bus/subway station on the outskirts of Santiago, cross to the South side of the Subway station to get to the Bus Platform. From here, buses leave frequently for Valparaiso and other destinations; you may also take the subway into downtown Santiago. It is generally not necessary to have a bus ticket before arriving at Pajaritos.
The Metro Valparaíso or Merval runs between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, as well as surrounding communities. It runs from 6.00am to 11.30pm, and is new, clean and fast. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
While Valparaiso itself can be a bit of a difficult city in which to drive, the area's highway system is generally of good quality. Note that there are often tolls on highways.
Buses from a wide variety of destinations within Chile have scheduled service to Valparaiso, in addition to service to the Argentine city of Mendoza. The bus terminal is located close to the National Congress building.
Approximate bus travel times to/from Valparaiso:
1.5 hours: Santiago de Chile (many times every hour)
7 hours: La Serena (every other hour)
12 hours: Mendoza, Argentina (the road may be closed in winter due to bad weather)
Local buses also ply between Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, taking about 15 minutes each way. Fares range from Ch$350 to Ch$380.
Some cruise ships dock in Valparaiso, mostly as part of a long South American itinerary. Also possible is a Freighter Cruise from Mexico, taking two weeks and making several stops along the way.
The city micros are run by Transporte Metropolitano Valparaíso. Exact routes and fares can be found under "Empresas" on the website, and single journeys cost about Ch$250 for local routes and Ch$300 for routes running between El Plan and the hills.
Colectivos are taxis painted in black with yellow roofs that run fixed routes, and are a very common mode of transport between (and within) Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and other surrounding areas. The cost of the trip, while more expensive than the bus or metro, depends upon the distance being traveled following a system of zones. There are also regular taxis that do custom rides, but they are less common and more expensive. This type of taxis often congregate in the area around the Plaza Anibal Pinto.
The recently completed light-rail system, Metro Valparaíso or Merval, runs along the coast. It starts at Valparaiso's port and heads into Viña del Mar and other more rural locales. The metro provides quick access to major places of interest, and is only slightly more expensive than taking public buses. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
Ascensores, funiculars, ply between El Plan, or the coastal strip, with the cerros, or hillside communitiies. They are for the most part old and creaky, but generally reliable. The fare may sometimes differ between going up and going down, but cost about Ch$300 each way. The ascensors are a unique mode of transportation in Valparaiso, and offer gorgeous views of the cityscape, port, and the Pacific Ocean.
Cerros Alegre and Concepción
Plaza Echaurren – Serrano Street
Banking area - Prat Street
Paseo 21 de Mayo (Cerro Artilleria)
La Matriz Church and surroundings
La Sebastiana, one of three homes of poet Pablo Neruda
Ex Cárcel, a former jail turned cultural center and concert venue
Museo Naval y Maritimo (Naval and Maritime Museum), Paseo 21 de Mayo 45, at top of Ascensor Artillería, ☎ 56 32 2437651, . Tuesday to Sunday, 10.00am to 6.00pm. This museum is dedicated to military naval exploits and battles, and puts a large focus on the Chilean victory against Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific.
Going to Valparaiso and not going on the ascensores (inclines) is like going to Venice and not taking a ride on a Gondola, only that the ascensores cost as little as 100 Chilean Pesos (around 20 US cents). They are also of practical use as they help many local people get to the higher parts of town, saving them from having to walk otherwise long and steep pedestrian routes.
During the last week in the year, Valparaiso holds an annual carnival that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Each year the festival centers around a different country, from which performers and artists are invited to come and represent their culture and their work in theater, music, and the performance arts. Most activities are free and are held outdoors. The celebration culminates with a New Year firework display that within five of the most beautiful in the planet. Oops, but get ready in time because the city's population triples on those dates. I recommend visiting the Mirador del Cerro Artillery, panoramic view of the city of Vina del Mar, Reñaca, Con Con and more ... It reaches through the "lift" Artillery, in operation since 1893 (ask for Customs plaza area), its current value is 250 Chilean pesos, on the first floor is the Mirador "Walk May 21," (delivered to the community in the year 1911) in which impossible not to enjoy the restaurant "Calaufquen", typical dishes of fresh seafood, with a fair value. We are here with a Craft Fair in which they can buy from winter clothing (ponchos, Ruan, scarves, socks, gloves, wool hats), souvenir of the most varied models and prices, up figures and jewelry from lapis lazuli (blue stone semi-precious which is only in Chile and Afghanistan), by price and quality of the stone, I recommend the last local. Also visit the Naval Museum "(500 Chilean pesos) whose income is in the midst of the Paseo.
The German Pirate (myvalparaiso.cl), . Amazing tour by a German man who's lived in Valparaiso for years. He seems to know everything and everyone about the place. He speaks Spanish, English and German. Discounts for groups. You're unlikely to find a more immersive tour of Valparaiso.
Many international students study at the Catholic University and the University of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso, to its charm, is not a city of malls and department stores. While several large grocery stores are present, most other shopping is done in smaller, non-chain stores tucked in along crowded city streets, or with street vendors; larger chain stores (and more upscale goods) are more commonly found in nearby Viña del Mar. A large shopping center, however, is found on the eastern end of Avenida Brasil.
The most traditional food in Valparaiso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. You can eat this in the traditional restaurant J Cruz. Fresh seafood is readily available in many small restaurants around the city, especially around the muelle (wharf) areas, and is considered a must for any seafood lover. Neighboring Viña del Mar features a much larger (and more expensive) variety of international cuisines, including Thai, Mexican, and Argentine.
Bakeries are located on nearly every block, and produce quite delicious breads that can be had warm and right out of the oven at almost any time throughout the day. They are best enjoyed smothered with palta, which are grown en masse in Chile (palta is the Chilean word for avocado, known in most other Spanish-speaking countries as aguacate). In addition to the many types of bread, another widely available snack to keep you settled as you walk the streets are empanadas, a flaky pastry, almost like a croissant, filled with meat or cheese.
On the second floor of the Mercado Cardonal (cnr Ave Brasil and Uruguay) there are a few excellent, cheap and midrange restaurants serving lunch.
Chile - Suecia, Calle Bellavista (Just off the square). Open even on Sundays. Good sandwiches, hot dogs and set menus at $2500.
El Valenciano, Avenida Colon 3110, ☎ +56 32 225 1619. Delicious chicken, good sandwiches and good value meals.
Estación Cielo Amierto, Ferrari 68 (Cerro Bellavista). A cute cafe on the Cerro Bellavista which has juices, smoothies, and sandwiches.
Bijoux (Bijoux Restobar), Abtao 561-A, Cerro Concepcion, ☎ 56 9 9548 2321 (firstname.lastname@example.org). Beautiful little Restaurant in the heart of Cerro Concepciòn. Instead of a menu card, the chef and owner comes to you and according to the daily market specialities and your wishes he creates an individual menu just for you.The food is always fresh, delicious and offers an unique experience in Chile. cl$7900.
Le Filou Montpellier Almte Montt 382. Great French-run restaurant in Cerro Concepciòn.
Epif Calle Dr. Grossi 268, Cerro Alegre. Tastey vegetarian food and drinks at reasonable prices. Cozy cafe environment with great music and service.
Delicatessen Emporio, Urriola 383, C. Concepcion (Head north (and up) from the Armada main buiding - two blocks), ☎ +56-32-2339373, . Beautiful food in a small, romantic setting. Carpaccio with oysters was exquisite, Garbanzo soup was flavorful (read: spicey), fresh and probably the best I've ever had.7,500 for a full lunch.
Cafe Turri Paseo Gervasoni (by the ascensor conception) great views and good food
On weekends, the time to go out for a drink (Chilean people call it "salir de carrete") starts no earlier than midnight, though somewhat earlier during the week. The pubs and clubs close at 5 AM on weekends, and 4 AM on weekdays.
Drinking alcohol in the streets is not allowed and 18 years is the minimum age for drinking alcohol, though enforcement of these rules is somewhat lax. If you are under 18, you may not be allowed entry into some pubs.
Chile is a major wine-producing country, and bottles of fairly tasty wines can be had for slightly more than US$1.
La Torre - offers inexpensive drinks, and is frequented by university students
La Piedra Feliz - a more expensive and touristy club that often features salsa dancing, mosty for the older crowds
Club El Cielo
Club El Huevo - one of the largest dance clubs in Valparaiso
Bar La Playa
Mascara - caters to an artsy and gay/lesbian crowd
Many clubs and bars are also found in Viña del Mar. Public transportation and taxis continue to run throughout the night, making it entirely feasible to have accommodations in one city while going out for the night in the other.
Puro Cafe, Calle Edwards, 301, Valparaiso, ☎ + 56 9 96380239. One of the very few places in Chile to have real espresso, not instant coffee. The cafe has beautiful and comfortable furniture, making probably the best place in Valparaiso for coffee.
Hostel Casa Verde Limón Cumming 198, (56) (32) 2121699, nice living room where you can meet people, very helpful staff, dorms from $5500
Hostal Pilcomayo, Pilcomayo #491 (Cerro Concepción), 032-2251075 (email@example.com). Basic rooms, very friendly atmosphere. The large living rooms makes it a good meeting place. Free internet.Dorm room 6000 per person.www.hostalpilcomayo.cl
Angel Hostal Cumming 160 Cerro Carcel, (56)(32) 2126940. Dorm room 7000 per person. Double room 8000 per person, matrimonial and single beds. Good breakfast, decent rooms, friendly helpful staff, good place to meet people, free internet and some tickets to nightlife bohemian experience.
Hostal Girasoles Almirante Montt 167, (56)(32) 2331024. Dorm room 8000 per person. Double room 15000 per person with breakfast, WiFi. They have sinlges as well. Clean rooms and bathroom and a central location close to Plaza Anibal Pinto. From the bus terminal you can catch a colectivo towards Anibal Pinto for 200 pesos, Almirante Montt is one of the streets off the plaza uphill.
The Mirador Bed and Breakfast, 251 Levarte, . A very comfortable hospedaje in the Playa Ancha sector of the city, with several rooms, small apartments, and a balcony with a great view of the city and port. Internet and Wi-Fi. A nice kitchen to use. Parking. Marisol, the owner, is wonderful and very helpful.
The Yellow House, Capitán Muñoz Gamero 91, Cerro Artillería, Valparaíso, Chile (The Yellow House is easily reached by using the Ascensor Artilleria, on foot, by public transport or by car.), ☎ (56) 32 2339435, . The Yellow House has 7 comfortable guest rooms. Most rooms as well as the homes two galleries, living and dining areas offer wonderful views of the port and harbour and on a clear day extend as far as the AndesMountains separating Chile and Argentina. The Yellow House also has a book exchange, WiFi, cable TV and a selection of board games. The house was built in the late 1800s and has been fully restored. The "Ocean View" room, as the name indicates, has the best view and is really worth it.
Residencia en El Cerro, Pasaje Pierre Lotti 51, Conceptione, Valparaíso, Chile (Pierre Lotti 51 is easily reached by using the Ascensor Concepcion.). For absolute quietness, except for the creaking floors, try Residencia en El Cerro, Pasaje Pierre Lotti 51. Next door at 43 there is also accommodation. This Hostal is on an alley where no traffic get and the gardens add a little attractive colour. A twin room costs 30,000 a night. Breakfast is just OK with coffee/tea, bread, butter and jam. The place is in its original 1880`s decor - maybe. Wi-fi, TV.
In the context of Chile being a relatively safe country, Valparaiso is amongst its more dangerous locales, like many harbour cities around the world. Mainly, watch out for pickpockets, for instance avoid hanging your purse or bag in the back of your chair when seated, because it may get stolen. Violent crime is very uncommon, but normal precautionary measures should be taken; while in the street, do not display expensive jewelry. The port area (called "Puerto") is generally considered to be dangerous even during the day.
There is a laundry in the mall of Hotel Prat. 5kg $3700.
Viña del Mar - The beachtown Viña del Mar is only ten minutes by train from Valparaíso, and slightly longer by bus. If you take bus 612 from Plaza Echaurren you will get a full tour of the Valpo hills, and you can jump off at La Sebastiana.
The idyllic village Quintay is 45 minutes to the south by car. Take a colectivo from Calle 12 de Feberero, behind the bus terminal, 'they leave as soon as they fill up. $1400.