Top Things to Do in Valparaiso Chile: A Local’s Guide
Looking for the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile? Keep reading to find out how to have the perfect day in Chile’s port city.
Valparaiso, located on the Central Zone coast of the fifth region is just an hour and a half from Santiago, Chile’s capital and a must-see on any Chile bucket list.
Valparaiso is Chile’s most bohemian city and it’s full of patrimonial houses and buildings, skilled, politically-charged street art, ancient funiculars and houses that cling to the steep hillsides.
The historical centre of Valparaiso was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003 in an effort to conserve its unique culture, heritage and immigrant-influenced architecture. Whether you’re looking for some wanderlust or planning a trip to Chile this travel guide to Valparaiso is for you.
Most travellers visit Valparaiso for a day from Santiago as it’s small and can easily be seen in a day. However, I do recommend you stay at least a night to really experience its bohemian vibes and what this casual city has to offer.
I lived in Santiago for 6 years and made countless trips to Valparaiso. In this travel guide to Valparaiso, I’ll outline all the best things to do and see, local gems and the best places to eat and stay for the perfect ‘Valpo’ experience.
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When to go: Any time of year but check the weather, it’s much nicer on a sunny day. Currency: Chilean peso. ATMs located in the centre of the city and are attached to banks, also in the major supermarkets.
Getting to Valparaiso
Bus – the easiest and best way to get to Valparaiso from Santiago or any other nearby city. From Santiago, you can take the bus from Terminal Alameda or Pajaritos Metro Station and it costs just under $10,000 CLP for the return ticket. Turbus and Pullman are the main companies operating the route.
Private tour – many tour companies in Santiago combine a day trip to Valparaiso with a stop at a vineyard in the Casablanca valley. Our favourite is this Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Casablanca Valley Tour.
Car– If you already have a rental car it’s possible to drive to Valparaiso but I wouldn’t recommend renting a car just to get to Valparaiso. It’s better to take a bus. I do not recommend parking on the street. The safest and most central place to park is here.
Best Things to Do in Valparaiso Chile
1. Explore Cerro Alegre
Both Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción are two steep hills that form the traveller and bohemian hub of Valparaiso and you will inevitably spend time here. There are so many alleyways, corners and staircases here that are home to the city’s best street art as well as views of the city. Exploring these neighbourhoods is one of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile.
Stroll the numerous alleyways and staircases admiring the street art as you go. You can also have coffee or lunch in one of the many artsy cafes or restaurants here and admire the sea views from the tops of the hill.
While exploring Cerro Alegre make sure not to miss the Piano Staircase– as the name suggests it’s a staircase painted like a piano as well as Paso Atkinson which has some of the best views of the lower part of the city and the sea in Cerro Alegre. You’ll also find the Galeria de Arte Bahia Utopica here, a really lovely gem of a gallery selling a range of art- mainly block prints- of scenes from Valparaiso.
2. Explore Cerro Concepcion
Located just next to Cerro Alegre is Cerro Concepcion. It’s actually difficult to see where one finishes and the other starts- they naturally blend together.
There is some spectacular street art to be seen on Cerro Concepcion and while exploring don’t miss Pasaje Galvez and Paseo Gervasoni which have some of the best examples of it.
3. Check out the Viewpoints
There are some really amazing viewpoints around the city and you’ll no doubt uncover them as you walk around. Paseo Atkinson is one of the best viewpoints in the city. Take a seat on one of the benches and relax in the sun- there’s no better view in the city.
Make sure to also stop at the Mirador Paseo Gervasoni for great views over the city and the Pacific Ocean.
4. Visit La Sebastiana
La Sebastiana was Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s residence in Valparaiso and a must-see in the city’s attractions. Not only does a visit here give you the chance to learn more about his life, but the house itself is also a beautiful one, with quirky knick-knacks in every room, stylish furnishings and the most idyllic sea views.
When visiting make sure to pick up an audio guide which gives context to all the interesting artefacts and items in the house. It’s really worth it.
5. Take a Free Walking Tour
Free walking tours or tours for tips are a great way to take in the city and learn more about its history. Various tours normally depart from Plaza Sotomayor in Valparaiso for a 3-hour walking tour of the city.
I remember that our tour was one of my most memorable experiences from Valparaiso and I’d highly recommend going on one. Our native guide was so passionate and informative about his city that I can’t remember the last time I learned so much about a place.
The knowledgeable guides tell you about the history of the city and its significance as a port as well as take you to all the city’s most alluring places. Book your spot on the best 3 hour walking tour in the city here.
6. Take a Street Art Tour
One of the most unique aspects of Valparaiso is its street art and I’m not talking about some random scrawls on the walls.
Some of Chile’s most renowned street artists have their work on the walls here and taking a tour is the best way to experience it. The street art tour is the most popular and for good reason.
You’ll find out about the different artists and how to recognise their work as well as what the works represent and the political messages behind many of them. Click here to find the original Street art tour in Valparaiso.
7. Ride the Funiculars
Valparaiso’s funiculars date back to the early 1900s and were constructed to help people get from the lower, commercial parts of the city to their homes in the upper parts and hilltops. Many have since stopped working however there are a few that are still functioning for the general public. Here are the best funiculars to check out, without a doubt one of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile:
Artillería Railway– this is the oldest funicular in Valparaiso and was originally built to transport sailors from the port to the Navel School. Nowadays you can take this railway up Paseo 21 de Mayo for amazing views over the city.
Ascensor El Peral – this rickety funicular connects the Plaza de la Justicia with the Yugoslavo walk located in Cerro Alegre. This is one of the most unique funiculars in the city.
Ascensor Concepción – this lift connects commercial Prat Street with Paseo Gervasoni, one of the most well-known lookout points in the city. Take the funicular up here, take a seat on a bench and stare out into the Pacific.
Ascensor Reina Victoria – the steepest lift in the city, enjoy the best views of Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Carcel.
8. Explore Barrio Yugoslavo
Barrio Yugoslavo is a tiny neighbourhood next to Cerro Alegre.
It used to be the place where all the Yugoslavs and Croats settled when they first arrived in Chile, hence the name. Here, you can see some of the houses in which they lived, including the Barburizza Palace once a mansion belonging to a Croatian family and now the Museum of Fine Arts.
The best thing to do in the neighbourhood is just to walk around and see what you can find, there are some pretty interesting corners here.
9. Enjoy the Views from Paseo 21 De Mayo
Take the Artilleria railway to the top of this hill for one of the best views of the city. The funicular will take you to the top of Paseo 21 De Mayo which is a great place to admire the views of Valparaiso port and the Pacific Coast beyond.
With the Maritime Museum at your back, admire the shape of the hills and their intricate architecture, the port and the glistening Pacific. On a clear day, you can even see the sand dunes of Concon in the distance.
One of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile is to head up here for sunset when the setting sun casts the most incredible golden glow over the city.
10. Take a Boat Trip of the Port
Change your perspective a little and take in the city from the sea- it’s a completely different viewpoint.
Many boats depart for the hour-long tour from the Muelle Prat or Prat pier just south of Plaza Sotomayor. Your captain will take you around all the naval ships moored in the port and explain their history as well as talk a little more about the importance of the port and the city.
Look out for the huge buoys bobbing up and down to get a glimpse of the giant sea lions basking in the sun. Unfortunately, when I went tours were only available in Spanish.
11. Spend some time exploring Cerro Bellavista
Cerro Bellavista is another lovely and authentic hill in the unique city of Valparaiso and when thinking about the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile, this little neighbourhood comes to mind.
Here you’ll find La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house as well as Poet’s Square and Plaza Yungay. It’s a nice area to walk around but there are fewer galleries compared with Cerro Alegre and Concepcion which feel a little more touristy.
12. Visit the Museo de Cielo Abierto
One of the best places to visit in Cerro Bellavista is the Open Air Museum. The open-air museum is a series of 19th Century buildings and passageways where you can see some of the best art murals in the city.
The murals were painted in the 1990s by many different street artists from Latin America. It’s definitely worth a visit when wandering around Cerro Bellavista.
13. Visit Palacio Baburizza
Baburizza Palace is one of the prettiest buildings in Valparaiso. Located on the top of the hill on Cerro Alegre, this palace was once the home of a noble Croatian family. The Art Nouveau architecture style is a great example of architecture here and in Santiago in the early 1900s.
Today the palace is the home of the Museum of Fine Arts. Visiting it is one of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile. You’ll find many different works by both Chilean and international artists and there are also rotating exhibitions that might be worth checking out during your stay. Entry is $4,000 CLP for international visitors.
14. Visit the Parque Cultural de Valparaíso
Valparaiso’s Cultural Park is another great spot to visit when in the city. The spot is a centre of urban art, culture and patrimony and they hold many different arts events throughout the year. It’s worth checking out what’s on through their website here, which unfortunately is only available in Spanish.
15. Visit Viña del Mar
Just a few kilometres up the coast you’ll find Viña del Mar, a popular summer destination for Santiago locals. The seaside resort city is famous for the Festival de Viña, one of the biggest music festivals in South America which takes place every year.
Viña del Mar has much less history, culture and patrimony than Valparaiso but it’s still worth a visit. Reñaca is one of the biggest and best beaches on the Central Coast of Chile. Some of the best places to visit in Viña del Mar are the famous Flower Clock, the Viña del Mar Casino and the Muelle Vergara. A walk along the beach at sunset is also pretty unmissable too.
16. Take a Tour of the Casablanca Valley
Chile makes some of the best wines in the world and the Casablanca Valley is one of the largest areas of white wine cultivation in Chile.
The extensive valley is home to some of the most famous vineyards in Chile as well as some really lovely boutiques ones worth a visit. You’ll need to pass through the valley to get to Valparaiso from Santiago so why not make a stop to enjoy some wine?
You can visit the Casablanca Valley alone, but you’ll need to rent a car. Otherwise, you can take a tour but they tend to visit the largest and most commercialised vineyards only. This is best tour option that includes Valparaiso and the Casablanca Valley or you can visit on another day direct from Santiago, where this is the best option.
To find out more don’t miss The Best Casablanca Valley Wineries You Must-Visit
17. Dine on Fresh Seafood
One of the things that Santiaguinos love to do when travelling to the coast is to take advantage of all the fresh seafood.
If you eat and love seafood, don’t miss this opportunity while travelling around the coast of Central Chile. There are some really good restaurants in Valparaiso for seafood.
My favourites are Cocina Puerto and the most upscale Portofino Restaurant for seafood with an Italian flare and a stunning terrace with a beautiful view.
Where to Eat in Valparaiso
Famous dishes to try in Valparaiso are the standard Chilean classics such as cazuela, (a clear beef or chicken stew) pastel de choclo, (corn and meat pie) or empanadas.
Plant-based eating is still a new and innovative concept in Chile, however, vegan restaurants and vegan options are on the rise. Here are my favourite restaurants in Valparaiso:
Cocina Puerto– Located in Cerro Alegre this little space is a great spot for seafood and local, coastal cuisine such as grilled octopus and ceviche. A must for seafood when in the city.
Melbourne Cafe – It’s really not easy to find good coffee in Chile but this one is probably the best in the city. A great cafe option for breakfast and light bites.
Restaurant La Concepcion– One of the best restaurants in Valparaiso. Don’t miss it for fresh seafood and fish (but they do have a range of other dishes), a great Chilean wine list and amazing port views. A must when in Valpo.
Chicory– Lovely little plant-based restaurant serving a variety of healthy options including salad bowls and the usual sandwiches and burgers. Their terrace has some amazing views of the city and the ocean.
Casa Altamira– For those looking for a great nighttime option this craft beer bar is a great spot to spend the evening. Sample some great local, artisan beers to finish the day.
Where to Stay
If you plan to stay the night in Valparaiso there are plenty of options for all budgets. Stay in a hostel on Cerro Alegre or in a traditional Valparaiso mansion with sea views. Here are my favourite places to stay:
Casablu Hotel– Probably the best hotel in the city, Casablu is a design-focused, boutique hotel with large, bright rooms and incredible city views. Housed in a beautifully restored building with a stunning rooftop, this is our top pick when staying in Valparaiso. Check rates and availability here.
Augusta Hotel– Charming, hip and cool, this is another great space to check out when planning a stay in Valparaiso. Check rates and availability here.
Hotel Casa Higueras – My favourite hotel in Valparaiso. A converted 1920s mansion, they have the comfiest rooms and mattresses as well as stunning sea views in most of their rooms. Breakfast is varied and fresh and a dip in their pool after a long day of exploring is a delight. Check rates and availability here.
Valparaiso Top Tips:
↠ Valparaiso is extremely hilly so you’ll be doing a lot of hill walking- wear comfortable shoes.
↠ While Valparaiso is, for the most part, a safe place to visit, robberies and assaults are sadly not uncommon. Have your wits about you, take care of your belongings and avoid the port areas and around Plaza Sotomayor after dark. Also, make sure not to walk around with visible valuables on your person.
↠ Almost everything in Valparaiso is walkable but if you get tired, take the tram whose route follows the coastline. Valparaiso is one of the last places in Chile that still has a working tram.
↠ Don’t carry lots of cash on you. Most cafes and restaurants take cards (be sure to check before ordering) so there is no need to carry lots of cash.
Ready to dive into these epic things to do in Valparaiso Chile? Have any questions or comments about your trip? Let me know in the box below.
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