Valparaiso is certainly among Chile’s most fascinating locations. It was built on a bay facing the Pacific Ocean and soon became one of the most important ports in South America. With the countless hills and the tram system Valparaiso earned the nickname of “Little San Francisco”. In its golden days during the 19th century, the city became a major harbor for freighters traveling on the Atlantic and Pacific oceans over the Straits of Magellan. All this changed with the opening of the Panama Canal which resulted in an immense traffic cut down for Valparaiso.
Now, Valparaiso’s charms appeal to visitors from all over the world who come to soak in its bohemian environment, spend hours taking pictures of the wonderful architecture, and wander around the colorful streets. There is no other place like Valpo in Chile and probably whole South America. If you end up visiting, here are my top suggestions for Valparaiso
1. Take a ride on the funiculars
Valparaiso is famous for its special way of transportation, the funicular elevators. From the vast number of these, spread out over plenty of hills, only a few are still operating. Not riding a funicular in Valparaiso would be equivalent to not taking a gondola in Venice. Except that with 0, 80$ the funicular is much cheaper.
2. Check out the Street Art
If you like street art you surely came to the right place. Many famous artists display their work on many of the walls turning Valparaiso into the biggest open air art gallery in the world.
3. Take a walking tour
Many people like to explore a city via tourist buses. Well that is not a good option in the busy streets of Valparaiso. To get the best overlook of the area I recommend joining a walking tour. There is no shortage of these and some of them are even free. However you should give a tip at the end. The guides often know little details about Valparaiso’s history and can also give good recommendations of where to go.
4. Enjoy the architecture
In 2003 the UNESCO declared Valparaiso a World Heritage Site. When you wander the streets and admire the beautiful architecture you will know why. The unique, colorful buildings often inhabit shops of local artist who are happy to have a chat and show you their collections.
5. Take a night boat tour
Since Valparaiso is located in a bay the best view on the entire city is from the water. I would especially recommend taking a night tour to see all the hills illuminated by shimmering lights. The boat tours depart from the main port, only a short distance away from the customs building.
6. Visit La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s House
The famous Chilean poet and Noble laureate Pablo Neruda had one of his three residences in Valparaiso. He is considered as one of the best poets of the 20th century. La Sebastiana has been transformed into a museum honoring his memory.
7. Have a stroll over the Feria on Avenida Argentina
If you happen to be in Valparaiso on a Wednesday or Saturday, head to Avenida Argentina for the Feria and get a taste of authentic local life at this colorful farmer’s market; one of the best in this part of Chile.