Valparaíso is a street art paradise and the most colorful city in Chile. Walking through the streets, we could take our time contemplating the artwork that came in many forms. The buildings themselves were various colors, and many had huge murals as each wall was an open canvas. This city is on a steep hill that leads down to the sea. Between the hilltops and the sea are also some amazing restaurants with incredible views. We enjoyed the architecture, food, and the cultural atmosphere of the city for two days. In that time we found the best areas in Valparaíso to create a travel guide for you. What excites you about traveling to a new city?
Our Introduction to Valparaíso
Wandering the streets of Valparaíso is the best way to get a feel for the city, its beautiful artwork, and colorful buildings. The city is like a giant art gallery that we could get lost in for days. Because of the colors and the artwork, the whole city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was unbelievable how many buildings and alleyways were painted. Most staircases had a theme, but our favorite was in the form of a piano. We recommend you walk up the stairs and see what is around the corner. Every turn offers something new, and every person sees something different. One of the best features of this city are the various colors stretching up the hillside. Just wandering the city and getting lost is a great way to pass the time. However, we have listed plenty of more organized activities below.
Things to do
This hilltop is a central place to find culture, street art, bars, and restaurants. We enjoyed the views and the traditional food. It is a great place to relax and wander the streets, immersing yourself in pure eye candy around every corner. There is also a nearby funicular for those who do not want to walk up. Our legs were pretty tired from walking up and down the hills, but we were still too cheap to ride the funicular at 424 CLP ($0.50 USD) each. That money was better spent on pisco sours, our favorite Chilean drink.
Valparaíso Cultural Park
The city of Valparaíso converted a former prison site into a culture park consisting of several buildings, including the the prison building itself. The park also includes a gunpowder house, and a beautiful garden. The park stands on the largest flat surface in this hilly city. Inside the cultural center is a rotating art exhibition. While we were there, we saw works by Loro Coiron. His art was very detailed and we spent a lot of time analyzing each piece. Some of the art was animated by using multiple poses of different people or animals. It was quite fascinating. The park is open to the public and is free to enter.
Street Art Walk
Street art is everywhere and on everything all over the city. The staircases, walls, buildings, and the streets themselves are covered in art. On top of that, there are also many street musicians and people selling artwork in the markets. This place is an art lovers paradise. We did a self-guided tour, but there are tip-based tours that can be booked online. We’ve done similar walking tours in many cities for a more in-depth historical account of the area. Tour companies usually expect a tip of about 17,000 CLP ($20 USD) per person, but they do not require it.
The local street food had a combination of seafood and traditional Chilean fare. Empanadas are a good example. These are fried or baked pastry filled with cheese, seafood, beef or a combination and are very common. We tried our fair share of these during our time here. Yum!
Another popular dish we have tried are humitas; a Chilean version of a tamale. We made some of these in Santiago, but they are popular all over Chile. Humitas are steamed corn cakes typically made from ground corn, onion, garlic, cheese, eggs, and cream.
Ceviche is a staple seafood dish made with raw fish, marinated and cooked with lemon juice and served with onions and spices. Some other common dishes are very meat-centric such as steaks or fish with a vegetable side dish.
There are plenty of great restaurants around Valparaíso and many of them even have a view. We tried some local dishes at Hotel Brighton and were happy with the service and the food. Food is an important part of understanding a local culture, and we enjoy trying new dishes wherever we go.
We missed the museums during our trip but know there are a couple of good ones to check out. One is the Museo Maritimo National (National Maritime Museum), where you can learn about Chile’s fascinating maritime history. The entry fee is only 1,000 CLP ($1.20 USD). There is also a free open-air art museum called Museo a Cielo Abierto which is on neighborhood streets. This museum has many beautiful murals painted by famous Chilean artists. For more information on museums, check out Valparaíso.com.
Where we stayed
We stayed in nearby Viña del Mar with a Couchsurfing host to have a better understanding of the culture. Our host knew very little English, so we practiced our Spanish with him. We had a barbeque in his backyard and met his cousin and another couchsurfer. This is a fantastic way to travel that we highly recommend. If staying with a local isn’t preferable, there are many affordable Airbnb locations around the city as well as hostels. We like to live like the locals do as much as possible.
How to get there
The best way to get to Valparaíso is by bus from Santiago. We used both Turbus and Pulman Bus depending on the drop off locations. Both companies have similar rates, and are the most common carriers between these cities. A bus from Alameda station in Santiago to Valparaíso costs about 7000 CLP ($8 USD) as of this writing. These buses also have stops at the Santiago airport in case you need to catch a flight. We use rome2rio.com and checkmybus.com to check prices on how to get around. Buses run frequently between the two places, and it is easy to find a spot on a bus when arriving at the station.
Taxis are an expensive option at around 135,000 CLP or ($180 USD) from Santiago to Valparaíso. It would be cheaper to rent a car for 7,000 to 14,000 CLP ($8 to $16 USD) per day depending on the duration of your trip. These are better for short distances within a city.
There are small buses called micros that frequent popular routes and operate similar to a taxi as you flag them down at stops. Buses also usually have a dedicated person soliciting people on the street for rides. The drivers take cash only and base your fare on distance. It is important to communicate the location you are going to. Fares are around 450-550 CLP ($0.50-0.65 USD).
The metro rail connects Valparaíso to other communities within the larger metro area. It requires getting a Metroval Card to load and tap in and out of the stations. The metro charges by distance and increases fares during peak hours. A sample ride from Viña del Mar to Valparaíso costs 566 to 599 CLP ($0.67-0.70 USD), depending on the time of day. Longer rides outside the city can cost up to four times this amount. A Metroval Card can be purchased at the station for around 1350 CLP ($2 USD). This mode of transport is better for long-distance rides. This website has the latest prices and a fare calculator.
Just like the buses, you can easily flag down a taxi to get you around the city. A ride within the city shouldn’t cost more than 1,500 CLP ($2 USD). When we had three people, this was cheaper than taking a bus or metro.
We spent two days exploring Valparaíso and wish to spend more time there again in the future. The town felt very refreshing with the sea air, the food, and the incredible artwork everywhere. The gritty feel to the city combined with the street art was so interesting to see firsthand. I knew before going what to expect, and it blew my expectations away once I arrived. It is a beautiful and imaginative city.
What is the most colorful city you have been to?
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