Hip, bohemian and alive: these are some of the main adjectives used to describe Valparaiso, a colorful harbor city only a short bus journey from the Chilean capital. With its mild climate, relaxed ambiance and range of cultural treats to discover, there is nowhere else in the country quite like Valparaiso. Things to do here include riding its delightful – if rickety – ascensores that transport visitors up its trademark hills and soaking up the atmosphere (and stunning coastal views) in its glorious selection of trendy restaurants and bars.
Valparaiso: Things to do
Ride the ascensores up into the hills
Valparaiso was built on the edge of a series of undulating coastal hills, giving the city a unique geographical form. To enable residents to get from harbor to hilltop without breaking too much of a sweat, the authorities built Valparaiso’s now famous ascensores – a serious of funiculars that climb the hillsides.
From the original 30, only 15 remain in order, including the oldest, Ascensor Concepcion. Passengers – both locals and tourists alike – board the wooden cars to be transported into the hilltop neighborhoods.
Visit the Museo Naval y Marítimo
With a coastline that measures just under 4,000-miles in length (6,435km), Chile has always maintained a large navy, and Valparaiso’s role as a major South American seaport can’t be understated. For this reason, the Museo Naval y Marítimo close to the main port in the west of the city is an essential stop on any trip to Valparaiso.
Learn about naval conflicts and important maritime figures in Chile’s history, such as Arturo Pratt and Bernardo O’Higgins, on a visit to this historic artifact filled museum.
Discover the poetry of Pablo Neruda
Chile’s most famous poet, Nobel Prize-winning Pablo Neruda spent a lot of his life writing about the sea and “La Sebastiana”, his Valparaíso residence, is chock full of quirky, nautical ornaments.
What’s more, thanks to its Cerro Florida location overlooking the entire city and the ocean beyond, from the vantage point of his writing desk it’s possible to understand how these sea views helped to inspire his writing.
Dine in restaurants marking Valparaíso’s “culinary revolution”
Over the past few years, dozens of new restaurants and bars have sprung up in the main tourist districts of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, leading to what some have termed a “culinary revolution”.
Eateries making the most of the city’s access to the ocean offer menus of ceviche, traditional Chilean empanadas and more luxurious dishes including walnut-crusted ostrich and Italian pasta. Plenty of these restaurants serve dinner on large, north-facing outdoor terraces, so enjoy Valparaíso’s most exciting culinary offerings as you devour the views.
Have a true South American market experience
Few things are as uniquely South American as the vibrant outdoor markets that are found in practically every town and city across the continent. Valparaíso’s food market is no different.
An onslaught of colors, sounds and smells is guaranteed as you wander between stalls piled high with sun-blushed tomatoes, mountains of lettuce and gleaming whole fish that look as if they’ve only just been plucked from the water.
This open-air market takes place every day in the streets of El Almendral district of Valparaíso. Things to do around this part of town also include exploring the weekend flea market on Avenida Argentina and the enormous antiques fair in nearby Plaza O’Higgins.