10 THINGS TO DO IN VALPARAISO, CHILE
The best 10 Things to do in Valparaiso
Valparaiso… probably the most colorful city we have seen so far. Everything is colorful… facades, doors, windows, stairways, rubbish bins… The streets are narrow and cozy restaurants, bars and cafes invite to relax and to enjoy the day. The words “stress” and “hectic” don’t exist in the hills of the city.
Little golf ball BoB and we stayed in Valparaiso for 2 months and put together for you the best 10 things to do in Valparaiso. The cities offers a lot! Enjoy your stay!
‘Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.’
Pablo Neruda, born in Chile and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 1971
1. Free Walking Tour
Tasting a local drink during our Free Walking Tour with Tour4Tips
We love Walking Tours! I know, guided tours have a reputation of being boring and too touristy, but when you just arrived in a new city and have no clue what to do, a walking tour is perfect. “Tours4Tips” by Wally offers the best tour in Valparaiso. In 2,5 to 3 hours “Wally” brings you to the most important staircases, alleys, facades, and corners. Very friendly, young and motivated Chileans, who are Valparaiso experts, give you many interesting background information in English. The tour also includes a ride with one of Valparaiso’s traditional lifts (“acensor”) and the old-fashioned “Trolley” bus as well as a sample of a Chilean candy and drink. Every day, 7 days a week, the tour starts at 10:00am and 15:00pm from Plaza Sotomayor. It doesn’t matter, if the sun is burning or rain is pouring down, Wally will wait for you. Reservation is not necessary.
2. Tour with a “lancha”
Great views of Valparaiso’s colorful hills on a boat tour
“Lancha” is the Spanish word for “boat” and what is the best you can do in a seaport? A boat trip, of course! Just go to the port where all the small fisher boats are, close to Plaza Sotomayor, and you will already here men shouting “lancha, lancha!”. Get a ticket from one of these guys and enter the next available boat. There is no set timetable, boats come and go as soon as they have enough passengers. When you are lucky, you are not the first one and don’t have to wait until it’s full. But even then it doesn’t take more than 20 minutes and meanwhile you can enjoy the nice atmosphere of the port.
After leaving the port the first cute highlight awaits you… BoB loved them… Cute sea lions that are sunbathing on a huge buoy. Then an amazing view of Valparaiso catches your attention. All these little colorful houses that are built into the hills are perfect scenery for photos. And you might be surprised about the actual size of Valparaiso. I thought it would be smaller.
On the way back the boat makes a detour through the port and your guide tells you about the importance of container ships and cruise liners that berth in Valparaiso. After 30 to 40 minutes the captain brings you back on land. Price: 3,000 Pesos per person. Guides only speak Spanish.
3. Explore amazing street art
Colorful alleys full of graffiti in Valparaiso
Historically, Valparaiso’s port attracted people from all over the world and the city flourished. Nowadays Valparaiso’s strongest magnet is its stunning street art. When you see it, you know why! We are no real graffiti fans but in Valparaiso is now way around. And that’s fantastic! In every alley, every street, every staircase impressive graffiti catch your eyes. Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre are the most diversified areas for exploring the cities’ colorful street art. It’s hard to find a house facade, which doesn’t tell a story. When you are lucky, you see a sprayer working on a new piece. I don’t know how people can be so creative. Take your time and enjoy this unique neighborhood.
Insider tip: You want to see more street art? Visit Polanco, the district close to Avenida Argentina. In 2012 the first Latin-American Graffiti Festival took place in the narrow streets of Polanco where you find a lot more street art awesomeness.
Dogs and street art: That’s Polanco
Acensor Polanco, Source: Wikipedia
4. Eat Chorillana and drink an „earthquake”
Typical Chilean dish: Chorillana
What? Drinking an earthquake? Yes, “terremoto”, which means “earthquake”, is one of Chile’s most popular local drinks. It’s a mixture of pineapple ice-cream, grenadine, Fernet and the Chilean wine pipeño (white wine) and it’s sweet… super sweet… and strong! The traditional glass size is 0.4l and after two of them you get much happier and your legs much heavier :).
When you try a Terremoto you also have to try Chorillana. It’s another really popular Chilean thing… a plate full of French fries topped with beef sliced into strips, eggs, and fried onions. As you can imagine this plate won’t give you an unforgettable taste adventure, but when in Valparaiso, it has to be on your bucket list.
The best place for Chorillana and Terremoto in Valparaiso is J. Cruz in Calle Condell #1466. Hidden at the end of a small alleyway the restaurant looks a bit dodgy. However, do it! Hundreds, maybe thousands of ID photos of strangers decorate the walls and shelves. How the hell did people come up with the idea to put their ID photos on the wall of a restaurant? We couldn’t find an answer but it gives the restaurant a very special atmosphere. Usually you are the only tourist amongst lots of locals. That’s really nice. And maybe I should mention that at J. Cruz they only serve Chorillana :). The only question the waiter has is “For how many?” and a few minutes later a huge plate full of French fries will stand in front of you. ¡Buen provecho!
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday: 12:00pm-3:00am, Friday and Saturday: 12:00pm-5:00am
It looks a bit dogy inside J. Cruz
5. Stroll along Avenida Alemania
View of Valparaiso and the sea from Avenida Alemania
You like to walk? Then I have a great idea for you! Make your way up to Avenida Alemania and spent some time in this relaxing part of Valparaiso which offers amazing views of the city and the sea. For the walk up I recommend taking Calle A. Montt or Calle Templeman to Plazuela San Luiz and turn left into Avenida Alemania. Or you start at the other end at the Open Art Museum. From there you can take Calle Ferrari or Calle Hector Calvo, passing La Sebastiana (Pablo Neruda’s house), and turn right into Avenida Alemania.
During your walk you pass some really cool houses with diagonal windows and roofs, houses that look like the perfect set for horror films and, of course, some more impressive street art. From the lookouts Mirador Ciudad de Camogli and Plaza Bismarck you have fantastic views as far as Vina del Mar.
6. Have a swim at a local beach
Beach time at a local beach: Playa Torpederas
Valparaiso is not famous for incredible beaches but, if you would like to jump into the water and take a swim, I have the perfect recommendation for you: Playa Torpederas. This protected bay is popular amongst locals and gets very busy on weekends. The beach is not breathtaking but you can be sure to be almost the only tourist.
To get to Playa Torpederas you can take a bus from Avenida Errazuriz that goes to Playa Ancha. After passing the small beach of Playa San Mateo (behind the Valparaiso’s port) you can get off the bus and walk along the coastline. On the way you see rock formations and after 15 minutes you reach Playa Torpederas. Beach season is from December to March.
7. Watch lazy and playful sea lions
Watching sea lions at Muelle Baron
When I jogged along Valparaiso’s coastline I was suddenly surprised by a funny sound and was wondering what it was. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked to the sea and saw a huge old cement rock full of sea lions. Some of them were sleeping, others were playing with each other, and two sea lions were trying to get up to the platform but always slid back into the water.
Just walk to the esplanade at the train station “Estacion Baron” and on the right side of the Muelle Baron you will spot the sea lions.
9. Visit Valparaiso’s biggest market
It gets busy on the feria in Avenida Argentina on Sundays
You love stuff that you don’t really need? Then the busy market, called “feria”, on Avenida Argentina is heaven for you! Every Sunday from 8:30am till 17:30pm the middle part of the avenue turns into a busy market where stands sell spare parts for cars, cell phone accessory, clothes, shoes, toys, tools, plastic containers and many more things. Little golf ball BoB found many little things he wanted to take with him… but as you know, a backpacker is very limited with space. But every now and then delicious steam from a bbq touched his nose which put back a smile into BoB’s face :).
9. Enjoy a delicious ice-cream
Yummy ice-cream at Bogarin
We love ice-cream! And we don’t want that you chose the wrong ice-cream shop, so we worked hard 🙂 to find our three favorites:
- And the winner is…. Bravissimo! Their ice-cream is super yummy, creamy, scoops are big and they have a lot of flavors you can choose from. You find Bravissimo on the way to the port at Plaza Sotomayor. Price: two flavors: 1,950 pesos
- Emporio La Rosa: It is said that Emporio La Rosa is one of the 25 best ice-cream shops in the world! Well, for us it wasn’t the best one but they definitely know how to make ice-cream. They have some special flavors and its yummy. You find them on Plaza Anibal Pinto. Price: two flavors: 2,000 pesos
- Bogarin: This one offers a wide variety of flavors and milk shakes. The ice-cream is good, however, compared to the other two, not as creamy, but cheaper. They are located in Calle Condell in front of the Plaza Victoria. Price: two flavors: 1,500 pesos
Secret tip: You prefer soft ice-cream? Also for you we found the best shop! Our favorite is the big cone with chocolate coating for 950 pesos. You find them in the ground-floor of the shopping center on the Avenida Argentina where the supermarket Jumbo is.
Enjoy a refreshing and yummy ice-cream!
10. The opposite of Valparaiso: Vina del Mar
Endless beaches in Vina del Mar
After 15 to 20 minutes by bus you arrive in Vina del Mar, a city totally different to Valparaiso. Vina’s esplanade is endless and runs along different beaches, rocks and impressive apartment houses. Little golf ball BoB, Lars and I liked the contrast to Valparaiso, especially the many beaches, palm trees and pelicans sitting on the rocks. Here you hardly find any graffiti or rubbish in the streets. Vina del Mar is clean and quiet. The beaches are much nicer here. However, have a look which color the flags at the beach have. As the ocean’s currents can be very strong, a red flag indicates that it’s too dangerous to swim in the water. Nevertheless, the sand invites to relax and to enjoy the sun.
To get to Vina del Mar take a bus from Valparaiso’s Avenida Errazuriz, the big street that runs parallel to the coastline. You can either take the busses that say “Vina del Mar” or “Libertad”(which is the street next to Vina’s big shopping mall). When entering the bus say “Vina del Mar – Reloj de Flores”. This trip costs you 500 pesos per person (one way) and will bring you to the beginning of Vina’s esplanade. After 15 to 20 minutes the bus will enter Vina del Mar and very soon you will spot a huge clock made of flowers on the left or right hand side, depending on which street the bus takes. Here is the best bus stop to get off and to start your walk along the coast. To get back to Valparaiso you can take busses to “Valparaiso” or “Errazuriz”.
Where to stay in Valparaiso
Colorful entrance of Hostal Casa Fischer on Cerro Concepcion
Valparaiso offers a variety of hostels and hotels… for the smaller and bigger wallet. A hostel we highly recommend in Valparaiso is Hostal Casa Fischer on Cerro Concepcion (right where all the graffiti is). It’s a smaller colorful hostel that has dorm bed rooms of 6 and 7 people as well as two private rooms, one with a double bed, one with a bunk bed. All rooms have shared bathrooms. The kitchen is big and well equipped. There are two bathrooms with shower and a very comfortable living room with TV. The hostel is very clean, has good Wi-Fi and is perfect for all who don’t look for a party hostel.
Prices: 7 bed dorm room 8,000 pesos per person, private room with bunk bed 20,000 pesos per night and with double bed 23,000 pesos per night (price includes breakfast from 9:00am till 11:00am).
Extra tip #1: Yummy empanadas
The place for yummy empanadas: Delicias Express
They are typical for South America: empanadas. It’s baked or fried stuffed bread and it’s perfect for lunch or as a snack. In Valparaiso you find different empanada shops but Delicias Express offers 60 different fillings, so everybody finds something…. vegetables, minced meat, chicken, cheese, shrimps and many more. You find it in the lower part of Urriola close to Prat. Price: 1,000 to 1,300 pesos per empanada.
Extra tip #2: Best chocolate cake in town!
Bobylicious! The super chocolate cake at Puerto Blanco
You want to spoil your sense of taste and eat thousands of calories? Order the super bobylicious chocolate cake in the cafe Puerto Blanco. Our chocolate cake was made of dark beer and came with a looot of fudge and a big scoop of vanilla ice-cream. BoB was overwhelmed by the size of the cake and he could have swum in this “lake” of chocolate sauce.
The cafe has so many good reviews on tripadvisor that we wanted to see if it’s really that good. And we weren’t disappointed. Have a look by yourself! Café Puerto Blanco is located at the end of Cochrane #25. Opening hours: Tuesday-Friday 10:00am-19:00pm, Saturday and Sunday: 10:30am-20:00pm, Price: cup of coffee starting from 1,200 pesos, giant chocolate cake 3,300 pesos
City map of Valparaiso
To get a first overview of Valparaiso, have a look on the city map… Click on the picture to enlarge it.
City map of Valparaiso, Source: www.valparaisomap.cl
Most travelers arrive in Valparaiso coming from Santiago. It’s a 1,5 to 2 hours bus ride and busses go every 10 to 15 minutes. You can be spontaneous and don’t need to buy a bus ticket in advance.
How to get from the bus terminal to Valparaiso’s city center
When you arrive at Valparaiso’s bus terminal, there are three options to get to the city center.
- The most comfortable but also most expensive one is by taxi. A ride costs 4,000 to 5,000 pesos.
- Catch an urban bus in Pedro Montt, the street that’s right in front of the bus terminal, that says “Plaza Sotomayor”. If your hostel is on Cerro Concepcion, you can get off at the corner Calle Blanco/Urriola. The ride costs 250 pesos per person.
- The coolest way is taking the traditional trolleybus. When leaving the bus terminal turn left into the direction of Avenida Argentina. As soon as you reach this avenue, you will spot one of these green old-school buses. Their route is a loop, so you can’t catch a wrong one. Get off somewhere between Plaza Sotomayor and Reloj Turri and from there ask your way through to Cerro Concepcion. A ride costs 250 pesos per person.
You see, Valparaiso is super colorful and diversified. Take your time for exploring the amazing street art of Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre and enjoy the stunning views of the city. The minimum you should stay is three nights so that you have two full days to do the Free Walking Tour and some other highlights.
Do you need any more information on Valparaiso? Leave a message below and we are happy to help you organizing your stay.
Thanks for reading and safe travels,