Travel Notes

Valparaiso – Exploring Chile’s Hippiest town

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Valparaiso, how absurd you are, what a lunatic, crazy port, with hills, disheveled, you haven’t finished combing your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you” 

Pablo Neruda

A bohemian vibe, colourful buildings, music playing in every streets, a maze of hills and delicious food – there must be a reason if Valparaiso is not only a backpackers’ favourite, but has also inspired so many artists.

Only 1.5 hours from Chile’s capital Santiago, if you are visiting this country, make sure not to skip Valparaiso. While you won’t need to spend more than 3 or 4 days in this cool town, you might end up wanting to, and you won’t struggle to find things to do.

Mural on steps saying "We are not hippies, we are happies"

Below, there is a list of my top things to do in Valparaiso. Go to the bottom of the page to find additional information on how to get there.

  1. Take a free walking tour
  2. Explore the city’s graffiti
  3. Try empanadas from Delicias Express
  4. Take a walk through the Open Sky Museum
  5. Listen to live music at Bar Cinzano
  6. Visit La Sebastiana
  7. Take a trip Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion
  8. Try some of the Ascensores
  9. Visit Valparaiso Caleta Portales
  10. Take a look at Teatro Museo del Titere y el Payaso

Take a free walking tour

I always find local walking tour to be great to get to know a new place and found out what you want to explore more.

Also in Valparaiso we went through the city with a free walking tour that was recommended to us by our hostels and we learnt about the history of the city and some of its murals, the hills and the elevators.

Explores the city’s graffiti

When you think if Valparaiso, the first thing that comes to mind is its colourful streets, full of art and colours. Every wall, step and corner of this place is a canvas that was transformed by artists into something unique.

Take your time to walk through them and maybe learn about their meaning and the story of the artists behind them, admire their colour and, of course, take a lot of pictures.

Try empanadas from Delicias Express

I love food everywhere in South America and in Chile in particular, but when they ask me what my favourite food was the empanadas I got from a little restaurant called Delicias Express always come to mind first.

This place has 81 (!) different types of empanadas, including plenty of vegetarian options. If you are in Valparaiso, make sure to eat here at least once.

Take a walk through the Open Sky Museum

Museo a Cielo Abierto – or Open Sky Museum – is an initiative established in Valparaiso to showcase through the street of Cerro Bellavista to showcase the work of 20 Chilean artists like Mario Toral and Roberto Matta. Although unfortunately some of the murals are in bad conditions because of vandalism, it is still worth taking a work through these colorful streets.

You can get here by taking the Ascensor Espíritu Santo from behind Plaza Victoria.

Listen to live music at Bar Cinzano

Bar Cinzano is considered one of the coolest spot in Valparaiso and has been welcoming guests for the past 120 years. Here, on top of listen to great live music, you can watch people dance tango – or try to dance yourself. A very nice place for some authentic and fun vibes.

Here you can also enjoy delicious Creole food, good porteñas cuecas, Latin American music in general and an extremely sweet drink called jarra de borgoña, a jug of red wine mixed with strawberries and icing sugar.

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Visit La Sebastiana

I feel the tiredness of Santiago. I want to find in Valparaiso a little house to live and write quietly.

One of the most popular attractions in Valparaiso, La Sebastiana is one of the homes of Chile most famous poet Pablo Neruda, which was kept in its original status as a museum to honor him.

At the top of Cerro Florida, you can visit the museum Tuesday to Sunday, for 7,000 CLP (€8).

If you want to learn more about how Neruda ended up here, you can read about the story of this house here.

Take a trip Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion

Valparaiso is famous for its cerros – or hills. Each one has a different story and reason to visit them, but the most popular ones that are really worth a visit are Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion.

Cerro Alegre is one of the cultural landmarks of Valparaiso, full of people making art in different forms from music, to painting, poetry, juggling, etc… You can get there by taking the Acensor Peral on Plaza Sotomayor.

Cerro Concepcion, instead, can be reached by taking the Ascensor Concepcion. This place has become a must see for tourists because of its many viewpoints and restaurants. Don’t miss the Mirador Atkinson and the beautiful Paseo Gervasoni.

A man painting in the street

Try some of the Ascensores

Valparaiso is famous for its Ascensores, a system of funiculars so symbolic of this place that have been declared National Monuments of Chile.

There are 16 of this elevators built on rail tracks operating today and they are not only the best way to reach some of the hills here, but also an experience you must try if you are in Valparaiso.

You can travel on them for between 100 and 200 CPL (€0.10-€0.20).

Visit Valparaiso Caleta Portales

Like most coastal city, also in Valparaiso the port area is one of the most bustling places you can visit. Make sure you go to Caleta Portales, Valparaiso fish market located in the east of the city.

Here you can chat to local fishermen to learn more about their businesses, and if you like fish, you can buy it directly from them.

Take a look at Teatro Museo del Titere y el Payaso

During one of our strolls in Valparaiso we accidentally stumble across theTeatro Museo del Titere y el Payaso, or Museum of Puppets and Clowns.

The exhibition in the museum showcases several types of puppets and images of clowns from Chile and all over the world,showing how these arts have changed throughout the years. Some of the pieces also explain how puppets work and some techniques to use them.

puppets

This exhibition can be found in the Museum that is now located in the former San Judas Tadeo church, which was converted into this space in 2007, and is part of a larger project to promote these forms of art in the country, including through workshops and classes.

Entrance to this museum is free.

How to get there (from Santiago)

Getting to Valparaiso from Santiago by public transport is extremely easy. We chose to travel with TurBus, but there is also another company called Pullman that operates buses to Valparaiso.

You can buy your ticket online but you don’t need to as there is a bus leaving for Valparaiso every 15 minutes.

The cost for this is of between 3,000 and 4,000 CPL (less than €4.50) and it will take you approximately 1.5 hours to get from Santiago to Valparaiso.

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One Reply to “Valparaiso – Exploring Chile’s Hippiest town”

  1. I have excellent memories of Valpo. The colours, the ocean, the sun, the steep streets are still a bit rough, I advise to start by going up and then walk down slowly. I would like to recommend Hostal Maison de la Mer, run by a French and his Chilean wife, everything you need at nice prices.

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