- For other places with the same name, see Valparaíso (disambiguation).
Valparaíso is a city of almost 300,000 people (2017) on the Pacific coast of Central Chile. Frequently referred to as simply Valpo, it is about 120 km west of the capital, Santiago de Chile. The city is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly colored houses, and beautiful seaside views.
Valparaiso is an important port town, and has been for hundreds of years, resulting in its being made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
Its location on the shipping routes before the completion of the Panama Canal, has left a legacy that still can be seen in various features of the old port town. Its location in the earthquake zone, and the disastrous earthquake of 1906, is another legacy. There have been more recent earthquakes as well.
The old town is surrounded with features that reflect the rich maritime heritage, and an important location of Chilean national pride - where its naval mastery was challenged and maintained.
When roaming the chaotic, hilly streets, and taking in the views and ambience, you are not just experiencing the port and the colorful houses, or the funicular railways, but a complex history of Chilean national identity and politics.
The old town can be compared to the more modern Vina del Mar just to the north, and the hinterland that leads over to Santiago.
There is also an active nightlife and a constantly changing variety of artistic events.
Valparaiso does not have its own airport. The closest airport with commercial service is Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL IATA) in Santiago, some 1½ hr away, which offers extensive domestic and international service.
To get to Valparaíso from Santiago's airport, requires catching a bus heading to Pajaritos from outside of the airport terminal.
This will drop you off at the north side of "Pajaritos" a bus/subway station on the outskirts of Santiago, cross to the south side of the subway station to get to the bus platform.
From here, buses leave frequently for Valparaiso and other destinations; you may also take the subway into downtown Santiago. It is generally not necessary to have a bus ticket before arriving at Pajaritos. A ticket Pajaritos <-> airport with Centropuerto bus company is CLP$1700.
The Metro Valparaíso or Merval runs between Valparaiso and Limache, as well as surrounding communities including Viña del Mar. It runs from 06:00 to 23:30, and is new, clean and fast. Adult fares range from CLP$204 to CLP$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of CLP$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
While Valparaiso can be a bit of a difficult city in which to drive, the area's highway system is generally of good quality. There are often tolls on highways.
Buses from a wide variety of destinations within Chile have scheduled service to Valparaiso, in addition to service to the Argentine city of Mendoza. The bus terminal is near the National Congress building.
Approximate bus travel times to Valparaiso:
- 1.5 hr: Santiago de Chile (many times every hour, the trip may take much longer if there's traffic)
- 7 hr: La Serena (every other hour)
- 12 hr: Mendoza, Argentina (the road may be closed in winter due to bad weather)
Local buses also ply between Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, taking about 15 minutes each way. Fares range from CLP$350 to CLP$380.
Some cruise ships dock in Valparaiso, mostly as part of a long South American itinerary. Also possible is a Freighter Cruise from Mexico, taking two weeks and making several stops along the way.
The city micros are run by Transporte Metropolitano Valparaíso [dead link]. Exact routes and fares can be found under "Empresas" on the website, and single journeys cost about CLP$250 for local routes and CLP$300 for routes running between El Plan and the hills.
Colectivos are taxis painted in black with yellow roofs that run fixed routes, and are a very common mode of transport between (and within) Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and other surrounding areas. The cost of the trip, while more expensive than the bus or metro, depends upon the distance being traveled following a system of zones. There are also regular taxis that do custom rides, but they are less common and more expensive. This type of taxis often congregate in the area around the Plaza Anibal Pinto.
The light-rail system, Metro Valparaíso or Merval, runs along the coast. It starts at Valparaiso's port and heads into Viña del Mar, reaching Limache through Quilpué and Villa Alemana. The metro provides quick access to major places of interest, and is only slightly more expensive than taking public buses. Adult fares range from CLP$204 to CLP$1,080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of CLP$1,350 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
Ascensores, funiculars, ply between El Plan, or the coastal strip, with the cerros, or hillside communities. They are for the most part old and creaky, but generally reliable. There were historically a bigger number operating in the past. Check - as some close for repairs or simply don't operate any more. The fare may sometimes differ between going up and going down, but cost about CLP$300 each way. The ascensors are a unique mode of transportation in Valparaiso, and offer gorgeous views of the cityscape, port, and the Pacific Ocean. A particularly interesting one is the Polanco. This is located just off Avenida Argentina at Simpson. Rather than a funicular, it is the only vertical elevator whose entrance is at street level. You walk through a 150-m-long tunnel where it can take you to two distinct levels, the highest of which is a tower, an excellent place to get a great view of the city, being 60 m above the entrance.
- Cerros Alegre and Concepción
- Plaza Echaurren – Serrano Street
- Cerro Cordillera
- Banking area - Prat Street
- Paseo 21 de Mayo (Cerro Artilleria)
- La Matriz Church and surroundings
- Ascensores (inclines)
- La Sebastiana, one of three homes of poet Pablo Neruda
- Ex Cárcel, a former jail turned cultural center and concert venue
- , Paseo 21 de Mayo 45, at top of Ascensor Artillería, ☏ . Tu-Su 10:00-18:00. This museum is dedicated to military naval exploits and battles, and puts a large focus on the Chilean victory against Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific.
- Plaza Sotomayor. The central square near the port and the heart of the old seaport city.
- Funiculars. Going to Valparaiso and not going on the ascensores (inclines) is like going to Venice and not taking a ride on a Gondola, only that the ascensores cost as little as CLP$100. They are also of practical use as they help many local people get to the higher parts of town, saving them from having to walk otherwise long and steep pedestrian routes. Many however are undergoing repair or do not run at all, however even then they allow for some interesting pictures.
- 1 Ascensor Artillería. The most touristy one. Mirador del Cerro Artillery provides a panoramic view of the city of Viña del Mar, Reñaca, and Concón. It reaches through the "lift" Artillery, in operation since 1893 (ask for Customs plaza area). It costs CLP$250, on the first floor is the Mirador "Walk May 21," (delivered to the community in 1911) in which impossible not to enjoy the restaurant "Calafquén", typical dishes of fresh seafood, with a fair value. At the Craft Fair you can buy from winter clothing (ponchos, Ruan, scarves, socks, gloves, wool hats), souvenirs, and jewelry from lapis lazuli (blue stone semi-precious which is only in Chile and Afghanistan), by price and quality of the stone. Also visit the Naval Museum (CLP$500) in the midst of the Paseo.
- 2 Ascensor Cordillera. With a beautiful staircase and lately been reconstructed.
- 3 Ascensor Florida. This one does not run anymore, but the hike up and beyond reveals a beautiful neighbourhood with La Sebastiana and the Winebox Hostel.
- Carnival. During the last week in the year, Valparaiso holds an annual carnival that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Each year the festival centers around a different country, from which performers and artists are invited to come and represent their culture and their work in theater, music, and the performance arts. Most activities are free and are held outdoors. The celebration culminates with a New Year firework display that within five of the most beautiful in the planet. But get ready in time because the city's population triples on those dates.
- The German Pirate (myvalparaiso.cl). Amazing tour by a German man who has lived in Valparaiso for years. He seems to know everything and everyone about the place. He speaks Spanish, English and German. Discounts for groups. You're unlikely to find a more immersive tour of Valparaiso.
The universities of Valparaiso are:
- Technical University Federico Santa María
- University of Valparaíso
- University of Playa Ancha
- Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaíso
Many international students study at the Catholic University and the University of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso has larger chain department stores like Ripley, located in front of Victoria Square, and Falabella on Independencia street, and large supermarket chains like Líder on Pedro Montt and Brasil streets; Santa Isabel on Pedro Montt, Brasil and Uruguay streets, as other small and non-chain supermarkets. There are other small or non-chain and specialized stores on Esmeralda, Condell, Pedro Montt, Independencia and Chacabuco streets, most other shopping is done in small stores on the hills, or with street vendors. There is a large shopping centre on the eastern end of Avenida Brasil.
The most traditional food for tourists in Valparaiso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. You can eat this in the traditional restaurant J Cruz. Fresh seafood is readily available in many restaurants around the city, especially around the muelle (wharf) areas, and is considered a must for any seafood lover.
Bakeries are located on nearly every block, and produce quite delicious breads that can be had warm and right out of the oven at almost any time throughout the day. They are best enjoyed smothered with Palta, which are grown en masse in Chile (palta is the Chilean and Argentinian word for what is known the anglo world like "avocado", known in most other Spanish-speaking countries as aguacate). In addition to the many types of bread, another widely available snack to keep you settled as you walk the streets are empanadas, a flaky pastry filled with meat or cheese.
On the second floor of the Mercado Cardonal (cnr Ave Brasil and Uruguay) there are a few excellent, cheap and midrange restaurants serving lunch.
- Chile - Suecia, Calle Bellavista (Just off the square). Open even on Sundays. Good sandwiches, hot dogs and set menus at CLP$2500.
- El Valenciano, Avenida Colon 3110, ☏ . Delicious chicken, good sandwiches and good value meals.
- Estación Cielo Amierto, Ferrari 68 (Cerro Bellavista). A cute cafe on the Cerro Bellavista which has juices, smoothies, and sandwiches.
- Bijoux (Bijoux Restobar), Abtao 561-A, Cerro Concepcion, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Beautiful little restaurant in the heart of Cerro Concepciòn. Instead of a menu card, the chef and owner comes to you and according to the daily market specialities and your wishes he creates an individual menu just for you. The food is always fresh, delicious and offers an unique experience in Chile. CLP$7900.
- Le Filou de Montpellier Almirante Montt 382. Great French-run restaurant in Cerro Concepciòn.
- Epif Calle Dr. Grossi 268, Cerro Alegre. Tastey vegetarian food and drinks at reasonable prices. Cozy cafe environment with great music and service.
- Delicatessen Emporio, Urriola 383, C. Concepcion (head north (and up) from the Armada main buiding - two blocks), ☏ . Beautiful food in a small, romantic setting. Carpaccio with oysters was exquisite, Garbanzo soup is flavorful (read: spicy). CLP$7,500 for a full lunch.
Cafe Turri Paseo Gervasoni (by the ascensor conception) great views and good food
On weekends, the time to go out for a drink (Chilean people call it "salir de carrete") starts no earlier than midnight, though somewhat earlier during the week. The pubs and clubs close at 05:00 on weekends, and 04:00 on weekdays.
Drinking alcohol in the streets is not allowed and 18 years is the minimum age for drinking alcohol, though enforcement of these rules is somewhat lax. If you are under 18, you may not be allowed entry into some pubs.
Chile is a major wine-producing country, and bottles of fairly tasty wines can be had for slightly more than US$1.
- La Torre - offers inexpensive drinks, and is frequented by university students
- La Piedra Feliz - a more expensive and touristy club that often features salsa dancing, mosty for the older crowds
- Club El Cielo
- Club Stockolmo
- Club El Huevo - one of the largest dance clubs in Valparaiso (five floors), diverse music, and a rooftop bar
- Bar La Playa
- Mascara - caters to an artsy and gay/lesbian crowd
Many clubs and bars are also found in Viña del Mar. Public transportation and taxis continue to run throughout the night, making it entirely feasible to have accommodations in one city while going out for the night in the other.
- Puro Cafe, Calle Edwards, 301, ☏ . One of the few places in Chile to have real espresso, not instant coffee. The cafe has beautiful and comfortable furniture, making probably one of the best places in Valparaiso for coffee.
- [dead link] Hostel Casa Verde Limón, Cumming 198, ☏ . Nice living room where you can meet people, very helpful staff. Dorms from CLP$5500.
- Angel Hostal, Cumming 160 Cerro Carcel, ☏ . Dorm room CLP$7000 per person. Double room CLP$8000 per person, matrimonial and single beds. Good breakfast, decent rooms, friendly helpful staff, good place to meet people, free internet and some tickets to nightlife bohemian experience.
- 1 Apartments Valparaiso Experience, Pasaje Santa Margarita 234, cerro Bellavista (a 4-minute walk to Plaza Victoria, between Ferrari St y Bernardo Ramos St halfway down staircase alley Pasaje Santa Margarita on Bellavista hill), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. All apartments are fully furnished with free and stable Wi-Fi and cable TV. Quality duplex apartments, central heating, double glazing windows, wooden ceiling beams and wooden floors, each unit with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, bright living room and equipped kitchen and ample deck terraces with panoramic views over the ocean, city and coastline. Remodelled building with 2-, 3- and 4-bedroom apartments on a safe and central location on Bellavista hill.
- The Mirador Bed and Breakfast, 251 Levarte. A very comfortable hospedaje in the Playa Ancha sector of the city, with several rooms, small apartments, and a balcony with a great view of the city and port. Internet and Wi-Fi. A nice kitchen to use. Parking. Marisol, the owner, is wonderful and very helpful.
- The Yellow House, Capitán Muñoz Gamero 91, Cerro Artillería (The Yellow House is easily reached by using the Ascensor Artilleria, on foot, by public transport or by car.), ☏ . The Yellow House has 7 comfortable guest rooms. Most rooms as well as the homes two galleries, living and dining areas offer wonderful views of the port and harbour and on a clear day extend as far as the Andes. The Yellow House also has a book exchange, WiFi, cable TV and a selection of board games. The house was built in the late 1800s and has been fully restored. The "Ocean View" room, as the name indicates, has the best view and is really worth it.
- Residencia en El Cerro, Pasaje Pierre Lotti 51, Conceptione (Pierre Lotti 51 is easily reached by using the Ascensor Concepcion.). For absolute quietness, except for the creaking floors, try Residencia en El Cerro, Pasaje Pierre Lotti 51. Next door at 43 there is also accommodation. This Hostal is on an alley where no traffic get and the gardens add a little attractive colour. Breakfast is just OK with coffee/tea, bread, butter and jam. The place is in its original 1880s decor - maybe. Wi-fi, TV. Twin CLP$30,000.
In the context of Chile being a relatively safe country, Valparaiso is among its more dangerous locales, like many harbour cities around the world. Mainly, watch out for pickpockets, for instance avoid hanging your purse or bag in the back of your chair when seated, because it may get stolen. Violent crime is very uncommon, but normal precautionary measures should be taken; while in the street, do not display expensive jewelry. The port area (called "Puerto") is generally considered to be dangerous even during the day.
- There is a laundry in the mall of Hotel Prat. 5 kg CLP$3700.
- Greece, Arlegui 263, of. 302, Viña del Mar, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com.
- Viña del Mar - The beachtown Viña del Mar is only ten minutes by train from Valparaíso, and slightly longer by bus. If you take bus 612 from Plaza Echaurren you will get a full tour of the Valpo hills, and you can jump off at La Sebastiana.
- The idyllic village Quintay is 45 minutes to the south by car. Take a colectivo from Calle 12 de Feberero, behind the bus terminal, they leave as soon as they fill up. CLP$1400.
- Concón is a small town near Valparaiso (25 to 30 minutes in car). Here you find a big gastronomic activity. The city is called "capital gastronomica de chile" which means gastronomical capital of Chile; even Anthony Bourdain was here and he ate at "Las Deliciosas", where he said, he ate the best "empanadas" (a typical Chilean dish). Other places to eat are "El Secreto", "La Gatita" (a very good place to eat seafood) and "Picada Horizonte".