You don’t just visit Valparaíso; you fall in love with it.
You don’t just visit Valparaíso; you fall in love with it. It may sound dramatic, perhaps a bit over-the-top, but this beautiful, charming port city has been home to poets, painters and expat travelers for decades—and for good reason. Pablo Neruda, the city’s most famous resident, once said: “Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.”
A UNESCO world heritage site since 2003, Valpo (local nickname of the city) is eccentric, colorful, radiant and seemingly surreal with its faded beauty sprawled throughout the city’s homes, streets and alleyways, as if the walls were one enormous canvas beautifully painted by the collected dreams of all its residents. The street art alone makes Valpo an absolute must-see, along with the myriad of soaring cerros (hills), sinuous streets and maze-like alleyways that induce major wanderlust, and the numerous escaleras (stairways) that make wandering the city an absolute pleasure to get lost in.
Here are the top five must see’s in Valparaíso, Chile!
1. La Sebastiana Museo del Pablo Neruda
Welcome to La Sebastiana! Home to the city’s most famous poet resident, Pablo Neruda spent much of his time in Valpo in this lovely romantic getaway. Located in the picturesque neighborhood of Bellavista, the climb up involves quite a hike, but well worth the effort as beautiful panoramic views of the city’s harbor can be seen from here. Inside the artist’s home you’ll find a litany of the poet’s collection of ship’s figureheads, exquisite works of furniture and rare artworks and paintings. Entry into La Sebastiana is first come, first serve, so it’s advised to arrive early in the morning.
2. Cerro Concepción
Concepción, Barón, Viña del Mar, Región de Valparaíso, Chile (map)
If you’re looking for a beautiful scenic spot to rest and admire beautiful street art and gorgeous views, look no further than Cerro Concepción. Situated high in the hills, this breathtaking barrio features cobbled stone streets, lined with historic 19th century homes and adorned with painted iron facades to form a mesmerizing pattern of exceptional colors. To get here, take the Ascensor Concepción funicular, which is the city’s oldest elevator (built in 1883), and make sure to walk along Paseo Atkinson and check out the Mirador Atkinson (viewpoint) and Paseo Gervasoni (walkway) while here.
3. Museo a Cielo Abierto
324, Epicuro 308, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile (map)
If you’re in Valpo, then you cannot leave without spending at least one day gazing in awe and appreciating the beautiful street art that can be found on nearly every house and street. If you love gorgeous, expressive paintings and world-class street art, then Museo a Cielo Abierto is an absolute must-see in the city. Valpo is known for its tremendous artists and beautiful street art, and this open-air museum features some of the city’s greatest artists. With over 20 classic and colorful murals adorning homes on each side of the street, there numerous streets and alleyways here that feature artwork hand painted between 1969 and 1973 by students from the Universidad Católica’s Instituto de Arte. To get here, take Ascensor Espíritu Santo. Tip: The best street to see artwork here is on Templeman Street, located in Cerro Alegre.
4. Parque Cultural de Valparaíso
Parque Cultural de Valparaíso houses some of the city’s best artwork in a rather unusual setting. Built upon the remnants of a former prison, this cultural center was completely reimagined and repurposed using the prison’s old exercise yards to feature rotating temporary arts exhibits, excellent theater shows, underground dance halls, along with classes, school courses, round table discussions and other events open to the public.
5. Palacio Baburizza
Art nouveau lovers need look no further than Palacio Baburizza. Located in Cerro Alegre (western end), the house was built in 1916 and was once the former residence of Pascual Baburizza, a Croatian businessman. Today, you can find the city’s Museo de Bella Artes (Museum of Fine Art) here, which houses a sizable collection of permanent artwork and paintings. To get here, take the funicular from Ascensor El Peral, which is accessible and very close to Plaza Sotomayor.
Jerry spent a few months backpacking through South America.