Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Valparaíso
So many of Central and South America’s major cities have winding promenades where locals gather for evening strolls and afternoon festivals. But few are as scenic as Paseo 21 de Mayo in Valparaiso.
This epic walkway climbs through the hills and provides impressive views of city skylines, as well as the colorful homes that make up Cerro Playa Ancha. Visitors can wander through tree-lined neighborhoods and well-kept gardens, relax in a cool covered gazebo or simply spend the day exploring one of the area’s most delightful (and inexpensive) highlights. Paseo 21 de Mayo is the perfect place to capture photos of the epic landscapes and enjoy an afternoon taste of local life.
This one-stop Valparaiso destination is home to plenty of Chilean history, art and culture. As a result, travelers will find lots to explore on a visit to Plaza Sotomayor. Named after Rafael Sotomayor, this popular city square lies in the middle of the city’s historic district. Visitors can get up close to the Chilean Navy headquarters, and pay homage to fallen sailors at the plaza’s central monument dedicated to the Battle of Iquique. Afterwards travelers can make a stop at the National Council of Culture and the Arts before wandering to the nearby Customs House or Estacion Puerto, where commuter trains arrive and depart from other Chilean cities.
Perhaps the most scenic of Valparaiso’s popular cerros, Cerro Concepcion is home to quaint shops, unique art galleries and picturesque views of the stunning Chilean countryside—as well as a whole lot of rolling hills. On clear days visitors can gaze out over the dunes of Concon and even see as far as far off Vina.
The climb to Cerro Concepcion may be steep, but quiet cafes perfect for people watching offer up the ideal place for travelers to catch their breath. Afterwards, the hidden side streets, colorful murals decorating old building walls and spectacular views offer up enough reason to wander slowly from the heights of Valparaiso Heaven back to the reality down below.
La Sebastiana, up on Cerro Bellavista in Valparaíso, one of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s houses-turned-museums is well worth the trip for a number of reasons. One, it will get you off the main tourist hills of Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre, into a quieter part of Valaparaíso where grandmas come out and sweep the front stoop every morning. The second of course, is the museum itself. It’s set inside a grassy yard, with a café at the entrance. There are descriptive texts available at the front door, and museum docents in every room, as well as an audio guide available in several languages. Of all of the three houses turned museums that famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda left behind, this is perhaps that one that most encourages you to look out the windows, with multicolored houses perched on the hills all around, and an expansive view of the ocean.
Ascensor El Peral may not be Valparaiso’s oldest elevator, but visitors say this classic ascensor offers a quick trip to Cerro Alegre and the city’s Museu de Bellas Artes. The rickety ride saves travelers the trouble of climbing steep—if scenic—slopes. While the trip itself isn’t necessarily picturesque, quiet overlooks offer up a chance to take in the view. Visitors can take another ascensor, the nearby Concepcion—the city’s oldest elevator, down the hills for a slightly different look at the landscapes.
Travelers who want a taste of culture and local life will find what they seek on a stroll through the Paseo Gervasoni. This popular walking street winds through massive murals of colorful art depicting images of daily life, portraits of famous Chileans and abstract drawings as well. Visitors say it is an outdoor Mecca where travelers can soak up brilliant local artwork while they also soak up the sun.
Incredible views of the crystal blue bay provide the perfect opportunity to watch ships sail in and out of the bustling harbor and a variety of restaurants, cafes and bars offer outdoor seating that’s ideal for people-watching.
UNESCO declared the historic part of Valparaíso a world heritage site in 2003, and when you get here, you won’t wonder why. It’s been called the Jewel of the Pacific, or Chile’s version of San Francisco, but there’s really no comparing it to anyplace you’ve ever been, and you’ll just have to come see it yourself.
The city is split into two main parts, the first of these being the “plan” or flat section, where you’ll find the port, the bus station, the market, and pleasant Muelle Barón (a pier) where you can sit and enjoy the view of the water. The second part, the more eye-catching bit, is the series of hills on which most of Porteños live. There are lively (and connected) Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, where there are cafés and restaurants and places to stay, and the Paseo Gervasoni where some of the best views are had.
The art nouveau Baburizza Palace was built in 1916 and got its name after Pascual Baburizza, a Croatian businessman living in Chile, took it as his private home in 1925. Baburizza collected paintings from his travels through Europe, and upon his death, his collection and estate were given to the city of Valparaiso.
Today the Baburizza Palace houses the Museo de Bellas Artes, Valparaiso’s fine arts museum. Besides Baburizza’s collection of nineteenth and twentieth century European paintings, the museum also showcases a collection of fine art by prominent Chilean artists. The building itself is worth seeing, even for those otherwise not interested in fine art. A nice little onsite cafe is a great place to relax over a cup of coffee and enjoy the view.
Built in 1883, Ascensor Concepcion is the city’s oldest elevator. Once powered by steam, today this electric ride sends travelers up to the Concepcion Cerro, where they are met with charming cobble streets, colorful homes and a handful of cafes, restaurants and bars that serve lunch, dinner and coffee el fresco.
While travelers warn the ancient carriages can feel a little risky, the view from the top (and energy saved by not making the climb on foot) is worth the jarring ride. The elevator makes regular trips, which means cars are rarely crowded and visitors will likely find one departing almost as soon as they arrive.
Its close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and unique mix of clay and sandy soils has made the Casablanca Valley one of Chile’s top wine producing regions despite it’s relatively new arrival on the scene. The first vines were planted in the mid-1980s—more than 100 years later than some of Chile’s other notable wine regions.
Visitors to the Casablanca Valley, which is best known for its white grapes, like Sauvingnon Blanc and Chardonnay, can enjoy an afternoon in the quaint city of Casablanca, before embarking on a tour of the scenic region. Travelers love the wine museum at El Cuatro and agree that the eco-friendly and organic practices of Veramonte make it worth a stop.
More Things to Do in Valparaíso
Isla Negra is one of three of Chile’s favorite poet, Pablo Neruda’s homes-turned-museums that are open to visitors. Despite what its name might indicate, it is on the Chilean coast, not on an island. The house is built to resemble a boat, complete with low ceilings and narrow hallways with small doorways. It is filled with Neruda’s eclectic collections of knicknacks including glassware, ship figureheads, shells and other nautical-related collections, some of which are located in a room dedicated to ocean-related paraphernalia.
Neruda, along with his wife lived in this house throughout most of his life, with occasional absences when he was out of the country, or in either of his other two houses, La Chascona (in Santiago), or La Sebastiana (in Valparaíso). After he died, in 1973, there was a period of time when the house stood empty, and some of its treasures pillaged, but enough remains of the collections to fill nearly every surface of the house anyway.
Travelers in search of picturesque beaches, iconic balnearios and extraordinary nightlife will find the ultimate tropical trifecta in the coastal commune of Concon. Home to three of the nation’s top beaches—Playa Negra, Amarilla and Boca, Concon has plenty of options for holiday visitors on a quest for sun and sand.
In addition to idyllic views of the Pacific, travelers will find towering modern buildings alongside old-school concrete apartments lining the streets of Concon. Expansive public gardens, rundown fishing docks and quiet local villages add character and charm to this popular destination. Visitors looking to dance the night away—even long after the sun goes down—can head to Avenida Renaca and Los Pellines—two of the commune’s most lively neighborhoods.
Your cruise ship will dock at Muelle Prat, which is within easy walking distance of town. If you prefer not to walk, you can catch a train to the city from the nearby Baron Train Station or grab a metered taxi.
You can start your visit by riding the funicular up Valparaiso’s steep hills to Paseo 21 de Mayo to enjoy sweeping views of the city and the port. If you have an interest in naval history, don’t miss the Naval Maritime Museum while you’re up there. Spend some time gazing at murals painted by notable Chilean artists in the Cielo Abierto Museum, and then head back down to the center.
Explore the old section of Valparaiso, taking in the colonial mansions and churches, particularly along Serrano Street. After lunch, take the train to Valparaiso’s sister city, Vina del Mar. There, relax on the beach, stroll along the boardwalk or check out the town’s chic boutiques or lively crafts fair.
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