by Nilina Mason- Campbell
Vibrant and whimsical, Valparaiso, Chile is located not too far outside of Santiago, making it an easy escape from the capital city and what an escape it is! Filled to the brim with colorful street art and historic buildings while framed by the Pacific ocean that surrounds it, Valparaiso is so much more than your average port city. It has such a dreamy quality about it and here’s why:
1. Funiculars: Perhaps the cutest thing about Valparaíso are the funiculars that dot its skyline and hills. The city is full of hills and steep streets, but also cute little wooden train cars that transport passengers up and down its peaks. Sure, some spot have tall staircases you can take instead, but if you spare a coin or too, you can ride in style with often picturesque views. There are eight different rail lines scattered across the city and you’ll want to ride them all!
2. Sweeping views: Valparaíso’s skyline is like an explosion of color. Aside from the street-art that decorates the city, its buildings are painted all the colors of the rainbow, from lime green to coral pink, tangerine and easter egg blue. But it’s not only the colorful buildings that compose the best views, it’s the ocean too. With that in mind you’ll want to head to higher ground. So many points in the city offer different perspectives, so the key is making you way around, from visiting Pablo Neruda’s house to riding to the funiculars, particularly making your way to the viewing platform at the top of Ascensor Artillería.
3. Architecture like San Francisco: In its centuries as a major port, Valparaíso caught the nickname “Little San Francisco” and you’ll see the charming similarities the moment you arrive! Along with an abundance of steep streets and its spot right on the water, the town is alive with historic buildings dating back to the late 1800’s and turn of the century. Constructed in all shapes and colors, they recall the distinctive Victorians and Georgian that stand on SF streets. Walking the streets can feel like not only going to California, but stepping back in time, especially at night.
4. Street art like Berlin: It can often seem like the entire city is a canvas. Colorful splashes of color, whimsical characters and on-point messages adorn the facade of many buildings throughout Valparaíso. The graffiti might make you smile, it might make you think and it will certainly make you wish you had all the spare space in the world on your phone to take photos, so tip to the wise: clear space beforehand. This city has tons of abandoned buildings and they’ve been brought to life with spray paint much like the German capital.
5. Playa las Torpederas – If you’re looking to dip your toes into the Pacific Ocean, Playa las Torpederas is the best beach in town. It’s not too far from the downtown hub and is easy to reach by bus and taxi, but also well-worth a walk if you’re looking to take in Valparaíso on foot. There’s plenty of sand and space so that it doesn’t feel cramped, an abandoned seawater pool and even an elaborate, instagram-ready shrine made-up of stuffed animals.
6. Mercado El Cardonal: One thing you might want to keep in mind during your stay in Valparaíso is access to a kitchen. Located just steps away from the main bus station, Mercado El Cardonal is a vibrant, vivid, must-visit farmer’s market. It’s almost just enough to walk through and watch, but the vegetables and fruit on display will most definitely make you want to cave and buy a bushel to prepare yourself. Similar to street markets and stall in Europe, Mercado El Cardonal is oh so charming and making a purchase will make you feel like a local.
7. Pablo Neruda – Renown poet Pablo Neruda made his home in Valparaíso and now that same house is open to visitors. His longtime residence now functions as a museum and tribute much in the same way Frida Kahlo’s estate does in Mexico City. La Sebastiana as it’s known offers a glimpse of Neruda’s life through the belongings that still fill its walls. It also includes stunning views of the Pacific.
8. Easy to reach: Chile covers a lot of ground as a country – it’s 2,670 miles long to be exact! With that in mind, if you want to explore multiple locales within Chile, often flights make the most sense, though those can be spendy. The nice thing about Valparaíso is how close it is to the hub of Santiago! It’s close proximity provides you with transport options that are easier on the wallet; a bus ride between the two cities takes about three hours and is super affordable.
For more information: Chile Tourism
Follow Nilina Mason-Campbell on Twitter: @NineInchNilina