Valparaíso

For other places with the same name, see Valparaíso (disambiguation).

Valparaíso is a city of around 300,000 on the Pacific coast of Central Chile. Frequently referred to as simply Valpo, it is located approximately 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.

View from downtown Valparaiso (Chile) to one of the hills.
Valparaiso harbour area

Understand

Valparaiso is an important port town, and has been for hundreds of years, resulting in its being a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

Its location in 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. It has had more recent earthquakes as well.

The old town is surrounded with features that evoke an era of a 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 ambiance, you are not just experiencing the port amongst the colourful houses, or the funicular railways, but a complex history of Chilean national identity and politics.

The old town is suitably compared to the more modern Vina Deal 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.

Get in

By plane

Valparaiso does not have its own airport. The closest airport with commercial service is Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, some 1.5 hours away, which offers extensive domestic and international service.

To get to Valparaíso from Santiago's airport, you will catch a bus heading to Pajaritos 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.

By train

The Metro Valparaíso or Merval runs between Valparaiso and Limache, as well as surrounding communities. It runs from 6AM to 11:30PM, and is new, clean and fast. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.

By car

While Valparaiso itself can be a bit of a difficult city in which to drive, the area's highway system is generally of good quality. Note that there are often tolls on highways.

By bus

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 located close to the National Congress building.

Approximate bus travel times to/from Valparaiso:

Local buses also ply between Viña del Mar and Valparaiso, taking about 15 minutes each way. Fares range from Ch$350 to Ch$380.

By boat

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.

Get around

The city micros are run by Transporte Metropolitano Valparaíso. Exact routes and fares can be found under "Empresas" on the website, and single journeys cost about Ch$250 for local routes and Ch$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 recently completed light-rail system, Metro Valparaíso or Merval, runs along the coast. It starts at Valparaiso's port and heads into Viña del Mar and other more rural locales. The metro provides quick access to major places of interest, and is only slightly more expensive than taking public buses. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.

Funicular in Valparaiso

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 dont operate any more. The fare may sometimes differ between going up and going down, but cost about Ch$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.

See

Do

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 100 Chilean Pesos (around 20 US cents). 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.

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. Oops, but get ready in time because the city's population triples on those dates. I recommend visiting the Mirador del Cerro Artillery, panoramic view of the city of Viña del Mar, Reñaca, Concón and more ... It reaches through the "lift" Artillery, in operation since 1893 (ask for Customs plaza area), its current value is 250 Chilean pesos, on the first floor is the Mirador "Walk May 21," (delivered to the community in the year 1911) in which impossible not to enjoy the restaurant "Calafquén", typical dishes of fresh seafood, with a fair value. We are here with a Craft Fair in which they can buy from winter clothing (ponchos, Ruan, scarves, socks, gloves, wool hats), souvenir of the most varied models and prices, up figures and jewelry from lapis lazuli (blue stone semi-precious which is only in Chile and Afghanistan), by price and quality of the stone, I recommend the last local. Also visit the Naval Museum "(500 Chilean pesos) whose income is in the midst of the Paseo.

Learn

The universities of Valparaiso are:

Many international students study at the Catholic University and the University of Valparaiso.

Buy

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.

Eat

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, almost like a French croissant, filled with meat or cheese.

Budget

On the second floor of the Mercado Cardonal (cnr Ave Brasil and Uruguay) there are a few excellent, cheap and midrange restaurants serving lunch.

Mid-range

Splurge

Cafe Turri Paseo Gervasoni (by the ascensor conception) great views and good food

Drink

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 5AM on weekends, and 4AM 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.

Nightlife

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.

Coffee

Sleep

Budget

Mid-range

Stay safe

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.

Cope

Consulates

Go next


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