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Valparaíso: The Hidden Gem on the South American Itinerary

Words: Sheona Mountford

Valparaíso is a vibrant port city just one hour and thirty minutes away from Chile's capital city Santiago. Brightly coloured buildings decorate the rising hills of Valparaíso's neighbourhoods, a style influenced by European immigration. However, this city still holds a unique Chilean identity.

Valparaíso fuses history with modernity everywhere you look. From spectacular street art to the UNESCO protected funiculars, the city truly deserves the nickname 'Jewel of the Pacific'.

Where to stay?


The Colourful Vista of Valparaíso

Whether you are used to hostels, prefer the luxury of a hotel or the independence of a B & B, Valparaíso offers accommodation that mirrors the flamboyant character of the city. If you are looking to meet other travellers, what better place to do so than Meraki hostel! Meraki's exterior features an elaborately designed mural in blues and purples, providing a youthful and playful environment to stay in.

Alternatively, if you prefer a hotel with a unique twist, Hotel Winebox is the perfect option! With views overlooking the port, the hotel is a multi-coloured feast for the eyes constructed entirely of old shipping containers.

Where to go?

Hills of Valparaíso

Valparaíso is characterised by the hills that rise above the port and form the city. Different hills represent different communities in the city, from Cerro Bellavista to Cerro Panteón each boasts a cultural wonder whether it is a mural or museum. For accomplished hikers, these hills will present a challenge rewarded by the views of the Pacific and polychromatic cityscape.

You can visit most neighbourhoods by joining one of the many walking tours available where a guide will take you to the unmissable areas of Valparaíso.


For fans of funiculars or Wes Anderson style photography, Valparaíso is the city for you! The funiculars, or 'ascensores' as they are known in Spanish, are an easy way to travel around the city.

Initially constructed in 1883, this form of transportation is emblematic of the city's history and contributes to its unique DNA today. Since 2003 they are on UNESCO's World Heritage list and they allow you to admire the city's gorgeous views without damaging your knees!

Valparaíso Furnicular

Valparaíso Furnicular

Neighbourhoods Cerro Bellavista and Cerro Alegre

Cerro Bellavista and Cerro Alegre are a MUST when in Valparaíso. Both of these neighbourhoods feature the vibrant mural art that has made this city such a desirable travel destination.

Cerro Bellavista is home to the Museo a Cielo Abierto and the murals within this open-air museum. These murals first appeared in 1969 when an art professor encouraged their students to paint murals on the buildings and streets of Valparaíso. The museum expanded in the 1990s with a whole host of Latin American artists creating street art, including the influential surrealist Roberta Matta.

On the other hand, Cerro Alegre, is a trendier neighbourhood, also containing impressive murals. Here you will find various cafes, bars, and restaurants, making this the perfect area for a pitstop on your walking tour of Valparaíso!

Palacio Baburizza

By now you will have realised that Valparaíso is an architectural feast for the eyes. Palacio Baburizza is no different with its grand European exterior, unsurprising when you investigate its origins. Built in 1916, it was the residence of former Croatian businessman Pascual Baburizza and was designed by Italian architects explaining its European sensibilities.

It has been a museum since 1971, housing a collection of Chilean and European artistic works for the public to view. During your visit you can learn about the masters of Chilean painting and discover European works you might not encounter in galleries elsewhere in the world.

Isla Negra

A tranquil alternative to Valparaíso, the coastal commune of Isla Negra lies 45 km south of the city and is an ideal day trip. You can see why it has provided inspiration to artists and writers over the years with its peaceful beaches surrounded by local flora.

The drive is just over an hour, compared to a 2 hour bus journey. Therefore, if you are planning on visiting Isla Negra, we recommend leaving early so you can enjoy a full day in the commune.

Valparaíso street

The Streets of Valparaíso

Mercado Cardonal

For a sample of local flavour and produce, visit the largest market in Valparaíso - Mercado Cardonal! Browse the locally sourced ingredients including seafood, fruit, and veg to help expand your culinary capabilities and inspire your next dinner. Or if you don't want to cook but still love to discover new flavours, then enjoy the Chilean food on offer in the market's cafeteria.

Viña del Mar Beaches

Valparaíso's popularity as a holiday destination is due to its proximity to the gorgeous beaches across the Chilean coast. The city of Viña del Mar is a short drive outside of Valparaíso offering multiple beaches, high-end restaurants and boutiques if you seek some indulgence.

Playa del Sol is one of the busier beaches with plenty of bars if you want to watch the sun set over the sea with a cocktail. However, if you prefer relaxation, then Playa Amarilla in the seaside town of Concon is perfect and is also popular with surfers due to its calm tides.


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