Valparaiso guide for backpackers. Art capital of Chile

Valparaiso, the art capital of Chile
Valparaiso, the art capital of Chile

Valparaiso is considered to be an art capital of Chile and absolutely deserves this title. Art in Valparaiso is basically everywhere from its streets to art galleries, from cafes to museums and everything with its own unique style. I hope our Valparaiso guide for backpackers will help you and inspire to visit this wonderful city on the Pacific coast.

Valparaiso is located on the coast about two hours drive from Santiago. With its hills and multiple ups and downs it reminds San Francisco, its architecture in my opinion is a mixture between Lisbon and Buenos Aires. Interesting place with many galleries, art shops, street art, some beaches unfortunately water is quite cold even in summer, many hotels and restaurants. Valparaiso is quite expensive even for Chile place but definitely worth of visit.

We were in Valparaiso right for New Year arrived on 28th December and were unpleasantly surprised. Everything was fully booked for next 4 or 5 days and not only booked but prices for accommodation were absolutely insane!! Prices for New Year’s eve started from 40$ for bed in dormitory, don’t even ask about private! Luckily we managed to find a couch and instead of planned 2 days in the city we stayed for 6 and celebrated New Year with Claudio (our couch) and his family and friends. We had a really great time!

The reason Valparaiso is that popular for New Year is the fireworks that are considered being the longest in South America. Many Chileans from Santiago and other cities come here to see them so everything is fully booked months beforehand. If you decide to spend New Year in Valparaiso make sure to book in advance or find a couch.

Sunflowers stairs, Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso, Chile
Sunflowers stairs, Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso, Chile

Things to see. Valparaiso guide for backpackers

Cerro Concepcion (Concepcion hill)

Bohemian district on the top of the hill with two elevators;  ascensor Concepcion and El Peral and couple of viewpoints e.g. Paseo Atkinson. Narrow cobblestone streets of the district run up and down the hill, colorful houses, many cafes and souvenir shops. Nice area to wander around and stop for a cup of coffee in one of the street cafe.

Cerro Bellavista (hill Beautiful view)

On the tip of it you can find Museo a Cielo Abierto (the Open Air museum) that consist of a couple of streets with paintings on the walls. The paintings were done 30 years ago by local artists. To get there you can by elevator Ascensor Espiritu Santo, CLP 100/$0,20.

Cerro Bellaviista, Valparaiso
Crazy color mix, Cerro Bellavista, Valparaiso

La Sebastiana

One more interesting hill  with a house-museum of the famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda La Sebastiana. Very interesting place even if you don’t like poetry and museums it’s worth to go there just for the view over the city and ocean from the terrace. To get inside you’ll have to pay CLP 3000/$4,5  and maybe spend some time in the queue.

Except for the hills in Valparaiso there are two main squares Plaza Victoria and Plaza Sotomayor with nice architecture and some street art.

There are beaches right in the city but quite small and not very impressive for the descent ones go to Vina del Mar or Concon.

Of course there are more interesting places as well as art galleries and museums that we didn’t visit in Valparaiso but I’m sure the city will easily keep you busy for three or four days.

Bellavista, Valparaiso
Panoramic view of the city from Bellavista hill

How to get to Valparaiso

The city is connected by buses with all Chilean big cities so to get here is easy. From Santiago there are direct buses that leave every hour, the journey takes 1,5-2 hour depending on the traffic and costs 5$. We got to Valparaiso from La Serena but not by bus hitchhiking like we did everywhere in Chile. Hitchhiking was easy the distance between two cities about 440  km and we made it in one day. There are buses from La Serena to Valparaiso for about 30$ that leave 3 times a day, the journey takes 8 hours. I’d recommend taking a night bus this way you save on accommodation.

Accommodation in Valparaiso

If couchsurfing is not your cup of tea there are plenty of hostels, hotels and guesthouses in the city. Prices start (except New Year and public holidays) from 8$ for bed in dormitory. The most popular touristy area is Cerro Concepcion at Estacion Puerto metro station. Our first night before we found a couch we spent here at La Valija hostel   for CLP 9000/$12,5. Normal price on booking is 11$ but because of New Year it was more expensive. Other hostels in the area were full. Nice hostel with dormitories and private rooms, clean, wifi, kitchen, breakfast (bread, jam, butter, tea and coffee), very friendly staff, good location, not a bad place to celebrate New Year.

Public transport in Valparaiso

Buses

There are many you can get by bus to most part of the city but due to the traffic can get stuck in rush hours or during holidays. Average price CLP 500/$0,8.

Metro

Fast and convenient, the metro line goes along the coast so you can cross the city by metro. Price between CLP 400-500/$0,6-0,8. You need to buy a rechargeable plastic card for CLP 1350/$2 that can use many people you just need to put enough money.

Elevators/trams

Valparaiso is a hill city because of this there are several elevators or trams, they are cheap between CLP 100-200 but make your way up easier and faster.

Valparaiso, Chile
Valparaiso, the most colorful city of Chile

Food in Valparaiso

If you are a seafood and fish lover Valparaiso is a real paradise for you! You can find both everywhere even in local pies. It’s known that the best restaurants in the area are in Concon which is 22 km north from Valparaiso. We went with our host to one of them and tried local mariscal, raw seafood salad with a little bit of herbs in lemon juice. It was really good, a huge bowl with shrimps, calamari, mussel and some local things that you can find only in Chile. I hardly could finish it and got enough iodine for one year ahead! Prices for a dish in local restaurants CLP 6000-7000/$9-10. We are not often visitors of restaurants but for New Year decided to break our budget rules.

In local canteen you can get a lunch for CLP 2500-3000/$3,5-4, in restaurants prices start from CLP 5000/$6,5.

Wine in Chile is good and cheap unlike in other non wine South American countries, for a bottle of decent wine you’ll pay in a supermarket about 3$. Beer is not expensive as well 12pcs (450ml) cost CLP 4800/$6,5 or $0,5 for one.

Budget for 6 days

  • Food (restaurants, cafes) – CLP 8200/$11;
  • Shopping (food and ) – CLP 20700/$28;
  • Accommodation – CLP 9000/$12 (one night in hostel, 5 nights couch surfing);
  • Transport – 3000/$4;
  • Other (souvenirs) – CLP 2000/$3.

Total: $58 or $9,5 per day.

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