Valparaiso is the art capital of Chile it’s definitely one of the most colorful and artistic cities in South America. Art in Valparaiso is everywhere from the streets to art galleries, from Bohemian cafés to fine art museums. There are many things to do in the city and it’s worth a visit, be it just a day trip from Santiago or a longer stay. For an art lover, Valparaiso is a must-visit place in South America.
Valparaiso is located on the Pacific coast two hours drive from Santiago de Chile. Because of its multiple hills and colorful neighborhoods, many people compare it with San Francisco. In my opinion, architecture wise it reminded me of something between Lisbon and Buenos Aires. If I have to describe this city in three words I’d say art, hills, and the ocean – an interesting combination for a Latinamerican city. For us, Valparaiso was a perfect stop on the way from the Atacama desert to the Carretera Austral. We had an amazing New Year’s Eve here!
Valparaiso travel cost
- Accommodation – a dorm bed from US$10, a budget double room – US$30, a double room in a nice hotel/guest house from US$50.
- Transport – bus Santiago – Valparaiso – US$5 one way, public transport in the city CLP400/US$0,5 per trip.
- Food – shopping and making your own food – from US$5 per person per day, eating in a local café/street food – US$4 per person per meal, dinner in a restaurant from US$10 per person.
- Activities – depending on what activity you choose, be ready to pay between CLP 13000/US$20 and 34000/US$50.
- Daily budget for Valparaiso from US$20 per person (backpacking) to US$50-60 comfortable stay.
More details on the cost of traveling in Chile and South America in general you can find in our post South America travel budget.
Suggested tours to explore Chile & South America
- Best of Chile with Intrepid Travel
- La Paz to Buenos Aires Adventure with G-Adventures
- Southern Divide Adventure with G-Adventures
How to get to Valparaiso?
Valparaiso is located 115km northwest from Santiago de Chile there are several daily buses that connect two cities. Buses leave every 30min. – 1 hour from Terminal Alameda and Terminal Pajaritos, ticket costs CLP 3000/US$5, it takes 1h30min. to 2 hours to get to Valparaiso.
Renting a car is another option if you’re planning to visit only Valparaiso it might not be worth it but if you’re going to explore more of Chile, especially the south of the country, having a car will save you a lot of time and won’t be much more expensive than taking buses it might be even cheaper if you two or more people sharing it. The easiest option is to rent a car at the airport in Santiago there are more options.
If you don’t have much time but still want to visit Valparaiso you can do a tour from Santiago: Valparaiso and Viña del Mar Day Tour
Hitchhiking works quite well in Chile if you don’t mind standing next to the road and waiting for a ride of course. Chileans are very friendly people if you speak some Spanish you might get some interesting tips and recommendations from locals on the way.
Where to stay in Valparaiso
There are plenty of places in the city for a different budget. From our experience the best area to stay in Valparaiso are Cerro Concepción, Cerro Bellavista, La Sebastiana all are the artistic barrios with many bars, art galleries, street art, etc. All suggested below accommodation options are located in one of the barrios. Important! Valparaiso is a very popular place to come for New Year (because of the fireworks and street party) if you’re planning to be here around that time make sure to book accommodation a long time beforehand. We were here just before New Year’s Eve and had to check out of our hostels (La Casa Azul) and couldn’t find any budget-friendly accommodation (luckily we found a place through Couchsurfing).
Budget | La Casa Azul Hostel | La Colombina | Voyage Hostel | Mi Paz |
Middle price | La Galería B&B | Loft Yorkito’s | La Casa Piola | Valparaiso de mi amor |
Luxury | Puerta Escondida Bed & Breakfast | Hotel Winebox Valparaiso | Alto Mirador Hotel Boutique | Verso Hotel |
If you want to stay at the beach the best option is Viña del Mar technically it’s a different town but both places are located next to each other, it’s a short commute by public transport.
Travel insurance for your trip
The best things to do in Valparaiso, Chile
1. Discover street art
The whole city is one street art museum with hundreds of murals, mosaics, and sculptures. One can spend hours wandering around the narrow cobblestone streets (and we did) of Valparaiso discovering colorful and funky murals. The best area for street art lovers is Cerro Bellavista or Beautiful View Hill on the top of which you can find Museo a Cielo Abierto (the Open Air Museum). The museum is basically a couple of streets that were turned into an art space.
Most of the wall paintings were made here about 30 years ago when the Museum was opened. There is no admission fee but there are some boards with details about the murals and the artist that created them. Most of them were painted by local artists some became quite famous later. The best and the easiest way of getting here is to take Ascensor Espiritu Santo (funicular), CLP 100/$0,20.
2. Get lost in the narrow streets
Cerro Bellavista is not the only barrio to explore, Cerro Concepcion is another interesting more of a Bohemian district of Valparaiso. It’s located on the top of Concepcion Hill. To get here you can use one of the two funiculars; Ascensor Concepcion and Ascensor El Peral. One of my favorite things to do here was just getting lost among the streets, stopping for coffee in a small café, looking at bizarre things in a local art gallery, climbing up and down mosaic stairs to be rewarded with a fantastic view of the city. It’s a very relaxed way to explore the city with not must-see and must-stop spots.
If you want to know more about city history, visit the main attractions in a couple of hours and to get some useful tips from locals you can join Valparaiso 4-Hour City Tour by Van and Funicular.
3. Get inspiration in La Sebastian
Of course, you can’t miss La Sebastiana the house of the most famous Chilean poet and writer Pablo Neruda. The house-museum is located on the Cerro Bellavista. Yes, there are many hills in Valparaiso, 45 to be precise. To be honest, though I like Neruda and know some of his poems my favorite part was the great view of the city from the terrace. It said that Neruda often spent New Year Eves here because he could see the fireworks from the balcony. Working hours Tuesday – Sunday from 10am to 6pm. The entrance fee is CLP 7000/US$10 at the weekends there might be a queue at the ticket office.
4. Admire fine art
Street art is not the only art you can find in Valparaiso there is an interesting collection of classical art mostly painting and sculpture in the Palacio Baburizza Art Museum. Here you can see canvas made by European and Chilean artists of the 19th-20th centuries. The building itself is worth a visit, it’s a beautiful white mansion in Art Noveau style built at the beginning of the 20th century. The museum opened Tuesday – Sunday from 10.30am to 7pm. Admission fee CLP 5000/US$7.
5. Walk the city
Join one of the free walking tours to discover the city’s secret spots and get some local tips. These tours take you through the main attraction and off the beaten path places, it’s a great way of getting to know a new city. The duration is between 2-3 hours, price – donation.
6. Take a boat
A boat tour in the bay of Valparaiso gives you a chance to see the city from a different angle, from the water you can admire the colorful hills, get a better idea about the location of the main attractions and just enjoy the fresh sea breeze. Boats leave from the pier next to Porto metro station. Price between CLP 10000-15000/US$14-20 per person.
7. Learn about Chile’s biodiversity
Museum of Natual Science will be interesting for travelers with children and those who want to learn more about Chile’s history and biodiversity. You can find here the taxidermied animals, reptiles, and birds, there is a decent section dedicated to Easter Island if you don’t have a chance to visit it in person here you can find some information regarding it. There are few explanations in English so some knowledge of Spanish will help. The museum is free.
8. Chill on the beach
There are a couple of beaches right in the city but they’re quite small and not impressive for the descent ones go to Viña del Mar. We spent a day just chilling on Playa el Sol or Playa de los Cañones in Viña, playing volleyball, reading and “swimming”. You can go for a swim but water is cold even in summer so it’s more of a quick dip to cool down a bit.
For those who would like to explore more of the Chilean coast, visit Viña del Mar, Reñaca, Concón and to get a chance to spot sea lions 4-Hour Pacific Coast Tour might be a perfect option.
9. Ride an old trolleybus
Chile’s trolleybus system is the second oldest in South America though nowadays in Valparaiso trolleybuses are not as common as they used to be you still get a chance to travel 60 years back in time (that’s how old those trolleys are) and ride through the city in an old trolleybus. Those are original Pullman trolleybuses most of them were made in the 40th-50th of the 20th century, the oldest trolleybuses in use in the whole world. In 2003 the Chilean Government declared them a national monument. There is only one trolleybus route, 802, it runs from Avenida Argentina to la Aduana on the way going past El Almendral, downtown, and the port. Trolleybuses run Monday to Saturday from 7am to 8.30pm. Price CLP 270/US$0,4.
10. Go up and down in funiculars
Like the trolleybuses, the funiculars are a part of the public transport system in Valparaiso that was declared a historical monument. There used to be many in the city nowadays there are only 8 that are still in use. It’s the easiest and fastest way to move between many Cerros (hills) though they look a bit scary. Most famous funiculars in the city are Ascensor Espiritu Santo, Ascensor Concepcion, and Ascensor El Peral. Price CLP 100-200/US$0,2 per trip.
11. Conquer the hills on a mountain bike
If you like climbing up and down on a bike Valparaiso is a great riding city to explore just be ready to sweat quite a bit as some ascents are very steep and long. You can rent a bike for the whole day (8 hours) for CLP 15000/US$21 and explore the city.
12. Enjoy lunch with the view
Fresh seafood, good wine, beautiful view – what can be better after a day of exploring the city. There are many restaurants and bars in Valparaiso but some of them have an incredible view over the city and the sea, most likely you’ll find them in Cerro Bellavista or Cerro Concepción. The best time to come to a restaurant overlooking the sea is just before sunset (make sure to book a table next to the window or in the balcony) so you can enjoy the natural spectacle while having dinner. Here are some suggestions; Restaurant La Concepción, Restaurant Maralegre or Restaurant Portofino.
13. Visit an ex-prison
Parque Cultural de Valparaiso occupies a huge territory of Cerro Cárcel (Prison Hill). A city prison was located here till 1999 when the new prison was opened. From 2000 to 2010 the area was used by local artists and in 2010 it was decided to turn it into a cultural park. Nowadays it’s 2,5ha of creative space with many galleries, theater, a circus, rehearsal halls, open-air spaces for master classes etc. The area changed completely from a dark depressive hill it turned into a creative space full of life and colors.
14. Relax in the serenity of Viña del Mar Botanical Garden
If you’re a bit overwhelmed by the city you can make an escape and enjoy the peaceful environment of the Botanical Garden. It’s quite big, there are many fun things to do; hiking, cycling (you can rent a bicycle there, CLP 2500/US$3,5 per hour), canopy tour (CLP6000/US$9 for children and CLP 8000/US$11 for adults), picnicking etc. The area is very beautiful: lush green forest, small rivers, a lake, picturesque wooden bridges, artificial waterfalls, flowers etc. You can bring food with a make a picnic or visit a cozy coffee shop inside the Garden. It takes about 40min. Entrance fee CLP 2000/US$3.
15. Taste great local wine
Unfortunately, to do it you’ll have to join a tour or rent a car as the wine estates are a bit far from the city and there is no public transport going that way. If you’re two and more people I think renting a car even for a day will be cheaper than doing a tour.
16. Ride the waves
There is a place called Reñaca Beach, 22km north from Valparaiso, it’s one of the best places for surfing in the country, maybe not as good as Pichilemu but quite decent. It’s a beach break, sandy bottom, waves are quite fast. The best time for surfing here is October ‘ December. We went to Reñaca by car from Valparaiso but didn’t surf we came here to try local seafood which is according to the locals in the best in the country.
17. Celebrate New Year
It’s the busiest time in Valparaiso the city is famous for its fireworks and the combination of good weather, beach, and fireworks always attract thousands of people. We were lucky to be there for New Years and can confirm it was spectacular. The best spots to watch fireworks are the hills one of the viewpoints, restaurants or even hotels with the sea view will work perfectly. After the fireworks the city turns into one big party, music is playing everywhere in downtown. If I’m not mistaken the public transport worked all night so if your place is not in the center you’ll probably be able to get there by bus. The only thing to remember to book accommodation months beforehand as it can be very difficult to find one in December.
18. Go out and party
Chile in this similar to Argentina the party starts after midnight and ends in the morning, be prepared for a long night. Before going to a nightclub people usually go out for a couple of drinks first, somewhere around 11pm. Going to a nightclub before 1am is almost pointless as there will be nobody yet. Close to 2am everybody moves to clubs and the second part of the night begins. If you’re not ready to be up the whole night, just go out for a drink or two. Best party areas in Valparaiso are Cerro Concepción, Cerro Alegre and Cerro La Carcel but you can find clubs and bars at the beach and downtown as well.
19. Buy local souvenirs
If you like painting or other artsy hand-made things Valparaiso it’s the right place for you to do souvenir shopping and it’s not necessarily will cost a lot, you can get some cool stuff from the streets artists for a reasonable price.
Public transport in Valparaiso
The city has a good transport system different parts of Valparaiso are connected by buses, metro, funiculars (elevators) and trams.
The bus system in Valparaiso connects most of the barrios as well as Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Ticket price varies depending on the distance usually it’s between CLP300-400/US$0,5.
We prefer using the metro over buses it’s faster. To use the metro you’ll need a Metro Card, it costs CLP2000/US$3 including CLP500/US$0,7 credit that can be used to pay a metro trip. You can buy one card and use it for as many people as you want, you just need to put enough credit on it. One metro trip costs CLP400-500/US$0,7 average.
There are 8 funiculars in Valparaiso, they help a lot to move between the hills you don’t have to walk steep up or down every time. The funiculars are very cheap, CLP 100-200/US$0,2 for a trip.
Trolleybuses are another transport you can use to move around though there is only one route that they run. It’s more of a touristy thing than public transport like trams in Lisbon or Porto. It’s a unique way to see the downtown going on a 50-year old trolleybus.
Food in Valparaiso
If you are a seafood and fish lover Valparaiso and Chile, in general, is a real paradise for you. Here you can find both everywhere even in local pies. Locals say that the best restaurants in the area are in Concón, 22 km north of Valparaiso (past Viña del Mar). We went there to try the famous Mariscal – a raw seafood salad with some herbs and lemon juice. It was really good, a huge bowl with shrimps, calamari, mussels and some local seafood that you can find only in Chile. It didn’t look that big but luckily I didn’t order anything else as I could hardly finish it. After eating that dish my body probably got enough iodine for one year ahead. Prices for Mariscal in local restaurants are between CLP 7000-10000/$10-14.
For a more budget meal option go to one of the local canteens where you can get lunch for CLP 3000-4000/US$4-5, restaurant prices start from CLP 7000/US$10.
Wine in Chile is good and cheap, unlike in Peru or Bolivia (where we came from), for a bottle of decent wine in a supermarket you’ll pay about US$3. Beer is not expensive as well 12pcs (450ml) cost CLP 5000/US$7 or US$0,6 for a bottle.
Recommended books & guidebooks
- Lonely Planet Chile & Easter Island (Travel Guide), 2018. Paperback & Kindle
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Chile and Easter Island, 2018. Paperback
- Fodor’s Essential Chile: with Easter Island & Patagonia (Travel Guide), 2018. Paperback & Kindle
- My Invented Country: A Nostalgic Journey Through Chile by Isabel Allende. Paperback & Kindle
- The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems (Bilingual Edition) (English and Spanish Edition). Paperback
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