It rises straight from the sea and its 42 hills are littered with multi-coloured houses, many of which have been converted into art galleries, museums and restaurants. Some of Chile’s best-loved artists, writers and poets hail from the city and as a result Valparaíso boasts a buzzing arts scene.
Valparaíso is dripping with history and the UNESCO World Heritage site has a timeless, slightly run down, quality about it. In contrast, nearby Viña del Mar is Chile’s smart and fashionable seaside resort with golden-sand beaches, shady boulevards and colonial mansions. Both destinations can be enjoyed during a short visit.
Valparaíso is a thriving maritime city and Chile’s main port.
Cruise ship visitors have direct access from the port into the labyrinth of alleyways and steep city streets. One of the best ways to appreciate the city is to ride in the funicular lifts which climb the hills. Each mirador (viewpoint) offers stunning views of the crystal waters of the bay and the snow-capped Andes in the background.
The historic hill districts of Concepción and Alegre display strong Germanic and British influences from European traders. Here the steep, narrow, cobbled streets are crammed with colourful European-style houses, museums and churches. Valparaíso is also known for its lively bar scene and many of the buildings are illuminated at night. Viña del Mar offers beach life, as well as museums and a botanical garden.
• Valparaíso Natural History Museum
• Valparaíso Fine Arts Museum (Palacio Baburizza)
• Paseo 21 de Mayo (spectacular look-out point)
• Casa La Sebastiana (museum devoted to Chilean poet Pablo Neruda; www.fundacionneruda.org)
• Botanical Gardens in Viña del Mar (www.jbn.cl)
Valparaiso Municipal Tourism Department
Condell 1490, Valparaiso, Chile
Tel: +56 3229 39262.
Textiles such as colourful hand-woven ponchos are ubiquitous, as are vicuña rugs and copper work. Also Chilean stones such as lapis lazuli, jade, amethyst, agate and onyx are good buys. Muelle Prat, the city’s recently renovated pier, is home to a colourful market.
As Valparaíso is a port, there is a wide variety of seafood on offer, such as huge lobsters, abalone, prawns and giant choros (mussels). The city has a few fast food outlets and plenty of eateries selling Chilean dishes.
When to go:
It never gets too cold in this part of Chile, although October to April are the warmest, driest months. It can get very busy at the height of summer in December and January, when many people from Santiago take their holidays.
4km (2.5 miles).