Colourful and packed with culture, Valparaiso feels part-colonial Western town, part-barrio.
Founded in the 19th century, the city trickles down a steep hillside to the Pacific Ocean, its lively port quarter a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Valparaiso holidays require at least a few nights to fully appreciate the city’s plentiful charms, including its paint-box of charming houses – painted in bright colours by residents, or daubed in imaginative graffiti, thought to be some of the best street art in Latin America.
Because of its hilly landscape and steep streets, funiculars and stairways are needed to move around the city.
The city’s grungy good looks have inspired poets, painters and philosophers like Pablo Neruda – it’s possible to tour the poet-cum-politician’s charming home, La Sebastiana, now a museum.
The seaside market of Muelle Prat is the ideal place for a stroll, and for a small fee you can board one of the tender boats and take a trip out to the ships that anchor in the bay for a closer look at Valparaiso’s main industry. Valparaiso’s network of steps and funiculars makes it easy to get around on foot, though you’ll need to be fairly fit to make it up some of the city’s steeper staircases.
Walking around the different neighbourhoods you’ll discover crumbling colonial mansions, museums, churches and restored boutiques and hotels – many with terraces affording picturesque sea views. Holidays to Valparaiso display a different side to Chile and are well worth including on any itinerary, especially when combined with Santiago or visits to the white wine vineyards in the nearby Casablanca Valley.