Travel to the “jewel of the Pacific” on Chile’s picturesque coast, where you’ll discover art, history, and culinary-centric things to do in Valparaiso.
Located approximately 90 minutes’ drive from Santiago, Chile’s capital, the vibrant port city of Valparaiso is a maze of alleys and staircases adorned in extraordinary street art. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city is draped over some 40 hills, with each neighborhood sporting its own personality, an intoxicating mishmash of bright colors, crumbling buildings, creaking funiculars, hippy shops and cool cafés.
Previously the home to Nobel prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, the city of Valparaiso is still inspiring writers and artists today. Meander the steep, winding streets, which serve as an open-air museum. Embrace the enchanting bohemian atmosphere and experience all of the top Valparaiso attractions.
Whether you’re interested in eating your way through the city, discovering street art, sipping a Pisco Sour, or heading inland to sample fine wines, there’s something to appeal to every interest. These are the best things to do in Valparaiso, Chile.
Tour La Sebastiana Museum
Get an inside look at Pablo Neruda’s former residence when you tour La Sebastiana, a museum dedicated to the poet’s life and work. Named after one of his best-known poems, the eccentric, four-story house took him three years to finish. It’s located on Cerro Florida, one of the city’s hills, with jaw-dropping views over the coast.
Marvel at the interesting, nautically-inspired design–the house itself is styled like the prow of a ship–with touches including ships’ bells and figureheads inside. Make sure to view the post-modern fireplace that Pablo Neruda himself designed as well, one of the house’s most beautiful interior highlights.
You’ll see the poet’s personal artifacts including old maps, music boxes, wood carvings, portraits and paintings, and vintage photographs. Enjoy the sprawling views, one of the museum’s best features; you’ll want to take photos of the city stretching away below you. La Sebastiana is one of the most popular things to do in Valparaiso.
Explore the Street Art
Lace up your hiking boots and embark on a street art appreciation walking tour of one of Chile’s best places to visit. Valparaiso’s street art scene sprung up in the 1970s, when the country was under a dictatorship and political expression was forbidden. In defiance, artists would create murals in secret. They would often be covered up quickly by the military but stood, briefly, as a symbol of the resistance.
Today, Valparaiso’s street art is protected by UNESCO. Uncover incredible murals, some several stories high, and rainbow-colored staircases around every corner.
By nature, street art is not permanent, so there’s always something new to discover. Wander Hector Calvo, a vivid street where dazzling murals decorate the buildings, and Templeman Street on Cerro Allegre.
Venture to another street art hotspot, Cerro Bellavista, where you can observe a collection of famous murals in the Museo a Cielo Abierto, meaning “open air museum”. A camera is essential for capturing these masterpieces, and a good guide will take you to all the current arty hotspots.
Join a Walking Tour
One of the best ways to experience the city’s gems is on foot, ideally on a guided walk. Visit Plaza Sotomayor, the main square in Valparaiso with several historical points of interest.
Admire the neoclassical architecture of the iconic blue navy headquarters building, the Edificio Armada de Chile, which dates back to the early 1900s. You’ll also find the monument dedicated to fallen soldiers from the Battle of Iquique, including the statue of Arturo Prat, one of the country’s best-known war heroes.
Watch all the square’s action from one of the quaint cafes and then explore the adjacent Cerro Alegre neighborhood, where viewpoints, galleries, boutiques, and striking murals await. Give your legs a rest and take the El Peral funicular to the very top, where you can stroll Paseo Yugoslavo, one of Valparaiso’s oldest streets, before working your way back down the hill.
Eat Your Way Through The City
Experience the culinary side of Valparaiso with some of the authentic dishes and drinks for which Chile is so well known. Graze your way through fresh seafood, empanadas, and the celebrated pisco sour, the country’s national drink. Savor the delicious and refreshing taste of pisco, a type of brandy, with lemon, sugar, and egg white in this refreshing concoction.
Raise a glass at the city’s oldest bar; Bar La Playa opened in the early 1900s and is known for seafood dishes as well as its beverages. It’s here that you’ll want to order paila marina, a Chilean seafood soup with mussels and clams.
Or book ahead for a table on the sunny terrace at El Peral, at the top of the El Peral funicular, with views down over the coast. There’s a healthy twist to the menu here, with fresh juices, fish and colourful salads on offer, as well as craft beers.
Perhaps the most traditional Chilean dish to try is the chorrillana, which can be found in most restaurants throughout the city. French fries serve as the base for this dish which is then topped with steak or sausage, onions, cheese, and a fried egg.
Wash it down with another cocktail-dessert combination, the Terremoto. The fruity drink is reminiscent of an ice-cream float. To satisfy your sweet tooth with a true dessert, try the leche frita, a cold square of milk pudding encased in a warm, crispy shell, topped with syrup, jam, or just powdered sugar.
Ride the Funicular to Cerro Concepcion
There are 16 historical elevators, technically funiculars, in Valparaiso, dating back to the late 19th century. Riding on one is a quintessential Valparaiso experience—and you’ll be glad of some time off trekking those vertiginous hills.
The Ascensor Concepcion, the oldest, lifts you up the scenic Cerro Concepcion hill, where you’ll immediately get a taste of the neighborhood’s vibrant personality. Get lost in the quaint, narrow alleyways, relax at a local bistro, and take photographs of the incredible architecture and sprawling views over the bay.
As you venture through this historic area on foot, you’ll encounter a kaleidoscope of street art on building walls, steps, and windows. Browse art galleries, stop and admire the beautiful plazas and La Santa Cruz Lutheran Church, before making your way down the Dimalow Promenade.
If you’re interested in shopping for souvenirs, Cerro Concepcion is the place to do it, with boutiques selling crafts and other works by local artists. Keep an eye out for the famous “piano” staircase on Beethoven Street, which for all the world looks like a piano keyboard.
Visit El Cardonal Market
Head to the bustling Mercado El Cardonal, a historic and popular market in Valparaiso. Originally constructed in the mid-1800s, the structure was rebuilt in 1912 after an earthquake destroyed the building. It’s now the biggest in the city and provides a feast for the senses.
Wander the stalls of the first floor, where you’ll find produce, spices, dried fruits, gourmet cheeses, and much more. Make sure to arrive with an appetite, as the restaurants on the second floor serve traditional Chilean specialities such as the indulgent Chorrillana and Caldillo de mariscos, a seafood stew.
A visit to this daily market is an authentic glimpse into everyday life in Valparaiso and a fantastic way to taste local cuisine.
Relax at Playa Las Torpederas
Take advantage of Valparaiso’s location on the Pacific coast and spend the day at one of Chile’s best beaches. Playa Las Torpederas is an urban beach in the Playa Ancha neighborhood, situated at the base of the hill. Historically, it received its name as the bay served as an anchoring place for the torpedo boats in the late 1800s.
The smallish beach features calm waters for swimming, with a lively atmosphere and good people watching. A park and a restaurant add to the allure, with beautiful views over the sea. While you’re perched on the sand, spare a thought for a technological marvel.
Google’s submarine Curie data cable, some 6,524 miles long, emerges precisely here, linking Los Angeles, California with Valparaiso and finally, the company’s data center in Santiago.
Observe Fine Art at the Museo de Bellas Artes
Housed in the historic Baburizza Palace, your art journey begins with the Art Nouveau architecture before setting foot inside the museum. The Museo de Bellas Artes can be found in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood, a fantastic spot to explore on foot.
Marvel at the bow-style windows, columns, and terraces. The building was declared a historic monument in the 1970s and has served as a school for the Fine Arts as well as a museum. Inside, the marble fireplace and carved wooden doors are just some of the gorgeous details to admire.
Browse the impressive collection of Chilean and European works of art, dating back to the early 1800s. The Chilean Collection features over 200 works, including award-winning pieces created by both Chilean and international artists between 1840 and 1970.
Depictions of landscape, still life, and portraits are common finds here. You can learn about the history and development of Valparaiso and its port over time in the oldest and perhaps most well-renowned collection within the museum, too.
Step Back in Time at the Parque Cultural de Valparaiso
On the site of a former prison and Spanish fort, the Cultural Park in Valparaiso is a top attraction and celebrated community hub. A wide variety of exhibits including photography, art, and intricate murals, as well as live dance and theatrical performances make this a must-visit for anyone interested in the city’s history and culture.
A theater, multiple exhibition spaces, and an outdoor area create a social place to celebrate the arts in Valparaiso. In the grassy section, you can enjoy the spectacular views over the city from the park’s hilltop perch too.
Learn About Chile’s Maritime History
Discover Chile’s maritime history with a visit to the Museo Y Marítimo Nacional, one of the most popular Valparaiso attractions, located at the top of the Ascensor Artilleria funicular. You’ll be greeted by a set of cannons upon your arrival on the museum grounds.
Tour the building’s rooms containing both permanent and temporary exhibitions. You’ll have a chance to view artifacts, uniforms, weapons, paintings, maps and other navigational tools, as well as statues, many of which detail the War of the Pacific and national heroes who helped achieve the nation’s independence.
Enjoy the panoramic vista from the museum’s grounds as well, stretching out over the bay and city.
Admire Architecture Along Paseo Gervasoni
Make a point of strolling along one of Valparaiso’s most beautiful pedestrian streets. Paseo Gervasoni is known for its brightly colored buildings with old Chilean architecture, street art, and incredible views, accessible via the Turri elevator.
Take in the vintage design of the structures that line the streets, incredible murals that splash along walls and stairways, eat street food, and pop into the boutiques on this labyrinth-like hilltop promenade.
You don’t have to be an architecture aficionado to appreciate the beauty in the colonial-era structures, vibrant spectrum of homes, and narrow passageways dating back to the 1800s. For some of the best views, stop for a drink at one of the rooftop terraces.
See Valparaiso From the Water
Hop on a boat at Muelle Prat, Valparaiso’s harbor and jumping off point for boat tours. Get a new perspective of the city from the water as you cruise your way around the bay past naval ships and the waterfront promenade.
View some of the city’s iconic landmarks as you enjoy a leisurely trip on the water. You may even have the opportunity to spot sea lions.
ake in views of the city sprawling over its many hills while hearing about the port’s rich history before the Panama Canal was built. A boat ride through Valparaiso Bay is sure to be a memorable experience.
Taste Wine in the Casablanca Valley
Some 40 miles inland from Valparaiso, you’ll enter green, rolling countryside, the hillsides and valley floor neatly lined with vineyards. This is the Casablanca Valley, one of Chile’s most important wine growing areas, especially known for its sauvignon blancs, merlots, and pinot noirs and an easy excursion from the city.
A day here involves a tour of one or two of the wineries, usually spread out around grand country houses, with a tasting, a meal of local specialties and a chance to buy world-class wines.
Read: Best Wine Cruise Destinations for Oenophiles
A luxury cruise is a fantastic way to experience the vibrant spirit of this city. Browse cruises to Valparaiso on our website and book your South American adventure today.