Colorful buildings perched above a picturesque bay welcome you into the city of Valparaiso, a charming coastal destination located less than two hours away from Santiago. Wander through the Historic Quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Board a signature funicular elevator and explore the city’s hills. In its winding staircases and alleyways, you’ll find pastel-colored houses, vibrant street art, fascinating museums, and jaw-dropping views of the Pacific Ocean.
Before embarking on a cruise from Valparaiso, you can also visit nearby Viña del Mar and lounge on one of its golden sand beaches, or squeeze in a day of wine tasting at one of the award-winning vineyards and wineries nearby.
Pay tribute to Chile’s most famous artist, Pablo Neruda, by visiting the romantic poet’s house that rests at the top of one of Valparaiso’s hills. Named La Sebastiana, Neruda’s former home has spectacular views of the bay and is open to the public to wander around and admire his collection of ship figurines, art, and furniture. Next to the house, there is a small museum where you can learn more about Neruda’s life and work, as well as shop for gifts at a small souvenir shop.
There are 15 funicular elevators, known as ascensores, throughout the city which were once used to take residents up and around Valparaiso’s steep hills. Some of these funiculars date back to the late 19th century, and a few have been updated in order to continue to operate. Take a ride up the Ascensor El Peral to Paseo Yugoslavo, where you can admire the lovely architecture and stop by the Museo de Bellas Artes. Or try boarding the Ascensor Concepcion, which was the first lift built in the city back in 1883.
Soak in magnificent views from one of Valparaiso’s most stunning natural viewpoints, Paseo 21 de Mayo. From this lookout, you’ll be able to admire the ocean and hilly landscapes of this charming Chilean city. Aside from taking the perfect vacation photo, you can also shop for artisanal items and souvenirs from local merchants, as well as visit the National Maritime Museum nearby.
Valparaiso is known for its eclectic street art and murals that adorn its walls. Admire its unique street art on your own by walking around its steep streets or sign up for a guided tour of its painted alleyways and staircases. You can also head to the Parque Cultural de Valparaiso, a sprawling arts complex located in a former public prison, where you’ll find a series of intricate murals, as well as art exhibitions and theater and dance shows within this creative space.
Just 40 miles outside of the city of Valparaiso, you’ll find Casablanca Valley, home of incredible Sauvignon Blanc varieties. Along with whites, Casablanca also produces excellent Merlots and Pinot Noirs. Embark on a wine tasting tour of the area and find your next favorite bottle of Chilean wine.
If you’re looking for a beach escape before your cruise from Valparaiso, go on a day trip to neighboring Viña del Mar, known as the Garden City. At this popular beach resort, you’ll find a large public beach, seaside boulevards, and manicured parks. Lounge on its white-sand beaches, try some of the delicious local food, or sightsee the many palaces and mansions that once belonged to Chile’s most prosperous families.
Like many coastal cities, Valparaiso has a great variety of seafood dishes to try, including lobster, prawns, and large mussels, known as choros. In most restaurants, you’ll find fresh ceviche, as well as humitas, which are the Chilean version of tamales. If you’re into street food, you can’t miss trying a Chilean empanada stuffed with beef, chicken, cheese, or shrimp. Sink your teeth into a completo, a local take on the hot dog that is served with diced tomato, mayonnaise, cheese, and sauerkraut. Chile is also famous for its wines, specifically its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varieties, so make sure to order a glass during your time in port.
Valparaiso was founded by Spanish conquistador Juan de Saavedra in 1536, who named it after his birthplace, the village of Valparaiso de Arriba. In 1818, after Chile secured its independence from Spain, Valparaiso became the headquarters of the newly formed Chilean navy and developed as an important port for international trade. Its lucrative port ended up attracting a large influx of European immigrants, specifically from Britain, Spain, and Italy. Currently, Valparaiso’s major economic industries are tourism, shipping, and freight transport. In 2003, the historic quarter of the city was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in an effort to preserve its unique urban landscape and particular funicular system.
When you embark on a cruise from Valparaiso, you’ll depart from the VTP cruise terminal. There you’ll find gift shops, currency exchanges, WiFi, a small cafeteria, and an ATM. You’ll take a shuttle from the terminal to the exit gates, and from there you’ll be able to walk into town.
The easiest way to get around Valparaiso is by walking and riding its fun funicular lift system. There is also a metro system that connects Valparaiso with neighboring towns, including Viña del Mar, and private buses that take you to Casablanca Valley and the capital of Santiago, which is about 90 minutes away. Taxis can be found near the cruise port.
Near the VTP cruise port, you’ll find many souvenir and gift shops. In the city, the main shopping destinations are located around Plaza Anibal and Plaza Victoria, where you’ll find a variety of stores and supermarkets.
The local currency in Valparaiso is the Chilean peso. Credit cards aren’t as widely accepted as in the United States, therefore it’s best to carry local currency to use for purchases. Tipping is common in Chile, with 10% usually added to the final bill. If you feel like you had exceptional service, you can also tip more than the standard.