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Discovering Valparaiso, the Top 7 Things to Do
Valparaiso is without a doubt one of Chile’s most interesting cities. It was built on a bay facing the Pacific Ocean and it sprawled towards the surrounding hills, that and its tram system helped it earned the nickname of “Little San Francisco”. During its golden days, in the 19th century, Valparaiso became a prominent seaport for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans via the Straits of Magellan. All that changed with the opening of the Panama canal which meant a huge decrease in traffic for the booming port town.
Today, Valparaiso’s charms attract visitors from all over the world who come to soak in its bohemian atmosphere, contemplate its grand but rundown architecture, and admire its colorful streets. There is no other place like Valpo (as the locals call it) in the whole of South America, and it’s certainly one of the most unusual cities you’ll find on your trip to Chile. If you end up visiting, these are the best things to do in Valparaiso:
1. Check out the architecture
Given its unique character and its diverse cultural background, in 2003 Valparaiso was declared by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. There’s a lot of different architectural styles, which makes it a great place to walk around and take lots of photos.
2. Take a walking tour
To get a good overview of what the city has to offer, it’s a good idea to take one of the many daily walking tours on offer. Some of then are free, you just pay a tip to the guide at the end. They’re interesting because they offer little tips about Valpo’s history and give you up to date recommendations of where to go.
3. Spot some Street Art
Today, Valparaiso is one of the top destinations for street art in South America. Many renown artists have come to paint on its walls, and murals reflect a lot of the city’s bohemian character; with some of them depicting scenes from Valpo’s past. Its streets are a true open air gallery.
4. Take a ride on the funiculars
Valparaiso counts with a system of funicular elevators spread across its many hills; however, only a small number of them are working. Whenever possible you should ride them, just to enjoy the views and marvel on this very unusual way of transportation.
5. Check out the Feria on Avenida Argentina
If you happen to be in Valparaiso on a Wednesday or Saturday, head to Avenida Argentina for the Feria and get a taste of authentic local life at this colorful farmer’s market; one of the best on this part of Chile.
6. Visit La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s House
The famous Chilean poet and Noble laureate Pablo Neruda had one of his three residences in Valparaiso. He is considered as one of the best poets of the 20th century. La Sebastiana has been transformed into a museum honoring his memory.
7. Take a night boat tour
To get a different perspective of the city, there are boat tours for hire that leave from the port just across the customs building. Given Valparaiso’s lay out, shaped as a natural amphitheater, this is the only way to get a full view of the whole city. It’s specially nice to see it at night time with all the lights shimmering on its hills.
Have you visited Valparaiso? Do you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share? Let us know in the comments below!