If you’re planning a trip to Chile, there are probably two cities you’ll visit: Santiago and Valparaíso. Chile’s famous industrial port city offers a different slice of life in Chile. Unlike the ultra urban and modern capital city of Santiago, Valparaíso is more gritty, grimy, and definitely more colorful. Like San Francisco, it has pacific weather, and it’s not uncommon to see the marine layer moving to and from the shore. It’s a place where cultural immersion is as easy as turning into the bar on the corner or strolling through the markets.
If you’re planning a trip to Chile and on the fence about spending a few days in ‘Valpo,’ here’s what you need to know. Read on for suggestions about the things to do in Valparaiso, plus a suggested itinerary for 3 days in Valparaíso. Read on to learn everything you need to plan your trip!
The Best Things Do In Valparaíso
What you will enjoy about Valparaíso is that it’s a city that feels lived in. It’s not glamorous, it’s not clean – it’s a place where local Chileans (they’re called Porteños) are living and working and enjoying nights drinking wine on their terraces while the dogs bark across the city.
That said, that means there aren’t a lot of “traditional” sights or experiences in Valparaíso. Wandering, strolling, and dining at your leisure are all perfectly reasonable ways to spend time in Valparaíso – and are in fact among the top things to do in Valparaíso.
Nonetheless, if you’re still keen to know what sights there are, here’s a short list of the best things to do in Valparaiso
Ride the Funiculars
Arguably the most distinct experience you can have in Valparaíso, the funiculars that ascend and descend some of the city’s most steep hills are fun to ride even if you’re not headed anywhere in particular. There are 7-16 funiculars in Valparaíso in operation at any time (some are undergoing renovation), and all are open to the public.
Most funiculars cost 100 CLP (about $0.15) each way.
If you are keen on a guided tour that also includes riding the funicular, you may want to check out this one.
Admire the Street Art
Valparaíso is world-renowned for its street art – and it’s literally everywhere. From the main buildings and streets to every small alley, you can find colorful art that includes almost every topic and theme.
Street art is technically illegal in Valparaíso, but as you’ll see that makes no difference. You can wander at will to discover art in whatever area you’re in, or visit the neighborhoods of Cerro Alegre and Bellavista, which are some of the most artfully populated places. If you care for a guided tour, you may wish to check out this one.
Take a (Free) Walking Tour
If you want a bit more guidance on street art, one of the best ways to see the best art is by doing a walking tour. Most walking tours are free or for-donation. They’re usually led by a guide in a striped white-and-red shirt, giving you the sense you’re following Waldo to his favorite spots in the city – which is why they call their guides “Wallys!”
Tours are typically 2.5-3 hours long and usually visit some of the most famous neighborhoods like Cerro Alegre. You can expect to need to climb some hills or stairs, so be sure to wear good walking shoes. You can book your walking tour here.
Visit La Sebastiana
La Sebastiana is the seaside home of Chile’s famed poet Pablo Neruda. Like La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana is unusual in design and style, and exists as a museum now. La Sebastiana is located near the apex of the Bellavista neighborhood and hill, so you can expect to climb a bit to get there.
The museum is open to limited guests on a first come, first serve basis, so it’s best to arrive early in the morning for the fewest crowds and best views of the city.
Day-Trip to Cachagua & Horcón
If you want to explore the surrounding area that doesn’t include wine tasting, a day-trip to Cachagua and Horcón is a good option. You’ll need to rent a car to make this trip, but there are rental agencies in central Valparaíso, including near the central bus station.
It’s a 1.5-hour drive from Valparaíso to the small city of Cachagua, passing through neighboring ritzy Viña del Mar and extended coastal countryside. Cachagua is most known for its offshore island, also called Cachagua. There, you’ll find one of the few places near the populated cities of Chile where you can see penguins. Yep, penguins!
You can walk up the 5-kilometer (3-mile) rough trail along the coast. That gives you great views of the island and the coastline. If you’re lucky, you can see otters or seals playing in the waterway between the mainland and the island.
On the way back to Valparaíso from Cachagua, make a detour to visit the small coastal town of Horcón. While Horcón is mostly ideal as a less urban seaside getaway, there’s one sight that is worth the time to visit: the Puente de los Deseos (Bridge of Wishes). This short bridge-to-nowhere (literally it goes from the mainland to a small rock) is covered completely with colorful ribbons. Each ribbon has a wish, hope, or dream written upon it. It’s obviously Instagram worthy, but it’s also a beautiful spot to feel connected to fellow humanity.
Honestly, one of the best things to do in Valparaíso isn’t an organized experience or tour. It’s not a specific sight. It’s just this thing you’d do every day if you lived in Valparaíso: dining on the terraces, admiring the view.
Wander until you find a restaurant with a great view and a nearby restaurant. Some of the tallest, popular hills, will offer you the most and best options. Ask for a table on the terrace. Order a Pisco sour and the catch of the day. ¡Buon provecho!
A 3-Day Itinerary for Valparaíso
Now that you have all the details about the unmissable things to do in Valparaíso, it’s time to put them together. Here’s how to make the most of 3 days in Valparaíso.
Day 1: Arrive from Santiago & Explore Cerro Alegre
A morning bus from Santiago will deposit you in Valparaíso by midday. This gives you plenty of time to drop your bags at your hotel or Airbnb, then explore on your own until sunset.
The best place to head on your first day is Cerro Alegre, epicenter of street art and activity for visitors to Valparaíso. Make your first funicular ride aboard Concepción or Reina Victoria, depending on which side of the hill you’re approaching from. Then you can wander up and down the hill, through the colorful alleyways – especially Galvez – until you’re hungry.
Enjoy dinner on the terrace at Hotel Fauna, my top recommended restaurant in Valparaíso. Enjoy the view, and a glass of their Pisco Fauna, a house recipe Pisco Sour.
Day 2: Walking Tour & Visiting Bellavista
While there are walking tours in the afternoon, I recommend booking one in the morning. The 10:00 am “offbeat” Valparaíso walking tour I found (but didn’t go on) is a 2.5- to 3-hour tour and is offered by donation. You’ll see Cerro Alegre’s colorful streets on the tour, which will help you get oriented to Valparaíso’s quirkier side. If you want a more traditional walking tour, that same company offers a Valparaíso highlights walking tour everyday at 3:00 pm.
In the afternoon, ascend Espiritu Santo to the Bellavista hill and neighborhood. This is one of the nicer neighborhoods, and you’ll notice this as you ascend to the top of the hill. After all, it’s called bella vista (beautiful view). You can end the day with an extended dinner and drinks at Oda Pacífico before making your way home.
Day 3: Day Trip to Cachagua or Casablanca Valley
While I’m always a bit hesitant to recommend a day trip when you’re on a short trip to a specific city, I do think that people love seeing the surrounding region and Valparaíso specifically has some really distinct Chilean day trip options.
I’ve detailed both the Casablanca Valley wine tasting and penguin-hiking itinerary in Cachagua in the above section about the best things to do in Valparaíso, so refer to that section if you’re interested in either of these.
In the evening, you can catch a late bus back to Santiago, or stay another night in Valparaíso. Since buses run so frequently, you can even wait to decide after you’ve finished your wine tasting or spent the day hiking along the coast!
Practical Information To Plan Your Trip To Valparaiso
The best time to visit Valparaíso
Valparaíso is located on the Pacific Coast, so its weather is somehow similar to that of San Francisco – at least as fall approaches as when I was visiting. You will often experience the marine layer sitting out above the ocean during the morning and in the evening; and at times a mild fog or low cloud will cover over the city, keeping it chilly and which kept and humid.
The best months to visit Valparaíso will be October to February, the late spring and summer months. In early September and late March, cooler weather will likely persist, with lower chances of sunny and warm days.
How to get to Valparaíso from Santiago
Buses from Santiago to Valparaíso depart regularly from Pajaritos station and go all the way to Rodoviario bus station, from where you will have to take a taxi to reach your accommodation. One way tickets cost between 5,000-7,000 CLP ($7.50-$10.50).
Getting Around Valparaíso
For a city of hills, you might wonder about your options for traveling around the city. Here’s a quick breakdown of how to get around Valparaíso.
BY PUBLIC TRANSIT: There are two primary transit options in Valparaíso: buses and funiculars (discussed above). Buses only run along the flat roads at the base of Valparaíso’s many hills, along the waterfront. There are buses to everywhere within the city center as well as the surrounding communities. They are mostly used by locals going to and from work, and are affordable at up to 410 CLP ($0.60) per ride.
OTHER TRANSIT OPTIONS: If you’re physically able, walking is the best way to get around Valparaíso. However, be aware that there are exceptionally steep hills in some parts of the city. That said, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of reaching a great viewpoint of Valparaíso from a stairwell or steep alleyway. Make sure to pack a pair of very comfortable shoes as the streets can be a bit uneven!
Where to stay in Valparaíso
There is no shortage of good accommodation options in Valparaíso. Things to consider when picking a place to stay are the location – especially, how steep is the hill you’ll have to climb to get there; and the view – a room with a view is certainly recommended. Having said so, here are a few good places to stay:
LA GALERIA – A good bed and breakfast with comfortable – albeit a bit small rooms.
FAUNA HOTEL – One of the most budget friendly options. There is a restaurant with a terrace and great views.
THIS AIRBNB has a fantastic terrace and funky decorations and can fit up to 7 persons.
Are you planning a trip to Chile? Make sure to read my other posts!
- 21 Incredible Places To Visit In Chile
- 22 Fun Things To Do In Santiago, Chile
- A Complete Guide To San Pedro De Atacama