Looking for the best things to do in Valparaiso, Chile? Here’s our top suggestions, guaranteed to leave you wishing you had more time to spend in this city.
Valapraíso is a vibrant port city on the coast of Chile, known for its colourful street art and delicious ceviche.
It’s definitely not the prettiest city, in fact, many call it gritty and dilapidated, but however you want to describe it, its charm is undeniable.
“Valparaíso, how absurd you are. You haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dress, life has always surprised you.” – Pablo Neruda
Valparaíso is one of those places that you have to experience. Wander the streets, meet the people and you’ll get a feel for the city. In fact, I guarantee you’ll wish you had more time there!
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Valparaiso is built on a series of hills, 42 to be exact. Although much of the city’s business and activity can be found in the lower town and close to the harbour, the hills are where you find the neighbourhoods and a true sense of the city.
Each hill has its own distinct neighbourhood, filled with street art, shops and cafes, mingling with the houses.
So while the best way to experience the city is to wander and explore the neighbourhoods, here are some of the top things to do in Valparaíso that you won’t want to miss.
Best Things to Do in Valparaiso
1. Admire the Street Art
One of the top things to see in Valparaiso is its’ street art.
This is what Valparaíso is known for.
Although graffiti is actually illegal in the city, it hasn’t stopped the many artists who have decorated almost every wall, and even some steps!
Some of the best streets to check out are Hector Calvo, a street with vivid murals decorating the buildings, as well as Elias, Mira Flores, Carillo Armstrong, and Templeman. But wherever you choose to wander, you’ll be sure to find some great art to admire.
2. Climb the Staircases
Valparaiso is a city built on hills, and there are plenty of staircases to connect the streets between the neighbourhoods.
Like the buildings, the staircases have become a great place for art.
One of the most interesting staircases that we saw was the Piano Staircase – which was painted by a musician and can be found on a road named Beethoven, of course.
It’s one of the most popular spots in Valparaiso for photos.
3. Ride a Funicular
If you don’t feel like climbing the staircases, or if you just want another interesting view of the city, there are seven funiculars throughout the city that save you the climb up the stairs.
Most of these funiculars are well over 100 years old- the oldest is Ascensor Concepción, built in 1883, and one of the most popular is Ascensor Reina Victoria.
At the upper entrance to Reina Victoria, there’s a large slide that kids will love – mine kept asking to come back, just to go down this slide!
These historic funiculars are one of the reasons that Valparaiso was chosen as a UNESCO world heritage site.
They’re an interesting experience and at 300 pesos one way, they’re a pretty inexpensive way to see the city.
4. Wander through the Concepción neighbourhood
This neighbourhood is a wonderful area to wander around. There’s plenty of street art to admire and it’s a great spot to buy locally-made paintings, art and crafts and other souvenirs.
Cerro Concepcion, along with Cerro Alegre and several other squares and streets in Valparaiso’s historical quarter, became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. The funiculars, mentioned above, are also part of this designation.
It’s also home to Hotel Brighton, the bright yellow house that’s visible from below, which is a great spot to watch the sunset.
Take the funicular to get to the Concepción neighbourhood. Ascensor Concepción, built in 1883, is one of the oldest funiculars in Valparaiso.
5. Take a Free Walking Tour
Like many cities in South America, Valparaiso has several free walking tours.
These tours are a great way to orient yourself and learn more about the city. Run by locals who have plenty of information to share, as well as fun and engaging stories to tell about Valparaiso.
Tours are usually around 3 hours, so make sure you have comfortable walking shoes (and change for the funicular). While these tours are free, the guides do depend on tips, so be sure to bring cash along.
Fun fact: Years ago, during the gold rush, Valparaiso was a popular spot for sailors to stop while heading from Europe to California, thus earning itself the nickname ‘the jewel of South America”. However, once the Panama Canal was opened, things quickly changed.
6. Visit Plaza Sotomayor
Similar to the main square in Piran, Slovenia, Plaza Sotomayor is actually on what used to be the inner harbour and is now reclaimed sea land.
The square is surrounded by impressive buildings, including the Edificio Armada de Chile, a pastel blue building that you can’t miss on the square. There are plenty of other beautiful buildings as well, all with different architectural styles.
In the middle of the square is a monument dedicated to sailors who lost their lives during the War of the Pacific in 1879.
This main square of Valparaiso is a popular meeting spot, and the starting point for one of the free walking tours mentioned above. It’s also home to a bustling market, where you can find crafts, clothing and other souvenirs from Chile.
7. Take a Boat Tour
Mulle Prat, the only wharf that’s open to the public, is also where you can find companies offering boat tours of the harbour.
These tours head out into the harbour and provide a gorgeous view of the hills, usually passing a sea lion or two, lounging on the buoys.
Lasting about 30 minutes, the tours cost $4000CLP and are half-price for children. No need for a reservation, simply show up and take the next available tour.
8. Visit La Sebastiana
This former home of renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda is quite possibly the main tourist attraction in Valparaiso.
One of three houses that Neruda owned in Chile, the other two being La Chascona in Santiago and La Casa de Isla Negra, La Sebastiana is the most eccentric of Neruda’s homes.
Located high on a hill in Cerro Bellavista, his former home is now a museum displaying different pieces of his life. Whether you are interested in the poet, or just interested in the fantastic views of the city from his house, La Sebastiana is worth a visit!
9. Try Chorrillana
An interesting dish that you HAVE to try when in Valparaiso, Chorrillana is a traditional Chilean food found all over the city. Basically, it’s french fries which are topped with sausage, onions, cheese and a fried egg (or two). Don’t pack a lunch, just snack on chorrillana.
10. Sip on a Pisco Sour
Pisco Sour is known as the national drink of Peru, but it’s also popular in Chile.
Chile makes a slightly different, but just as fantastic Pisco sour. It’s a combination of Pisco, a spirit made from grapes, mixed with lemon, sugar and egg whites. Sounds easy enough, but believe me, it’s pretty good!
One of the best pisco sours I had in Chile was at El Internado, which was just steps from the Reina Victoria Funicular.
11. Try Ceviche
You can’t leave Valparaíso without trying ceviche!
As a port city, seafood is a given and there are some interesting varieties of ceviche to try!
Ceviche is a dish made with fish that’s marinated in citrus and seasonings, but different restaurants can be creative and serve some unique ceviche.
I ate ceviche almost every night that we were in Valparaiso.
El Internado, home to the excellent Pisco Sour I mentioned above, and Fauna Restaurant, also a hotel, were two restaurants that we/I recommend. My kids didn’t try the ceviche but still enjoyed their meals. Both restaurants have a terrace and indoor seating, providing great views over the hills of Valparaíso.
Where to Stay in Valparaiso
4⭐ (8.2/10 on Booking)
Conveniently located across from the ocean and close to downtown, Hotel Diego de Almagro offers a great stay in Valparaiso. Rooms are clean and spacious, and some rooms offer an ocean view.
There’s also an indoor pool and free private parking underground, and a great breakfast is offered each morning. The hotel is within walking distance of the historic area, and we felt safe walking around the neighbourhood.
In fact, we liked it so much that we stayed here twice during our time in Chile.
4⭐ (9.1/10 on Booking)
Zero Hotel was another hotel that was high on my list, but unfortunately, it wasn’t available for all the time that we were in Valparaiso.
This hotel is in a historical building on a quiet street in the Cerro Concepión neighbourhood.
With a terrace overlooking the Pacific Ocean and just a 10-minute walk from the historic center, Zero Hotel is a great choice for accommodation in Valparaiso.
3⭐ (8.7/10 on Booking)
The Fauna Hotel was also high on my list. Right near the Reina Victoria funicular, this hotel is in a great neighbourhood and came highly recommended.
As there is no parking available, we opted not to stay here, but if you’re in Valparaiso without a car, it’s a great option!
There’s an excellent restaurant on site (which features some excellent ceviche), and the views from the terrace are fantastic. Sip on a Pisco sour and enjoy the view!
Things to Do Near Valparaiso
While there are plenty of things to see and do in Valparaiso, the city also makes an excellent base for exploring the nearby area. The suggestions below make great day trips from Valparaiso, or you could combine several, such as Vina del Mar and Concon Dunes to make a full day of exploring.
Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar is only 8km up the coast, but it’s such a different atmosphere than Valparaíso.
While Valparaiso boasts interesting street art, colourful houses and has a bohemian vibe, Viña del Mar is a resort area with great sandy beaches.
Originally a weekend retreat for the wealthy, it’s remained the top beach destination for many residents from Valparaíso and Santiago since.
Instead of colourful streets and a Latin American feel, here you’ll find carefully tended lawns and flowerbeds, beautiful beaches and stately homes.
This is a perfect place to spend the afternoon on the beach.
A little further past Viña del Mar on the coast, the town of Concon is known for its amazing Dunas de Concon. These impressive dunes are located right in the city and you can go sand boarding, or just walk through the dunes.
The dunes are especially popular in the evening and a great spot to watch the sunset.
Guided tours are available, where you’ll try sand boarding and surfing all on the same day. It’s easier, and much cheaper than renting equipment and arranging transportation yourself. Check availability here.
Zapallar is about 1.5 hours from Valparaiso, but well worth the drive. It’s a picturesque coastal town with a sandy beach and a popular resort
But it’s also where you’ll find Cachagua, a small island with a large colony of Humboldt penguins. The island is protected and off-limits to visitors, however, boat tours from the town’s beach take you close to the island, where you can spot these interesting penguins.
The penguins can also be seen from the beach, or the parking lot viewing platform, but you will need a pair of binoculars or a good zoom lens.
Wineries of Casablanca Valley
Just a short drive from Valparaiso is the Casablanca Valley, which has plenty of award-winning wineries to tour.
The cool climate, influenced by the nearby Pacific Ocean, makes it a prime location for producing exceptional white wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Most of the wineries, like Emiliana Winery, offer guided tours through the vineyards or you can just stop by for a wine tasting, where you can sample some of the region’s best wines.
Isla Negra is a coastal town a short distance from Valparaiso that holds a special place in Chilean culture.
This small beach town is famous for another of Pablo Neruda’s homes and is the final resting place of Chile’s beloved poet.
Beyond Neruda’s house, Isla Negra boasts rugged cliffs, sandy shores and the sounds of waves crashing against the shore, making it a perfect spot to relax and unwind after checking all the things to do in Valparaíso off your list.
How to Get to Valparaiso
Valparaíso is right on the Pacific Coast, just over an hour’s drive from Santiago.
Buses run from Santiago to Valparaiso and cost just over $10 US, or alternatively, you can rent a car, which is what we did, so you can explore a bit of the coast as well.
We recommend renting a car from Discover Cars, which searches the top providers and finds the best deals for you.
Getting Around Valparaiso
The city isn’t large, but it does have quite a few hills!
We walked throughout the city, or took funiculars for easier access (and because it was a highlight for my kids).
It’s definitely possible to walk most places, or there are plenty of buses that run throughout the city. They are quite often crowded, but they’ll always find a spot for another body!
Buses also run up the coast and provide an easy trip to Vina del Mar or Concon. You do need to purchase a metro card first, which costs around $1, 400 CLP or $2 US.
FAQ’s: Things to Do in Valparaiso
Yes, Valparaiso is worth visiting! With a rich history, bohemian atmosphere and impressive street art, as well as its impressive UNESCO-listed historic quarter, Valparaiso has a lot to offer. This vibrant and colourful city offers a unique and unforgettable experience for travellers.
While it’s possible to visit Valparaiso on a day trip from Santiago, we recommend spending at least 2 or 3 days to experience the city without feeling rushed.
Yes. However, as with any other place you visit, be cautious and keep an eye on your belongings. We had heard that it wasn’t safe to walk around by ourselves, but we felt fine exploring the historic quarter and other tourist areas. As I was travelling with young kids, I didn’t usually go out after dark.
Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Valparaiso Chile
Valparaiso is an incredible destination that offers a unique mix of art, culture and coastal beauty.
Wander the colourful streets and soak up the bohemian atmosphere while taking in the vibrant street art around every corner.
Climb the stairs or take a funicular to reach the charming neighbourhoods, where you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the city below and the Pacific Ocean.
However you spend your time in the city, there are plenty of things to do in Valparaiso to make your time there unforgettable.