Valparaiso is Chile’s major seaport city and naval base, but visitors know it for its lively bohemian quarters with colourful hilltop houses, funicular railways and creative street art.
What a whacky place Valparaiso is! It’s a big, messy city but the street art /graffiti you find on hillside neighbourhoods is often astonishing.
Valparaiso is a large working port city with a cosmopolitan population and a lively artistic scene. It’s seen great prosperity and economic decline and now, once again, its fortunes are on the up. The old centre and harbour is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the once dilapidated hilltop mansions are being restored and it’s a buzzing university city full of creative street art.
- Poets, artists & musicians: Valparaiso has long attracted artists, musicians and poets. Chile’s most famous poet, Pablo Neruda, was born and lived here at La Sebastiania, now a museum. This bohemian tradition continues today in the form of colourful street art and graffiti. Frequent festivals add to this creative vibe and it’s no surprise that Valparaiso now has a lively student scene with four universities and several colleges based here.
- Hills & funiculars: No fewer than 45 hills (cerros) surround the city, home to neighbourhoods which are linked to the centre by funicular railways. 17 of the original 31 funiculars are now back in operation so you can ride up to the summits to see the once-grand mansions, many now restored and used by artists, and admire panoramic views down to the harbour and ocean. Cerro Concepcion is one of the best-known hills and the views are especially impressive at sunset and at Cerro Alegre you can visit the fine arts museum in the renovated Palacio Baburizza, itself an historic monument.
- The port: Valparaiso is Chile’s foremost port. In its 19th century heyday it was an important international trading centre, immigrants settled and new houses were built up the hills and on the hilltops. These brightly painted dwellings become an image of the city. It is also the HQ of the Chilean Navy. The historic centre including the seafront was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
- Vina del Mar: A 10-minute drive up the coast brings you to Vina del Mar, a popular domestic beach resort. Museo Fonck, the fine arts museum, is easily recognisable due to the Easter Island moai by its entrance.