Valparaíso was our last stop on our trip north through Chile before crossing back into Peru. This port city sits just outside of Santiago and is full of lively streets, history, and vibrant culture. While it is often overlooked by travelers stopping in Santiago, we think a quick visit to the coast is worth it. Whether you’re stopping for a while or just making a day trip from Santiago, here are some great things to do in Valparaíso!
1. Admire the Street Art
This city is widely known for its street art, so one of the most popular things to do in Valparaíso is walk the streets to take in the colorful murals. Street art has long been an important aspect to the city. Under Chile’s military dictatorship beginning in the 1970s, expression was harshly controlled. Many artists continued to use art to express themselves anyways despite the severe consequences of being caught.
As you explore the city, you’ll see unique pieces of art all over the place! From doorways and gates to walls and steps, artistic expression and color brighten the city streets. We saw pieces of art pretty much everywhere we went in Valparaíso, but some of the renowned neighborhoods to visit for their murals include Cerro Concepción, Cerro Alegre, and Cerro Carcel. There are new murals popping up all the time, making this city an ever-changing scene.
2. Take a City Tour
If you’d like to learn more about Valparaíso’s history, hit some of the city highlights, and have a more structured approach to seeing the best street art, a city tour is a great option! There are multiple free walking tours with various companies, including Strawberry Tours and Tours 4 Tips.
There are also other paid tours that include information on historical moments and figures, museum and market visits, stops at pretty vistas, visits to neighboring towns, etc. The many options ensure that you can get the most of your Valparaíso experience. Various tour companies are located in the heart of Valparaíso, so you can stop and book in person. Alternatively, you can find and book options on some company sites or via sites like Viator or Get Your Guide.
3. Wander the Markets
Valparaíso has long been a bustling port city and trade hub, and we came across quite a few great markets here. One of the most famous markets is at Playa Caleta Portales. This market has many vendors selling fresh seafood and some selling prepared dishes like fried filets of fish and ceviche. Mercado El Cardonal is another bustling market selling a variety of produce, baked goods, cheeses, and more. There are also some spots to grab a local bite.
Additionally, we encountered small groups of vendor booths throughout the city near major squares, such as at Plaza Sotomayor and Plaza O’Higgins. These booths and ferias that pop up regularly sell anything from street food and produce to souvenirs and clothing.
4. Visit the Museums
Valparaíso has rich history and culture. A great way to take a deeper dive into these topics is to visit some museums in the city. One of the museums that is most visited by travelers in Valparaíso is La Sebastiana. This is the former house of Pablo Neruda, an influential poet and political figure. Entrance to this museum costs 8000 CLP per person.
Other interesting museums include the National Maritime Museum covering Chile’s naval history, the National Natural History Museum covering a variety of topics like the region’s biodiversity, and the Baburizza Palace, which is a unique old mansion containing a variety of art.
5. Take a Wine Tour
Some of Chile’s greatest wine comes from the valleys around Santiago and Valparaíso. Valparaíso is a great hub for those wishing to visit vineyards, learn more about the process of making wine, and have the opportunity to taste some of the delicious wines made here.
We made our way to the Indomita vineyard and winery and took a guided tour with a staff member there. There are many tour options and companies that vary in what they offer, such as transportation from your hotel, meals, the number of vineyards visited, tour duration etc. Many tours can be found online on sites such as Get Your Guide and Viator, but you can also ask locals, your accommodation staff, or reach out to the vineyard staff to see what they recommend.
6. Enjoy Valparaíso Nightlife
Valparaíso has a busy nightlife scene with many unique spots for live music and dancing. The area around Cerro Concepción is known for nightlife among tourists. There are many bars and restaurants in that area, making it a good place to bar hop.
Bar del Tio and Bar Liberty are two bars in the city we recommend checking out. There are also a few fun clubs, like Terraza Bellavista and Terazza Mimi where you can grab a tasty drink, dance, and catch live performances.
7. Hit the Beach
The coastlines of Valparaíso and Viña del Mar have a few nice beaches for relaxing on a hot summer day or taking a stroll near the shore. Some of the beaches, like Playa el Sol and Playa las Torpederas have shops and restaurants nearby. You can also head further outside the city for a quieter and more picturesque scene at beaches like Playa Grande near Quintay and Playa las Docas.
When we were in Valparaíso in the winter, there were still pleasant, sunny days that drew people to the beaches. The water felt way too chilly for us to swim! We were also told that not all the beaches in the area are great for swimming even in the summer as there are days with large waves and a strong current. Just something to keep in mind if you bring kids along or want to take a swim yourself.