Valparaíso outside of the tourist route
It’s very common that those who come to Chile want to go to Valparaíso. Many say It’s romantic, beautiful and full of color, but that description makes it look like a photo and not the city full of life it is. Generally, those who visit Valparaíso focus on two specific hills: Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, but the main port of Chile has much more to see. Here we will show you those curious spots off the tourist route.
Valparaíso, although a relatively small city, has a tremendous cultural diversity, since in its almost 500 years of existence many families with different origins, nationalities and stories have settled on its more than 40 hills. Many were English and Germans who arrived during the 19th century, mainly naval officers, sailors and merchants, who with their diverse notions of the world, gave the city a much more cosmopolitan personality than Santiago.
At present, unlike many other tourist places where there are almost no old inhabitants, in Valparaiso people still live, study, work and mix with those who are passing by. So you will have many options to leave your bags with keepairs porteños.
The Port District
In the mid-twentieth century, some considered that this neighborhood was dangerous, with bars full of sailors and a lot of prostitution; a place that was not frequented by the upper sectors of society. However, It’s in the Port District where everything began and the biggest commercial development left its mark, with large buildings and big warehouses that are now half abandoned.
You can walk through Echaurren Square, visit the old La Matriz Church and photograph the building of the old Market (closed since the 2010 earthquake). Today the neighborhood still has a bit of that decadence, but it’s reborn thanks to trendy nightclubs and bars, as well as real estate projects that rescue the old buildings converted into lofts.
If you’ve heard of Pablo Neruda and want to visit La Sebastiana, his house in Valparaíso, you must climb the Bellavista hill. Years ago you could take the Holy Spirit Elevator uphill, but nowadays it’s out of service. The advantage of not being able to use the elevator is that you will necessarily find several surprises as you go up. In different walls and corners you will discover murals painted by twenty Chilean artists, who decided to give free art and color to the city. An important feature of this public gallery, is that it’s not a linear route and you can access it from four points: Ferrari street, Victoria Square, Hector Calvo street and through one side of the Holy Spirit Elevator entrance. Among the artists who contributed to the project are the renowned Matilde Pérez, Nemesio Antúnez, Roser Bru and Roberto Matta.
If your trip to Valparaíso is just for the day, Casa Lastra Hostel (Lastra street #1998) and Pitra Cafe (Colón street #1964), are a couple of blocks from the climb to Cerro Bellavista on Ferrari Street. Both are our keepairs and a good option if you don’t want to climb the hill with your luggage.
In the middle of the two tracks of this avenue, runs a park 1.5 kilometers long, with palm trees that give it a tropical aspect. If you go from south to north, the first points of interest are the Santiago Severín Library and the British Arch, donated to Chile by the British community to celebrate the first centenary of independent political life. An interesting fact about this avenue is that it was an important part of the “el plan” urbanization project; to do it, space was gained from the sea and it was filled with the remains of sunken ships.
While walking down the park, you will notice that the area is a kind of “student district” with several schools and universities, including the Main House of the Valparaiso Catholic University.
On the east side of Brazil Avenue, in the El Almendral neighborhood, you will find what now is the most important market in the city (the old Market is in ruins). This is a good place to find fresh fruits and vegetables and you can also know the popular culture and taste typical food in the restaurants on the second floor. The structure was designed in Gustave Eiffel’s workshop (just like the tower) and is painted with striking yellow and green colors, so you can’t lose sight of it.
A few blocks from the Cardonal market is the climb to Cerro Barón (with its respective elevator), the old building of the railway station and the current Passenger Terminal, where the cruise ships arrive during the summer. It’s the beginning of a nice walk for pedestrians and bicycles, with several places to sit and rest for a while. You can enjoy watching the sea lions sunbathing, relax with the sound of the waves against the rocks and appreciate the beauty of the main building of the Federico Santa María Technical University.
Something that makes Valparaíso fascinating are its “elevators”, the way the locals found connecting the hills with “the plan” (the flat surface of Valparaíso). Today there are 16 elevators distributed throughout the city, in different states of conservation. Of all these, only the Polanco is a proper elevator, the rest are cable cars that go up the hill. The Polanco elevator is a bit far from the city center, but it’s worth going to the end of Avenida Argentina to know it. To get to the lower station, you must go into a dark and humid tunnel, about 150 meters long. From there, the ascent is 100% vertical to the upper station, from where you will have a beautiful view of the north side of Valparaiso, including the National Congress and the sea.
At the end of the Coastal Walk, you will find many restaurants offering seafood, such as fried fish, empanadas and ceviche. The best thing, besides the price, is that they buy their fresh products directly from the fishermen. Before getting something to eat you can take a walk around the cove and know the stalls where fresh products are offered.
If you keep moving north you’ll cross the border with Viña del Mar city, but that’s another story. To go back to the city center, recover your bags and say goodbye to your keepair, the best is to take the Metro, taking advantage of the proximity of the Portales station.