Valparaiso was the kind of place we wished we stayed longer at, as every turn gives you something new to see and more things to do. And if Santiago was meant to be the bland capital (bland it was not), then Valpo was its odd dysfunctional cousin that likes to do street art.
It seemed that every turn within the maze-like streets and alleyways of this gritty town showed us new and interesting pieces of art, with walls becoming graffiti’d beauties overnight. But of course Valparaiso is more than just the art on the walls, and we set out to find a few places and things within the town with the limited 2 days that we had. Here’s what we found!
The Free Walking Tour
Chile has a pretty good network of walking tours (until you head south of Santiago), and a popular one is run by Tours4Tips. These guys run tours in San Pedro de Atacama, Santiago, and Valparaiso, and after having done a tour with them in Santiago we thought we’d give them a go here as well.
The gimmick with this company is that they dress in red and white striped shirts and call themselves “Wally”, an interesting play on making themselves stand out in the crowd. We hopped onto the 10am tour (with the promise that a 3pm tour with them would be completely different if we went) and were led around the city to see it’s different parts.
We ended up going all around, taking buses up to high miradors, seeing cultural centres that were once prisons, school-ground squares that were once alcohol-fuelled meeting spots, and plenty of street art along the way. We then finished with a surprise that I will not ruin here, before finishing the tour.
Once again we would recommend this tour, and to also try their 3pm tour if you want a slightly different taste of what Valparaiso has to offer.
See the Sea Lions
One of the lesser known attractions in Valpo is to head down to the port and see some sea lions basking on an old concrete structure. I mean sure it doesn’t seem that great on paper, but there is something mesmerising about sitting at the beach front and watching sea lions sleep and play right nearby.
We ended up hanging around for nearly an hour, peacefully listening to the ocean as the ‘kid’ sea lions played and frolicked both on the concrete and in the water.
If you want to see the sea lions as well, head on down to Puerto Muelle or Muelle Baron (same place), and keep an eye out for the old concrete structure they laze about on.
Museo a Cielo Abierto
Because of the many small alleyways and snaking streets, Valparaiso of course become a Mecca for street art in Chile. What many people do not know however is that it still remains illegal to actually create street art without the proper permits.
However, when the movement started in Valpo the artists did not care, and took to creating murals on the many walls in the town. These have now been preserved by the Government, with many having to be repainted to their former glory.
With the murals back to their original standard, members of the public can now follow a set path through the streets and see 20 murals in what is known as “Museo a Cielo Abierto” or the Open Sky Museum.
Along the way you will also spot newer pieces of street art, making this a really nice walk on a sunny day and one for many pictures!
The Piano Stairs
These stairs can be found easily after completing the Open Sky Museum, and are a great way of concluding your “tour”. The piano stairs have become famous in their own right, as many people take to photographing themselves on them and posting to social media.
Perhaps the funniest story of their history is that the original creator would continue to maintain them after their initial creation. One day, whilst repainting the stairs, he was arrested. That’s right, even though the stairs are almost a legacy of Valpo he was arrested because street art continued to remain an illegal activity!
Going Out in Valparaiso
Of course being a hipster haven and a city rough around the edges, there are always going to be some great places to go out. We set out on an adventure one evening at just after midnight in the hopes of finding some fellow enthusiasts for a few drinks.
What followed for us was an adventure of walking through many different streets and alleyways (and reaching dead-ends) in attempting to find Calle Ecuador. We had been told that this street was the one to go to when you want to go out, and after just under an hour of wondering the rising streets, we finally found it!
What followed was meandering about into pubs that had the same name as bars we actually wanted to visit (who names two venues the same thing?!), and not seeing nearly enough people out for a weekday as we had hoped. Calle Ecuador truly is the place for going out however, with many bars on offer that had potential. The only truly saving grace to the night was finding an open panaderia on the way home having one of the best empanadas ever (or maybe that was the alcohol talking)!
This was our experience in Valparaiso, which of course does not cover everything. There are the famous ascendors to try whilst in town, and if the weather had held out for another day for us we could have tried a lancha ride down in the harbour (which we heard was definitely worth it). Overall though, we enjoyed our short amount of time in Valpo and would not change a thing!