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Valparaíso is one of the coolest coastal cities in Chile. It’s a fun and vibrant place to visit, filled with plenty of great sights and tons of fun things to do. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the best Latin American cities to visit!
Valparaíso, also called “Valpo” by the locals, is a city that’s a beautiful escape with art at every turn. On top of that, it has stunning beaches and is a gathering spot for travelers and artists alike.
Whether you’re hitchhiking across Chile or taking a tour here, you won’t regret ending up in Valparaíso. You can expect to surf, party, visit a museum, see incredible art, and get lots of steps in (up some steep hills) when you visit this Chilean cultural hub.
If you’re like me and want to make the most of your time exploring parts of Chile that aren’t your typical tourist destinations, this blog is for you. In it, I’ll share the 18 best things to do in Valparaiso, from the obvious to the off-the-beaten-path activities you may not have thought of.
There are so many things to do in Valparaiso that make it a great stop on your travels through South America.
- About Valparaíso, Chile
- Things to do in Valparaíso, Chile
- 1. Go on a free walking tour
- 2. Ride in a funicular
- 3. Wander the cute streets and admire the art
- 4. Check out the piano staircase
- 5. Drink craft beer
- 6. Check out artwork at Baburizza Palace
- 7. Relax in Plaza Sotomayor
- 8. Cooking class
- 9. Head to Viña del Mar
- 10. Explore the Maritime Museum
- 11. Go on a wine tour
- 12. Party!
- 13. See the sea lions at Playa Caleta Portales
- 14. Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaíso
- 15. Go surfing and sandboarding on the same day
- 16. Go on a paid tour of the city
- 17. Go on a beer trekking tour
- 18. Check out La Sebastiana Museo de Pablo Neruda
- Where to Eat in Valparaíso, Chile
- Where to Stay in Valparaíso, Chile
- Thanks for reading!
About Valparaíso, Chile
Valparaíso is the second-largest city in Chile, following Santiago, and was declared a World Heritage Site in 2003 thanks to its historical importance, original architecture, natural beauty, and unique layout.
Valparaíso is named after a town in Spain, the birthplace of the conquistador that founded this city on the coast of Chile in the 1530s. The city may have deep roots, but most of what you see today is only about a century old, thanks to a mass rebuilding of Valparaíso after an earthquake leveled the city in 1906.
Valparaíso is endearingly known as “the Jewel of the Pacific” and used to be called “Little San Francisco” by all of the international sailors that would stay in this city for varying stretches of time. During its golden age, the city drew in many European immigrants and experienced massive growth while also hosting those sailors and crews from around the world.
Today, it looks a bit different as artists, backpackers, students, locals, and nomads alike make up the different demographics of people that the city draws in. Nonetheless, Valpo is and always has been a place for wanderers and those looking to experience the Chilean Pacific in all of its glory.
The city is known for its street art, of course, but also for the steep funiculars located all over this hilly region. Many of which can help you get to the colorful clifftop houses that give Valparaíso its signature look.
Overall, you won’t regret visiting Valparaíso!
Things to do in Valparaíso, Chile
1. Go on a free walking tour
What better way to get to know a place than walking it with a local expert?
The best thing about these walking tours with Tours 4 Tips is that they are completely free. The second-best thing is that it allows you to gain a more intimate view of the streets, the people, and the nuances of a place you are visiting.
There are two options for free walking tours in Valparaiso and they are both incredible! No matter which one you choose, you’ll have the help of a guide to build your confidence and answer any questions you might have.
The first tour option is called “Valparaíso Highlights” and takes you on a 3-hour walking tour that begins at 3 pm daily and covers about 4 km (2.5 miles) of distance. You’ll see so many significant parts of Valpo, like the port, funiculars, Cerros (hills), Alegre and Concepción, and street art, and you’ll even get some recommendations for food and drinks at the end of the tour.
The second tour option is named “Valparaíso Off Beat” and lasts for 2.5 hours. It begins at 10 am and covers 8 km (5 miles) and allows you to get off the beaten path and experience the city like a local. You’ll see the port and its neighborhood, Plaza Echaurren, a cultural center, go on an art tour, learn lots about politics and history and see the “other” side of the city.
In all honesty, I suggest doing both tours. I did them on the same day with a short break between them and had a fantastic time!
The tours are based on tips, so you can pay what you want – make sure to have some cash on hand. They’re also suited to kids and available in English and Spanish.
2. Ride in a funicular
Funiculars are a staple in the hilly city of Valparaíso. Think of funiculars as outdoor elevators that help people get around the hills. They ensure residents and visitors alike can get around without doing too much hiking during their daily commutes.
Ascensor Reina Victoria and Ascensor El Peral are two of the most popular options, both of which are quite close to Plaza Sotomayor, the main square in Valparaíso. So, if you’re already touring the main parts of the city, why not take a ride on a funicular (“ascensor” in Spanish) too?
It only takes about 90 seconds to ride up the hills in these funiculars, which cost about 300 CLP or the equivalent of only 35 cents in US dollars. The cost of each separate funicular may vary slightly. Most funiculars open at 8 am, and some stay open until 11 pm while others close a bit earlier, around 9 pm.
3. Wander the cute streets and admire the art
Another one of the best things about Valparaíso, aside from the walkability (and funicular access on hills), is the art.
There are so many cute streets layered throughout the entire Valparaíso area, and exploring them was one of the highlights of my time in Chile. What stands out most to me as I look back is that art can be found everywhere. It’s not in short supply, either!
The city of Valparaiso and its locals support the arts, and most cafes and restaurants are happy to have their walls painted with beautiful murals. In fact, it has helped stop unwanted graffiti because of the respect each artist shows each other. Basically, you don’t want to paint over someone else’s mural!
While walking tours and trips up the hills are certainly memorable and wonderful ways to experience the area in its glory, getting lost among the unique streets and beautiful corners is an aspect of visiting Valparaíso that cannot be planned. It is something that will help you immerse yourself in the wonder of this place, though.
To help you out, be sure to head up to Templeman Street. It’s well known as one of the best streets in all of Valparaiso for street art.
Of course, if you want more help, you can also join this Valparaiso street art tour. It’s only 1.5 hours long, but you’ll learn all about the artists and most famous pieces including 15 giant murals. For those new to the city, this is a good way to explore and know you won’t get lost as you’ll have a guide by your side. The cost is under $70 USD.
Related read: If you’re into exploring colourful streets and artsy areas in South America, make sure to wander around La Boca either on your own or as part of a Buenos Aires sightseeing tour. Visiting this neighborhood in Buenos Aires is one of the best things to do in Argentina!
4. Check out the piano staircase
Speaking of wandering the streets and seeing all the art the city has to offer, you may have heard that there is a famous piano staircase in Valparaiso.
If this is your first time hearing of it, the piano staircase is located quite close to the funicular (ascensor) Reina Victoria on the street aptly named Beethoven. It’s pretty easy to remember that a piano staircase is located on Beethoven Street if you ask me!
The staircase is obviously open 24 hours a day since this is just a set of public stairs. You can stop by during your art walk through the city, on the way to the funicular, or after you’ve grabbed a bite to eat in one of the many nearby locations.
These stairs are great for a photo op or just to walk by and say you saw them. Whatever floats your boat, honestly. If you hadn’t had this on your list before, now you should!
5. Drink craft beer
If you’re a beer drinker at all, even if you just dabble a bit, there are many craft beer options in Valparaíso.
There are multiple breweries downtown that you can check out, refine your beer-based palette, and spend time with your travel companions or strangers you’ve just met. In fact, there’s no better way to get to know a city than through its food and drink!
Whatever your goal is, Cervecera del Puerto is a microbrewery close to Plaza Sotomayor and would be the perfect spot for you to kick back with a drink if you’re already in the city center, anyway. This one is open from 10 am to 7 pm daily and is closed on Sundays. You’ll want to pop into this spot to see if it’s open later because hours vary, but at least it’s a short walk from many of the areas you may already be visiting in Valpo!
If you’re a bit further out, Cerveceria Liverpool tends to be a bit lower-key since it isn’t quite as close to the port area. It’s open from 3 pm to 10 pm every day but Monday and Tuesday.
There are also lots of other spots around town that sell craft beer from all over Chile. It’s all fantastic quality and if you can, try some from Patagonia – they were always my favorites.
6. Check out artwork at Baburizza Palace
When you just want to be indoors but still see some artwork, Palacio Baburizza Museum is the place to go in Valparaiso. Or, if you feel like you must have explored every art-filled nook and cranny of Valparaíso (unlikely,) this is a fun way to see a large collection of both European and Chilean artworks.
Fun fact, the collection housed here is from 1800 to 1990 and is one of the most important in the entire country of Chile. If that doesn’t convince you it’s worth a visit, I don’t know what will!
You can schedule guided visits online any day, except Monday, from 10 am to 6 pm, which means you could shut down the museum and immediately go grab some food and drinks at a happy hour or head off on your next adventure!
The best part is that it’s really reasonable to visit at $4,000 CLP ($4 USD). So why wouldn’t you go!
7. Relax in Plaza Sotomayor
The huge main plaza of Valparaíso is called Plaza Sotomayor, and it’s a nice spot to hang out, people watch, or even read a book for a bit in between destinations.
At the foot of this plaza is Muelle Prat (Prat Wharf, in English), which happens to be the only wharf where the public can watch ships be loaded and unloaded, at a safe distance, that is.
This makes the intersection of Plaza Sotomayor and Muelle Prat a popular place to take off for boat trips around the harbor. The short tours only cost around $5 USD and last 30 minutes. There is also a great market that sells handcrafted goods if you’re looking for some unique gifts to bring back to friends (or take home yourself!).
Really, who doesn’t love a good plaza by the water? This is a great way to get a sense of local Valpo while taking a break from the hustle of exploring.
8. Cooking class
Eating yummy food is all well and good, but learning to cook takes your experience to a whole new level!
I think it’s so cool to come home from abroad and get to showcase a new dish I liked to my friends or family. A cooking class is a way to get involved in the more traditional side of a country’s cuisine. It also helps you learn how to make food that you have tried and would like to recreate yourself.
This Chilean cooking class comes with a market tour and takes about five and a half hours since you are a part of the process from selecting the food to making it and, finally, enjoying your home-cooked meal at the end. You’ll tour a traditional market, make a lunch that includes a starter, a main, and a dessert, and also have access to pisco sours and fine Chilean wines to quench your thirst.
One thing I like about this one is that the maximum occupancy is 12 guests, so you really do get an intimate and personalized cooking experience while learning about the culture, history, and cuisine of Chile.
9. Head to Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar is Valparaíso’s neighbor and a more laid-back, fashionable beach resort area. Technically 8 km (5 miles) north of Valpo, Viña del Mar is easy to walk to if you decide to spend the day exploring the coastline. I often walk there and taxi back.
If you decide that walking isn’t your jam, the cabs between these two beachfront towns are relatively cheap. Remember, you can always try to talk the price down if it sounds a bit steep.
Originally founded in the late 1800s as a weekend retreat for the wealthy elite in Valparaíso and Santiago, Viña del Mar has remained one of the top beach destinations for everyone living in Santiago ever since. Although you likely won’t hear the full name of this town because most simply refer to it as “Viña”.
While Valparaíso boasts colorful streets and organized chaos, Viña has attractive homes, open spaces, manicured lawns, and beautiful beaches with colorful surfboards everywhere. You can opt to go to these beaches but just be prepared that you will see a great deal more tourists – a small price to pay for the beauty of the area, in my opinion. You can also explore the downtown area and all of its shops and restaurants.
Viña del Mar is like Valparaíso in its quantity of funiculars because there are many lining the hills of this town that has a similar landscape to its southern neighbor. There are also plenty of museums, good restaurants, and open walkways to enjoy in Viña del Mar. If you feel like you’ve seen Valparaíso and are ready to compare it to a nearby location, stop over and check out Viña.
10. Explore the Maritime Museum
Valparaíso has an extensive history that is largely based on its proximity to the ocean. The Maritime and Naval Museum is a great place to learn more about this city, its port, and the navy.
The museum is run by the Chilean Navy and showcases its history across many exhibits in 17 showrooms. The huge collection of more than 3,000 objects includes flags, medals, uniforms, and more. What’s cool is that this museum actually started in 1915 on a battleship called Huáscar where important objects were collected and displayed in a floating museum.
Now, it’s housed in a building near the water and is open from 10 am to 6 pm daily. This is an accessible option and can be particularly nice after a hot day of being outside exploring or perhaps during the rainy season. For just 3,500 CLP ($4 USD), you can spend as long as you’d like exploring the different wings of this extensive museum space.
I also want to mention that this is a fun learning experience for kids and adults alike, so keep this in mind as one of the best things to do in Valparaiso, especially if you’re working with a range of ages.
11. Go on a wine tour
History tours are great and all, but we can’t forget about the best kind of tour, a wine tour! Especially not in a place like Valparaíso, where the Chilean wine is some of the best on the continent. This is not the place to pass up an opportunity to drink some delicious locally-made wine.
In fact, you can choose to go on a private wine tour to experience regional, high-class wine in a laid-back way. The tour itself lasted about 5 hours and included hotel pickup, visits to 2 wineries, and wine tastings, of course. I loved it!
You’ll spend this trip in the Casablanca Valley and will get a true taste of the quality of wine that Chile produces. You’ll get an in-depth look into Chilean wine and even visit underground wine caves used to store wine. These cellars naturally maintain a constant temperature, perfect for wine.
If you didn’t know before that Chile was a player in the world of wine, you won’t have any doubts after this day trip.
Related read: One of my favorite ways to relax after spending a day in Santiago, Chile is with a glass of red wine in the trendy Bella Vista neighborhood.
If you’re going to be visiting Valparaíso for any length of time, the party scene is one that I highly recommend experiencing for yourself. While the city has more to offer than just parties and great nightlife, these are certainly major highlights if you’re looking for a fun night out!
Terrazza Bellavista is a favorite of mine, thanks to the multiple levels that include an open rooftop with a DJ. You can experience different genres of music and different crowds of people just in this one club, which is always a fun way to meet people and find new music that you enjoy.
For fun live music and electronic dance parties, head to Terraza Mimi. This nightclub has three stages and a HUGE dance floor. It’s perfect for dancing all night since it’s open from 9 pm to 7 am on Fridays and Saturdays.
You’ll also find that the locals and other travelers you meet will have good recommendations, so don’t be afraid to try out any bar or club that you hear about – odds are, you’ll have a great time.
13. See the sea lions at Playa Caleta Portales
One thing I love about traveling is seeing animals that I never get the chance to at home! Living in Alberta, Canada means no sea lions, that’s for sure.
Sea lions are incredible, and when I got to see them at a beach near Valpo, it ended up being one of the highlights of my trip. At the pier on Playa Caleta Portales, you’ll spot sea lions crowded around the pier and the rest of the port area. They even come up to the beach to lay in the sun! It’s a sight to see, especially if it’s your first time seeing sea lions in such great numbers.
Playa Caleta Portales is located right between Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, so don’t let the fact that it seems off the beaten path scare you. Really, it’s pretty central between these two coastal towns.
It takes around an hour’s walk from Plaza Sotomayor in the center of Valparaíso, but this beach is quite close if you are a bit further north in Valparaíso (or headed back down from Viña del Mar.) Again, if you don’t love the idea of this long walk, a taxi is a good alternative. You can also take the train. In fact, there is a subway stop right near the beach, so you won’t get lost!
The area is also famous for its fresh seafood. In fact, we enjoyed some mussels and fish at a nearby restaurant, and I advise you do the same if you love seafood. It comes fresh off the boat that day and into the restaurants in the area.
Related read: If seeing incredible animals in Chile is on your bucket list, don’t miss seeing the two types of penguins in Punta Arenas!
14. Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaíso
There is no shortage of museums in this area, and the Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaíso is another highlight that I have to mention here.
It’s open from 10 am to 5:30 pm from Tuesday to Friday, so this one is a good place to pop in during the heat of the day when you need some refuge from the beaches, the stairs, and the beating Chilean sun.
The museum is filled with information about Chile’s natural history and includes a collection of taxidermy animals. On top of that, you’ll see tons of cool artifacts. The museum seems more catered to kids than adults, and it’s also mostly in Spanish. However, did I mention that it’s free? That might be the best part!
15. Go surfing and sandboarding on the same day
One of the coolest things about Chile is that there is so often an intersection between two very different environments in one area. You can stop on the way into the city to go sandboarding on the Concón dunes, just outside of Valparaíso, and then head further west to go surfing right after!
If you prefer to go with a group and have all the equipment and an instructor, try out this surf and sandboard tour in Valparaíso. You’ll not only get to learn how to surf in the Pacific Ocean, but you’ll also ride down a sand dune on a sandboard! This is one experience you’ll never forget.
You’ll get access to transportation, guides, alcohol, water, and equipment for $70 USD. This is a great deal compared to transporting yourself and renting a sandboard and a surfboard, so I really recommend taking advantage of this one.
Experiences like these really show how Valparaíso is not just for art lovers and backpackers, but also for those who love being active and utilizing all that nature has to offer!
Related read: If adventures like this are right up your alley, try camping in Torres del Paine National Park!
16. Go on a paid tour of the city
While the free walking tours around the city that I mentioned at the beginning are great, sometimes you just really want a more in-depth, personalized way to experience the city. If this sounds like you, and even if you are on a budget, there is a Valparaíso guided walking tour that starts at $40 USD a person.
I really like this one because it is a fun way to learn about the history of Valparaíso in just 2 to 3 hours! You’ll also explore more neighborhoods than on the free walking tours. The fact that it’s a relatively inexpensive option and you get a local guide certainly doesn’t hurt!
17. Go on a beer trekking tour
We’ve gone over walking tours and breweries, but it’s high time we combine the two! This beer trekking tour combines silence, beer, and nature in an outdoor craft beer tasting experience like no other. It might just be me, but this tour had me intrigued from the start.
You’ll spend 3-4 hours with a “qualified beer lover” who will help you discover some of the tastiest craft beers in the region as you walk around Valparaíso.
Funny enough, they count their “beer tasting equipment” for the day as sunscreen and hats because one of the stops is in a place called La ciudad de sol, or the City of Sun. So, prepare to be outdoors in the sun, walking, exploring, and drinking some beer for a few hours.
This is a unique way to get off the beaten path of the city and see some of Valparaíso’s natural elements with a group that caps off at just 6 people. Plus it’s only $25 USD a person.
Talk about soaking in some sun and serenity, am I right?
18. Check out La Sebastiana Museo de Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda was a famous Chilean poet who helped shape much of the literary culture during Chile’s surrealist movement of the late twentieth century.
He has three houses in Chile, two of which are in the country’s capital, Santiago, and a town called Isla Negra. The third house just so happens to be located in Valparaíso and was a great reprieve for the poet compared to his house in the city.
La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaíso, is now a museum where visitors from near and far can go and experience the way that the famed poet would have lived. This house is not only historical, but it is also beautiful. La Sebastiana is perched on top of a hill with incredible views of the city and the water.
You can see where he slept, where he did so much of his writing, where he might have taken evening walks, and so much more. If you are a lover of literature, beautiful architecture, or both, you will surely enjoy a visit to this museum.
Open every day but Monday, with hours that vary slightly between 10 a.m. and 6 to 7 p.m., the cost of entry is just 7,000 CLP ($7 USD). For no more than the cost of lunch, you can spend hours exploring every corner of this house while you learn about the history of the place via an audio guide.
This is one of those “must-do” things to do in Valparaiso if you’re looking for a more intimate yet museum-like experience.
Where to Eat in Valparaíso, Chile
One of the best things about travel is getting to try all the amazing foods, both new and familiar, that a place has to offer.
Even dishes you may have tried before often take on new meaning through different preparation or local twists. Here are some of my restaurant recommendations for when you are on your own trip to Valparaíso. Of course, you’ll find your own favorites, too, but these options are a great place to get started!
Restaurant La Concepcion – This one is just a few blocks from the Baburizza Palace, which means that it is nice and central. More than that, they serve incredible fresh seafood, and there is an amazing view of the ocean for those seated on the terrace. There are also vegan options, happy hours, and other deals, which makes this an inclusive and affordable dining option with a view!
Café del Pintor – The name means café of the painter, and for good reason, because its walls are home to beautiful murals that make this restaurant feel lively yet comforting. If you eat meat, their gringo burger is the one to try, with its bacon and onion rings on top of the standard cheeseburger.
Casa Cervecera Altamira – This one is great for those who love beer, as that is its focus, but also for anyone looking to find some live music and a place with a lowkey but fun ambiance. Try this one for dinner because the dim lighting and jazz music just makes it feel like an evening location. Make sure to order some local chorillana (french fries with lots of toppings) and pisco sours.
Café Entre Cerros Valparaiso – Meaning the café between the hills, you can expect to enjoy wonderful, filling breakfasts at a great value. Deemed by many past visitors as the best breakfast in Valparaíso, I don’t disagree! Also, the lunch and dinner options are vast if you can’t make it in the morning.
Restaurant El Pimentón – This is another spot that houses staples like beer, wine, chorillana, and other typical Chilean cuisines. Stop in for traditional meals with locals if you want to get even further off the touristy path. The tiny restaurant is really cozy and always busy, so you know it’s good!
Where to Stay in Valparaíso, Chile
While Valparaíso is only an hour from Santiago, there’s so much to see in this coastal paradise, that it’s hard to pack it all in a day trip. Instead, stay a night or two so you can explore Valpo during the day and then take in a night on the town!
We have a few recommendations on where to stay to help you narrow it down depending on what experience you’re hoping for and what your price range may be. If you want more information on some of the best areas to stay and more options for each price range, check out our guide to staying in Valparaíso, Chile.
La Casa Piola – $
This is one of the top-rated hostels in Valpo for its spacious rooms and location near trendy bars. The dorm rooms here start at only $9 USD per night (including breakfast!) which is an amazing deal if you’re okay sharing with other travelers. There are private rooms here – including some with bunk beds for families – (although you will still share a bathroom) for around $25 USD. Book a stay at Booking.com or HostelWorld.com.
La Galería B&B – $$
Located right in the middle of one of the most famous areas for street art on Templeman Street, this B&B is in an old building that has been beautifully restored. The views here of the old part of the city are stunning with colorful buildings and the ocean in the distance. Rooms here start at only $32 USD per night or you can upgrade to a larger room with a balcony for only $50 USD. A stay here also includes a yummy breakfast!
Hotel Casa Higueras – $$$
This hotel is inside a grand 1920s house and features an incredible infinity pool overlooking the harbor. The rooms are luxurious with lots of space and there’s a spa on-site for extra pampering. If you want an amazing view from your room, make sure to upgrade to a premium room! The accommodations here start at $150 USD and increase to well over $300 USD, depending on the room you choose.
Thanks for reading!
Valparaíso is one of those cities in Chile that will capture a piece of your heart. It’s such a vibrant place full of incredible art and history and so many things to do and see. You may find that one visit here isn’t enough and you’ll already be planning a trip back after you leave.
If Chile is part of your South American travel plans, check out our other blogs about Chile to help plan your trip. We’ve done everything from backpacking to hiking and multiple tours, so if you’re looking for recommendations or advice, drop us a comment or message. And be sure to check out our other blogs such as: