Valparaiso, the second largest city in Chile, is a colorful coastal city. It is one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports and was once called “The Jewel of the Pacific.” For tourists, Valparaiso’s big draw is its colorful buildings, its maze of chaotic, hillside streets, and its graffiti. Numerous funiculars, or “ascensors” as they are called here, carry passengers up and down the steep hills. Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a favorite destination in Chile for many visitors.
We visited Valparaiso on Easter Day. It seemed appropriate, to walk among colorful buildings painted the same colors of Easter eggs. We had heard a lot of great things about this city and we were eager to explore it.
Being in Valparaiso on Easter was both a blessing and a curse. The drive from Santiago was fast and easy and finding parking in Valparaiso was very easy. But Easter made Valparaiso a ghost town. The majority of shops and restaurants were closed and there were almost no people on the streets. It felt very strange.
Plus, we were here on a cloudy, foggy day, not the ideal condition to be visiting this city. Valparaiso is best seen on a clear, sunny day, when the colors pop and the coastline is gorgeous. We didn’t have this experience but still tried to make the most of it.
While in Valparaiso, we wanted to see the best of its graffiti and colorful views. I had a difficult time figuring out where the most scenic areas are, but with some wandering around we found some great spots. Here is our brief walking tour of Valparaiso and it’s colorful graffiti.
Our tour started in the area of Ascensor Reina Victoria. We parked near here but this area is also easily accessible from the Bellavista metro station.
This was our first view of the graffiti (and the shops that were closed for the day) at the three way intersection of Condell, Esmeralda, and Cumming.
We walked uphill on Cumming, getting these views.
There is a tiny side street off of Cumming, Plazuela Descanso, where you can have these views.
Continue walking uphill on Atahualpa. Look to your left and you will see these very colorful steps.
Farther uphill, where Atahualpa meets Elias and Miraflores, there is a cool looking, dilapidated building with very colorful graffiti on the bottom.
From here, we walked over to Cerro Concepcion, a famous spot in Valparaiso with views over the city and a chance to see the famous piano steps. To get there, we walked down Elias, continued down Cumming, turned right onto Almirante Montt, and then turned right onto Beethoven. It is here you can see those famous piano steps and Iglesia Luterana de la Santa Cruz. This is a great spot for wandering around and getting a bite to eat. Although while we were here, nothing was open.
From Cerro Concepcion, we took Ascensor Concepcion downhill and walked fifteen minutes on Blanco to the Artilleria region of Valparaiso. The Ascensor Artilleria is one of the most famous and most photographed funiculars. Even on a quiet Easter morning there was a line waiting for a ride to the top.
We chose to walk to the top, which took less than 10 minutes. To the left of the ascensor, walk up Carampangue and then turn right onto Artilleria.
At the top, on a sunny day, you will be rewarded with some of the most famous views of Valparaiso. On a foggy day, the city unfortunately looks much more gloomy.
At the very top of the hill is a small restaurant that sells empanadas, one of the most popular foods we saw in Chile. It was here we met Danilo, the restaurant owner and part-time painter. He was very friendly and meeting him was one of our highlights of touring Valparaiso.
We walked back downhill and then back on Cochrane towards our car. On the way we stopped at Plaza Sotomayor. This was a pretty spot but Tim and I were wondering what was up with the broken shipping container in the center of the square. It was fun for Tyler and Kara to climb up but seemed to take away from the beauty of this place.
Further down Cochrane, we stumbled upon Urriola, another winding street with beautiful graffiti. We walked up here to take a few final photos of the colors of Valparaiso.
Our tour of Valparaiso ended here. We hopped back into our car, drove fifteen minutes to Vina del Mar, another neighboring, coastal town. Vina del Mar was much more active on Easter, with lots of people, open restaurants, and traffic. This city seemed like a more upscale version of Valparaiso and is also worth exploring if you have the time.
About Our Experience
So, what did we really think about Valparaiso? Honestly, we weren’t that impressed. We were turned off by the dirty city streets and Valparaiso didn’t seem to be as colorful and as beautiful as we imagined it to be. For us, Valparaiso just did not live up to its hype. I know our experience was tarnished by the less than ideal weather and the ghostly city streets. On a sunny day I think that Valparaiso would be more impressive. We were happy with our few hours exploring here and then moving onto the next thing.
Where We Stayed
We stayed in Santiago at Hostel Rio Amazonas. This hostel is wonderful. Take your pick from a single room, rooms with two twin beds, and rooms that accommodate three and four people, perfect for families or groups. Rio Amazonas is located in central Santiago, within walking distance of restaurants and many of the most popular sites in Santiago. If you are traveling on a budget, take a look at this property.
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