Valparaiso is located on the South Pacific coast, about 2 hrs away from Santiago de Chile. It used to be one of the main ports in the Pacific, but the opening of the Panama Canal affected the economy of the city. Nonetheless, the city continues to be one of the most important seaports in the South Pacific, as well as a flourishing cultural and educational center.
During its golden age it was known as “Little San Francisco” and “the jewel of the Pacific”. The beautiful buildings in the city center and the imposing constructions in the port stand as a testimony of that period, fact which included the historic quarters in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.
Valparaiso spreads around steep hillsides. If you are not willing to take the stairs, you can try the 26 functional funiculars. But some of the stair streets will definitely worth the effort.
Or why not slide down?
In the last years artists have been taking over Valparaiso, transforming a decaying city into a vibrant and colorful destination. You can wonder the streets for hours, getting lost in the chaotic maze and discovering enchanting details at every corner. It feels like a spell has been put over the city, giving the houses a life of their own.
As is the case of many other cities, street art becomes a mean of talking about important issues, such as multiculturalism, ethnicity, human rights or the environment, not just a way of creating beautiful images.
While here, you can also visit Pablo Neruda`s home, La Sebastiana. The poet dedicated an ode to the city that inspired him. The Fine Arts Museum, the Museum of Natural History, the Naval Museum and the Cultural Park are also worth a visit. The Cultural Park was built on the site of a former prison.
Even though I consider the old city an enormous open air museum, just one part of the center is considered one.
As one might expect, most restaurants serve fish dishes and sea food. Surprisingly, the city is associated with another typical Chilean dish: the chorillana. The city takes proud in having the best chorillana in the country.
To sum up, if you have a few days in Santiago, Valparaiso is a must-see destination that will take you out of this world.