Valparaíso, is a historical port city located on a Pacific coast about 120km west of Santiago de Chile. Prior to the introduction of Panama Canal (1914), the city played a large role in the world of trade routes between Pacific and Atlantic oceans, serving as a major stopover for ships from all around the globe. As a result of that, Valparaíso still thrives on its intercultural richness and vibrant history to this day.
The city is also known to be a cultural capital of Chile. Historically it has been a home to many famous Chilean poets and artists, including the Nobel Price Laureates Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda but Valparaíso still attracts the free-spirit creative souls even today. The steep hills the city is built on, furthermore add another special ingredient to the overall bohemian character of the place.
Visually, the most dominant element of that bohemian character appears to be the street art here. It will hit you right in the face, because it’s literally everywhere. I specifically liked, that in Valparaíso, the passion and love for arts seem to be more important than the art making skills because the levels of how these art pieces are executed vary a lot.
In other words, it feels rather unpretentious IMHO. I believe that in Valparaíso‘s street art there is no space for discrimination, there are no borders, no limits, giving a chance to all sorts of works: masterpieces, classics, kitsch made with love, work of wannabe artists, and so on.
FYI, I’ve posted just a random selection of pictures here but the whole town is pretty much one huge street art gallery. Except the outdoors, there are also numerous indoor art galleries, various studios and so on. One can also enjoy the musicians playing on the streets or hear them practicing an instrument from all directions – as I said above – you’re literally surrounded by that creative bohemian spirit. Basically, Valpa feels good if one’s into arts 🙂
The teenage you
It’s actually that kind of place which makes some people to be confronted with their own teen rebelian-themselves in a form of a mild headfuck. You know, the moment when you were dreaming of picking an art course but your parents or something else made you to go for business management instead.
And here, when you sip your wine in a stylish café, the thoughts of that hypothetical life you would have lived – how things could be different if you have committed to follow your dreams back then – just pop in, this time only to make the present practical you to realise about the importance of remembering our own dreams.
The locals are very friendly in the tourist areas of the town. I’m however told not to wonder too far as it might be a dangerous activity in certain parts of town. Be aware. Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción are the two bohemian and tourist friendly hills but this is something you’ll read about in every brochure.
How to get there?
To get to Valparaíso from Santiago – head to Pajaritos Metro station, which is also a bus terminal towards Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. There are various bus companies running this journey. I paid 3200,-CLP (€4.20) for mine. The journey is pleasant and it takes about 90 minutes.
From Valparaíso bus terminal, try to take a public transport for 300,-CLP (ask the people, they will help you), unless you fancy supporting a taxi driver who will rip you off and charge you 8200,-CLP (€10.70) for taking you few miles up to Cerro Alegre, as it happened to me.
I’ve stayed in an Airbnb place called Habitación doble con la mejor vista al mar at Cerro Concepción. I must say that this was one of the best places I’ve stayed in during the whole duration of my 8 months trip. For only $12 a night I had my own fully furnished room with a balcony that proved the name of the place right as it came with one of the best views in the world..
The house is a very old posh place, previously owned by one of the richer Valparaisans with wooden floors and large tiled bathrooms and a great terrace. I mean heavens. The age of the place came with its signs of for example creaking staircase and a bit outdated kitchen but the overall atmosphere as well as the friendliness of the owner Maria and her semi-permanent tenants made me to feel like at home from the first minute onward. I’d go back straight away 😉
What would I do differently with my current knowledge of Valparaíso now?
I’d stay longer and take more Spanish classes. I’d be more culturally active to enjoy all the perks Valparaíso has to offer. And I’d go there with a girlfriend ‘cos it’s very romantic place.
In case you were considering taking some Spanish classes, I can recommend this course. You’ll be blessed to get to know two great people. The course is kind of custom made, adapted to your needs, given that you like Valparaíso and its perks, for instance my teacher was a poet. FYI – I’m not paid or given any advantages to recommend Interactive Spanish Course at all – I just felt improvements in my conversational Spanish (I’ve asked for) + I felt very welcomed.
Don’t miss this lovely town if you were ever near by 😉 To be objective, I must say that Valparaíso is not for everyone, one has to be keen on specific kind of vibe. I’m talking about the overall atmosphere of the city that is created by the contrast of certain grittiness and the ever-present bohemian spirit. I guess that you either love it or you hate it.
For those, seeking luxury and sparkling clean modern, resorty sort of places (such as the neighbouring Viña del Mar), this town might appear “dirty, crime-infested slum” as one of the travellers pointed out in a discussion on the infamous blue&white social network. My reply to him was: “I guess that we are two very different kind of people”. So what kind of a person are you?