The most obvious colour to talk about in Valparaiso is in the countless murals painted on doors and walls all over the city which come in many shapes and sizes and really are quite fabulous.
But as well as the street art Valparaiso’s colour also comes from its slightly edgy feel, its creaking elevators and La Sebastiana, the former home of our favourite Latin American poet Pablo Neruda. If you’ve read my Santiago post you’ll know my friends and I fell a little bit in love with Pabs after visiting his former home there. So when we realised he’d also had a place in Valparaiso we knew we had to see it.
I’d originally thought about staying in Valparaiso but decided to save us another change of hotel and do it as a day trip from Santiago. And we were very glad we did, as while we enjoyed the visit it wasn’t somewhere we felt particularly drawn to spend the night. Largely because its a bit gritty in places, particularly around the busy working port.
Getting there from Santiago was very easy as I found a great blog post with detailed information and a useful link to using the metro in Santiago. We went on a Pullman bus but either that or TurBus are fine. Just see what the ticket counter queue is like at Pajaritos station and/or which is going next – there’s a screen opposite the counters with the departures on. If your Spanish is a bit patchy write down what tickets you needed in advance using Google translate. I did that and just showed it to the ticket lady and it worked a treat. The buses are very comfortable and the route is through the Casablanca Valley, so there are plenty of nice vineyards to look at during the 75 minute journey.
At Valparaiso’s Terminal Rodoviario bus station we took a taxi straight up to La Sebastiana as its quite a steep walk up there. Which is probably a good time to mention that Valparaiso is built on 42 (yes 42!) hills, but don’t worry you don’t need to climb them all. Pablo Neruda’s house is on a quiet residential hill, Cerro Bellavista, and his love of the nautical is immediately in evidence.
As with La Chascona in Santiago, La Sebastiana is a quirky delight on five floors with increasingly good views of the city and the harbour as you go up each level. Evidently it was a party house and Pabs hosted a New Year’s Eve bash every year so he and his friends could watch the Valparaiso fireworks below.
After seeing the house we walked downhill to the flat part of the city, El Plan, getting our first taste of the colourful street art, before walking along bustling Esmerelda to get one of the lifts up to the main area where the murals are. The Ascensor Concepcion was under refurbishment so we went up on Ascensor El Peral.
By the time we got to the top it was past lunchtime so we dived into the closest cafe and sat on the terrace. It turned out to be Cafe Baburizza, part of Palacio Baburizza, Valparaiso’s fine art museum. Perfect for an alfresco lunch and some more good views of the harbour before taking a look at the art-nouveau building that houses the museum.
From there we followed a walking tour in the Chile Rough Guide that took us around some of the main streets and murals between there and Ascensor Concepcion. They are so diverse and interesting, some are beautiful portraits or flowers, while others are more like politically inspired graffiti.
Once you get to Concepcion there’s a really nice lookout point called Mirador Atkinson with great views of the hills behind that are covered in houses and down to the sea in front.
It’s at the start of Paseo Atkinson, a cute little terrace of colourful houses. Opposite you can look down to one of Valparaiso’s most famous (and biggest) murals painted by Inti, the city’s most famous street artist.
Not far from here is another good place to stop for lunch or a drink, Cafe Turri. It has a huge terrace with great views and we enjoyed ending our visit to Valparaiso there with a chilled glass of Chilean wine, before walking down the hill to get the bus back to Santiago.
Click on an image below to scroll through more photos in the gallery and visit the Chile section of my blog for other posts about this hugely diverse country.