What to Do in Valparaíso, Chile: 12 Ways To Spend Your Afternoon
Finding out what to do in Valparaíso is not a difficult task because there are so many options! Valparaíso was the first foreign city I ever lived in and it will always have a special place in my heart. It’s a colorful city with an amazing culture. There are several points in the city where you can see beautiful views and the sunsets are unforgettable. In fact, I still feel nostalgia each time I think of it.
Not to mention that all of the adorable stray dogs strongly satisfied my “doggy fever” syndrome.
There will be a post to come about why Valparaíso is so amazing.
The city is magical- there’s a reason that Pablo Neruda built one of his three homes here. One of the most magical times of the day in Valparaíso is the afternoon- between 2 P.M. and 6P.M. And there are several things you can do to take advantage of this time.
Here are 12 ideas to help you decide what to do in Valparaíso:
1. Go to the central market
Right next to the main building of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso (PUCV), there’s a huge market with vendors selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and more. Talking with the vendors is a great way to practice your Spanish. It’s also a great way to try some of the local produce at cheaper prices than you’ll find in nearby supermarkets, like Jumbo.
It can be chaotic, but that’s half the fun! Make sure to keep an eye on your belongings here. It’s usually very crowded and pick-pocketers can take advantage.
2. Visit Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción
Valparaíso has over 40 different cerros, or hills. Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción are the most popular for tourists- and for good reason! Both hills feature colorful street art, amazingly cute cafés and restaurants, and beautiful views of Valparaíso and the Pacific Ocean. My favorite places to visit here are Mercadito Alegre and Cafe de Iris.
There are two ways to get to the cerros: If you’re looking to add some steps to your FitBit you can walk up several flights of stairs. If you want to experience a historical part of the city, take either Ascensor Reina Victoria or Ascensor Concepción to the top. The ascensores are elevators that were built to travel up and down the hills. I definitely recommend using them at least once while you’re in Valparaíso. Some of them are over 100 years old!
3. Take a graffiti tour or check out the open-air museum
A wonderful thing happens when street art is legal in a city- artists express themselves freely and the city comes to life with color. Valparaíso has some of the most interesting, beautiful street art you’ll ever see and it’s everywhere you look! If you’re looking for what to do in Valparaíso, look no further. Free, tip-based tours are available with Valpo Street Art Tours Monday through Saturday. No reservation needed.
You can also visit the Museo a Cielo Abierto, which is one of my favorite places in the whole city! Here you can find 20 murals that were painted by Chilean students between 1969 and 1973. There’s also street art around it that’s not part of the museum. You can reach it via the Ascensor Espíritu Santo.
4. Go on a boat tour
Boat tours leave the port daily and it’s a great way to see the city from a different perspective! The boats are often filled with people, but it’s nice to be out on the beautiful ocean while also learning about the history of the city.
To find a boat tour, head to the port in Valparaíso and ask around. Some tours are more official, while others are just fishermen who are willing to give you a ride on their boat.
5. Watch the sea lions and enjoy the ocean breeze
As you walk along the coast in Valparaíso, you’ll notice that there’s a structure out in the ocean that looks like it was part of an old building. It’s pretty close to the shore.
And you’ll notice something moving on it. Sea lions! During the day you can see a lot of sea lions lounging out and sometimes even fighting and playing. It’s nice to sit on the rocks, enjoy the weather, and watch the sea lions in their natural habitat.
6. Head to the dunes in Concón and watch the sunset
If you’re having trouble deciding what to do in Valparaíso, head outside the city. The dunes of Concón are one of the coolest places in the area. Technically, they’re not in Valparaíso…but they’re not too far! You can reach them by micro (bus), colectivo (shared taxi with specific routes), or taxi. Once there, hike up the giant sand hills (it’s challenging but worth it).
At the top you’ll be rewarded with incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. For the full experience, bring a bottle of wine and go for the sunset. I promise it will be one of the most beautiful sunsets you’ll ever see.
If you’re looking for a little more adventure, you can also go sand boarding here.
7. Visit La Sebastiana
This is one of three of Pablo Neruda’s houses. Chileans are very proud of Pablo Neruda and he’s an important part of the country’s history. When you go to La Sebastiana, you can learn about his life through a self-guided tour and also find out why he loved Valparaíso so much. The house is beautiful and has some great views also! General admission costs $7,000 Chilean pesos.
8. Head to ConCon to take some surfing lessons
This is also technically not in Valparaíso, but it’s close. Concón is a great place to practice your surfing, but keep in mind that the water is cold. After you work up an appetite from your day of surfing, make sure to try the shrimp and cheese empanadas!
9. Spend the afternoon exploring Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar is like Valparaíso’s twin sister. They’re super close- only ten minutes by bus or metro- but they couldn’t be more different. While Valparaíso is dirty, bohemian, messy, and colorful, Viña del Mar is refined, wealthy, and more developed.
There are some nice beaches you can visit in Viña. And nicer restaurants than you’ll find in Valparaíso- for if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious. There’s also a casino if you want to try your luck! I recommend following the sidewalk along the coast for some beautiful views. The best time is at sunset!
10. Spend the afternoon exploring Playa del Horcón
Horcón is a little outside of Valparaíso, but it’s great if you want to spend a relaxed day at the beach. You can reach it by micro. Here you can find fresh seafood, like oysters and fish. Spend the afternoon trying some of the delicious local food with a beautiful view of the ocean or shopping around for souvenirs.
11. Check out Cerro Abajo
If you’re lucky enough to be in Valparaíso during February or March, check out Cerro Abajo. This event, hosted by Red Bull, is a downhill bike race. And by downhill, I mean downstairs. The bikers actually race down Valparaíso’s staircases, doing different kinds of tricks.
A lot of people come out for this event so get there early to get the best spots! It’s common for people to hang out, drink, and grab a bite to eat. And watching these professionals do their thing is definitely a sight to see!
12. Check out the food trucks in the Plaza Sotomayor
You’ll need to get lucky with this one, but on some days during the year, the Plaza Sotomayor fills with different food trucks! It’s great to go here with family or friends and try the different foods- and it takes away the hassle of getting everyone to agree on a restaurant! Sometimes there’s even live music playing. When the weather’s nice it’s is the perfect way to spend an afternoon in this colorful city.
Have you ever been to Valparaíso? What are your suggestions on what to do in Valparaíso?
Brittany Mailhot is a freelance writer, blogger, and personal freedom advocate. She began living a location independent lifestyle shortly after graduating from college and continues to share her experiences to inspire others to say f*ck it to the 9-5 and live their dreams! She's always available to answer questions by email or on social media so don't be afraid to reach out!