Valparaíso: a city that never sleeps
January 1, 1970
by Carla Saavedra
Hello to everyone! Today I’m going to speak about Valparaiso, that is a beautiful, colorful and happy place. I’m traveling around the world nowadays, but before start traveling, I used to live in Valparaiso for almost 8 years. I grow up in a small town and moved to Valparaiso when I was 17 years old to go to the university and I fell in love with the city. I’m going to explain and attempt to convince you why visit this wonderful city is something that you can’t miss.
Where is Valparaiso?
Valparaiso is a city located on the central coast of Chile, is the capital of the region of Valparaiso. Is only 110km northwest of Santiago, the Chilean Capital, and is one of the most important seaports of the country and pacific coast. Together with Viña del Mar, Reñaca, Concon, Quilpue and Villa Alemana form the Great Valparaiso. The city has many tourist points, count with four of the more important universities of Chile: Playa Ancha University, Valparaiso University, Federico Santa Maria University and my alma mater Pontifical Catholic University of Valparaiso. Also, the National Congress is located here.
Geographically is surrounded by hills, where the residential area is located, in the plane zone between the hills and the sea you can find the administrative and commercial area. To go up the hills there are many funiculars, 30 in total but now only 16 are functional, and the thing that makes them unique is the view that you have when you are going up, you can see the ocean and a great part of the city.
In 2003, Valparaiso was declared World Heritage by the UNESCO due to his architectonic history and culture. Here you can find beautiful old buildings, street arts, interesting things like the oldest newspaper in castellano of the world (Mercurio de Valparaiso), crazy parties and much more… There’s always something fun to do.
[single_map_place] Valparaiso, Chile [/single_map_place]
What to do in Valparaiso?
Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción are the most touristic hills, one is next to the other, so practically looks like one big hill. To go up you can take a funicular or walk through long stairs, I recommend take the funicular, is only 200 pesos (30 cents) and is something you must do in Valparaiso. If you are going up through Cerro Alegre take the Reina Victoria funicular or if you want to go up through Cerro Concepcion take El Peral funicular. On these hills you’re gonna find many street arts, beautiful and colorful houses and many little coffee shops.
There’s a coffee place that is really special and I’m sure you gonna love it, it’s a very traditional place that fits with all the bohemian atmosphere that you can feel in the city, Color Café, I recommend you order the pancakes with any kind of tea.
Close to this hills you can visit one of Neruda’s houses, La Sebastiana. The Nobel prize winner bought this house in 1959 and is full of things of his personal collection, has a great decoration and a unique view of the coastline. The entrance ticket is 10 dollars and include an audio guide to enjoy the four floors of the house.
Playa Ancha is the biggest hill of Valparaiso and maybe is not the more touristic place, but you can have amazing views from here, also you can find many different architectures due to the many kinds of European immigrants that lived here over the decades (British, Germans, Italians and Spanish). If you are going here, be careful or go with a guide, you can easily get lost and ended in a bad neighborhood.
The port area is just downhill of Cerro Concepcion, is a very bohemian zone with several pretty old buildings, here you can find places to eat and some emblematic places of the city. Also, you can take a boat tour, get pretty views of the city from the ocean and watch some sea lions.
Where to eat
In Valparaiso, you have many options to eat, can eat a burger, seafood or traditional Chilean meals. If you like traditional places there’s no better place then Mercado Cardonal, on the first floor you can buy fresh vegetables and fruits for cheap prices to cook something and on the second floor there are many restaurants to choose. When you enter to the second floor you are gonna be surrounded by people trying to take you to their restaurants, don’t take the first options, usually are more expensive and no so tasteful than the hidden little restaurants on the hallways. Most of the restaurants offers the same food, the menu is full of seafood like fried fish, shrimp empanadas, paila marina (a really tasty soup with a mix of seafood) and other things, also you can order steak, pork or chicken with salad, mash potatoes or french fries, but for me the best meal is a Cazuela. The Cazuela is a soup that can be made with chicken or beef, and have a piece of corn, pumpkin, a potato, rice and some vegetables, is really tasteful and makes you feel so full after finished.
Another really cool and traditional place to eat is J Cruz, this place is famous for the Chorrillanas and Terremotos. Chorrillana is a traditional meal from Valparaiso, now is prepare in all the country but the plate was created here. Basically, consist of a base of french fries with fried onions and scrambled egg on top and cut meat, this plate is huge and can be shared by 2 or more people. The Terremoto is an alcoholic drink traditional from Chile, it translates as earthquake and the reason of that name is because if you take too many Terremotos you are gonna end with a huge hangover the next day. The ingredients are Pipeño (a distillate obtained when you make white wine), pineapple ice cream and grenadine, taste really sweet and that’s why you usually ended drinking too many. The particularity about this place is that you have to eat at a common table with strangers and the walls are full of little notes from the people.
If you wanna go with something simple you can go to Fuente Bavara on Anibal Pinto square, here you can eat a different kind of sandwiches like a burger, meatballs, beef, chicken, pork, and vegetarian.
In Valparaiso there are a lot of street food, you can find Sopaipillas, meat brochette or Chilean hot dogs (called Completos). The sopaipillas are good as a snack, you can put spicy sauce, ketchup or mustard on them. I don’t recommend take a meat brochette, smell really good but sometimes they use bad meat or doesn’t cook it right so you can easily get sick, happens to me the one time that I decide took one and expand like 5 days with antibiotics and stuck to the bathroom. The Completos are the preferred snack of the Chileans, probably you are gonna said is just a hot dog, but Chilean hot dogs are different. First of all, they are huge, 30 centimeters and is not only the sausage on a bread, instead, is the sausage with tomato, avocado, and mayonnaise (this is called an Italian hot dog), you can put Sauer kraut too if you like it (this is a full Completo) and you have many variations of hot dogs, for example, you can order a ‘papapleto’, a hot dog with french fries instead of sausage or you can order an ‘As’, a hot dog with beef instead of the sausage.
Something interesting about Valparaiso is that doesn’t have any McDonald’s or Burger King. If you want that kind of food you have to go to Viña del Mar.
Go to the beach
A great part of the Valparaiso’s beach is occupied as a port, so if you wanna go to relax on the beach you have to go a little far. The city has 3 mains beaches: Caleta Portales, San Mateo, and Laguna Verde. If I have to choose between them I definitely choose Laguna Verde, is the calmest and cleanest, the only problem is that is a little far (40 minutes from the center on a public bus), so is better take one day to go there, have a nice lunch and enjoy the nature and the quiet of the place. San Mateo is downhill Playa Ancha, the water is calm but the beach is full of stones. Meanwhile, Caleta Portales is a pretty beach, but the problem is that the ocean has big currents here, so is not very safe to swim. But if you really want to go the beach I recommend you go to Viña del Mar or Reñaca, here you can find good beaches and is only 30 minutes away on a bus.
If you like nature and hike, you can go to the forest of Laguna Verde and through them until Curauma, on the way you can find a beautiful waterfall and end in Curauma’s lagoon, where you can do Kayak. You can also go to the national park Lago Peñuelas, where you can camping, enjoy the lake and watch the birds. These two places are easy to hike, but if you are more adventurous, then you can go to La Campana national park and climb La Campana hill.
La Campana is away from the city in a location called Quillota, you can go there using the Metro and then take a public bus. You have to go early in the morning to do this, takes around 4 hours get to the top and you are gonna find a fantastic view of the valley here. In winter time the hill is close to getting climb because you don’t have too many light hours and there’s too much wind, but you can camp and enjoy the rest of the park.
Nightlife can be wild and bohemian and actually starts early, around 4 PM. I told you before that Valparaiso is a city with many universities, so it’s a college city, and because of that, Bars and Clubs are cheap. There’s two streets full of bars, Ecuador and Cumming street.
On Ecuador street some bars open at 4 PM and you have happy hour until 12 PM in most of them. The more famous bars of this street are, Coyote Quemado, Matiz, Trovalparaiso and Cassot. On Matiz and Trovalparaiso you can find several beers and cocktails for 1 or 2 dollars, meanwhile Cassot is well known for his Mojitos of 0,5L with different flavors for only 3 dollars and Coyote Quemado beside of having beers and cocktails, they sell a shot called ‘Sacrificio Maya’ that consist on Kalhua liquor with other secret ingredients and fire on the top for 1 dollar, but with 2 or 3 of them you’re going to be so drunk and probably not remembering anything the next day.
On the other side, we have Cumming street, this street has less bars than Ecuador street, but they are more bohemian. The most concurrent bar here is ‘El Gato en la Ventana’ that translate as the cat at the window. Here you can order jars with Terremoto or Wine with fruits like strawberries, pineapple or peach and look a folklore presentation.
This street start at Anibal Pinto square and ends at El Descanso square, isn’t too long, but in nights could be very active. You can go up to Cerro Alegre walking through this street, so there are some hidden stairs where people drink beer after buying it in a liquor store. Around 11 PM people go downstairs and congregate in El Descanso, when is really full you can see some guys doing malabarism, others singing hip hop or even you can find a Batucada. After 3 AM the bars from Ecuador street closes and the people come to Cumming street and start going up and down between Anibal Pinto and El Descanso square. You can buy beer and sandwiches to local people selling those in the street.
If you want to go to a club, you can enter for free before midnight, but the clubs only open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and closes at 5 AM. After that time some clubs have an after party from 5 to 8 AM. Most of the clubs are located in Errazuriz avenue and you have at least 15 to choose. There are two clubs that open every day, Mascara, an alternative club and Pagano, a gay club.
In conclusion, in Valparaiso you can party every day and all night long.