17 Colorful Things to Do in Valparaíso, Chile

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Valparaíso, the “Vale of Paradise,” is a majestic city — built on 40 hills nestled against the Pacific coast, awash in colorful homes and street art. There are so many cool and interesting things to do in Valparaíso. I loved my time here!

Just a short drive from Chile’s capital city of Santiago, you’ll find one of the coolest cities in South America. Let’s take a look!

Planning your trip to Valparaíso last minute?

🏔️ Top Experiences and Tours in Valparaíso:

  1. Go on a street art tour (You’ll see more on a tour than on your own)
  2. Go beer trekking (Beer + hiking)
  3. Go surfing & sandboarding (Fun day trip!)

🛌  Top-Rated Hotels in Valparaíso:

  1. Hotel Winebox Valparaíso (I loved my cheap yet luxurious stay here!)
  2. Casablu Hotel (Boutique hotel in a great location)
  3. La Casa Piola (Budget option with private & dorm rooms)

🚗 Renting a car from Santiago Airport? Find deals on car rental rates here.

Charlie and I visited Vaparaíso at the tail end of our monthlong Chile Argentina honeymoon, and it was the perfect coda to our trip.

Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — but the port city has historically seen its fair share of turmoil. Valparaíso suffered a devastating earthquake in 1906 that almost flattened the city. The opening of the Panama Canal downgraded Valparaíso’s prominence as a major port of call in South America and hurt the local economy.

And later, the horrendous military dictatorship of Valparaíso-born Augusto Pinochet resulted in a resistance movement in Valparaíso. Much of the street art culture originally springs from this moment in time.

These days, Valparaíso is a spirited place inhabited by students, young professionals, and progressives. It’s a bit dilapidated in places and rough around the edges, yet it radiates warmth and charm. 

You’ll have to brace yourself for steep hills and lots of walking — sneakers are your friend here! On the flip side, for every slope you summit, there’s a pisco sour and a spectacular view waiting for you. 

Take a deep breath — here are all the fun things to do in Valparaíso, Chile!

This post was published in April 2024 and was co-written by Adventurous Kate and Hannah Cooper.

A view over the hills of Valparaiso, with colorful buildings all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
A walking tour will introduce you to the best of Valparaíso.

Best Things to Do in Valparaíso

Go on a walking tour

Valparaíso, often called the Jewel of the Pacific, has a fascinating history and a rich modern culture. It feels a bit overwhelming when you first get here, so I highly recommend booking a walking tour led by a local. I wouldn’t have seen as much without our guide’s help.

This “History and Art” tour of Valparaíso is delivered in English and available as a shared or private outing. Your guide will show you neat hidden passageways on Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion while sharing stories you won’t find in guidebooks.

Tours 4 Tips also runs daily free walking tours: “Offbeat Valparaíso” departs at 10:00 AM, while “Valparaíso Highlights” leaves at 3:00 PM. It’s free to join either, but you do need to tip the guide, otherwise they don’t make any money. Make sure you have Chilean pesos on you.

Kate and Charlie standing in front of a colorful mural of an Indigenous person with leaves floating around his head, and the words Cerro Alegre overhead.
Exploring the street art is easily one of the best things to do in Valparaiso Chile!

Wander the streets looking for art

I knew Valparaíso was full of street art, but I didn’t realize the sheer quantity of colorful masterpieces until I arrived. There’s art on every street (LITERALLY EVERY STREET!) and you can entertain yourself for hours admiring the murals and looking for their hidden details.

Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion are the two main tourist neighborhoods in Valparaíso. Both are covered in murals, with new pieces added by local artists every week. 

You’ll find the famous Piano Staircase on the aptly named Beethoven Street, next to a Beethoven mural, and an Amy Winehouse mural around the corner. Templeman Street is plastered with art and plants, plus it has great views of the ocean. This is where you’ll find the “We are not hippies, we are happies” installation.

There’s also a popular graffiti slide in this neighborhood — but I wouldn’t slide on it unless you’re wearing durable pants! I didn’t want to risk tearing my favorite jeans.

Now the main tourist attraction in Valparaíso, the artwork started as a means of protesting Pinochet’s dictatorship. While you can wander these neighborhoods independently, this graffiti tour takes you to the best spots and educates you on what Valparaíso means to Chileans. 

A tall modern building in layers of red and blue, next to a jacaranda tree blooming purple flowers.
BOY do I wish I could show you a picture from the inside of this building…

Visit La Sebastiana – Pablo Neruda’s home

Sitting very pretty atop Cerro Bellavista, La Sebastiana was once the residence of the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda. His old digs are now open to the public as a museum showcasing artifacts relating to his writing work and political activism.

I’m a Neruda fan, so La Sebastiana was a must for me — and I was SPELLBOUND. It’s the most beautiful and special house in the most beautiful and special location.

Unfortunately, photos are not permitted inside. It killed me not to take any because the interior is a modern architecture masterpiece with a collection of vintage treasures from around the world. I would literally build a house based on this. But those are the rules.

Admission is 9,500 CLP (9.70 USD) and includes an English audio guide. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 AM-7:00 PM.

Side note: Visiting La Chascona, another of Neruda’s homes, is one of the top things to do in Santiago, Chile!

An old-fashioned funicular ascending a super steep railing.
The funicular is the easy way to get up those Valparaíso hills!

Ride a funicular up the many hills

If you’re not in the mood to climb those steep slopes, you can rely on Valparaíso’s famous funiculars to do the hard work. These were constructed in the late 1800s and there were over 30 in operation during the port’s heyday. In fact, these old-fashioned elevators contributed to the city’s UNESCO designation!

Nowadays, only a handful remain in service. Ascensor Concepcion is one of the oldest. It connects the port area with the popular hill. Ascensor Reina Victoria is another that you can take from there. Ascensor El Peral links Plaza Sotomayor/Edificio Armada de Chile with Baburizza Palace.

A ride costs 100 CLP (0.10 USD) and is payable in cash. They’re often out of service, but you should try and get a look at the elevators at the very least. 

A skillet filled with French fries and meat, topped with two fried eggs.
Eating a chorrillana — if you dare — is one of the best things to do in Valparaíso! Via Shutterstock.

Enjoy a chorrillana for dinner

Chugging up and down the steep hills of Valparaíso will work up your appetite. This is where the city’s signature dish rolls into the picture.

Chorrillana is a beast of a plate featuring a mountain of fries tossed with caramelized onions and strips of beef. It’s topped off with a couple of fried eggs. Yes, it’s a little bit on the heavy side and maybe not the greatest for your cholesterol levels — but it tastes so good, you won’t care!

Now widely available across Chile, chorrillana is usually shared between friends. J. Cruz M is credited with inventing the pub grub and brands itself as a restaurant-museum hybrid. El Pimenton on the bustling Ecuador Street is a great place for vegetarians as they have meat-free versions. They also do a smaller version for solo diners. 

A sign in front of a bar in Valparaiso reading "Beer is proof that God Exists."
A poignant beer sign in Valparaíso, via Shutterstock.

Sip local craft beer

Where there’s street art, craft beer usually follows — and that’s certainly the case in Valparaíso. You can find a decent selection of craft beer in many restaurants and bars, especially on Ecuador Street (aka Bar Street). Cervecería Anfiteatro has one of the most impressive menus. They serve their own brews alongside regional and national craft brands.

It’s always fun to join a beer tour. This walking beer tour in Valparaíso is led by a local and includes 12 tastings, which is a total bargain! You’ll learn about Chilean cerveza culture at the same time. 

With more time on your hands, beer trekking is one of the most unique things to do in Valparaíso. It’s exactly what it sounds like — trekking with beers involved (or beers with trekking involved?). The activity takes place in the woodlands around Quilpué (a city accessible via the Valparaíso Metro) and fuses local beers with the Great Outdoors. 

A big white colonial building with a Chilean flag and giant palm trees in front.
Visiting the Maritime Museum is one of the best things to do in Valparaís! Via Shutterstock.

Visit Valparaíso’s museums

Brush up on Chilean history by swinging by a museum or two in the Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso.

The Maritime and Naval Museum (Museo Naval Y Maritimo) is dedicated to the deeds of the Chilean Navy and local fishermen lore. Many of the model ships and nautical artifacts have signage in English. It’s open daily, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM, and costs 4,000 CLP (4.15 USD).

Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaíso walks you through Chilean natural history. It’s open 10:00 AM-5:30 PM Tuesday through Friday and 11:00 AM-4:00 PM on Sundays. Admission is free and it’s very child-friendly. 

A balcony overlooking the colorful hills of Valparaiso and the Pacific Ocean. On it are several cactus plants, and a cut-out bathtub with cushions turned into a couch.
My private balcony at Hotel Winebox — how cool is this?

Stay in a Design Hotel on the Cheap

One of the coolest things to do in Valparaíso is to spend a night at Hotel Winebox. This is a boutique luxury hotel that caught my eye when it was featured in the New York Times, so I knew I wanted us to stay there.

It’s sustainably designed, built in part from shipping containers in various bright colors, looking like a microcosm of Valparaíso itself. Each room is filled with hand-painted murals, interesting textiles, and cactus plants. They book wine tours through the hotel, and you can enjoy drinks and dinner on their rooftop terrace.

We treated ourselves to a superior suite — the Malbec Suite, as each suite is named after a wine varietal — with a kitchenette, a huge private balcony, and killer views for only $150 per night (in December 2023). It’s one of the best value-for-money places I’ve ever stayed! I could have stayed there a week!

Even if you’re not staying there, I recommend visiting their rooftop bar for a glass of Chilean wine overlooking the Pacific Ocean. 

A pale yellow cocktail on a wooden table in a dark speakeasy-style bar.
Try pisco a million ways while you’re in Chile!

Try a local pisco sour

Pisco is the national spirit of Chile. It’s a potent grape brandy produced in winemaking regions. Chileans drink it as a Piscola (mixed with Coca-Cola) or Pisco Sour — a lemony cocktail that you’ll see in every bar in Chile, from grimy dives to swank cocktail lounges and everything in between.

Pisco sours are sometimes served with other flavorings such as maracuya (passionfruit). As pisco is also produced in Peru, the northern country has its own version of the cocktail. You can sample both while in Valparaíso. 

Besides Hotel Winebox, El Internado is a fun place to sip a pisco sour with a dramatic view.

A line of old-fashioned green and cream-colored trolley buses that look like a VW bus from the front.
Trolleybuses in Valparaiso, via Dmitry Chulov on Shutterstock

Ride the old trolleybus

Funiculars aren’t the only nostalgic means of travel in Valparaíso. Fun fact: the city’s traditional trolleybus system is the second-oldest in South America!

Many of the original trolleys that served the city in the 1950s have been decommissioned, but a handful remain. You’ll see route 802 shuttling along Avenue Colón toward the port, identified by its green and cream paintwork and the “Trolebuses de Chile SA” signage. 

These are functioning means of getting around Valparaíso rather than tourist buses. You’ll pay 500 CLP (0.50 USD) for a ride, and don’t expect the driver to speak a word of English.

Select walking tours include a ride on the old trolleybus, like this three-hour Valparaíso city tour. But others default to the electric trolleybuses that are designed to resemble the retro ones.  

A white building with checkerboard decoration and a turret, with bright green leaves partially obscuring it.
Visiting this gorgeous building is another one of the best things to do in Valparaíso Chile!

Check out the art at Baburizza Palace 

In a city bursting at the seams with beautiful buildings, Baburizza Palace (Palacio Baburizza) still manages to turn heads. This ornamental mansion takes guidance from the art nouveau style but is totally atypical. It was built in the early 1900s and features a turret and gorgeous woodwork details.

Once the residence of a Croatian businessman, the building is now a fine arts museum containing pieces by Chilean and European painters. It has one or two free exhibitions and is worth visiting purely for the architecture and the distinct contrast with the street art. It’s yet another great spot for views.

Baburizza Palace is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00 AM-6:00 PM. Admission to the special exhibitions is 4,000 CLP (4.15 USD). 

A cultural center with a big cement staircase and lots of photos on the walls.
Another of the great things to do in Valparaiso: Parque Cultural de Valparaíso, via Yasemin Olgunoz Berber on Shutterstock.

Visit a prison turned cultural center

Head to Cerro Cárcel for one of the most unusual tourist attractions in South America. A former prison sits at the top of the hill and is now a cultural center devoted to performance and visual arts.

Parque Cultural de Valparaíso has green areas for picnicking and enjoying ocean views. The interiors and old exercise yards host regular performances and rotating exhibitions of local artists and further afield. 

It’s free to visit the compound and worth checking out what’s on. Plays are always in Spanish, but there’s sometimes live music or circus arts, which are good choices if you don’t speak the local language.

People in a cooking class making something in metal bowls.
A cooking class is the activity that keeps on giving! Via Shutterstock.

Learn to cook traditional Chilean dishes

Picking up a new skill is one of the coolest things to do in Valparaíso, and learning to cook Chilean food is one your friends will thank you for!

This Chilean cuisine cooking class starts at a local market where you’ll pick the freshest ingredients. You’ll make entrees plus three dishes while sipping pisco sour cocktails and wine. This usually equates to a ceviche starter, charquican for the main dish (a uniquely Chilean dish you NEVER see in restaurants), and Chilean alfajores, or sweet sandwich cookies.

This small-group cooking class runs for 5.5 hours and starts at 10:00 AM or 3:00 PM. 

A packed, busy beach with crashing waves, and lots of tall skyscrapers in the background.
Reñaca Beach in Viña del Mar, via Shutterstock

Visit Viña del Mar

Viña del Mar is five miles north along the Pacific Coast and has a totally different vibe. The affluent “Garden City” has long sandy beaches, upscale restaurants, and European-inspired mansions. It’s a lovely spot for sunbathing and is popular with Chilean families and couples. Note that swimming here is prohibited due to the powerful Humboldt Current. 

This Pacific Coast tour takes you to Viña del Mar, Reñaca, and Concón. You’ll see all the main points of interest including the Flower Clock, the Roca Oceanica sanctuary, and the dunes of Concón. 

But if you’re already in Valparaíso, you don’t necessarily need to take a tour. If you speak Spanish, you can catch a micro bus to Viña del Mar from Errázuriz Street. It costs 500 CLP (0.50 USD). 

Otherwise, you can take the Valparaíso Metro. Bellavista and Estación Francia are the most convenient stations. Take the metro to Miramar and cross over Puente Casino to reach the Viña del Mar beach zone. You’ll have to buy a rechargeable Metroval card for 1,350 CLP (1.40 USD). Each ride costs around 600 CLP (0.60 USD), subject to the time of day.

Jump off at Portales Metro on the way. You’ll see the sea lions and pelicans at Playa Caleta waiting for scraps from the fish market!

A man standing on a sand dune holding a surfboard, tall skyscrapers and the ocean in the background.
Sandboarding near Cocón, via Shutterstock

Go surfing and sandboarding

Speaking of dunes: did you think sandboarding was one of the things to do in the Atacama Desert exclusively? Think again! You can actually surf the sand (and waves) near Valparaíso.

This surfing, sandboarding, and wild sea lions tour includes both activities. It’s a good tour for beginners, although intermediate surfers will enjoy themselves, too.

A picnic lunch with pisco sours is included as is return travel from Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, and Concón.

An aerial view of a vineyard with bright green, fine rows of grapes, leading up a mountain.
You can easily visit the Casablanca Valley from Valparaiso! Via Shutterstock.

Visit the wineries of Casablanca Valley

Chile is up there with France and Argentina as one of the finest wine-making countries. You’ll get to taste Chilean wines in the restaurants but a wine tasting tour is highly recommended.

This private wine tour takes you from the vibrant streets of Valparaíso to the cool climate valley of Casablanca. This area produces fragrant Chardonnay and crisp Sauvignon Blanc wines, and you’ll visit two wineries.

You could also wrangle a DIY wine tour. However, you’d need to have your hotel make appointments and arrange taxi transfers between the wineries. Uber won’t work once you’re in the valley, and you can’t drink if you’re the designated driver.

Take my advice — just book a tour. Relax and enjoy yourself.

A sandy beach with lots of boulders on the beach and in the water.
Isla Negra’s gorgeous beach, via Shutterstock

Take a day trip to Quintay and Isla Negra

Isla Negra is one of the best day trips from Valparaíso if you want to visit the seaside residence of Pablo Neruda. The poet’s former writing pad is now open for tours and you can wander along the shoreline and see the black rocks that give the beach its name. In case you were wondering, Isla Negra is actually not an island!

Buses leave Terminal Rodoviario for El Tabo and usually let passengers off in Isla Negra. But, you’ll have to tell the driver your intention. Buses take around 90 minutes and tickets are bookable on the Pullman website.

Quintay is an alternative beach day out from Valparaíso. Start with a walk along the vast Playa Grande to see the caves at the northern end of the beach. You can then go for empanadas in the main town and visit Ex Ballenera, an old whaling station since turned into a museum about marine conservation. It’s a little somber in places.

Quintay is a 40-minute drive from Valparaíso. You’ll need to rent a car or have your hotel arrange a driver.

Kate and Charlie standing atop a piece of graffiti reading NOT HIPPIES BUT HAPPIES, and lots of wildflowers in the foreground.
Me and Charlie in Valparaíso Chile: No big bags, one small crossbody, no big cameras, photo taken by our guide and not some rando.

Is Valparaíso Safe? 

This is important — please read this section! While most travelers visit Valparaíso without incident and have a great time, this is a city where you need to be more safety-conscious, as crime has been on the rise lately both here and in Santiago.

The buzzing touristy area around Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre is reasonably safe in the day and early evening, but pickpocketing, phone snatching, violent muggings, and car theft are increasing. 

To reduce the risk, it’s better not to carry a large bag. Just carry essentials in a small crossbody bag (just using interior coat pockets is even better), and avoid getting your wallet out on the street.

I wore my tiny, narrow-pocketed, very-hard-to-break-into Marc Jacobs Snapshot bag, which I used throughout my South America trip. And while I used my DSLR camera throughout South America, I chose not to take it out in Valparaíso, sticking to just my phone.

You’ll need to be vigilant when taking photos during the daytime and exercise more caution at night — never walk alone in the dark, and use Uber to get around. This applies to men as well as women. 

It’s a good idea not to rent a car to visit Valparaíso due to the risk of car theft.

All this being said, I really enjoyed my time in Valparaíso, and I think it’s one of the best places to visit in Chile. I didn’t consider it a sacrifice to take Ubers for distances I would usually walk (they’re so cheap here), or to spend the evenings at my chic hotel’s rooftop. It was only a mild sacrifice not to have pics from my DSLR camera.

A brightly colored house turned into a cafe, with flag flying between it and the house across the street.
Two to three days is a great amount of time for Valparaíso.

How Much Time to Spend in Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso is one of the classic day trips from Santiago — arguably the greatest day trip of all. However, I think it’s worth spending a couple of nights in the city — two or three days would be perfect.

This way you’ll be able to enjoy the main tourist attractions at a less-hurried pace, and squeeze in a day trip to Viña del Mar or another local beach. 

The rolling hills of colorful Valparaiso underneath a pinky-gray misty sunset.
Valparaíso is an easy journey from either the airport or Santiago itself.

How to Get to Valparaíso, Chile

Santiago Airport (Arturo Merino Benítez International) is your closest airport. It’s located 66 miles east of Valparaíso and is about an 80-minute drive on the scenic Ruta 68 through the Casablanca Valley. We took a taxi direct from the airport.

Another option is to take the airport bus to Pajaritos Metro Station and take a bus to Valparaíso from there. The journey time is 1 hour and 40 minutes. From Santiago’s city center, you can hop on a bus at Terminal Alameda (two hours). 

You can buy tickets at either station but it’s easier to pre-book them online. The Turbus, FlixBus, and ChileBus websites are user-friendly and accept foreign cards. Buses leave every 10 minutes or so throughout the day. 

It’s also possible to rent a car and drive to Valparaíso. However, parking is a pain, the hills can be beastly to navigate, and cars are targeted by thieves. The bus system is pretty flawless. If you do decide to rent a car, you can check car rental prices here.

How to get around Valparaíso 

Most of the best things to do in Valparaíso are within walking distance. If you need to travel slightly further afield, just summon an Uber. It’s efficient, very cheap, and safe at night.

You can take an Uber to Viña del Mar for a couple of dollars, or use the Valparaíso Metro

A huge, bright hotel with a neon turquoise kitchenette on the left, a blaxploitation-style woman on a mural on the right, leading out to a balcony.
This was just part of our huge suite at Hotel Winebox.

Where to Stay in Valparaíso, Chile

As safety is an issue in Valparaíso, the best places to stay are close to the main hills of Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre. A little bit on the periphery is fine but you’ll want to use Uber to get around at night. 

Top-Rated Luxury Hotel in Valparaíso: Hotel Winebox Valparaíso

Charlie and I stayed here and this is one of the quirkiest design hotels I’ve ever experienced! It’s made from colorful shipping containers and other repurposed materials like vintage bathtubs. All rooms have an ocean view and funky murals. It’s worth splurging on a superior suite for better views, more space, and private patios (ours was MASSIVE).

Top-Rated Mid-range Hotel in Valparaíso: Casablu Hotel

This boutique hotel is beautifully designed with warm furnishings and lots of of natural light. It’s a short walk from the murals and restaurants on Cerro Concepcion and has a really nice roof terrace. Breakfast is included.

Top-Rated Budget Hotel in Valparaíso: La Casa Piola

This affordable hotel in Valparaíso is just off the lively Ecuador Street and Cerro Cárcel. It has a mix of double and family rooms plus a dorm, all of which share bathrooms. The rate includes a simple breakfast, and visitors rave about the wonderful staff.

Find deals on places to stay in Valparaiso here.

A purple and turquoise mural of a woman's beautiful face.
Valparaíso is great to visit year-round!

Best Time to Visit Valparaíso, Chile

You can visit Valparaíso all year round! This part of Chile has a Mediterranean-esque temperature climate, perfect for winter exploration and summertime sunning. 

November through April brings the warmest temperatures with highs pushing 90° F (35° C) on the hottest days in January and February. The winter months hover around 55° F (12° C) in the daytime. 

It’s always cooler at night, and you’ll need a warm jacket at night in Valparaíso between June and September. Valparaíso is prone to morning fog and evening breezes. It might remind you a bit of San Francisco in that way (and not just the hills!).

While Valparaíso is a popular destination for tourists, it’s a large, local city as well — so it never gets overly clogged with tourists like other parts of South America. You don’t have to worry about timing your visit here.

Kate sitting on a brightly painted staircase in Valparaiso, a smile on her face.
I’m so glad I visited Valparaíso!

Is Valparaíso Worth It?

I am so glad we decided to spend time in Valparaíso. I think it’s truly one of the unique stunners of Chile, and something that you should prioritize if you’re visiting the country.

And as I’ve said before, I would prioritize spending time in Valparaíso over Santiago. I think you’ll enjoy this unusual, colorful, hill-filled city much more.

I only wish I had spent a few more days here — especially with that incredible private terrace at Hotel Winebox! I’ll have to return!

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Have you been to Valparaíso? Share your tips!

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