Valparaiso, Chile is one of the most colorful cities I have ever seen. The entire city is basically an open-air museum with colorful homes, murals, cute cafes, painted stairs, mosaics and all kinds of artistic eye candy to keep your senses occupied. Less than 2 hours drive from Santiago, this bohemian hotspot can be visited in just a weekend if you are short on time. I will tell you where to eat, play and find street art in Valparaiso.
Greater Valparaíso is the second largest metropolitan area in the country. In the second half of the 19th century, Valparaíso served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Valparaiso attracted many European immigrants during its golden age when international sailors called it “The Jewel of the Pacific” or “Little San Francisco”.
Art, particularly graffiti, has had an interesting evolution in Valpo. Graffiti became a regular form of protest under the oppressive regime of the dictator Augusto Pinochet in the 1970s. At that time it was subversive and anonymous. Chile eventually became more democratic but the graffiti continued to thrive. The government finally decided to make it legal but with regulation. Artists are permitted to create what they wish whether it be to express social criticism or simply showcase their artistic vision as long as they contribute to the urban scene. There are competitions where the winner is given the equipment necessary to paint over the bricks or concrete. Pretty cool huh?
Location: Coast of Chile, northwest of Santiago
Language: Spanish (English is spoken minimally in Chile but more so in touristy areas)
Currency: Chilean Peso (1000 pesos = 1.57 USD). Easy to find ATMs. Credit cards are widely accepted except for street vendors.
There are 9 cerros or hills. Many have funiculars to reach the top where there are great views. They aren’t too bad to walk up if you want to get some exercise. In one day I was able to check out three of them, Cerro Bellavista, Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre. The art is literally everywhere. Buildings are painted with bright fun colors and there are murals in all kinds of unexpected places.
I will point out a few of my faves as well as some famous ones, but please enjoy discovering these and more for yourself! There are hundreds more all around the city. I would love to have a week to wander around gawking at art.
The musical steps are found (quite appropriately) on Beethoven Street. I don’t know the history of this one but I love the creativity.
This one is on Beethoven street, near the Piano Steps.
This one really captured the essence of Valpo.
I wish I could tell you who painted these! If anyone knows please share!
This one is on Almirante Montt as it meets Beethoven Street. Who can resist posing with all that color!
Salvador Allende was the president of Chile from 1970 to 1973, but involved in politics many years prior. He was ousted and killed (some say suicide) in a controversial coup d’etat by his own military and the American CIA who opposed his leftist policies. This paved the way for the brutal dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet that lasted until 1990, ending decades of democratic rule. Allende is a hero to many and is proudly represented in this beautiful mural on Almirante Montt. This street is very beautiful with plenty of other buildings and murals worth seeing. Check out the quirky shop called Bazar PutaMadre (interesting choice of name for those who understand Spanish).
I don’t know what the official name for this staircase is but you must see it. It is more than just a staircase. The stairs themselves have mosaic tile and bright colors but along the stairs are various buildings with graffiti, murals, flowers and the whole combination comes together in a unique, pretty and gritty way.
Where to Find: Hector Calvo Street. This area was part of the Museo de Cielo Abierto which I explain later.
The photo below was some random little area along Yerbas Buenas
This is probably the most visited site in Valparaiso. I don’t think your visit counts if you didn’t go. Painted on two steps by the UK art collective Art + Believe, this can be found on Cerro Alegre. They say that these words became the mantra of their travels. “The words originate from a very kind Chilean man who took us in whilst in Valparaiso. It captures the color, vibrancy and the philosophy of the Chilean people today, now free of dictatorship.”
Where to Find: Templeman 672
Just down the hill from the Happies sign are tons of murals including another beautiful one by Art + Believe.
I sort of stumbled upon this one, then found out it was famous. It’s enormous and hard to miss if you are strolling along Paseo Dimalow on Cerro Alegre.
The street itself is full of outdoor street vendors and artists, but there is a dramatic overlook where you can see part of the city as it meets the sea. Just look to the right of the mural and find this awesome little terrace bar! Best view in town right there!
Where to Find: Dimalow 166
This little area is on Cerro Bellavista and is kind of an art walk. It traverses through different murals, viewpoints and there are plenty of cool things to see.
I certainly couldn’t resist these mosaic tiled benches. Yellow is my favorite color also. No brainer!
You can find all these places and more on the map below:
Several bus companies go directly from Santiago to Valparaiso. The trip will cost 3300 to 5000 pesos each way (roughly $5 to $8 USD). A few bus companies that are good include Pullman, Condor or Turbus. The trip takes 1 hour 45 minutes. Of course traffic plays a factor in this!
Once there you can see most things on foot or call an Uber. There is a local bus system called the V-line.
Ok let’s discuss the important stuff…food and drink. You will be spoiled for choice here. Walking along Cerro Concepcion or Paseo Dimalow in Cerro Alegre offers many cafes, restaurants and bars. Here are a few I can vouch for.
Upscale Chilean cuisine with an emphasis on seafood. There is a beautiful terrace and perfect for sunset. Try the Pastel de Jaiba (crab cooked in a yummy traditional way), the Congrito (fried eel) or the Squid Ink Lasagna. Be prepared for a richly satisfying meal!
Even the dessert is art itself. Check out the chocolate funicular with the swirly spun sugar wind. I thought it looked like Trump’s hair but oh well. It was all scrumptious.
Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurant with a nice terrace overlooking Paseo Dimalow in Cerro Alegre.
Jose Grosse 268
Like the name suggests, this is the perfect place for breakfast or brunch. Beware of the pancake (panqueque) as it is actual CAKE. A huge piece. With layers and frosting and all that. It’s not even pretending to be healthy breakfast food. Apparently cake for breakfast is a thing here and I am down with it!
Almirante Montt 399
There’s a sizeable German community in Chile and this cute authentic place on Cerro Bellavista is a great place for some traditional Kasespaetzle (dumplings with cheese and caramelized onions).
To the right of the restaurant is also one of the entrances to the Museo a Cielo Abierto.
Hector Calvo 331
Bar The Clinic
Such a great name for a bar. The Clinic. It is kind of medicinal and therapeutic if you ask me. This place is in Cerro Concepcion and has great Chilean cocktails and an outdoor terrace. What more do you need?
Read more for info on bars in Valparaiso
The views here were spectacular. Breakfast is included and the location is perfect, right at the top of Cerro Conception. The staff were also very friendly. * I was not sponsored, just really liked it! Ok you’re on to me. I only picked it because it was yellow!
Book your hotel here:
If you decide to visit Valpo, I would recommend at least 2 days and maybe one more day to visit Vino Del Mar nearby. I didn’t have time on this trip but will definitely be back!
Where is your favorite place for street art? Have you been to Valpo? What was your favorite piece?