Valparaiso is a port city designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the coast of Chile that is known for its steep hills, funiculars, various eclectic neighborhoods, and art. All these ingredients make it one of the best places to visit in Chile.
Traveltomtom guest writer Danielle from the USA visited Valparaiso and wrote down all her travel tips in this blog.
We live in Philadelphia, PA, which is known for some of USA’s early and important history, the liberty bell, and the Rocky Balboa movies. But one thing many people may not know about Philadelphia is that we have a huge Mural Arts program. Our city is adorned with street art and murals in all of our neighborhoods, and we appreciate and embrace it fully.
So, when I heard about Valparaiso in Chile for the first time and saw that it was a city of murals, I was very intrigued and couldn't wait to visit. I had also read that Valparaiso had one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, fireworks display in South America for New Year’s Eve. We were traveling in Chile over NYE, and I didn't want to miss out on it!
I had read and heard various stories about safety in Valparaiso, which had me a little nervous, but you can definitely have a safe and enjoyable visit here by following normal safety precautions.
Every single person that we met at any tour, restaurant, car ride, activity, hotel, etc. was incredibly kind, helpful, and wanted us to enjoy our time in “Valpo”. More info on that throughout this article with everything you need to know before traveling to Valparaiso.
Getting to Valparaiso
Most likely, if you're coming to Valparaiso, you're coming from Santiago. There are numerous ways to get to Valparaiso from Santiago, it just depends on your finances and comfort level.
When researching a hired car it was looking to be about $80 - $100 USD per person to have a driver take us from Santiago to Valparaiso.
We checked in with our hotel in Santiago and they were able to send a car to get us for $90 USD total. We took this option as it seemed a lot more realistic. It’s always a good idea to ask your accommodation for travel advice. After all, locals know best.
Busses run from Santiago to Valparaiso and can be a range of prices. Looks like around $15 - $30 USD is average for this bus ride and will take a little under 2 hours.
If you have a rental car this is also a very straightforward drive and within 1.5 hour you will be in Valparaiso from Santiago. Renting a car in Santiago de Chile shouldn't be too expensive and you can already find rental cars for less than $40 USD per day.
Many people also choose to visit Valparaiso as part of a day tour from Santiago. I encourage you to stay a few nights as Valparaiso really has a lot to offer. But if a day tour is the only way, it’s still definitely worth visiting and worth the effort traveling to Valparaiso.
Is it safe to travel to Valparaiso
It’s always a little strange to talk about or “decide” about how safe one place or another is. I live in a major city in America and I am well aware of how unsafe it is. So, I always take safety warnings with a grain of salt, with a bit of research, and I try to really understand the local people.
I truly did not feel unsafe at all during our entire time visiting Valparaiso, but we also took many safety precautions and had very carefully planned our time here to make sure that we were not taking any risks.
We know that there are risks wherever you choose to travel, and some places are higher risk than others. This should not be a reason to completely disregard a specific destination, because there is risk anywhere you are, even in your home town! It is unfortunate that a few “bad seeds” can give a city the reputation for being unsafe when it is just a minuscule fraction of the percent of an entire population, but it is helpful to know what to expect by doing a little research.
Risk can be mitigated by using common sense and following advice from tourism websites, locals, and others who have recently visited. Here are some things we did that worked out well for us, and some recommendations made by locals along the way.
It could not have been made any clearer that we should not be walking around anywhere after dark. Our hotel told us to Uber to and from dinner our first night, and we ate at the hotel for New Year’s Eve. We were consistently warned that it wouldn't be wise to be on the streets in the evening. Ubers were super quick, easy, and affordable here so there was really no reason at all not to use them.
We were also repeatedly told not to leave the "tourist" sections of the city, which was hard for us because we love to explore and get off the beaten path. But we heeded the advice of those in the know, and in the end had no issues wandering and exploring all of the tourist areas during the day.
The two main touristy areas to spend time in are in the historical area and are called Cerro Concepcion & Cerro Alegre. We were also warned to stay away from the market and many of the various hills, which all have different personalities and local vibes.
A majority of the crime in and around Valparaiso seems to be petty crime and theft like most major cities. However, we were warned of a few more serious incidents that had happened in the recent past, so we tried to stick to all of the "rules" given to us by the locals to ensure we weren't taking any chances.
The same basic rules from all major cities apply here as well: do not dress flashy, do not wear expensive things, do not call attention to material items you are wearing or carrying.
Another important thing that adds up to your safety is to stay connected when traveling to Valparaiso. Get yourself a local prepaid sim card or e-sim card for Chile. Traveling is much more convenient when enjoying data on your phone. Check out Traveltomtom's complete guide for buying a sim card for Chile.
I am usually so on top of everything when we travel, but for some reason with this location I dropped the ball. I assumed that since it was so close to Santiago and it was on the coast, that during the time we were there it was going to be very hot. Don't make the same mistake I did, Valparaiso is one of those places that has its own special climate.
We were traveling in December, which is Chilean summer, so we assumed it would be hot, but ended up in jeans and sweatshirts most of the time we were there (although we did get an incredibly beautiful day when we went to the beach). You could get great weather during this time of year, but it is best to check for whenever you're traveling and be prepared for anything.
Where to Stay
In my humble opinion, we chose the best hotel possible in Valparaiso. If we didn't choose Hotel Winebox, we likely would have stayed in one of the more touristy neighborhoods mentioned above. We chose our hotel because it was a destination in itself. We also knew that with the whole “not being out after dark thing”, that we'd be spending more time in the hotel than we usually would on a trip.
Hotel Winebox was perfect for us in every way. The hotel is made entirely of recycled shipping containers and each one has its own origin story! Each room also has its own balcony or patio area overlooking the city and the sea.
The best part is the rooftop bar, it overlooks all of Valparaiso and is the perfect place to have a drink and watch the sunset. It’s also a wonderful place to enjoy your breakfast in the morning.
We spent New Year’s Eve on the roof of the hotel with many of the other guests, and did a wine tasting with the hotel’s owner/sommelier. It was a New Year’s Eve we'll never forget and an excellent place to try some of the best Chilean wines.
Where to eat
We had quite a few great food experiences during our time in Valpo. I actually wished we'd had another day to try out a few more spots, but we still got a great taste of the city.
La Caperucita y el Lobo
We had dinner at "La Caperucita y el Lobo", which translates to Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf. This was an excellent meal high up on a hill with amazing city views.
We had our hotel make us a reservation here and also specified that we wanted to sit on the patio, it was beautiful to dine outside overlooking the city.
The food was incredible, we had gnocchi, octopus, pork, samosas, and a nest of pasta.
Another place we tried and loved was less formal. It was an empanada shop called "Delicias Express" with over 80 varieties of empanada. We tried a few different varieties and wished we'd had more time to go back again!
Cooking Class for dinner
We also took a cooking class, booked through “Getaways & Discoveries South America”, for dinner one night and we were thrilled with the experience. It was in the home of an amazing Chilean couple and was very nearby to our hotel.
We cooked with Al and his wife, and they were such a pleasure to learn from and be around. Al also gives street art tours, other tours around Chile, and is a graffiti artist himself. Their home is lovely and has incredible views over the city.
We learned how to cook a full menu, and got to know Al during our time there. We made our own empanada, a Chilean pebre (which is pretty similar to a salsa), palta reina (which is a stuffed avocado, and we made ours with heart of palm), and pastel de choclo (which is a corn dish that involves meat, corn, eggs, and sugar, and is absolutely delicious).
We also got to make our own pisco sours and enjoyed some great wine to pair with the dinner we created.
Things to do in Valparaiso
Admire Street Art
The most obvious but also amazing thing to do in Valparaiso is admire the endless street art. There are murals and beautiful graffiti literally everywhere you look.
There are also some areas where artists set up and display/sell their work each day and you can enjoy a gallery walk of sorts, strolling down the avenue and admiring all of their beautiful art.
We realized it too late, but our cooking class company also did street art tours. If we will travel to Valparaiso again some day, I would happily take that street art tour with Al as our guide. It is always nice to get to know the stories behind the art and the artists.
Free walking tour
We did a free walking tour in Valparaiso. Our guide was very kind, happy, and informative. He taught us a great deal about the city and its interesting history and architecture, as well as some of the politics.
Of course he also highlighted some of the amazing murals and street artists.
He showed us around the safer tourist hills and showed us where to find the best empanadas.
Look up free walking tours in Valparaiso because there are numerous options and see which one suits you the best.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Valparaiso is also filled with Art Galleries. Do some research before visiting to see which art gallery suits you, or as you learn more about the artists walking around, see if you can visit their galleries.
Vina Del Mar day trip
We took an Uber over to Vina Del Mar for a morning/early afternoon, and it was delightful. The Uber was about $4 USD and very quick, about 10 minutes ride only.
Arriving in Vina Del Mar, you realize it's quite different from Valpo. Suddenly you see luxury hotels and apartments, chain restaurants, and beautiful gardens. We enjoyed walking along the beach promenade and checking out all the stands.
My husband got an "Italiano Completo", which is a Chilean hotdog absolutely smothered in ketchup, guacamole, and mayo, and I tried some more shrimp empanadas.
We spent a few hours relaxing on the nice, clean beach in the sunshine, and before heading home grabbed a snack at a Greek food truck, which was excellent.
Overall, it is an easy and enjoyable day trip from Valparaiso. If you are more into the beach vibe you could also base here and head into Valparaiso for a day trip.
Find a Rooftop bar or restaurant
Find a rooftop to eat, drink, or hang out on. There are so many beautiful spots in Valparaiso that overlook the city and the sea, it is definitely worth your time to seek them out. We were lucky that our hotel provided that great space for us, but if your hotel doesn't have incredible views, you still have so many options for great food, drinks, and views.
I have already mentioned the rooftops at our hotel Winebox, and some of the places we ate. One more spot that we didn’t make it to, but looked incredible was “Fauna”. I also read that the food here is wonderful and if we’d had another night in Valparaiso I likely would have tried to book a table here.
Fauna is also a hotel, so if winebox isn’t your vibe, this looks like another excellent place to check out.
Visit the Casablanca Valley for Wine Tasting
We toured the Casablanca Valley on our way from Valparaiso to the Santiago Airport on our last day. It was a perfect way to get back for our evening flight. You can also make a day trip to the valley as it is about half way between Valparaiso and Santiago.
We got to try 3 different wineries and we loved them all! The Casablanca Valley is known for white wines and the area reminded us a lot of wine country out in California.
We visited Villard Fine Wines, Bodegas RE, and Viñamar. We loved all 3 for different reasons!
Villard Fine Wines felt like a traditional tour and tasting, they had the most beautiful outdoor area to relax and sip and the wines were wonderful.
Bodegas RE was one of my favorite wineries I’ve ever been to. It was so creative and the blends that they made were so much fun.
We had a tasting lunch at Viñamar and enjoyed having the wines paired with excellent food!
I highly recommend visiting Casablanca if you have time while you’re in Chile.
I am sure some of the above tips for traveling to Valparaiso were helpful. If you have any more questions please leave me a comment below and we are more than happy to help you out.
This blog was written by Traveltomtom guest writer Daniella, check out her Instagram account @planformedani.
Enjoy your trip to Valparaiso, Chile!