Valparaíso: Nothing Even Comes Close

You can use all of these words and many more to describe Valparaíso, but the truth is that this city escapes definition. But let’s start with the basic facts: Valparaíso is Chile’s largest port and one of its oldest, dating back to 1536.

Though some claim that there are 42, no one knows exactly how many hills circle the bay of Valparaíso. Whatever the number, there are many of them, and each is filled with multicolored houses perched at crazy angles connected by a gigantic labyrinth of streets, long staircases and lookout points. Between these hills and the sea lies a downtown area filled with beautiful architecture, narrow streets and even trolleybuses.

Since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, the city’s landscape has welcomed new hotels, restaurants and bookstores. But the port’s traditional culture remains, and the history of “Pancho,” as local residents affectionately call their city, is visible in every corner, particularly in the port neighborhood. You can’t leave Valparaiso without taking a ride on its outdoor elevators or touring the bay in one of the hundreds of small passenger boats that wait at the piers. And don’t miss out on the “chorrillana,” a local dish made with fried steak, eggs, onions and potatoes, or an evening of dancing and drinks in the bars and clubs on Subida Ecuador.

The city’s cultural calendar includes the urban festival Carnavales Culturales and its famous New Year’s celebration, which features crowds of hundreds of thousands of people ringing in the New Year around the bay and an incredible 30-minute long fireworks display.


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    New Year’s in Valparaíso Lose Yourself Plaza Sotomayor
    Each year, 500,000 revelers come to Valparaíso to enjoy the best pyrotechnics show in Chile. At midnight, hundreds of fireworks are launched over the bay between Reñaca and Valparaíso in a 30–minute show that will take your breath away. The street parties that follow are even more amazing. Valparaíso’s hills and streets do not follow a traditional pattern, so it’s easy to find yourself in a neighborhood that you didn’t intend to visit without knowing how you got there. Don’t panic! Most stairways will take you back downtown, where you can ask for directions. As in all big cities, however, it is best to avoid unlit streets or take unnecessary risks.  The area facing the port is the heart of Valparaíso. Its focal point is a monument to the Heroes of Iquique and Arturo Prat, who fought in the War of the Pacific. The backdrop of the statue is the beautiful and imposing Chilean Navy Headquarters. The area is home to some of the port city’s oldest and most traditional bars, so take some time out to explore them.
    Open Air Museum Boutique Hotels
    More than a decade ago, a series of murals was painted on the walls of Cerro Bellavista by renowned contemporary Chilean artists. This open-air gallery gave the neighborhood a new look and has become a local institution. Over the years, new voices have been added to this visual chorus, and today the neighboring streets and hillsides are filled with the work of hundreds of local and international graffiti artists. Specialty hotels have become fashionable in Valparaíso. The city’s stately manor homes have been renovated, finely decorated and equipped with modern technology, allowing you to immerse yourself in the port experience without sacrificing comfort and convenience.

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