There was a time when Valparaiso, Chile was one of the most important ports of the Pacific. The port city for its larger inland capital city Santiago, the legacy left behind of archictecture and culture from its previous era of immigration from it’s glory days has made it a UNESCO world heritage site. The amazing coloured colonial houses hugging it’s slopes with endless ocean views make it a city with lots of room to impress.
The story of the city of Valpo started as a small town for the young Spanish colony. When Chile gained independence it grew as the port city for Santiago the capital and largest city of Chile. It was a major stopover and first port of call from boats rounding the Straits of Magellan when entering the Pacific Ocean.
From its quick growth Valparaiso received many immigrants from Europe, mostly from Britain, Germany, Italy and France and all of these communities left their mark on the city. There are not many cities in the region with so much cultural diversity, and is what makes Valparaiso unique. As a UNESCO city, the migrant communities lived in their own locals, today illustrated by the Zonas Tipicas, which can be visited to see the different styles of architecture. At one stage the larger British community tried to annex Valparaiso for Britain but obviously didn’t succeed. Many current day residents still have their European names, but are these days less identifiable in the way they look as someone with a surname like Smith, Schulz or Dupont but rather true Hispanic Chileans.
To get to the zonas tipicas, funiculars were built to make it easy to get up the hill instead of climbing up the windy road network.
A trip to Valparaiso is not complete without a ride on the funicular. You can ride up the hill and just take in the amazing views. The ocean, the archictecture, the hills and the old town.
What’s special to see in Valparaiso:
- of course you can pick one of the many funiculars and go up the hill
- the colourful market area (Mercado Central) and it’s produce. One thing that is especially amazing about Chile is that it is probably the best quality and also value money seafood in the world
- the old town, with it’s architecture legacy of the various immigrants and their large instutional buildings. Also the squares Victoria, Sotomayor and Anibal Pinto squares, Iglesia San Francicsco in El Baron
- the port area
- beaches, it’s January now, summer time. To cool down from a hot day, head down one of the beaches and take a dip a Playa Ancha or Playa Canelo to name a few
- nearby the beautiful towns of Viña del Mar, and the town of Concon
Like many port cities Valparaido has its gritty side. The port area and some areas on the hillside can be a bit rough, so if the tourist information office suggest something listen to them. They mightn’t tell you why, but it might help you leave the city with a good experience, rather than a bad one. Heed warnings from locals about what not to do and where not to go. You can take a guided tour from long term resident originally from German known as the German Pirate, whose knowledge of the city is uncomparable.
Nowhere in Chile will you get such a varied past meets present experience, and with the right experience this city will at least leave you with a camera full of amazing photo’s.
Go ahead and enjoy the summer in Valpo.
If you want some of the local lingo don’t forget to view our Chilean Slang guide, and of course thank us for our hard work in compiling it with a nice Facebook like.