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On the Chilean coast, Valparaíso is known around the world as the Jewel of the Pacific. About 75 miles northwest of Santiago, Valparaíso is a bustling port and lively city, but has a more laid back feel compared to Santiago. A hub for culture, education, and history (it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site), Valparaíso is also about kicking back and watching the sunset over the Pacific while sampling fresh ceviche.
Here’s how you can plan a perfect day trip to Valparaíso:
9:00 a.m. From the center of Valparaíso, head up the coast to the city’s historic funiculars, or Ruta Ascensores. On the way, stop for coffee and a pastry at Cafe Recreo, serving “farm-to-cup coffee” from their family farm in Nicaragua. When you arrive at the 15 funicular elevators, choose your own adventure based on the views you’re after. Take the Artilleria Funicular up to Paseo 21 de Mayo for views of the bay, or the Cordillera Funicular to the first astronomical observatory. To see the famous Alegre Hill and its Paseo Yugoslavo, take funicular El Peral.
10:30 a.m. Next, head back toward the city center to La Sebastiana, the four-story house museum of Pablo Neruda. With views and Neruda’s words of love, this museum is perfect for literary travelers, honeymooners, or solo travelers with a romantic soul. From La Sebastiana, you’ll have a spectacular view of Valparaíso Bay from the top of Bellavista Hill. The building is filled with beautiful pieces the Chilean poet collected during his trips around the world. If you’re interested in seeing the museum, it’s best to come in the morning because entry is first-come, first-serve.
12:00 p.m. For a charming, authentic Valparaíso experience, head to Amor Porteño for lunch, a favorite cafe among locals. Enjoy a light lunch—sandwiches, salads, pastries, and soups—because you’ll want to save room for some midday dessert. Amor Porteño doubles as a heladería, or ice creamery, and also serves freshly fried churros with creamy hot chocolate. Midday dessert is vastly underrated, and Amor Porteño can help you reclaim the empowering tradition of a 1 p.m. ice cream cone.
2:00 p.m. For a quick tour of the historical Valparaíso sights, head to Sotomayor Square, or Plaza Sotomayor, which is just a 10-minute walk from Amor Porteño. The square has a monument built in memory of the Chileans who lost their lives in the Iquique Naval Battle, which was fought between Chile and Peru during the Pacific War. Close to Sotomayor Square, you can also visit Catedral de Valparaíso, one of the city’s most famous churches. Valparaíso is also known for Iglesia de San Francisco and Iglesia de la Matriz, but both are located farther from the city center.
4:00 p.m. You’ll want to leave yourself an hour or so to just wander the colorful streets of Valparaíso. Some of the most notable art in this city is available for public consumption on the streets of Valparaíso; from mosaics to spray-can graffiti, there’s something for every artistic palette here. Some of the best streets to hit are Miraflores, Hector Calvo, Templeman, and Carillo Armstrong.
5:00 p.m. If you’re determined to see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean with a drink in hand, head to the hip-but-relaxed Fauna Hotel rooftop terrace. Fauna is perched on one of Valparaíso’s 42 hills, giving patrons a sweeping view of Valparaíso and the ocean beyond.
7:00 p.m. For dinner, you’ll actually head to your hotel early, because boutique hotel Casa Higueras is home to one of the city’s best restaurants, Maralegre. Dine on Maralegre’s terrace on their modern Chilean fare made with fresh, local ingredients.
Where to Stay
Valparaíso has undergone an architectural renaissance in recent years, with business owners lovingly restoring previously unused or blight buildings. Boutique hotels have been popping up, many of which are actually refurbished mansions. Casa Higueras (home to Maralegre restaurant) is one of the most popular boutique hotels. Conveniently located on Cerro Alegre, the hotel features innovative design and gorgeous interiors, a rooftop lounge, and a beautiful pool.