Thoughts on Valparaíso, Chile, and what to do there

Looking over beautiful Valparaíso, Chile.

Mitchell and I only ended up in Chile because we realized it would save us about $500 to fly through there on our way to Buenos Aires, instead of just going straight from Lima. (The power of checking all surrounding airports!)

One of many colorful staircases in Valpo.

Since we were flying through, we decided to stay a few days and check out Valparaíso. I really knew nothing about it other than it was a beach town, and after going there, I’m super confused as to why this is, because it was adorable and there are so many reasons to visit Valpo!

Hippie beach vibes in Valparaíso, Chile. (Valpo)

Our hotel was in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood, which is the only place to stay in Valpo, in my opinion. I’m sure there are other cool places in the city, but none that really grabbed me like Cerro Alegre. It had everything I needed: endless art, cozy cafes and restaurants, sweeping views of the sea and city, lively streets filled with dancers, musicians, and artists, and tons of galleries and shops to browse. I’ve been to lots of cool places, and I’ve seen lots of graffiti and street art, but never on this scale. You were immersed in it from the moment you entered the neighborhood; I’d never felt more inspired - it was beautiful.

Even though the city is on the water, if you’re wanting to go to a beach your best bet is to drive to Viña del Mar - about 20 minutes from our hotel. Apparently there’s like one beach in Valpo you can walk to, but it’s a very long walk from where we were, and it didn’t look like a fun walk, or a very nice beach. Viña’s beaches were huge though, and even though we were there smack dab in the middle of summer, the beaches were not crowded at all. Though the sun beat down on us and we both got spectacular sunburns, it was only in the 70s, and the water was way too cold for me to swim in, but I still enjoyed every minute.

Some free dancing lessons on the street in Valpo, Chile.

As far as what to do in Valparaíso, I suggest simply walking around and taking it all in:

  • Admire all the murals.

  • Climb up all the colorful staircases.

  • Pet all the dogs (and there are a lot).

  • Sit on a terrace and watch the sun set over the ocean.

  • Eat some fish caught that day.

  • Buy some wearable art at one of the many trendy shops.

  • Listen to some street musicians.

  • Check out Pablo Neruda’s house, La Sebastiana. (Sadly, I didn’t get to do this.)

  • Be filled with creative inspiration.

There were tons of hostels in the Cerro Alegre neighborhood, but if you feel like splurging, our hotel, Palacio Astoreca, was perfect. The location was unbeatable, there was parking available, there was a nice - and private each time we went - spa in the basement with a steam room, a hot tub, and a swimming pool, and they brought us macarons before bed each night! The only downsides were that our room, though gorgeous, had a window looking from the bathroom into the bedroom, which made things slightly awkward when showering or going to the bathroom, and we had to be buzzed in each time we got back to the hotel. The buzzing to get in wouldn’t be a big deal, but every time they would ask, “Yes?” and it was always a struggle to figure out what to say, “Um, room 212?…hi, it’s Kelsey again?…hmm, hola?” One time Mitchell joked that he was just going to say, “Soy yo!” (It’s me!). I was laughing so hard at that when we entered the hotel that I’m pretty sure the staff thought I was super drunk.

Views from Palacio Astoreca Hotel in Valparaíso, Chile.

In the end I’m pretty happy that the fates (aka airline prices) pushed us to Valpo. If you’re looking for an inspiring, relaxing few days, this is the place for you.

There’s always a party in Valparaíso, Chile.