If you love street art, you will lose your mind over Valparaiso Chile. This small port city on the route of many cruise lines touring South America is worth a couple night’s stay (or at least a shore excursion). This is exactly what my husband and I did at the conclusion of our 2016 South American cruise.
This city is gritty. Aside from the picturesque colorful houses on the hill and its prolific street art, I can’t think of a reason to visit the city often referred to as simply Valpo. However, it apparently does have some extremely beautiful beach communities just outside the city, but we didn’t get there. We truly were there for the street art scene. Despite what I thought the city lacks, I still really enjoyed it. I would go back again for the art alone. I suspect no matter how many times you visit this city you will always see something you missed before. If you enjoy public art, I think you will love Valpo too.
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Take a Free Tour with a Guide
Artwork is everywhere you look. Some of it is quite impressive. Some not much more than mere vandalism. But I say, “take the good with the bad.” There are some awesome free walking tours (great for a shore excursion) of the city’s street art. We did one with Tours4Tips. As the name implies, it’s free and you pay only what you think the tour is worth in the form of a tip. Our guide was Ignacio. He provided an excellent tour and he knew graffiti started in Philadelphia Pennsylvania near where I grew up. He gets bonus points for this.
I recommend taking the guided tour before venturing out on your own. The free guided tour will give you a primer of the city (historic and geographic) and provide context for the street art you will see on your self-guided mural art tour. Also, you will be sure to see the best art in the city. Plus, you will learn about individual artists. Valparaiso has attracted some very famous street artists.
After taking a formalized tour I recommend you begin your exploration at the top of the hill near Pablo Neruda’s home, La Sebastiana Museo de Pablo Neruda. One good reason for making this your starting point is you will then be walking down the hill rather than up it. The walk is only a bit over a mile but it takes some time. I would recommend allowing a few hours to make your way down the hill. La Sebastiana is also a good reference point and it is easy to get to by public transportation. And since you will be starting your walking tour here, I recommend a visit to La Sebastiana. It’s pretty quirky. The cost is 7000 CLP or about $9.50 USD.
If you do decide to visit La Sebastiana you may be ready to grab a bite to eat afterward. If you enjoyed the quirkiness of Pablo’s home you may want to try Poesía De Sabor Heladería Cafetería Artesanías. This place is really eclectic. They have decent food and a fantastic view.
From here head down Ricardo de Ferrari toward Hector Calvo and past the Parroquia (Parrish. A big church on the right). Continue on to the Abierto Cielo (this is the open-air art museum). Keep your eyes open and a map handy. You are going to want to wander off the route because FOMO will set in. But keep your eyes open for Abierto Cielo. It is easy to miss among all the other artwork.
Street art spreads beyond this section and throughout the city but this area offers a higher concentration of graffiti art than anywhere else in Valpo. You must visit Abierto Cielo because it gives you an opportunity to view artwork from some of the top street artists around the world.
When you reach the end of the route you will be in the downtown area. If you opted not to have lunch before heading down the hill and will find many places to eat. Find yourself a good seafood restaurant as Valparaiso is known for its fresh bounty from the sea.
Regardless of how you choose to see this colorful city or where you begin, I promise, you won’t know where to look first. There is so much eye-candy for street art lover it can be overwhelming.