10 Key Things about Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso – The Jewel of the Pacific, Home of all colorful things

It’s charming, multicolored houses…the serene hill tops in the background… the endless sea you can view, out the window…It all makes a beautiful picture. Valparaiso has held on to its past while welcoming the new.

1. History of Valparaíso

This city is one of the oldest in Chile, with a rich and dramatic history. Valparaíso saw it’s ups and downs; occupied originally by the fishing and gathering community of Changos, the area then came under the control of Spain in 1530s. After gaining its independence, the port of Valpo became a stopping point for virtually all ships travelling between the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean, especially during the California Gold Rush. It’s importance as a port and trading town for the international market attracted many immigrants to the city.

However with the construction of Panama Canal in 1914, Valparaíso lost it’s traffic and subsequently its economic growth and stability. In the last decade, the tourist activity has increased tenfold and the city has slowly but steadily revived itself from the setback it experienced in the 20th century.

10-key-things-Valparaiso-Chile-Comandancia_Armada_Valparaíso-1024x683 10 Key Things about Valparaíso, Chile

2. Night Life in Valparaíso

The city’s Bohemian pubs and bars are the meeting point of painters, artists, poets, writers, students, basically everyone. They are a good place to socialise with a young and interesting crowd; if not the dancing, then conversation will definitely keep you up till the wee hours of the morning. Most bars do not have a closing time, so you’re welcome as long as you can stay up. Plenty of bars hosting salsas to tango to live music, there’s something in the city for everyone.

3. Safety in Valparaíso

Crime rate is unfortunately rampant with tourists being robbed and sometimes roughed up. Keep all your belongings in the hotel safe, do not wear anything too flashy or clothes that stand out, cameras and purses are the prime targets of the hooligans, avoid the hills unless you’re in a big group, they house some of the more unsavory neighbourhoods. Keep your passport in the safe and carry a photocopy of it. Some people might try and “help” you, avoid them, they’ll most likely snatch your valuables. Stay alert and exercise necessary precautions.

4. Living Expenses in Valparaíso

Swanky neighbourhoods rent apartments at the rate of CL$ 160,000 (USD 238) for one bedroom and CL$ 305,000 (USD 454) for three bedroom a month. To buy one sq. ft of land in such a locality, you’ll find the prices going up to CL$ 112,000 (USD 167).

Budget hotels have tariffs as low as 30369 CL$ (USD 45) whereas luxury hotels cost you around CL$ 228540 (USD 340) per night.10-key-things-Valparaiso-Chile-1024x768 10 Key Things about Valparaíso, Chile

5. Cuisines of Valparaíso

The most common dish popular among the locals is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries with beef and other topping ranging from egg to fried onions, depending on the restaurant you visit. Seafood is easily available in small eateries. Completo is undoubtedly a hangover dish, it has a hot dog topped with a ridiculous amount of mayo, guacamole, tomatoes and sauerkraut (you’re welcome). Chilean cuisine does not lack in soups, you’ll find them in variety and it just keeps getting better. Some of the more traditional dishes you ought try are Carbonada, Chancho en piedra, Malaya, Humitas, Sopaipillas, Plateada and the drink of Chile-Mote con huesillo.

6. Statistics of Valparaíso

Valparaíso is the 6th largest city in Chile spread across an area of 402 sq. km. with a population density of 710 per sq. km. In 2003, the city’s historical area was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The region has been popularised as the “Jewel of the Pacific”. Spanish is the official language of Chile. The city has transformed itself into an education centre with four major universities and many smaller colleges.

7. Public Transport in Valparaíso

Valparaíso is connected to its surrounding hills as well as other cities through a network of buses, a light rail system, trolleybuses and cliff rail. The roadways have recently been reconstructed and improved with the construction Curauma — Placilla — La Pólvora freeway connecting the port to the highway. Efforts are being made to connect the city to other coastal towns. The more uphill and elevated parts of the city which are inaccessible through other modes of transportation are connected to the main centre by cable cars.10-key-things-Valparaiso-Chile-Trolleybuses_in_Valparaiso-1024x603 10 Key Things about Valparaíso, Chile

Pollution in Valparaíso : It is of a moderate volume with PM 2.5 level hovering around 58.

8. Weather of Valparaíso

In Chile, the timing of the seasons is opposite to the norm, followed by countries in the Northern hemisphere. Valparaíso follows a Mediterranean climate with dry summers and wet winters. July is the coldest month and June receives the most rainfall. Autumn months are the best time to visit as the overall weather is pleasant and days are longer without the heat. The city receives on an average precipitation of 373 mm in a year.

Summer: December till February. Average High 19°C; Average Low 13°C
Autumn: March till May. Average High 17°C; Average Low 11°C
Winter: June till August. Average High 14°C; Average Low 9°C
Spring: September till November. Average High 16°C; Average Low 10°C

9. Culture of Valparaíso

Valparaiso has been dubbed as the cultural capital of the country. All the major artists of Chile have been inspired and influenced by this city. Artists have free reign in the city as a common sight on streets is the painted murals on houses. This open minded attitude has allowed the city itself to be a canvas to budding painters to showcase their talent. The streets and houses are as a result a sight to behold. Local businesses also embrace their talent; Valparaiso has thus become a complex mix of graffiti portraying so much diversity that somehow just works.

10. Places to Visit in Valparaíso

Things to do in Valparaíso: Walking tours and boat tours are a great way to explore the city; falling in love with street art is inevitable; definitely try the Chorrillana; get a tan and go for a swim on the beach; have a little fun with the sea lions at the coastline; visit the local markets; cooking classes to learn the local cuisine; bars serving some of the best and strongest beer you’ll ever taste.   

Things to do for Kids in Valparaíso: Take your little nomads on a ride on the funiculars uphill; a few kilometers from the city is a zoo with local wildlife like alpacas and macaws to kangaroos and tigers along with many more animals; the beach and cuisine can also be enjoyed by your little ones.

Museum and Galleries: Museo del Mar Lord Cochrane; Museo de Bellas Artes; Museo Naval y Marítimo; Parque Cultural de Valparaíso; Museo de Historia Natural.

Places nearby: Vina del Mar is a 20 minute ride from the city and virtually the opposite of Valparaíso in nature. The beaches here are much more nice and clean and if too crowded you can always come to Vina del Mar for your fill of water fun.  

Offbeat places: Go with the flow, it would undoubtedly be very easy to get lost in this city, which perhaps is not such a bad thing as you’ll discover something more, something unique, for sure. The whole city is open to you.

Author’s Conclusion: At a glance the colorful vibrant city seems intimidating but in reality this city is pretty laid back with amazing graffiti and serene environment.

Country Chile
City Valparaíso
Area 402 sq.km.
Population 249,897
Demonym Porteño
Languages Spanish
Currency Chilean peso (1 USD = 671.8 CL$ as of 19th March 2016)
Time Zone Chile Standard Time (UTC-4)
Chile Summer Time (UTC-3)
Driving Right Hand Traffic, Left Hand Drive
Helpline Ambulance – 131 ; Fire – 132 ; Police – 133

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