A recent travel piece in one of the U.K.’s best-known newspapers, the Guardian, recently sang the praise of Chile’s famed Valparaíso. The article described the majestic, color-drenched, labyrinth-like city as “Berlin by the Sea.”
This is Chile’s first reaction was typical of the proud native: Why not “Berlin, the inland Valparaíso”? After all, the port city, the “Jewel of the Pacific” is a world-class destination in its own right, why the need to compare?
However, we will concede that history does bear some similarities. Both city’s suffered a near industrial collapse in the first part of the early 20th century only to become centers of culture, drawing in creative minds from across the nation and beyond.
The most important port on the southern part of the continent’s Pacific coast and a major stopping off point for ships traveling between North America and Europe for many years, Valparaíso suffered greatly after the Panama Canal opened in 1914. Hard times followed as the seaside city lost huge amounts of trade overnight but out of difficulties emerged the city’s modern character. The low rents, picturesque setting and bohemian vibe attracted artists, musicians and poets. The city was reborn as the soul of alternative Chile.
Culture seeps of out “Valpo’s” very pores: Street art covers walls, spreading constantly like an aggressive moss, climbing up improbably high facades and through narrow alleyways alike bringing vivid color to all corners of the city. Among the renowned murals you find yourself strolling past are works by some of the world’s leading artists such as Valparaíso local boy Inti Castro whose work adorns the walls of numerous artistic cities on several continents, including, of course, Berlin.
Finally, no trip to Valparaíso would be complete without visiting the Pablo Neruda’s house in the city, now a museum dedicated to the Nobel Prize winning poet who spent much of his life here.
So while we are not convinced of the analogy, This is Chile gives dues were they are deserved and the Guardian was certainly right in showcasing Valparaíso as a highlight for any discerning tourist in the area.
If you need any more convincing we leave you with Neruda’s Ode to Valparaíso!