Whether it be the winding cobbled streets, the multicolored patchwork cityscape, the stunning vistas, or the active nightlife, few do not succumb to the charm of Valparaíso (Valpo to locals), and the editors at National Geographic are no different.
The Chilean port town is featured on the magazine’s “20 must see places” in its Best of the World 2013 series. The magazine offers a number of reasons to visit Valpo, from the boutique hotels atop Cerro Alegre to the rare books for sale at Feria de Antiguedades. We’ve joined in and come up with a list of our favorite things to do and see in Chile’s cultural capital . . .
Feeding the sea lions at Caleta Portales
Halfway between Valpo and nearby Viña del Mar you’ll find the pier of Caleta Portales, where busy fishermen unload the catch of the day. Join in the fun as fish scraps are thrown into the water, sending a healthy population of sea lions and pelicans into a feeding frenzy.
Chorrillana at J. Cruz
The traditional dish chorrillana is enjoyed throughout Chile, though it is commonly believed to have been invented in Valparaíso, and more specifically at the restaurant J. (say Jota) Cruz. Both delicious and daunting, the chorrillana’s mountain of french fries, meat, onion and egg is best shared with a friend.
Down at the dock, a number of small fishing boats are available to hire for short tours of the harbor or longer trips down to Viña del Mar. Take in Valpo’s charmingly chaotic cityscape as you relax on Pacific waters.
Lunch at El Mercado Cardonal
After a wander around the ground floor of Valparaíso’s colorful fruit, veg, and seafood market El Mercado Cardonal, head upstairs to one of the many picadas – cheap seafood eateries. Whether you go for a zesty ceviche (raw fish prepared in lemon juice) or a steamy paila marina (seafood stew served in earthenware or a cast iron pot), food just doesn’t get any fresher.
The cemeteries at sunset
Looking out across the city from the peak of Cerro Cárcel are Valpo’s adjoining cemeteries, Cementario 1 and Cementario de Disidentes, the latter being where non-Catholics were once buried. The ornate statues and incredible views make the cemeteries a must visit location for photographers, especially at sundown.
Parque Cultural Ex-Cárcel
Valparaíso’s newest cultural center was once a prison, and before that a fort built by the Spanish. In 2009, four architecture students from Pontificia Universidad Católica beat more than 120 established firms in the bid to redesign the building into a cultural center. With regular exhibitions, shows and performances, head to Parque Cultural Ex-Cárcel to experience first-hand why Valpo is the cultural capital of Chile.
Anyone who has been to the city would agree that we’ve barely scratched the surface with this list. Head to our Facebook page and let us know why you love Valparaíso.