A thick fog rolls in off the ocean. Between the low clouds, multi-colored houses cling to the hillsides, fighting with each other for the best view of the sea. There’s night time music in the streets and daytime art on the walls. Have a cold glass of white wine while you contemplate poetry, Neruda or Mistral, and take the funicular elevators to the top of the steep hills. Admire the view.
This is Valparaiso.
Located about an hour and a half away from Santiago, Valparaiso is the second largest metropolitan area in Chile. This port has played a central role in the development of the nation. From the hilltops next to the shore, down to the coast, Valparaiso is often compared with San Francisco in the United States.
The history of the city is as old as the country – native populations, Spanish presence since the 1500s, and key historical events have all taken place here. During the 1800s it was even a key stopping point for ships rounding South America, via the Straits of Magellan.
Valparaiso has always been known as a major stomping ground for poets and artists, revolutionaries and intellectuals alike. The port streets are filled with street art, interesting shops, musical centres and cafés and bars. Just walking through the streets here is a tremendous pleasure.
The food options here are as varied as there are tastes, though many people rave about the chorrillanas (a wonderful artery-clogging pile of French fries, meat, onions and eggs) at J Cruz. For those who don’t want to have to lick their fingers after the meal, there is a cornucopia of tasty restaurants on the hilltops with beautiful ocean views.
The entire bay Valparaiso is located on, stretching through Viña del Mar and onwards, has one of the world’s most extensive fireworks display every new year’s. Hundreds of thousands of people converge on the city to watch the celebration reflected in the ocean waters while scoring a lucky midnight kiss to bring in good tidings. This is just one of the amazing events you could see here.
Pablo Neruda, Chile’s illustrious poet, said that Valparaiso never had time to brush its hair or to properly get dressed. He should know – he had a house here (you should visit it). Fishermen and artists, music and gambling. A port town is as a port town does. Come check it out. If you hear gypsy jazz wafting through the fog at night, don’t be afraid to see where it’s coming from.