Wednesday, July 15, 2015


Chile’s soulful port apart

Executive summary by darmansjah

Generations of creative pilgrims have been hooked by Valparaíso’s weathered beauty and bohemian vibe. Travelers have followed suit, coming for the romantic allure of its 42 cerros (hills) that ascend sharply from the water. Stacked high with faded mansions, 19th-century funiculars, and battered cobblestones, Valparaíso stands in contrast to the glitzy Viña del Mar resort town to the north. As Chile’s vital harbor, it retains the signature grittiness and edge that often endow ports. But Valparaíso is also welcoming a boom of eateries serving inventive Chilean fare, quirky bars offering hoppy microbrews, and antiques-packed B&Bs.

Pablo Neruda, whose former home, La Sebastiana, still lords over Cerro Bellavista, wrote Valparaíso-inspired verse: “I love, Valparaíso, everything you enfold, and everything you irradiate, sea bride … I love the violent light with which you turn to the sailor on the sea night.” A meander through its tangle of steep alleyways and stairways reveals eye-catching street art and ocean views from pedestrian passages that hug the slopes. Then a cool breeze comes off the Pacific, night falls, and silhouettes of hills appear against darker skies, infusing Valparaíso with poetry that seeps through its every pore. —Anja Mutić

Travel Tips

When to Go: November-March (Southern Hemisphere summer)

Relevant Dates: The city is packed at the end of December for the raucous Carnaval de Valparaíso, culminating in a New Year's Eve fireworks show over the harbor.

Where to Stay: Book a bay view room or suite in a restored Cerro Alegre mansion-turned-boutique hotel like plush Casa Higueras or family-run Hotel Acontraluz.

How to Get Around: Use buses, trolleybuses, and shared taxis (colectivos) for local travel, and Metro Valparaíso, called Merval, for regional trips. Ride the remaining (about 15) funky funicular railways (ascensores) up to hilltop neighborhoods.

Where to Eat or Drink: Wander among the fresh fruit, vegetable, flower, and fish stalls at El Mercado Cardonal (closed Sundays), then head upstairs to any of the market's small, affordable seafood restaurants. Grab beer and chorrillana (a local fried steak, egg, potato, and onion concoction) at a traditional port pub like Bar La Playa on Calle Serrano.

What to Buy: On weekends and during holidays, browse through rare and secondhand books at Feria de Antiguedades y Libros La Merced.

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