The San Francisco of South America

Now declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the unique port town of Valparaiso should be on your MUST-SEE list when traveling to Chile. Similar to San Francisco, Valparaiso is a picturesque town located on the bay with hills rising up from the water, filled the with history and authenticity.


The San Francisco of South America

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by quinius on July 27, 2005

Valparaiso is separated only five minutes from Vina del Mar, Chile, but they are miles apart in their activities and makeup. While Vina del Mar is more of a beach-style resort, Valparaiso is rich in history and uniqueness. This small port town is similar to San Francisco in that it is located on the bay with hills rising from the water. One the most unique things about Valparaiso are the ascensores. These are small elevators that are used to carry people up the hills. Some highlights of Valparaiso include the quirky house of Pablo Neruda, inspecting the day's catch and grabbing a bite to eat at the local fish market, spending the night at the Brighton with an incredible view over the bay, and a trip up some of the famous ascensores (funicular elevators), then walking through the historical streets of this interesting port town.${QuickSuggestions} Plaza O'Higgins on Av. Pedro Montt is home to two unknown events that are worthy of checking out. First there is the Teatro Municipal which has plays and concerts on a regular basis. I saw a acting performance/concert of Pink Floyd's The Wall here for about $5 (yes, Chile is obsessed with classic rock music). Second, Plaza O'Higgins is home to some great antique markets that congregate here on the weekends. I believe it was Sunday when the vendors set up their stands but you might want to check the local newspaper or ask around. On a different note, there are two main areas of bars/discotecas. The first by the waterfront of which I included a journal, and the lesser known is on Av. Ecuador which is also a great place to watch a soccer game.${BestWay} One of the best things about Valparaiso is the transportation system. Most of the time you will want to walk and enjoy surroundings, but if you plan on going somewhere farther, then they have an excellent transportation system of taxis/collectivos/micros. Transportation is always cheap and readily available. I have included a journal entry on the specifics of transportation if you would like to read more. It is located in my journal about Vina del Mar.

Hotel Brighton

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Hotel Brighton is a classic bright-yellow hotel atop the famous Cerro Concepcion in downtown Valparaiso. It is the most authentic hotel you will find in this port town, with such highlights as the commanding views of the entire city stretching across the bay all the way to Vina del Mar.

My dad and I had very differing opinions of our stay here, but this entry is about my opinion, not his. I was used to staying in very authentic hostels that might not have been the nicest, but were definitely fun and interesting, places that you would remember. That is why I loved the Hotel Brighton. This hotel is not for those looking for a generic five-star hotel. For example, there are things that might get on some people's nerves, such as the cramped quarters in some rooms, the location, and the service in the café. I think that the view of the sea and the atmosphere that comes along with such a historical area of Valparaiso cover up any of the disadvantages of this hotel.

You can't get much better than $60 for a room with a seaside view and breakfast. If you are looking for a nice hotel with history and culture, this is your place.

Hotel Brighton
Paisaje Akinson 151
Valparaiso, Chile
223-513

Mercado Central

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

"Venga! Venga! Senor, aqui aqui, la mejor de Valparaiso!" you will hear as the restaurant owners try and counter each other with a much wiser and more enticing advertisement that the next guy. I didn't know there could be so many "best" restaurants in one town, but they all claim to be just that at the Mercado Central. On the second floor of the market is where you will find all of the restaurants. There is a plethora to choose from, and everyone will say they are the cheapest and the best with the most specials, but really, you cannot go wrong with one over the other. They all pretty much serve the same thing and have amazing specials for around $3. For $3, you get a full-course seafood lunch about as good as you will find anywhere. Granted, this is not a five-star restaurant, but it is a great bargain in a lively atmosphere and more culture intertwined than you will get anywhere else. If not here, then you must experience at least one Mercado Central while traveling in Chile (there is one in pretty much every city, since the whole country is so close to the ocean).
Mercado Central
Av. Brasil
Valparaiso, Chile

Color Cafe

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Unfortunately, my meals were already paid for while I was studying abroad in Chile, or else I would have come to this unique find as often as possible. Color Cafe is a local hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the famous Cerro Concepcion. Therefore, if you do eat here, you get to experience this historical area of Valparaiso and have one bargain of a lunch. If you blink while walking past it, you might miss this restaurant. It is not a big place at all, with only room for about five or six tables. The fact that it was not just another tourist spot is what attracted me most. To go along with the local flavor and atmosphere, they serve excellent vegetarian dishes, as well as non-vegetarian. Each meal is full-course, from appetizer to dessert, and every bit of it is amazing. For all the food you get, you would think it would cost a lot, but these $3-4 meals will definitely not burn a hole in your pocket. They will send you home on a full stomach and wanting to come back for more.
Color Cafe
Papudo 526 on Cerro Concepcion
Valparaiso, Chile

El Cielo

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Arriba El Cielo! Arriba! The bartenders would yell throughout the night. After my first trip to a discoteca like El Cielo, I will never forget the bass thumping the walls next to my ear as I walked up the stairs to the heart-pounding techno music blaring above me. I am not the discoteca type, but when in Rome, do as the Romans. Discotecas aren't really the thing in the States, I guess, but in Latin America, that is thing to do. If you do visit a Latin-American country, then you must set aside at least one night for the discoteca. If I hadn't gone to the discotecas, I would have felt like I had been to Paris and not seen the Eiffel Tower.

I'm not an expert on clubs or discos, but El Cielo did have a fun atmosphere. There were two levels. The first level had a band the first half of the night, then around 2 or 3am, when things get rolling in South America, everyone moves upstairs to the techno room. Sometimes there was a cover, but if you know your Spanish, then you might be able to work your way out of it. The drink prices were around $5, but they also had cheaper specials. There are many other clubs lining the waterfront, and you will be able to tell which ones are popular. Be careful for pickpockets late at night in this area.

I'm not saying discotecas are for everyone, but I think those who don't go are missing out on part of the Chilean culture. I mean, where else can you eat dinner at 10pm, take a nap till midnight, go to a bar for a couple hours, go to the discoteca literally till the sun comes up, buy a greasy hot dog as you are walking out of the doors at 7am, and take a crazy bus ride home and sleep till lunch.

Club El Cielo
Errázuriz 1152
Valparaiso, Chile
+56 (32) 218036

La Piedra Feliz

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Although it is mostly known as a great tango bar, we called La Piedra Feliz home on Wednesday nights for something very different. Wednesday night jazz was something we looked forward to every week while studying in Valparaiso. La Piedra Feliz is a stylish, laid-back club catering mainly to an older crowd that brings in different jazz groups every week. It was a great place to relax and a definite change from the bass-thumping techno music you hear all weekend.

The bar is similar to any jazz club you would find in New Orleans, with tables surrounding the stage covered by a smoky haze. You can order drinks throughout the performance that are around $5, but that’s not what is important, the music is, and it was awesome. If you are not a fan of something as relaxing as jazz and you have to constantly be moving, then there is a tango room next door for all you ADD folk. If they are still continuing the Wednesday jazz, definitely check it out when you go.

Piedra Feliz
Avenida Errazuriz #1054
Valparaiso, Chile
+56 (32)256788214729

Pablo Neruda House Part 1: La Sebastiana

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Pablo Neruda is a famous Chilean poet who, although originally known for only his way with words and poetry, is now equally known for his houses located in Chile. All of his homes have a unique flare to them, from being shaped like a boat to the odd collections of various things you will find throughout the house. After winning the Nobel Prize for literature, Neruda quickly became one of the most important celebrities in Chile, and definitely one of the most unique.

Neruda had three houses located throughout Chile, La Sebastiana probably being the least known of all of them. Neruda did not live here, but loved this house for its view of the bay and the incredible location for viewing the annual fireworks display in Valparaiso on New Year's Eve. Although this was Neruda's least-visited house, it is still worth a visit for the public. One advantage to this house is that you do not have to join a tour of the house, but you can walk at your own pace and admire all of his interesting collectibles, making it much more informal and enjoyable. The cost is a bargain $3 to enter the house, and you can tour as long as you like. There is also a café and a gift shop close next door. This house is a little hard to find without a car, but if you must, take Verde Mar bus O or D on Serrano near Plaza Sotomayor and get off at the 6900 block of Av. Alemania, where you should just be a short walk from the house. Neruda's houses are worthy of a visit for any traveller because of the Chilean poet's historical significance and their authentic style and design that you will find nowhere else.

Pablo Neruda House: La Sebastiana
Ferrari 692
Valparaiso, Chile

Pablo Neruda House Part 2: Isla Negra

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

La Sebastiana in Valparaiso is nice, but when you visit Isla Negra, you will begin to see why so many people want to visit these extraordinary homes. Neruda was obsessed with the sea, and therefore this house, located on the rocky ocean an hour south of Valparaiso, was the closest to his heart. Here you will find odd collections of mini-boats, pieces of ships, nautical instrument, and countless other strange, yet very intriguing, memorabilia. You will also find Neruda's tomb here.

Isla Negra is different than his house in Valparaiso in that they only give guided tours of the house; there are no self-guided tours. Reservations are recommended, especially during the summer months. Tours can be given in English or Spanish. The tours only last about half and hour, but you can stay and photograph as long as you like. If you do not have a car, then you can catch a bus at the Valparaiso or Santiago terminal (Pullman Bus Lago Penuelas) and tell them you are stopping at Isla Negra. The bus costs $2 and lasts about 1.5 hours. I highly recommend visiting Neruda's favorite house if you enjoy unique historical sights intertwined with the culture.

Pablo Neruda House: Isla Negra
Camino Vecinal s/n
Valparaiso, Chile
+56 35 461284

Pablo Neruda House Part 3: La Chascona

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Pablo Neruda went the extra mile when designing this authentic abode at the base of Cerro San Cristobal in Santiago. I guess once you rise to the celebrity status that he had, you have the power to build houses in the shape of ships, with views that encompass all of Santiago. This ship-like house was my favorite of his three houses. They offer tours in English, French, German, and Spanish, which cost $5 and last about an hour. They have an excellent deal if you speak Spanish, and are a student...about $2! The tours are very informative and thorough, going into great detail about many of his off-the-wall memorabilia, furniture, and collections and why he had them. If I went into detail it would not do La Chascona justice. Neruda had many strange habits and collections, particularly a doll collection that would surpass that of any 7 year old girl. I enjoyed this tour more than others because they provided much more information about his life other than just his career. Neruda had very interesting relationships with friends and specifically his wife, Matilda. The tour was great because it portrayed Neruda in the quirky light he would enjoy.

La Chascona will not jump out at you in the middle of the downtown tourist area. It is nestled away quite nicely in Barrio Bellavista, and you probably will never happen upon it unless you are searching for the house. The phone number is +56-02-777 87 41. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 10am to 6pm. Check out the website for more info: www.fundacionneruda.org/ing/home_chascona_ingles.htmlYou cannot visit Santiago and not visit La Chascona. It should be at the top of anyone's list.
Pablo Neruda House: La Chascona
Fernando Marquez de la Plata 0192
Valparaiso, Chile
2/777-8741

$1 CD's

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

If you are like me, you hate spending $15 on an overpriced CD that really only has a couple good songs in it. You finally buy it and discover it really does only have a couple good songs. Then you have the empty feeling in your stomach as you watch the CD sit in your car for months while it never gets played, and you realize you wasted your money.

Well, Chile has figured out a nice illegal way of fixing overpriced CD's. They are gonna burn them and sell them for $1 to $2. Guns N' Roses Greatest Hits for $2, sure I'll take it; Coldplay's latest album for $2, yep. I know it may sound skeptical, but they at least Xerox a copy of the CD cover to make it look somewhat real. The actual CD is just burned, but it has the same tracks as the real CD you would buy. You can get pretty much all the mainstream artists and same with all the mainstream DVD's. The merchandise is available by the plazas in either Valparaiso or Vina del Mar.

I enjoyed the English CD's, but by the end of my time in Chile, I would rather have bought a Spanish CD. I would recommend buying some of the popular Spanish music, because it is cheap and an excellent way to experience the culture.

Local Shopping Bargains
By the Main Plazas
Valparaiso, Chile

Bringin' in the New Year Chilean Style

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by quinius on August 3, 2005

Second only to Rio de Janiero, Valparaiso attracts tons of spectators every year as everyone crowds the city to watch the fireworks display. It is probably Valparaiso/Vina del Mar's biggest event, as it draw hundreds of thousands of visitor each year. If you happen to be in Chile to bring in the New Year, there is no better place to be. The actual fireworks go off from the waterfront at Valparaiso, but another great place to watch the spectacle is from the beaches 10 minutes away in Vina del Mar. This is where we viewed them, and it was not nearly as crowded and you could still see them fine.

I would recommend Vina for a more laid-back atmosphere, but viewing them from Valparaiso also has its advantages for those who are planning to party till the wee hours of the morning. In Valparaiso, the streets are packed with people, more like Times Square, and they have huge clubs/raves going all night long. This event is nice because it doesn't cost anything to sit on the beach and watch an incredible fireworks display. Really, this area is the place to be for any traveller to bring in the New Year, because they have something for everyone, from the laid-back tourists to the partygoers and everyone in between. Make reservations ahead of time if you plan on coming.


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