We only had a quick one day stopover in Valparaíso, but afterwards we all agreed that if we had more time we would have loved to stay longer. It would definitely be worth spending 3 or 4 days in this colourful, multicultural city, exploring the winding streets covered with stunning street art and checking out all the cute little cafes, restaurants and shops.
The multicultural aspect of Valparaíso, both in terms of the people and the architecture, is thanks in large part to an influx of European immigrants that descended on the port town in the 19th Century. The city is steeped in a rich history and is the home of Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the first volunteer fire department in the continent, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in the world that is still being published today: El Mercurio del Valparaíso. The historic quarter of Valparaíso was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003 – a status which, according to our tour guide, the city is currently in danger of losing, thanks to a number of historic buildings being destroyed by fire and not being repaired.
We did a free walking tour of the city centre with Free Tour Valparaíso. Our guide Almendra (which means Almond – and yes, she told us jokingly, that was her real name) was fantastic and clearly had a lot of love for her home city. She took us on a 3 hour walk around the winding, hilly streets, showing us some of the most famous street art and explaining how certain features of the city came to be. This included a ride on one of the city’s old, rickety hillside elevators and taking a slide – an actual children’s playground style slide – from a wooden walkway down to the street below. The tour finished with the most delicious empanadas we have ever tried at Delicias Express – they have over 80 different varieties of empanadas to choose from, and they are all absolutely huge. A girl on our tour ordered 2 because she thought they would be tiny and ended up having to take one with her to eat later as she couldn’t finish both of them!
After the tour we walked back up a steep flight of stairs to the top of one of the hills and went for coffee and cake at an artsy little cafe overlooking one of the many brightly painted streets. Afterwards we went back to our Airbnb for a few drinks before heading out to eat at Nazca Restaurante Peruano, a Peruvian restaurant down the road where Jane and Steve tried their first lomo saltado, the traditional Peruvian beef and vegetable dish.
That night we had to pack up our bags ready to leave early in the morning for a long drive to Pucón, our next destination down in Chile’s Lake District.