Port Review: Valparaiso, Chile

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Located 140 kilometres west of Santiago in Chile, Valparaiso is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site, and one of South America’s most historic and attractive ports for a lineup of good reasons. 

The Facts 

Location: On the coast of Chile.

Language: Spanish, but English is also spoken in tourist areas.

Currency: Chilean peso. 

Docking/anchoring: Ships dock in the port, and passengers are transported by shuttle bus to the Valparaiso Cruise Terminal Muelle Prat.

Transport: You can walk into town within minutes and there are usually taxis at the terminal.


Valparaiso is a famous UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular cruise port of call for a variety of reasons. One is the 40-odd steep hills surrounding the harbour, along with creaky funiculars and colourful hillside homes, which combine to make it a city of dramatic landscapes and panoramic views. Before the Santiago era, Valparaiso was once Chile’s capital; it was also one of the busiest ports in South America prior to the building of the Panama Canal. It was described by its most famous resident, the Chilean artist Pablo Neruda, as “absurd” and essentially it’s a glorious mess of a place which is both wonderful and surprising to explore. Thanks to its history, and an ever-shifting population of artists, sailors, and dock workers, it has a bohemian vibe of “anything goes”. 

Don’t Miss

La Sebastian is the hilltop home of Chile’s late Nobel-prize winning poet, Pablo Neruda, a collection of quirky rooms each with lovely city views. It is a climb to get there, but worth seeing the vistas along with collections of glass, 1950s furniture, and artworks from his famous friends.

The Museo a Cielo Abierto is a collection of 20 classic and colourful murals dotted through the cerro’s lower streets. They were created between 1969 and 1973 by students.

The Art in Silver Workshop is a great place to watch silver being made, as well as pick up some unique souvenirs.

Plaza Sotomayor is one of the city’s grandest squares, and dominated by the palatial, blue-coloured Naval Command Building. In the centre of the square is a subterranean mausoleum paying tribute to Chile’s naval heroes. 

Parque Cultural de Valparaiso started out life as a prison, and has a little of everything including murals in former exercise yards, rotating art exhibitions, live theatre and other events.

Plaza Matrix is the historic heart of Valparaiso and home of the stunning Iglesia La Matriz church, which dates back to 1837.

Best Photo Op

Undoubtedly this is from La Sebastiana, however, you can also see the city’s colourful hills from the Mirador Diego Portales in the east of town.


There are some curio shops by the dock, which are always busy when ships are in port, however, the main shopping district in town runs from Plaza Anibal Pinto to Plaza Victoria. Typical souvenirs include silver jewellery, antiques, leather and local arts and crafts. If you love edible souvenirs, check out the Mercado Cardonal which will impress with its displays of fruit and vegetables.  

Food And Drink 

The city is packed with places to eat, but you’d be missing out if you didn’t pick something on top of the hills to dine with a view. Chile has a vast range of foods to try, but top of the list is seafood, and red Chilean wine. Dishes to look out for include arrollado de chancho, which is chunks of pork wrapped in port fat smother in red chili, a meat and vegetable soup called carbonada, pork spare ribs, and empanada de queso, which is a turnover filled with cheese. 

Pick of the Excursions

Santiago is the country’s capital and largest city, packed with museums, theatres, restaurants and shopping. Although you can take a taxi there to explore independently, it will be expensive given the distance, so you are advised to take a ship’s tour. 

Vina del Mar is called the “Garden City” and is also one of Chile’s top rated beach resorts with resorts, shopping and restaurants. If you’ve been to Valparaiso and Santiago before, this is a lovely spot to wile away your day in port.


Joanna Hall


  • 5
    Looks Amazing

    Posted by Peta Peter on 19th Feb 2019

    We;re doing a South America touring holiday next year and Valparaiso is on our itinerary. Can't wait it looks amazing.