Where We Be
Can a city be ramshackle and beautiful at the
same time? Valparaiso seems to say yes.
We've never seen a city quite like this one. It is
built on seven hills, so the cobblestone streets
are winding and steep. Narrow staircases climb
aggressively from one street level to the next.
The walls on either side of the stairs are typically
covered with graffiti. But it is "good" graffiti and is
even celebrated as such. Our hostel owner told
us to follow the Graffiti Trail which winds through
the city and showcases some of the best of this
edgy urban art.
Several "paseos" or flat walkways in vertical
Valpo serve as gathering points (they are so rare)
and overlooks. The most expensive restaurants in
the city tend to occupy the corners of these
paseos. Paseo Yugoslavo and Paseo Atkinson in
particular are must-sees – flat oases for your tired
We confined our wanderings primarily to two
connecting hill districts, Cerro Alegre and Cerro
Concepcion. These areas are celebrated for their
mix of ramshackle housing, fine restaurants, and
famous paseos. It felt safe to wander the streets
of this touristed area, but we were warned other,
poorer parts of the city might not feel so friendly.
The city is steep enough that a dozen funiculars
connect one level of the city to another. We took
the incredibly rickety Concepcion funicular, built
in 1883, just for the experience, but the rest of the
time we chose to walk.
Each day the weather in Valpo started out cold
and foggy then turned hot and sunny from 3 pm
onward. We learned to time our explorations to
It's hard to take a picture in Valparaiso without
telephone wires, which are bunched together into
such a confused mass that they become picture-
worthy in their own right (see the photos below).
UNESCO apparently agrees that ramshackle and
beautiful can go together because large parts of
the city are designated a UNESCO World Heritage
Site, including Cerro Alegre, Cerro Conception,
and five or six blocks in the lower, flatter part of
|Looking across Valparaiso at another hill blanketed by colorful, ramshackle homes
|One of the main cobbled streets winding up Cerro Alegre
|We got a lot of exercise walking up and down the steep stairways of Cerro Alegre
|The alternatives are rickety funiculars or taxis that wait at the bottoms of hills
|Notice the sleeping kitty on top of the wall
|Some of the "graffiti art" was surprisingly good
|I dub this "phone-wire art" because, after a point, the jumbled mess of wires becomes photo-worthy in its own right. Imagine being an electrician in this city!
|An expensive restaurant perched at the end of one of the "paseos" or flat overlooks
|The artist incorporated bumps in the concrete into his painting
|One thing you can say about "Valpo" -- it's got plenty of character
|This "blue lady" was painted onto the wall near La Nona B&B where we stayed
|Our favorite local restaurant on Cerro Alegre, Cafe Vinilo ("Vinyl")
|Our favorite fast-food spot -- it served the best chorizo-and-cheese empanadas!
|Our walk home after dinner!
|Looking down on the jumbled houses of Valparaiso to its harbor on the Pacific Ocean
|Graffiti art is everywhere so you might as well incorporate it into your photos!
|This is Paseo Atkinson, one of the prettiest flat walkways offering overlook views of the city
|An artist paints a picture on a corner of Paseo Atkinson
|Usually I try to avoid telephone wires in my photos but here it's virtually impossible
|The city cemetary is perched on high, offering its "residents" a great view
|This is Plaza Sotomayor in the lower, flatter part of the city -- the plaza is at one corner of the city's Historic District
|The historic building on the left is in dire need of a facelift -- and it is right next to Plaza Sotomayor shown above