7 Free Things You Should do in Valparaiso, Chile

If you’re in Chile you’ve probably heard of Valparaiso (Vall-para-eezo). It’s the famous graffiti capital on the sea that’s known for its gritty and creative character that you cannot find anywhere else!

And if you’re a penny pinching backpacker like me, I know you appreciate free attractions! “Spending less means traveling longer” is the motto ingrained into our hearts and minds.

Luckily there are some awesome free things to do in this Jewel of the Pacific!

Here are 7.

1. Cerro Concepcion & Cerro Alegre

These two famous sister “cerros”—or hills—are ones you must visit!

They’re colorful

They’re messy

And they’re full of hidden gems!

Here you’ll find the popularized photo-op spots, the “We are not Hippies We are Happies” steps and the Beethoven Piano steps! You’ll also hear many different languages and might even have to push your way to these sites and wait for a rare clearing to take your picture—but it’s totally worth it.

Think of it as your Valparaiso tourist initiation.

Also take a stroll around Alegre and Concepcion and appreciate the beautiful street art, enjoy a street performance, or stop by one of the many bohemian café’s for lunch.

2. Cemeteries

There are two large cemeteries in Cerro Panteon. Cemetery 1, where the most influential citizens of Valparaiso were buried, and cemetery 2, which includes the “dissident cemetary” where those not aligned with the Catholic Church were buried in the 1800’s.

I know that some people view graveyards as macabre, but I like to contemplate the deeper things in life. Walking through a site with thousands of dead bodies helps with that.

Remembering that everyone I know will be ending this crazy journey in a graveyard in less than a century puts things into perspective and helps me fully appreciate and live life. I think that embracing and contemplating our mortality is important.

“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” —Marcus Aurelius

Plus, the architecture and statues in these places are simply stunning.

Keep in mind that some people will be visiting these cemeteries to mourn, so it’s respectful to remain silent and take photos when others aren’t around.

3. Parque Cultural de Valparaiso

Very close to the cemeteries you’ll find a large white building that juxtaposes Valparaiso’s vibrant vibes. It’s the cultural park of Valparaiso,

and get this…

It used to be a prison!

Now artists have spaces in the buildings to paint, practice dance, theater and circus. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed in those areas, but often artists will host exhibitions for public viewing. At the park you can also find a great view of the city as well as locals and tourists playing ball and hanging out on the grass.

If you want to save more lunch money, I think it would be a great idea to pack your own food and have a picnic on that field!

4. Tours 4 Tips

I’ve taken tours with Tours 4 Tips in Santiago and now in Valparaiso; I like and recommend both tours.

Most guides are from the area and offer tours in Spanish and in English.

They’ll take you to the most popular points in the city and stop to dive into the history and significance of certain areas. And of course in Valparaiso, there’s a lot of talk about street art.

For the Valpo morning tour you’ll even ride the well-known “O” bus, or “rollercoaster bus” which offers a bumpy and scenic ride through Valpo’s colorful hills.

Okay, I know…

this tour isn’t completely free—the bus ride is $250 pesos (less than 0.50 USD) and you tip the guides what you deem is fair for the experience! It’s a good deal.

Tours meet at Sotomeyer Plaza at 10PM and 3PM; each is different. Also, Free Tours Valparaiso is a tour I haven’t taken but that has good reviews.

5. Muelle Baron

Muelle Baron is the pier of Valparaiso where you can get some nice views of sea kayakers, the port, and the Pacific horizon. If you want to kayak yourself, there are cheap $5,000 peso ($7.80 USD) kayaks you can rent nearby.

Sometimes you can even find sea lions sunning themselves near the pier. Chloe from Wanderlust Chloe said that the highlight of her visit to Valparaiso was watching sea lions, but I didn’t catch any!

6. Sunday Feria

There’s a huge “feria”, or market, on Sunday on Avenida Argentina Street from around 9AM-5:30PM. It’s normally very crowded and you can find anything from antique sewing machines to Chilean herbal remedies.

In other words, everything a backpacker doesn’t need.

I still love to browse markets and like finding local artisans who sell their art and jewelry. The street delicacies such as queso empanadas or are also cheap and good here.

I actually did buy a $1000 peso ($1.60 USD) umbrella which proved to come in handy after visiting the pier (did you see those clouds?) and I bought a cute houseplant as a gift for my Couchsurfing host. That plant was later stolen when I put it down to take a picture in Cerro Alegre!

Keep your things close.

7. Polanco Viewpoint

Further down Avenida Argentina Street where the Sunday Market is at you’ll find this gem. It’s by far my favorite viewpoint in the city!

By using the “Ascensor Polanco” or by taking the stairs for a workout, you can reach a the height of the tower for a breathtaking view.

I found someone happily flying a kite when I visited and got a glimpse into the life of cats as I watched them grace the rooftops.

I spent about 30 minutes watching city life unfold from above and taking photos!

The tower connects you to a neighborhood in Polanco that also has great street art but is a residential area. This makes things a little more “risky” in Valparaiso, and a local warned me to put my camera away.

Be smart and go with friends if you venture past the tower!

Tip: There are several WorkAway hostel stays in Valparaiso where you can work 5 hours a weekday in exchange for a hostel-style breakfast and a place to sleep.

Unsurprisingly, I got lost finding some of these places (I do that a lot…), so Below is a handy map of the locations mentioned.

Want more travel inspiration? Check out the best photos I took while exploring Valparaiso here! 🙂

2017-09-14T14:42:35+00:00

13 Comments

  1. luzel September 14, 2017 at 6:52 am - Reply

    I have wanted to go to Chile for such a long time now. So jealous you managed to go. Sounds like you had a great time too! Can’t wait till I have saved up my pennies to go here

  2. Maria Angelova September 14, 2017 at 9:56 am - Reply

    Thanks for gathering all this information, I’ll use it on my trip to Valparaiso! Cheap traveling means you travel longer, I completely agree with you!

  3. hannah September 14, 2017 at 11:06 am - Reply

    These are brilliant tips ; we too are ‘penny pinching backpackers’ and I think it’s fun to try and find the free things to see and do, like a challenge. I love the ‘happy hippie’ steps, Valparaiso looks like a pretty instagram friendly place! was the food cheap there too?

    • Tracy
      Tracy September 15, 2017 at 4:01 pm - Reply

      Right? It’s definitely a fun challenge in every location! The food can be cheap depending on where you go. In the streets near Plaza Sotomayor there will be restaurants with waiters standing outside calling to tourists to invite them in! These places are generally more expensive and food is sup-par. Wander around and find a hole-in-the-wall that doesn’t do that! And of course, street food (mmmm empanadas) is always the cheapest option ($2-3) that I go for if I don’t pack my own stuff. 🙂

  4. Lisa September 14, 2017 at 11:08 am - Reply

    Valparaiso seems incredible and so different too. Those colourful steps are definitely where the Instagram shot is at, and I like the idea of the Sunda Feria. All in all, a wonderful city and you’ve given me some inspiration to go!

    • Tracy
      Tracy September 15, 2017 at 4:02 pm - Reply

      Awesome, Lisa! Hope you find yourself there one day.

  5. Yukti September 14, 2017 at 1:39 pm - Reply

    Valparaiso in Chile looks interesting to visit as it is so colorful and cultural. I would love to visit huge Sunday Feria market as I like street markets with lots of bargainings. Hippie Happie steps are so beautiful and funky.

  6. Soumya Nambiar September 14, 2017 at 2:36 pm - Reply

    I am sorry that you didn’t see any sea lions while you were there. But looks like you had a great time in Valparaiso. I would have loved to climb up those stairs to catch some incredible views of the graifiti city. I love taking free tours when I am in a city too. Even though they are exactly not free, it is always a great way to see the city.

  7. Diana - MVMT Blog September 14, 2017 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    I can’t believe Parque Cultural de Valparaiso used to be a prison! It looks so nice now it’s hard to imagine it as anything else. I love the street art and would love to be in that neighborhood when there’s music going on the streets as well. Definitely adding Valpraiso to my travel list!

    • Tracy
      Tracy September 15, 2017 at 4:13 pm - Reply

      Yes, it’s strange to believe that the park used to be a prison, but the barred windows do show remnants of its past. Have fun visiting Valparaiso when you head down!

  8. Jing September 16, 2017 at 1:35 am - Reply

    I am also a budget traveler so these tips are definitely helpful. I love that you included the market. I also include visits to local markets in places I go to. I find local market as a great window to finding out how the locals go about their daily lives, and they’re good places to buy and try something unique, of course. 🙂

  9. Arnav Mathur September 16, 2017 at 8:14 am - Reply

    Being on the road, and travelling long time means you need to plan your budget properly. Never knew there can be so much to do which are so pocket friendly, yet lets one immerse in the city culture.
    Being a budget traveler, I love these street markets, where you can bargain your hearts out.

  10. Rita Hogensen October 1, 2017 at 1:55 pm - Reply

    I love the street art…and the cats. There is an old ruin in Rome where feral stray cats live and volunteers (cat ladies)
    feed them. It was so interesting to observe these cats. I would probably take hundreds of pics of them in Chile! It’s very interesting how you can live and have fun so inexpensively if you put your mind to it. Keep on having fun!

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