With so many urban destinations characterized by gleaming towers, glitzy malls and a fast pace, there’s something refreshing about Valparaiso, Chile, which is two hours … and a world apart … from Santiago. A blanket of Victorian and early 20th-century homes cover the hills and mountainsides, while the city center’s landmark buildings refer to its historic connections with the Germans, the British and other nations.
Perhaps describing the port city as having a “colorful” history may seem cliché on the surface. After all, the preponderance of evocative street art renders it the largest open-air museum in the world. If you’re lucky, you will catch a glimpse of an artist or two perfecting a building-side canvas. After examining enough of these magnificent works, and then going on to learn more about the city’s physical and figurative peaks and valleys, it’s apparent every picture tells a story that springs to life from Chile’s history book. Some traditions continue into the 21st century, as Chile’s legislative Congress and the headquarters of the Chilean navy are still in operation.
The vibrant (if touristy) boardwalk, bustling port area and the grandeur of the buildings on the Plaza Sotomayor are testament to the fact Valparaiso, designated an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, was a buzzing, international gathering place drawing trade from around the world until the construction and opening of the Panama Canal. At sea level, the architecture reflects the presence of British and German government influence and residents. Inside the Maritime Museum, guarded and directed by the Navy of Chile a short distance away, history buffs can take in artifacts and information from the city’s heyday as the “Jewel of the Pacific.”
While Valparaiso endured decades of blight and abandonment, younger generations of artists and entrepreneurs in the later part of the 20th century and start of this century brought it back to life in unpredictable ways. Rather than rely on outright gentrification and government appointed city planners, the city’s remarkable reinvention is the product of different individuals celebrating its past architectural and cultural glories rather than tearing them down or covering them up.
Valparaiso wears its reputation as one of South America’s graffiti capitals with pride, evidenced by the 20-odd murals that make up the Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open-Air Museum, created 1969 –1973 by college kids attending the Universidad Católica’s Instituto de Arte) in Cerro Bellavista as well as dozens of other enormous works enlivening the rest of that neighborhood and nearby Cerro Polanco and Cerro Alegre.
At the artfully restored landmark Palacio Baburizza, the Art Nouveau Museo de Bellas Artes recently reopened after a 15-year reworking, with an eclectic fine arts collection of works from European and Chilean artists. The former prison at the Parque Cultural has been repurposed as an arts and performance space. That said, there is also plenty of entertainment that can be happened upon serendipitously, from street performers and bands doing pop-up performances at local cafes to street artists doing their thing within view of rapt audiences and being open to posing for photos.
Up and down the city’s fertile hills, surprises await visitors at every turn and at the top of every funicular ride. The Artilleria Funicular leads to Paseo 21 de Mayo, distinguished by one of the most photographed vistas on the South American continent. The Cordillera Funicular lets off near the region’s first astronomical observatory.
Although neon colors enliven the city’s buildings, the colors of nature abound on the beaches of Vina del Mar (especially the popular Playa Reñaca) as well as some of the verdant parks beyond the city center. The Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaiso (free admission) offers an in-depth glimpse into the region’s biodiversity, archaeological treasures and regional cultural heritage. The elegant Parque Quinta Vergara, the vision of Dolores Pérez de Álvarez (belonging to the founding family of the city), brings together an impressive garden filled with international plants and flowers, and the Vergara Palace housing its own Museum of Fine Arts and outdoor Amphitheater. The Vina Del Mar National Botanical Garden (Jardin Botanico Nacional), meanwhile, marks its 100th anniversary as a bastion of conservation and 87th year as an urban oasis. Today, it also has a zipline and conservation-focused and cultural events, as well as a weekly, all-day Saturday farmers market showcasing local farmers as well as produce unique to the region. Guided tours are also available around the grounds in Spanish.
Given numerous hotels in town are built out of former private mansions, Valparaiso is one of those rare places where anybody can live like a local for a few days. Striking examples of these include the Hotel Boutique Sutherland House, Hotel Casa Thomas Somerscales, Hotel Boutique Acontraluz and Palacio Astoreca, which all capture some element of the city’s past as an international gathering place. Another fine choice is the Hotel Fauna, which also has an excellent restaurant and spectacular views. The Ibis Hotel chain, meanwhile, offers a good, value-priced option in its modern, centrally located Valparaiso property.
Can joining Disney Vacation Club help you save on family travel? Well, David’s Vacation Club Rentals, a source for Disney Vacation Club rentals, can provide some insight. Disney travel experts like Melissa Mullett, director of operations, David’s Vacation Club Rentals, provided some tips and insider knowledge on how Disney Vacation Club works.
United Airlines is in the midst of a major initiative to modernize its fleet over the next several years. After first announcing the plan in 2021, planes fitted with United’s signature interior are finally beginning to appear across the airline’s narrowbody fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes. United flyers are sure to notice these enhancements from the moment they step on board: Each new or updated plane sports remodeled seats, seatback entertainment screens for everyone, Bluetooth connectivity and more, all adding up to a better experience on every journey.
Does your road trip crew include young kids? We’ve been there, too, and know keeping everyone busy and entertained makes those long stretches of interstate much more peaceful.
In the market for new luggage? If you’re outfitting your entire family of travelers, you may want to check out some new offerings available at Target from travel brand Atlantic. Atlantic’s new line focuses on making travel more convenient with kiddos, and includes seven pieces to choose from, all made with durable, lightweight, sustainable materials (each item is made from up to 27 recycled plastic bottles).
As the only major U.S. airline to own a flight school, United Airlines already hit a major milestone, and now the carrier celebrates another important — and historic — step as the inaugural class of United Aviate Academy pilots graduates, leading the next generation of aviators. The 51 students in the graduating class were majority, at 80 percent, women and people of color — another stride toward United’s goal of training 5,000 new pilots by 2030 with half women or POC.
Engaging children in a family road trip can be a challenge, so parents often concentrate on keeping backseat passengers amused with games and activities. These focus their attention inside the car instead of on the places you travel.