The port of Valparaiso is now the most important one of Chile; its gaily painted houses attract many tourists.
You can use all of these words and many more to describe Valparaíso, but the truth is that this city escapes definition. But let’s start with the basic facts: Valparaíso is Chile’s largest port and one of its oldest, dating back to 1536.
Though some claim that there are 42, no one knows exactly how many hills circle the bay of Valparaíso. Whatever the number, there are many of them, and each is filled with multicolored houses perched at crazy angles connected by a gigantic labyrinth of streets, long staircases and lookout points. Between these hills and the sea lies a downtown area filled with beautiful architecture, narrow streets and even trolleybuses.
Since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2002, the city’s landscape has welcomed new hotels, restaurants and bookstores. But the port’s traditional culture remains, and the history of “Pancho,” as local residents affectionately call their city, is visible in every corner, particularly in the port neighborhood. You can’t leave Valparaiso without taking a ride on its outdoor elevators or touring the bay in one of the hundreds of small passenger boats that wait at the piers. And don’t miss out on the “chorrillana,” a local dish made with fried steak, eggs, onions and potatoes, or an evening of dancing and drinks in the bars and clubs on Subida Ecuador.