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Valparaíso is a city of around 300,000 on the Pacific coast of Central Chile. Frequently referred to as simply Valpo, it is located approximately 120km / (74.5 mile)  west of the capital, Santiago de Chile. The city is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly coloured houses, and beautiful seaside views.
 
The Capital of Chile shines with abundant character and passion, and perfectly captures the spirit of Chile. A heady combination of revelry and tradition, Santiago is the most buzzing destination in the county. It is an amalgam of both European and Spanish influences, and is surrounded by spectacular natural beauty. Juxtaposed between the Andes Mountains to the east, and the coastal mountains to the west, Santiago is home to about six million inhabitants. The Mapocho River divides the city into a north region and a south region.
 
The Plaza Italia, found in the centre of this charming capital, splits the city into east and west Santiago. The Eastern side inhabitants as are often referred to as cuicos, are economically well off, known to enjoy a great South American way of living.  The rotos in the west are the economically y deprived folks, who nevertheless enjoy the fun South American merry-making spirit.
 
Santiago is full of gorgeous plazas, spectacular ancient edifices, and beautiful sights. For shopping look no further than the Huerfanos and Ahumada Malls. If you love walking, start at the Plaza Italia and walk all around the city. This is the best way to experience the spirited destination, especially picnic lunches at the parks here.
 
Valparaíso is Chile's most captivating city, and, accordingly, it is the most popular coastal destination and an obligatory cruise ship port of call. During the 19th century, Valparaíso ranked as a port town of such wealth that few others in the world could compare, but in the years following the completion of the Panama Canal, Valparaíso sunk into poverty. Like a penniless aristocrat, the city clung for decades to its glorious past, yet only traces of the architectural splendor and riches the city once knew could still be seen. Today, especially on hills such as Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre, the city's run-down buildings are experiencing a rebirth. With so many gourmet restaurants and boutique hotels opening at such a fast pace, Valparaíso is quickly becoming the choice destination for dining and lodging on the coast. The historical importance of this city, paired with the vibrant culture of local porteños, is far more intriguing than Viña -- a reason why UNESCO designated Valparaíso a World Heritage Site in 2002.
 
Much like San Francisco, the city is made of a flat downtown surrounded by steep hills, but unlike that city, the irregular terrain in Valparaíso presented far more challenges for development. The jumble of multicolored clapboard homes and weathered Victorian mansions that cling to sheer cliffs and other unusual spaces are testament to this, and you could spend days exploring the maze of narrow passageways and sinuous streets that snake down ravines and around hillsides. Given the lack of towering high rises on the hillsides, the city is frequently described as "stadium seating" -- providing breathtaking views no matter where you are.
 
Valparaíso has spawned generations of international poets, writers, and artists who have found inspiration in the city, including the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda, who owned a home here. The city is also known for its bohemian and antiquated bars that stay open into the wee hours of the morning.
 
But the real attraction here is the city's streets, where you can admire the angular architecture that makes this city unique, and ride the century-old, clickety-clack ascensores, or funiculars, that lift riders to the tops of hills. If you're the type who craves character and culturally distinctive surroundings, this is your place.
 
Docking and Local Transportation
Some cruise ships dock in Valparaíso, mostly as part of a long South American itinerary. Cruise ships heading for Santiago dock at the Port of Valparaiso about 90 minutes from Santiago; many public buses operate between the two cities. In Valparaiso, you can take a bus to town from terminal Santiago. Taxis are also freely available to ferry you across the city. Turbus, a reliable company with well-maintained buses, has departures every 20 minutes for under $7 one way.
 
 
Getting Around
Walking is really the only way to see Valparaíso; hilltop streets are confusing and very tight to drive, so park downtown and ride a funicular up. The only exception, considering the strenuous uphill walk, is the Pablo Neruda museum (La Sebastiana) and the City Cemetery. There are 15 ascensores (funiculars) that operate daily from 6am to 11pm (15¢-30¢/10p-20p). The ascensores, which most travelers will wind up taking at some point, are: Cerro Concepción, which runs from Calle Prat, opposite the Turri clock tower, to the gilded residential enclave of Paseo Gervasoni; Ascensor Artillería, which runs from Plaza Aduana to Paseo 21 de Mayo and usually packs in tourists with mouths agape at the sublime vistas; and the vertiginous Ascensor Polanco, which runs from Calle Almirante Simpson to Calle Latorre.
 
Visitor Information
The city's municipality has closed its main tourist office and opened two information kiosks, located in the center of Plaza Sotomayer and Plaza Anibal Pinto (tel. 32/293-9695; www.municipalidaddevalparaiso.cl), open Monday through Friday from 10am to 2pm and 3:30 to 5:30pm, and Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am to 5:30pm. There's also an information kiosk at the bus station, open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm.
 
Santiago Adventures, in the Providencia neighborhood of Santiago, at Av. Guardia Vieja 255 (tel. 2/244-2750; www.santiagoadventures.com), offers day trips from Santiago to Valparaíso (combined with Viña) for $160 (£107) per person, based on two passengers and including transportation, lunch, and a bilingual tour. A cheaper option is Turis Tour (tel. 2/488-0444; www.turistour.com), which runs tours from Santiago to Valparaíso and Viña for $60/£40 and up. Given the efficiency, frequency, and comfort of bus transportation from Santiago to the coast, however, you may prefer to travel to both cities on your own.
 
The first bank in the country was in Valparaíso, on Plaza Sotomayor, so it's not surprising to discover that the city has no shortage of financial services. Banks and currency exchange can be found along Calle Prat and Esmeralda Street. Opening hours are more limited than in Santiago; banks are open Monday to Friday from 9am until 4pm. Most ATMs (cajeros automáticos) are open 24 hours. For medical emergencies, Hospital Carlos Van Buren is at Av. San Ignacio 725 (on the corner of Colón; tel. 32/220-4000)
 
The text is in Spanish, but once you click Venta de Pasayes and enter your cities and date of travel, you will get current schedules and fares. Buses leave from the Valparaiso bus terminal at Av. Pedro Montt 2800, near O'Higgins Square, and in Santiago at Alameda 3750. Cruise lines offer day tours for those who do not stay over in Santiago. Tours usually include Vina del Mar, a lovely seaside resort near Valparaiso.
 
In Santiago: The central part of Santiago can by covered on foot, but you'll want to see a variety of neighborhoods. The quickest way to get around is by Metro, the city's modern, clean and safe subway system. The cost is just 370 peso, about 60 cents, per ride. Taxis are plentiful and reasonable with typical rides running $5 or $6 between neighborhoods. They are available at hotels, can be hailed on the street or called by phone. Taxis have meters, but to avoid being driven out of the way, it can be wise to set a price before you get in. There are plenty of rental car agencies available at the Santiago airport and in town. Expect to pay around $50 per day for the smallest no-frill cars.
 
The Museo Arqueológico is nestled inside the Plaza del Mulato Gil de Castro, in the centre of the city. The fascinating museum displays archaeological relics of including the Pehuenche, Aymara, Mapuche, and Fueguino.
 
The Santiago Zoo is housed inside the Parque Metropolitano. This is a nice place to spot some of the most striking creatures in Chile. Several animals are almost extinct or rare.
The Museo Histórico Nacional is nestled at Plaza de Armas 951 and is a fascinating attraction to learn about the historical heritage of the city. It chronicles Santiago’s challenges invasions, and development. The attraction is surrounded by breathtaking scenery. 
 
Going to Valparaíso and not going on the ascensores (inclines) is like going to Venice and not taking a ride on a Gondola, only that the ascensores cost as little as 300 Chilean Pesos (around 55 US cents). They are also of practical use as they help many local people get to the higher parts of town, saving them from having to walk otherwise long and steep pedestrian routes.
the last week in the year, Valparaíso holds an annual carnival that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Each year the festival centers around a different country, from which performers and artists are invited to come and represent their culture and their work in theater, music, and the performance arts. Most activities are free and are held outdoors. The celebration culminates with a New Year firework display that within five of the most beautiful in the planet. Oops, but get ready in time because the city's population triples on those dates. I recommend visiting the Mirador del Cerro Artillery, panoramic view of the city of Vina del Mar, Reñaca, Con Con and more ... It reaches through the "lift" Artillery, in operation since 1893 (ask for Customs plaza area), its current value is 250 Chilean pesos, on the first floor is the Mirador "Walk May 21," (delivered to the community in the year 1911) in which impossible not to enjoy the restaurant "Calaufquen", typical dishes of fresh seafood, with a fair value. We are here with a Craft Fair in which they can buy from winter clothing (ponchos, Ruan, scarves, socks, gloves, wool hats), souvenir of the most varied models and prices, up figures and jewelry from lapis lazuli (blue stone semi-precious which is only found in Chile and Afghanistan), by price and quality of the stone, I recommend the last local. Also visit the Naval Museum "(500 Chilean pesos).
A good half-day trip is going to the dunes of Concón. On clear days you can see the dunes across the bay from Valparaíso and it's just a half-hour busride on any micro going to Reñaca. The dunes are just big enough that you can forget that a world outside of this micro desert exists, and they offer great views of the pacific sunset.

The German Pirate (myvalparaiso.cl), . Amazing tour by a German man who's lived in Valparaiso for years. He seems to know everything and everyone about the place. He speaks Spanish, English and German. Discounts for groups. You're unlikely to find a more immersive tour of Valparaiso.  edit
Tours 4 Tips (tours4tips.com), Plaza Sotomayor, 56 322 -3148700, Every Day at 10am and 3pm. Award winning walking tours that leave from Valparaiso's main square Plaza Sotomayor every day at 10 am and 3pm. The guides are dressed like Waldo/Wally from the children's book "Where's Waldo /Wally," and give great tours on the basis of tips. The tour takes you around the port, the historic hills, and includes public transportation and many surprises en route. A must do for those interested in the graffiti, history, architecture, culture and gastronomy of Valparaiso
 
Plaza de Armas: This square of palms and fountains was laid out by Pedro de Valdivia, the Spanish conquistador who founded the city in 1541. It is the historic heart of the city, lined with handsome Spanish Colonial-style buildings, including the City Hall, Natural History Museum, the Post Office, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, the city's grandest church. Step inside the cathedral to see the gilt arches and the high marble altar set with lapis lazuli. Erected in 1745, this is actually the fifth church on this site. The first one was burnt down by Mapuche Indians just a few months after it was built, and the others were destroyed by earthquakes in 1552, 1647 and 1730. It is one of many buildings in the city rebuilt in Colonial style following earthquakes. The ornate twin bell towers were added in the late 1800's. The square itself is a lively scene, populated with artists, living statues, vendors, chess players and, of course, tourists (Plaza de Armas Metro stop).
 
Just one block southwest of the Plaza de Armas on Bandera is the Museum of Pre-Columbian Art, Santiago's most outstanding museum. Here you'll find an unmatched collection of carvings in wood and stone, ceramics, and pottery and textiles from the early inhabitants of South and Central America and Mexico, especially the Andes tribes. There are some 3,000 items on display. Open Tuesday - Sunday, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
 
Constitution Square: The city's most formal square, about six blocks from the Plaza de Armas, is home to statues of heroes and to the Palacio de la Moneda, the presidential palace. Tours can be arranged at the reception desk. The changing of the guard takes place every other day at 10 a.m. The plaza is the roof of an underground bunker built by Augusto Pinochet when he took over the government in an infamous military coup in 1973. Today it is a parking lot (La Moneda Metro stop).
 
Santa Lucia: At the edge of downtown is the lushly landscaped Cerro Santa Lucia, a triangle-shaped hilltop named by Valdivia. According to some accounts, it was the spot where he founded Santiago in the name of the crown of Spain. The bare hillside was transformed in 1872 as part of an effort to turn Santiago into a European-style city, providing gardens, squares and terraces where fashionable residents could stroll and enjoy panoramic views. It was restored in the 1990's and an elevator to the summit was added.
 
The Castle Hidalgo at the summit is an exhibition center for native art, and outdoor plays and concerts are held here in the summer. Enter at Avenida Alameda and St. Lucia, or take the elevator on St. Lucia Street at Agustinas. The paths are open daily from 9 a.m. - 8 p.m. from September to March, and 9 a.m. - 7 p.m. from April to August. Free. Near the tourism office at the Alameda entrance is a display of Chilean crafts and a bustling crafts and flea market is in action across the street (Santa Lucia Metro stop).
 
Bellas Artes: This small artistic neighborhood near the foot of Santa Lucia hill, located between the Alameda and Parque Forestal, is a favorite of artists and writers, home to pleasant bars, cafes and art galleries, an 18th-century church and several museums. The grand National Fine Arts (Bellas Artes) Museum, built in 1905, is two museums in one, showing Chilean and international painters, and incorporating the Museum of Contemporary Art. (Parque Forestal, Tuesday - Sunday, 10:30 a.m. - 6:30 p.m., free on Sunday ). The attractive new Museum of Visuales Arts (Artes Visuals) showcases the work of some 300 local artists as well as encompassing the Anthropology Museum displaying ceramics, textiles and other artifacts by the native peoples of Chile. (307 Lastarria, Tuesday - Saturday 11 a.m. - 7 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.) Interesting boutiques are found around the Plaza del Mulato Gil de Castro off Lastarria. (Bellas Artes Metro stop).
 
San Cristobal: Take the funicular railway or a gondola to the summit of San Cristobal Hill in Santiago's Metropolitan Park for an unforgettable view of the city and its mountains. At the top is a gleaming statue of the Virgen de la Immaculada. The park, a green retreat from city traffic, also includes a botanical garden and the city zoo. The funicular runs Monday 1 a.m. - 9 p.m., Tuesday - Sunday 10 a.m. - 8 p.m. Cable car operates weekdays 2:30 - 6:30 p.m. and weekends 10:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m. (Baquedano or Pedro de Valdivia Metro Stop).

Santiago:
When you think about the great cities of the world, it’s doubtful that you’d mention this place of almost six million people that rests at the foot of the Andes.  It has two symphony orchestras, one of South America’s finest opera companies, contemporary and traditional art galleries, 16 major museums, and 33 public and private universities. And it’s a city that can easily be defined by the vibrant and colorful art you find in even the most humble of places.

Regardless of which section of the city you stay, Santiago offers a wide-range of cultural attractions that will keep you busy for days. Santiago is split into barrios, or neighborhoods, each with a distinct style and character. Find your way to Barrio Bellavista, the bohemian neighborhood near the Santiago Sheraton Hotel and an area known for the French influences in architecture, culture and feel. Its streets are lined with trees and a variety of colorful old homes, many of which have been converted into restaurants and studios for artists and musicians.

It’s a romantic area and while it’s a pleasant enough place for an afternoon stroll and shopping, it’s where you want to be in the evening and long into the night as Bellavista pulses to the beat of music pouring from its many discos and bars. And like most of the city, it is safe to walk at night.

Nighttime fun begins sometime around 10 p.m. and lasts well into the early mornings as pubs and nightclubs close around 4 a.m. Usually the only people dining between 6-9 p.m. are North American and European tourists.

When you’ve tired of eating and shopping, be sure to explore Bellavista’s prime attraction, La Chascona, one of three homes once owned by Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.

The home was built to resemble a ship and its unusually shaped rooms wind around a compact courtyard. The home is headquarters for the Fundación Pablo Neruda which provides guided tours.

Of course, you have to start any Santiago tour at the downtown square, the Plaza de Armas. During the day Plaza de Armas is a heart of the city. This is where local artists sell their paintings and where you’ll find some of majors attractions of Santiago. Palacio de la Real Audiencia is a beautifully preserved colonial building that houses the Museo Historico Nacional, the nation’s major depository of history and a must-see attraction.

The Metropolitan Cathedral, on the western side of the plaza, stands where the first church in Santiago was once built and two other important buildings – the Post Office and the Town Hall of Santiago – are typical old colonial Spanish buildings.

A few blocks south of the plaza is Barrio Paris-Londres, an intimate atmospheric neighborhood that captures the spirit of Left Bank Paris with its narrow, cobblestone streets and offbeat galleries and shops. Most of the houses were built in the 1920’s and the streets are now vehicle restricted areas with artist studios, hotels and restaurants.

There is no end to the possibilities in exploring Santiago. The shopping is superb with major malls scattered throughout the city such as the Mall Alto las Condes, arguably the most modern shopping center in South America and close to the Grand Hyatt Santiago. The Pueblo Los Dominicos, at the end of Avenue Apoquindo, is world famous for its 180 handicraft shops. It is well worth the cab ride.

If you are an English-speaker, don’t worry about getting around the city. Most of the taxi drivers, hotel and restaurant employees will speak and understand English.

Chile’s wines are among the best in the world at incredibly low prices. So take a wine tour through the Maipo valley while you’re in Santiago and visit the many vineyards within an hour or so of the city limits.

At the eastern end of downtown Santiago is Cerro Santa Lucia, a small hill adorned with wonderful facades, fountains and stairways, and a wonderful place to get an overall view of the city. There’s even a castle on it. It was here, at the foot of this hill that the city of Santiago was founded on Feb. 12, 1541. Cerro Santa Lucia is on the city’s main road, Alameda, and subway station is beneath it.  There are a variety of entry points including an elevator on the western side although it is recommended to start at the main entrance on Alameda.

Almost directly across from the hill is the Cerro Santa Lucia handicraft market, likely the most traditional place in which to buy handicrafts and small art objects. The selection isn’t limited to Chilean art. Here you’ll find a variety of Chilean, Peruvian and Bolivian handicrafts.

Eating Out
Venezia is located at Pío Nono 200, and is one of the oldest restaurants in Santiago. If you’re a meat and sea food lover, this is your manna from heaven. Try the filet mignon and deep fried eel. Balthazar, housed at at Avenida las Condes 10690, features a heady assortment of exclusive preparations. The spectacular dining room, replete with opulent looking tables and elegant art create the upper crust ambiance. The entrees are delicious, and visitors can opt for a variety of cuisine including authentic Japanese, Arabian, and Indonesian preparations. Don’t miss the fish entrees and crunchy, inventive salads.

The most traditional food in Valparaiso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. You can eat this in the traditional restaurant J Cruz. Fresh seafood is readily available in many small restaurants around the city, especially around the muelle (wharf) areas, and is considered a must for any seafood lover. Neighboring Viña del Mar features a much larger (and more expensive) variety of international cuisines, including Thai, Mexican, and Argentine.
 
There are also some restaurants which specialize in different seafood dishes near Mercado Puerto, which is near the last metro station. The more the customers dining inside the restaurants, the better the dishes you'll be likely to get.

Bakeries are located on nearly every block, and produce quite delicious breads that can be had warm and right out of the oven at almost any time throughout the day. They are best enjoyed smothered with palta, which are grown en masse in Chile (palta is the Chilean word for avocado, known in most other Spanish-speaking countries as aguacate). In addition to the many types of bread, another widely available snack to keep you settled as you walk the streets are empanadas, a flaky pastry, almost like a croissant, filled with meat or cheese

Seafood is king in Santiago: Sample the delicious Chilean sea bass (known as corvina), the locally farmed salmon, or the Chilean specialty congrio, conger eel, which is actually a kind of fish. Patagonian lamb is also delicious. And soon you'll see that Chileans love bread; look for the "marraqueta," a flat roll served almost everywhere. Fine Chilean wines add to the dining pleasure. 

In Valparaiso
On the Pier: Bote Salavidas (Muelle Prat, lunch from 12:30 p.m.), located on the harbor on the main pier, has great views through glass walls and is one of Valparaiso's best seafood restaurants. Three-course lunches are about $15.

In Santiago
Local Lunch: Central Market is a lunch tradition in Santiago, as popular with locals as with tourists. The market, a vast bustling emporium with a soaring roof has been a fixture since 1872. It is filled with vendors selling every kind of fish you ever dreamed of -- and some you never imagined. Hawkers will try to lure you into one of the many cafes in the market, but the place to go is Donde Augusto, where you may be dining beneath a photo of Bill Clinton or another familiar celebrity. Set meals, including a Pisco sour, soup, generous main course and dessert, begin around $30. The strolling musicians come free. The market opens at 6 a.m. daily, except Sunday. Restaurants serve Monday - Thursday until 4 p.m., Friday to 8 p.m., and Saturday to 6 p.m.

Fine Dining: Young chef Giancarlo Mazzarelli has established himself at Puerto Fuy (Nueva Constanera 3969, Vitacura) as one of Latin America's stars with his original dishes and artistic presentations in a chic setting. His Chilean sea bass may be the best you'll ever taste. Expect to spend $40 - $50 for dinner. Lunch Monday - Thursday, 1 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.; dinner 8 p.m. - 11:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, dinner only 8 p.m. - midnight. The much acclaimed continental fare at Europeo is a nice alternative.
 
Nightlife
Tantra, housed at Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 154, is touted to be the most interesting party spot in the city. The music is pulsating and varied. Habana Salsa is the hub for salsa buffs El Conventillo at Bellavista 173 is another super destination for witnessing musicals.
 
Shopping
Valparaiso, to its charm, is not a city of malls and department stores. While several large grocery stores are present, most other shopping is done in smaller, non-chain stores tucked in along crowded city streets, or with street vendors; larger chain stores (and more upscale goods) are more commonly found in nearby Viña del Mar. A large shopping center, however, is found on the eastern end of Avenida Brasil. Parque Arauco is a sprawling mall that is located at Avenida Kennedy 5413. It houses tons of department stores, exclusive boutiques, snack corners, and more. The Wine House inside Parque Arauco, has a staggering range of the finest Chilean wines.
 
Travelers searching for that unique something to bring home should make a beeline to Tuten, Esmeralda 1140 (tel. 32/221-7941l), a new collective for regional artists and craftsmen of the Valparaíso area. Within the walls of Tuten, you'll find beautifully crafted, original, and high-quality carved wood items; jewelry handmade of glass, copper, and gold; glassware such as vases and plates; folksy art representing the Valparaíso area; children's items; copper; and gold. It's open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 9pm.
 
For books, guides, and maps, head to the Fundación Valparaíso's Gato Tuerto Café & Bookstore, Héctor Calvo 205 (tel. 32/222-0867; Espíritu Santo Funicular), which also has a small arts-and-crafts store. Design For Valparaíso, Concepcion 154B (tel. 32/259-1868), has original designs of textiles and clothing woven from natural fibers found in Chile.
 
Plaza O'Higgins, close to the Congreso Nacional, hosts a weekend flea market purveying all manner of collectibles ranging from knickknack memorabilia to books, homemade jams, Neruda-themed souvenirs, and electrical items. You will also find local artistes selling their wares at stalls clustered close to the Neruda museum and along the Paseo Gervasoni.



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