Just two hours away from Santiago, Valparaíso is Chile’s cultural capital, a vibrant, sprawling city in which almost no surface has been left unpainted. Colourful artworks cover everything from walls and doorways to the iconic funicular railway, with even the UNESCO World Heritage-certified historic quarter filled with stately homes painted in shades of peach, yellow and turquoise. A bohemian jumble of bright colours, corrugated iron and beautiful architecture descends from the steep hillsides to the Pacific Ocean bay, where the busy port serves as a reminder of Valparaíso’s integral role in Chile’s economic history. Formerly one of the world’s most important trade centres, the city also has a reputation of inspiring artists, musicians and writers, including the Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
Valparaíso, or Valpo as it’s known to locals, has a noticeably relaxed atmosphere, comparable to other bay cities like San Francisco. The city is steep, but can be easily negotiated using the Merval metro system or the more unusual ascensores: Funiculars that climb up and down the city’s hilly terrain offering spectacular views across the bay. The climate is similar to Mediterranean countries, although Valparaíso’s coastal location means that it rarely shares the heat of inland Santiago. Warm and dry summers are followed by cool and sometimes rainy winters, although temperatures can still reach 16°C.
Some of the city’s best cafes and restaurants are located in the charming neighbourhoods of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. These two hillside districts form part of the historic quarter and were largely built by European immigrants, who sought to recreate the architectural styles of their homelands. After a day spent wandering up and down the narrow cobbled streets, reward yourself with a Pisco Sour and homemade chorrillana, Valparaíso’s signature dish.
In addition to a roll call of notable residents that includes Camilo Mori, Giancarlo Monsalve and Roberto Ampuero, the city has a burgeoning art scene, with several contemporary galleries opening in recent years. The Museo a Cielo Abierto, an open-air museum of late 20th century murals, and the recently restored Museo de Bellas Artes, situated in the magnificent Palacio Baburizza, are two particularly noteworthy establishments.
Thanks to a $73 million investment programme brought about by the 2003 World Heritage listing, Valparaíso has completed its transformation from a charming but dilapidated port into a modern hub of education, culture and commerce. Although you’ll frequently hear it described as South America’s most underrated city, it seems that locals, tourists and investors alike are all waking up to Valparaíso’s immense potential. New businesses and cultural hubs are flourishing, and extensive renovation is taking place. In one particularly symbolic representation of this rebirth, the crumbling ruins of the old city prison have been repurposed as the Parque Cultural de Valparaíso, a huge centre that hosts music concerts, art exhibitions and seminars.
With one of Latin America’s strongest and fastest growing economies, Chile is an exciting proposition for investors. Valparaíso’s artistic sensibility and relaxed atmosphere, as well as its outstanding location, make it one of the country’s most attractive cities for expatriates and second home buyers. If you would like more information on the wealth of real estate opportunities in Valparaíso, simply visit Engel & Völkers online. With several shops throughout Chile and an international network of agents, we’re ideally placed to assist with your search.