Street Art of Valparaíso: A Photo Essay

Or: How NOT to Visit Pablo Neruda’s House.

As I was originally voicing my doubts about Santiago, everyone told me “you HAVE to visit Valparaíso.” While I generally bristle when people tell me I have to do anything (just ask Mike), I figured it was probably wise to see at least something in Chile outside of the big smoggy capital.

When we first arrived I wasn’t terribly impressed by the lack of beaches and the general crowdedness of the place. Unsure what to do with ourselves, we decided to visit the house of poet Pablo Neruda. It was at the top of a massive hill, the kind that would make San Francisco jealous, but there was supposed to be a cable car along the way somewhere. Well, we never found the cable car, but I fell in love:

That’s because to get there we wandered through the uphill neighborhood of Bellavista which is home to the Museo a Cielo Abierto, the open sky museum. It’s a rambling collection of beautiful murals and street art:

Finally, when we couldn’t climb any higher, we reached the gates of Pablo Neruda’s quirky home only to find…. it was closed.

We should have known. All museums in Chile close on Mondays, we had just kind of forgotten that it was a Monday.

When you’ve just hiked an hour completly up hill to a closed museum there can only be two reactions:

1. Anger.

2. Hysterical laughter and the sheer incredulity of the situation.

We chose option two, giggled at ourselves for awhile and then began the equally pretty descent back to town.

So I never did get to see Pablo Neruda’s house OR ride a funicular. By the time we reached the bottom of the hill I didn’t really care though. As always, it’s the stuff that takes the most effort that is the most worth doing.

22 Responses to Street Art of Valparaíso: A Photo Essay

  1. Leslie May 13, 2012 at 9:33 AM #

    Gorgeous photos! Glad to hear you enjoyed a sunny day in Valparaiso.

    It was so wonderful to see you and Mike in Santiago. Sorry to hear it wasn’t your favorite stop, but I don’t blame you — a combination of depressing weather, nasty colds, and general exhaustion from a long trip can definitely take their toll.

    Happy travels to you, and hope our paths cross again soon in some other part of the world!

  2. Christine May 13, 2012 at 10:22 AM #

    Definitely looks like a place I’d love to wander!

  3. John May 13, 2012 at 10:42 AM #

    Valparaiso’s street art is simply incredible – there is no other place like it in my opinion. Great job capturing it in these stunning photos.

  4. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) May 13, 2012 at 1:59 PM #

    Bummer that you didn’t get to see Neruda’s house (he’s one of my favorite poets… and I don’t really like poetry all that much), but I think the street art definitely makes up for it! Definitely makes the hike worthwhile!

  5. Shtina May 13, 2012 at 3:42 PM #

    Great photos! I consider a street art hike a nice way to spend an afternoon. 🙂

  6. Lindsey May 13, 2012 at 7:30 PM #

    The photos are beautiful! I especially love the mosaics.

  7. Andrea May 13, 2012 at 9:57 PM #

    Those murals are so awesome! I love cities that embrace color and art 🙂

  8. Laura @ so alaurable May 14, 2012 at 11:44 AM #

    I just went to Chile at the end of April and loved Valparaiso! I wasn’t too impressed the day we drove into it (food poisining + being crazy lost will do that), but I had so much fun exploring the beautiful art and colors. Sorry Neruda’s house was closed — it was one of my favorite stops on our trip!


  9. Dana - Our Wanderlust May 14, 2012 at 1:00 PM #

    Great Photos – sorry that you didn’t get into see Neruda’s House… but glad you were able to make a fun experience out of it!

  10. Angloadventure May 14, 2012 at 6:14 PM #

    Really pretty. Looks nothing like Valparasio, Indiana. J/K!

  11. Emily in Chile May 14, 2012 at 10:32 PM #

    If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t make it inside the house last time I was there either! There was a huge line, and my friend and I decided we just didn’t care that much. Like you, we had plenty of fun wandering.

  12. Waegook Tom May 15, 2012 at 2:07 AM #

    LOVE this! Street art posts are always among my favourites. Loving the lamp-post – not the creepy clown one though, the one above it!

    I feel you on the museums too. It happened to me with the Art Gallery in Manchester. I just stared at the closed gates for about five minutes and then walked off scratching my head. Also closed on a Monday.

  13. tony May 15, 2012 at 6:24 AM #

    If that doesn’t just encapsulate travel perfectly… make a plan, forget what day it is, end up enjoying the journey so much you don’t care you missed what your initial goal was.

    The only thing I remember about Neruda’s house was the awesome view. I just want a house like that someday.

  14. Francy R May 15, 2012 at 6:26 AM #

    It lloks like an incredible place both for its street art and for its culture! Love the pics of the lamps! Stunning!

  15. Robin May 15, 2012 at 1:02 PM #

    Those photos are amazing! I love all the artwork.

  16. Ali May 20, 2012 at 6:39 AM #

    I actually was not impressed at all with Valparaiso. I thought it was dirty and falling apart and didn’t offer a lot to do. We did ride the funicular, but it’s old so if felt rickety, like we were lucky to make it up alive. We talked to the guys at the port who were trying to get people to go for a boat ride, and it turns out the boats didn’t really go anywhere, just sort of circled the port where there wasn’t much to see besides cruise and cargo ships. I’m sure the city has good qualities, it just wasn’t the place for me.

  17. Steve @ Back-Packer June 2, 2012 at 5:39 AM #

    simply stunning! The city as well as the street arts deserve to be a the unesco world heritage site.

    • Rachel December 31, 2012 at 1:52 PM #

      It is a UNESCO site – I lived there for about eight months, and it’s one of my favorite places. The street art is constantly changing and they have a competition every year for an artist to paint an enormous mural on one of the buildings in the centro. They are proud of their status as a heritage site, and make a point of having tons of cultural celebrations and exhibitions pretty much every month. As a student, it was a great place to live and explore.

  18. Lisa Samloglou June 18, 2012 at 1:13 PM #

    I am fascinated by your photos! It makes me want to travel there…

  19. indah nuria savitri August 22, 2013 at 6:06 AM #

    can’t wait to see them myself…gorgeous photos….

  20. Gillian December 6, 2013 at 11:30 PM #

    so cool! heading to SA in a week, hope i have time to make it down there!

  21. gemmafottles May 18, 2015 at 8:13 AM #

    Ahhh, can’t wait to be here in a couple of months time!

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