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I visited Chile for the April 2016 issue of Getaway magazine. It was a whirlwind culinary tour, from the sheep-scattered island of Chiloé to the parched northern vineyards of Limarí, but in the middle of it all was one especially memorable day and night, exploring the labyrinth of colourful streets that is the port city of Valparaíso.

With the nickname ‘Jewel of the Pacific’ you’d expect Valparaíso to be a sparkling kind of place. In fact the moniker dates back almost 200 years to the city’s flamboyant heyday, when it was a hub of Pacific commerce – a multicultural port like no other in South America. But it was not to last. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 signaled Valparaíso’s steady decline, and by the 1990’s ‘Valpo’ was run down and neglected – a working harbour town with a wealth of historical buildings but little in the way of tourist appeal.

In 2003, Valpo’s historic quarter was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its “excellent example(s) of late 19th-century urban and architectural development in Latin America.” The accolade seems to have galvanised local residents and officials alike and street art, which had been a part of the city’s makeup for some time and might well have been clamped down on by authorities, was instead seen as a strength – a cultural asset to be encouraged and preserved alongside the city’s more historic heritage.

Now, brightly painted 19th century churches stand alongside even brighter modern murals and Valparaíso has become a must-see destination on any visit to Chile. A hive of activity and colour, restaurants and cafés, backpackers, bars and boutique hotels, it was my favourite stop on a wonderful tour and I hope these photos convey some of that vibrancy and life.

For more on Valpo and Chile, grab a copy of this month’s issue of Getaway magazine where we tell you how to get there, where to stay and what to do on a cultural and culinary holiday to Chile.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Valparaíso is full of places to stop and sit. With 42 hills there is no shortage of contemplative viewpoints.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

The majority of the street art is concentrated on Alegre and Conception Hills, where almost every building is painted or decorated in some way.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Locals are clearly proud of their city and aware of the tourists who come specifically to walk the streets. Pavements and alleys are kept scrupulously clean.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

There are, however, plenty of stray dogs and you can never pick up after them fast enough.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

These residents built kennels on the streets to shelter some of the strays.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Artists work with the blessing of the municipality and the permission of residents.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Social commentary combined with bright, anime-like portraits.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

And depictions of indigenous people who still struggle for equality in modern-day Chile.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Shops and small businesses are also bedecked.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Even buildings without street art are generally painted in bright colours.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Everywhere you turn there are small details adding life and colour.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Or this appeal against littering: “Who do you like more – The Beatles or The Rolling Stones.” Vote with your cigarette butts!

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

But to see it all you have to walk. I loved these piano steps, and at the top, the bright yellow and purple murals.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

Up more steps, into intriguing alleyways.

 

Valparaiso street art - Chile - Getaway magazine

And finally, you may meet two of Valparaíso’s street artists, standing in front of one of their murals, perhaps planning the next. Jekse&Cines have coloured many of the city’s street in the last few years.

 
 

Read the full story in the April 2016 issue of Getaway magazine.

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Our April issue is packed full of great holiday ideas for 2016. Get your copy today.

 



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