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 thoughts on “Street Art of Valparaíso: A Photo Essay”

    1. It is a UNESCO site – http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/959. 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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

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