The Step Back in Time at Valparaiso’s Cerro Artillería

You can’t visit Valparaiso without exploring its not so beautiful parts. The continual juxtaposition between old and new, pretty and ugly, peeling paint and brilliant works of art, give Valparaiso a fascinating contradictory twist and feel. Of course, it can be difficult to ignore some of the unpleasantries of a big port city such as the rundown, falling apart streets, the garbage, the sticky smells, the dog poop and the residual grime. But this is what makes Valparaiso all the more interesting.

One such place where you will truly see some of Valparaiso’s startling contrasts is in El Plan (the commercial district) and the port where the history of Valparaiso began centuries ago. Today, it remains the central hub of activity with congestion, traffic, noise, dirt and all the things you’d expect to find in a major seaport. This area is remarkably different than the lovely Cerro Alegre and Concepción just a ten to twenty minute walk away. Yet it is a must-see part of town in order to get a full understanding of Valparaiso.

As we headed down to El Plan after lunch in Cerro Alegre, we followed Monte Alegre once again to Paseo Yugoslavo where we could have taken our first ascensor (funicular) but the Ascensor El Peral was closed for repairs. Instead, we descended a long series of concrete stairs down to Plaza Sotomayor, the most important historical square in the city which features several impressive buildings as well as the Monumento a Los Héroes de Iquique that dates back to 1886.

Once we passed through the square, we entered the heart and soul of El Plan which was filled with businesspeople, small shops, shady looking characters, rundown buildings, and a darker shade of graffiti which somewhat matched the seedy feel of this place. We were told to hide all valuables and be aware of pick-pocketers. I had heard a few stories about petty theft so I heeded the warning from our hotel and kept my camera tucked hidden inside my jacket. We followed Serrano Bustamante to the Plaza Wheelwright seated below Paseo 21 de Mayo on the hills above.

I shot a few of these pictures along the way with my handy iPhone and included them to give you a feel for the area. The bright sunny colors of the street art in the more prosperous hills of Valparaiso seem to have disappeared and instead the art is slightly sinister feeling and dark. I found the art moody and reflective of some of the struggles of this area that has fallen a little off the economic wayside.

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Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso, Chile

A Street Art Lover’s Guide to Valparaiso

“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves”. –  Henry David Thoreau

Valparaiso is an art lover’s paradise. Known as one of the best street art cities in the world, its 42 cerros (hills) and labyrinth of rundown streets are graced with vibrant works of art that seem to cover every open space imaginable. There are no walls left untouched or staircases without color.

With so much art to see, it is easy to feel completely overwhelmed. Although there are plenty of excellent tours, it is not too hard to explore Valparaiso’s street art on your own. The downside is you don’t learn about the history and meaning of the art however the upside is that you can take as long as you want and see as much as you want to see. Since I’m generally not a huge fan of tours, we decided to do it on our own and I’m glad we did. Despite having sore feet and getting lost at times, it was worth the effort as we truly saw hundreds of works of art all at our own pace.

Our Tour

After a delightful Chilean breakfast, we left our hotel, Casa Galos at 893 Templeman (near #16 on the map), a little past nine o’clock into the foggy cool morning notorious for early summer in Valparaiso. I was hoping for a bit of Santiago sunshine but alas we would be stuck in the coastal fog once again.  At least we had the brilliant colors of the street art popping off the walls to brighten our day.

With a highlighted map in hand filled with squiggles, circles and stars, we plotted out our course for the day ahead in search of the best street art in Valparaiso.

Marked up map of Valparaiso, Chile

We began at the top of Cerro Alegre and headed down Monte Alegre and back up Miramar to see what art we had missed from the day before (Click here to read about yesterday’s afternoon walk). The city seemed to be asleep up here in the quiet Cerro Alegre neighborhood and you could hardly hear the horns, traffic and congestion down below near the busy port and commercial area in El Plan.

With camera in hand, I began to snap away getting lost in the technicolor of imagination of Valparaiso’s glorious street art. In retrospect, I wish I had done a better job documenting exactly where each work of art was located however I have tried my best to break it down by barrios. 

Cerro Alegre

Streets to hit: Start at the top of Cerro Alegre at Templeman and Galos, and head down Galos to Monte Alegre. You can follow both Monte Alegre and Miramar all the way down to Paseo Yugoslavo. Be sure to hit San Enrique and Lautaro Rosas as well as the “Happy Hippies” part of Templeman.

Art you will see:

Some of my favorites:

Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile
Street Art, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile

Time to allow: At least 1 1/2- 2 hours to cover all of Cerro Alegre. This is my favorite neighborhood and has lots of wonderful restaurants in case you need to recharge and refuel before you continue on.

Cerro Concepción

Cerro Concepción is another fabulous neighborhood to view Valpo’s incredible street art and probably wins the prize in the most street art per square foot. It is closer to the port and center of Valparaiso so is much busier than quiet, quaint Cerro Alegre. I also found this neighborhood to be a bit more rundown than Cerro Alegre. However, the contrast between the old and new, the dirt and beauty, is what made it all the more fascinating to see.

Streets to hit: 

After reaching Paseo Yugoslavo, continue back up Miramar and wind down Urriola. Be sure to walk down Galvez to Paseo Gervasoni and Paseo Atkinson (where nearby you can look down off the cliffs to see some of the largest murals in the city painted across a few high-rise buildings). There is also a lot of cool art near the Iglesia Luterana such as the famous “piano key” stairs. You can then wind back up A. Montt towards Cerro Alegre again following any streets you missed.

Art you will see:

Colorful Stairways 

Fascinating Alleyways

At the edge of Cerro Concepción looking down over the cliffs are these giant works of art:

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Near Paseo Atkinson and the Iglesia Luterana:

Street Art, Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso, Chile

Cerro Concepción, Valparaiso, Chile

Some of my favorites:

Time to allow: 2-3 hours

After hitting all of Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción we were famished and it was time for lunch. We dined at the beautiful, yellow-colored Brighton Hotel eating perched high above Valparaiso and plotted out our course for the afternoon. We would be heading down to El Plan, the business center and up to Paseo 21 de Mayo for a bird’s eye view of Valpo’s port and even more street art.

Valparaiso, Chile Valparaiso, Chile

Stay tuned…Since I don’t want to overwhelm you too much with photos, I decided to break this guide up into two parts. Coming next is Cerro Bellavista and Paseo 21 de Mayo

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A Street ARt Lovers Guide to Valparaiso

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Street Art, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile

In Search of Street Art in Valparaiso’s Cerro Alegre

When planning our trip to Santiago, Chile there was no question we would spend at least a few days in Valparaiso. Known as one of the best street art cities in South America, this UNESCO World Heritage city is an art lover’s paradise. Its 42 cerros (hills) rise steeply up from the sea resulting in a labyrinth of streets, alleyways, staircases and a handful of rattling ascensores (old-fashioned funiculars dating back to the late 1800’s), all making Valparaiso or simply “Valpo” as the locals call it, one of the most unusual cities I’ve ever visited.

Valparaiso’s grittiness, seasonal fog, run-down 19th century, colorful corrugated-iron mansions and stray dogs make a sharp juxtaposition to its world-class vibrant street art that seems to cover every single free wall, staircase and building in the city. It is literally a walking museum of art and for that reason, has an unexpected charm that is hard to shake. As a street art lover, I knew that I would be in paradise and Valparaiso did not disappoint.

Street Art, Cerro Alegre, Valparaiso, Chile

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Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

A Stroll through Bellavista in Search of Santiago’s Vibrant Street Art

I have always loved street art and while Valparaiso is world renown for its amazing, slightly overwhelmingly large collection of street art, in my opinion Santiago is not too far behind. Despite not having the sheer size and scale of murals as found in Valparaiso, the street art scene in Santiago is equally as colorful and fascinating. If you adore street art, it is definitely worth your time exploring the Barrios Bellavista, Brasil and Yungay. Since our time was limited, we picked the trendy Barrio Bellavista for our first flavor of Chilean street art. We were not the least bit disappointed.

We began our stroll from our wonderful hotel, the CasaSur Charming Hotel in the Barrio Italia -an up and coming tree-lined neighborhood loaded with delightful restaurants, boutiques and shops- and followed the Parque Bustamante towards the Plaza Italia and the Rio Mapocho, the main river that meanders through the heart of Santiago.

It was a typical hot, summery day in Santiago and the city was alive with the bustle of people and students going to and from class at one of the country’s top universities in Bellavista. As we crossed the bridge at Pio Nonio, I couldn’t help but notice that even the walls surrounding the river were painted in graffiti. It was a sign of what was to come. I also wondered why the water was so brown in color and was soon to learn that it was due to all the sediment coming from the melting glaciers that feed and nourish the entire Maipo Valley surrounding Santiago with water and life.

Rio Mapocho, Santiago Chile

As we crossed the river, I saw that the bridge was covered in locks. Curious, I asked our hotel what it meant and they said that the locks are placed on the bridge by couples to represent unbreakable love. The couples write their initials on the locks and then throw the key into the river to symbolize everlasting love. I found it quite interesting.

After we crossed the river, we were finally in the infamous Barrio Bellavista, a bohemian neighborhood known for its artists and intellectuals as well as dining and late night partying given its numerous bars and discos all smooched together within the narrow streets between the river the the Cerro San Cristobal. Bellavista is also home to “La Chascona“, the historic home of Chilean Nobel laureate poet Pablo Neruda, which is now a museum open to the public. We didn’t have time to visit but did see his other house in Valparaiso which is definitely worth a visit.

Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, ChileWhile the nights are known for its wild carrete (nightlife), the quiet, calm afternoons in Bellavista are perfect for exploring its colorful streets and snapping photos. I felt ridiculously giddy at my luck at having such brilliant sunshine and not a soul in sight as we wandered the charming streets.  I instantly noticed that the colors felt like they were bursting off the walls and sides of the buildings. They were so incredibly vibrant and bright.

Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

Barrio Bellavista, Santiago, ChileBarrio Bellavista, Santiago, ChileBarrio Bellavista, Santiago, Chile

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Street Art in New York City

Finding Street Art along the Walls of New York City

I was on the plane Friday morning heading to New York City when I opened my email to see that the weekly photo challenge was walls. Instantly I knew how I was going to spend my free afternoon in the city. A photo walk.

I did a google search and discovered that New York City has a tremendous wealth of street art along its walls, buildings and store fronts. I love street art and knew that it would be a great way to spend the afternoon exploring some of the back alleys and streets in the heart of Little Italy and NoLlta in search of street art.

I took the subway to Spring Street and got off with a map in hand and a few written notes of where to explore. It was a chilly early spring day yet the sun was shining strong and the city was alive as usual with activity. I could tell it was going to be a great afternoon.

Spring Street Subway stop

Spring Street subway stop offers my first look at urban wall art.

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