There has been much talk in recent months of the renaissance that Valparaiso has been undergoing as the city begins to smarten up its rustic charm. The city is regularly cited as one of the most picturesque in the world, cobblestone paths wind their way up the city’s 42 steep hills that hang over the Pacific coast, and as you soak up the views from the 18th Century (but recently restored to full working order!) British funiculars, it is easy to see why many famous intellectuals such as poet, Pablo Neruda, drew inspiration from the city.
Despite this step into the 21st century the city has not lost any of its traditional charm and at no time is this more evident than at the Fiesta de San Pedro each year. San Pedro is the patron saint of fishermen and so it is easy to see why the residents of Valparaiso feel fit to throw such a celebration each year. The parade starts at ‘El Membrillo’, a cove by the water’s edge, where a model of San Pedro looks over fishermen all year, however on 29th June each year San Pedro is taken from his post and carried by the fishermen in a parade up to the Cathedral, they are accompanied on their way by the Chilean Naval band, traditional dancers and locals who have come out to wish them well.
Upon arrival at Valparaiso Cathedral, the figure of San Pedro is taken inside and Mass is held to thank him for all his blessings he has bestowed upon the city and the fishermen. Following Mass the procession continues to the Valparaiso port, Muelle Prat, where San Pedro is placed inside a beautifully decorated boat in which he sets sail out into the Pacific followed by hundreds of other fishermen each in their own intricately decorated launches. With fog horns blaring and traditional songs the procession carries on where the fisherman are most at home, out at sea.
The recently restored Palacio Astoreca Hotel is the place to stay in Valparaiso. This beautiful Victorian style mansion-house is located in the hip barrio of Cerro Alegre, right next to the Fine Arts Museum. The 23 rooms have been lovingly restored and the third floor suites in particular have stunning views out over the bay. The hotel restaurant on its own would be enough to draw you here as the chef, Sergio Barroso, was trained at the international renowned El Bulli. Venturing slightly further afield, Pasta e Vino, offers up impeccable Italian food in a beautiful location hugging the hillside, the husband and wife team are responsible for helping to kickstart the Valparaiso culinary scene but as one of the originals they still remain the best. For after dinner drinks head to Bar Cinzano, according to locals ‘the oldest bar in town’, where many of the patrons have been frequenting for the last 50 years. Immerse yourself in the live singing and tango to experience a true taste of the Porteño (as Valparaíso residents are known) life.