Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are the most populated communes in the whole of Valparaiso region. They are next to each other. Most people don’t even know where one ends and the other starts. However, the vibe and the atmosphere are different. So which one is better for you? Read on to discover.
The coastal cities are located in central Chile northwest of Santiago, only 120 kilometers away, a 90-minute car ride. They both start at the coast and climb up the hills.
You can enjoy a pleasant, warm, Mediterranean climate in most parts of central Chile. The summer is warm and dry, with an average of 20 degrees.
The temperatures in the winter rarely go below zero degrees Celsius. The average winter temperature is 7 degrees. The winter months collect the most rain during the year.
The Chileans always say that it is around 10 degrees Celsius less on the coast in the summer. So, if you are moving to Chile and don’t like the heat, come freshen up to Valparaíso or Viña.
It is also very usual that the mornings are cloudy and the sky opens up later in the day, and you can enjoy the warmth and sun.
The economy of the region
Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are large cities with many opportunities for work or business. The primary industries are tourism, agriculture, fishing, mining, and import/export through the two biggest ports in Chile (Valparaíso and San Antonio).
Basic differences between Valparaíso and Viña del Mar
1. The vibe
The vibe of each is wildly different. Valparaíso has fame as a bohemian and artist city, but also a bit more messy and dirty. Pickpocketing might be more common here as well.
Viña del Mar is resort-like. It has a vibe of a seaside beach city with excellent restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and even a casino.
2. The tourism
Valparaíso is a touristy city all year round. Chileans and foreigners come here all year to meander on the curvy and steep streets on the hills.
Viña, on the other side, is a summer vacation city. Of course, there will always be tourists, but the summer in Viña is always hectic. The rent goes up, and the city gets full. Expect traffic jams and busy restaurants all summer long.
Living In Valparaíso
Many Chilean cities have a byname. Valparaíso is called “The jewel of the Pacific.” This name came from a popular waltz composed in 1941 by the Chileans Víctor Acosta and Lázaro Salgado.
Valparaíso is a colorful bohemian port city and the second administrative center. It is built upon steep hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The city has a unique historic quarter, an exceptional model of 19th-century urban and architectural design.
The National Congress of Chile was moved to Valparaiso to decentralize Chile in 1990. Unfortunately, this didn’t work as intended. Most members of Congress still live in Santiago and commute to Valparaíso for the working sessions.
Valparaíso has two parts: Plan (the flat part) and los cerros (the hills). Plan houses most of the administrative and commercial buildings and offices. Los cerros are mostly residential areas.
The Plan is where the biggest port in Chile is located, and the whole flat area is mainly dedicated to commerce and trade.
Los Cerris are different. The views from many of the hills toward the ocean, the city, and Viña del Mar are astonishing.
Some lower hills still use the historical Ascensores (hill elevators or funiculars). They started to operate between 1883 and 1929. Locals and tourists use them to avoid the steep climb into the hills. Sixteen funiculars that remain are labelled as national monuments. Only five are working at the moment of writing.
Cost of living in Valparaíso
If you are on a budget and deciding between Valparaíso and Viña, you might choose Valparaíso for its lower cost of living. The most noticeable difference is in rent prices.
Depending on the location and building amenities, you might pay between 450 and 700 USD for a three-bedroom apartment. The utilities for the same apartment may average 70 USD. Monthly groceries can add up to 300 USD
A single person should expect to spend below 1000 USD per month, and a family of four more than 2000 USD.
Public transport in Valparaíso
The Metropolitan Transport system of Valparaíso operates the whole Gran Valparaíso area. It integrates 5 communes: Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Concón, Quilpué y Villa Alemana.
In Valparaíso, public transport is served by buses, trolleybuses, and the funiculars mentioned above because of the steep hills.
In the flat part of the city, there is also an operative metro system. It connects Valparaíso with Viña del Mar, Quilpué, Villa Alemana, and Limache. It is a single line with 20 stations that extends 43 kilometers. Only five stations are in Valparaíso; the rest are in the other communes.
Valparaíso is an important city, but because of its closeness to Santiago de Chile, there is no international or national airport. For passenger air travel, you must use the Santiago airport, which is around 80-90 minutes by car.
Valparaíso is connected by long-distance buses to the rest of the country. The buses leave from the only bus terminal located on Avenida Pedro Montt in front of the National Congress.
Most of the buses leave for Santiago or small towns in the area. To travel to remote locations in the south or north, you need to travel to Santiago, where you can take another bus or even fly.
Best areas to live in Valparaíso
Even though many people might advise against living in Valparaíso and choosing Viña del Mar instead, I think this is merely a thing of your expectations. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
The most apparent options of where to settle in Valparaíso are two hills: Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. You can enjoy some of the most colorful sights from the hills. It is a great place to walk around and appreciate the most beautiful views of the bay.
It doesn’t feel like a part of a big city. The ambience is more like a small village with nice cafés, small shops, traditional bakeries, bars, restaurants, and galleries. It might be one of the most bohemian parts of the city.
Another interesting hill to consider is Cerro Bellavista, specifically the parts around Pablo Neruda’s house called La Sebastiana and Open Air Museum.
This hill is home to a display of 20 murals from renowned artists. Apart from the official drawings, you will find uncountable graffiti and dive deep into the popular street-art culture.
If you are looking for a truly local experience and want to avoid the most touristy parts, look into Avenida Gran Bretaña on a hill called Playa Ancha. This part has been growing and developing lately with many cafes and bars opening up in the last few years.
Healthcare facilities in Valparaíso
In Valparaíso, there is a public hospital called Hospital Van Buren. Lately, it has received some bad press, mainly for waiting times. There are plans for a new, necessary hospital dating three decades ago, but the new hospital is still not in view.
There is also a private clinic that you can attend called Clínica Red Salud Valparaíso and small medical centers of your choosing. Some people prefer to go to Viña del Mar for medical care.
Most expats living here prefer private healthcare. Private insurance isn’t that expensive and gives you peace of mind that when you need help you can get it easily. Quite a lot of expats opt for an international health cover. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal.
General facilities in Valparaíso
In Valparaíso, you won’t find huge malls because of space limitations. The biggest of them is Mall Paseo Ross, but Mall Marina in Viña del Mar is bigger if you are really into malls.
However, the charm of Valparaíso is to discover the small locally owned shops. And of course, there are plenty of supermarkets within the city.
Valparaíso has a lot of activities to offer. Main attractions center around the views of the sea, the beauty of the hills, art and museums, dining, and nightlife.
Living In Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar is often referred to as “The Garden City.” Initially, the city was surrounded by extensive green areas and preserved beautiful gardens in the town. These gardens held varied native and exotic floral and tree species.
It offers 13 beaches to its citizens and tourists. The coastal area is well maintained. There are plenty of restaurants, bars, coffee shops, ice cream parlors, and others just a few steps away from the beach.
Apart from the beaches, you can enjoy the sights of many palaces and former mansions of wealthy families transformed into elegant event venues or museums.
The city organizes a well-known Viña del Mar International Song Festival each February. It takes place in Quinta Vergara park. The audience is an active participant and is feared for their ability to either elevate musicians to their fame or (sadly) boo them from the stage. For this reason, the press nicknamed the festival audience “The Monster”.
The best areas to live in Viña del Mar
The flat part of the city is called El Plan or El Centro, and it might be the best part to settle in.
Look at the area delimited by the streets San Martin, 1 Norte, Av. Los Castaños and Av. Benidorm. It is the most important and oldest neighborhood. In this sector, the founder of the city, Mr José Francisco Vergara, created the layout that gave rise to the town.
Recreo is a residential neighborhood in Viña del Mar, directly neighboring Valparaíso. It is located between Cerro Esperanza and Cerro Agua Santa. It was one of the first neighborhoods of Viña del Mar and today it is one of the most populated areas of the city.
Población Vergara, located between Avenida 15 Norte and Estero Marga-Marga is a residential and commercial sector popular with an upper and upper-middle-class.
Thre are plenty of lovely residential areas in Viña, however, as in many big cities, there are poor areas too, where people took land and self-constructed tiny houses without electricity, water, or sewage system.
Public transport in Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar and Valparaíso´s public transportation system is operated as one system. As mentioned above, the cities are joined by one metro line from Valparaiso, through Viña del Mar, to Limache. In Viña, the system is mainly operated by buses. The system is quite efficient and very affordable.
The Viña del Mar Terminal is the only bus terminal in Viña del Mar, it is located on Valparaíso Avenue just a few blocks from Plaza Vergara.
The main destinations are: Santiago, Iquique., Antofagasta, La Serena and Coquimbo, Rancagua, Talca, Chillán, Concepción, Pucón, Valdivia, and Puerto Montt.
In Viña, there are three private hospitals, one of them located in part called Reñaca, a bit further away from the center (Clínica Ciudad del Mar, Hospital Clínico Viña del Mar, and Clínica Reñaca).
For day-to-day medical care, choose from three big health centers (Integramédica, Megasalud, and Centromed). These centers let you schedule appointments for a variety of specialties online. They usually have good medical equipment and are very modern.
General facilities in Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar is a very developed city that offers everything you might need: entertainment, cultural events, varied nightlife, sporting venues, schools, supermarkets, and a modern Mall Marina if you want to go shopping.
The coastal promenade offers an ideal space for workouts, running, and biking with great views. There are always people exercising. Gyms seem unnecessary when you have this opportunity.
Moreover, in Viña del Mar, you can find any sporting facility you might desire, and you can also spend time in parks.
For adventure lovers, visit Reñaca, where you can do fun activities such as surfing, scuba diving, sandboarding, and horseback riding.
Valparaíso or Viña del Mar – which one is right for you?
It can be a hard job choosing the best location in Chile to call home. If you are a city dweller but don’t love the heat and love fantastic sea views, you should definitely pick between Viña del Mar or Valparaíso. These two places offer everything a big city does, but with a pinch of sea salt and art.
Love a more bohemian less polished environment? Then Valparaíso might be your place. Prefer resort-style living? Try Viña del Mar, you will find all the beachside city features here.