If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with street art and fully believe it’s the most intimate way to get to know a city. It’s visual storytelling meets hidden messaging, and the best way to get a true vibe and pulse on a place. South America was basically one giant outdoor gallery with Santiago, Valparaiso and Buenos Aires being a few of the highlights. Here’s an overview of my DIY street art tour and what to expect at each stop — just make sure you pack your camera.
As Chile’s street art capital, the Bellavista neighborhood is a trendy kaleidoscope of color with intricate murals wherever you turn. The area around Pio Nono is the happening spot to be (and the major restaurant/bar thoroughfare), but crisscross your way through the alleys and it’s a painted paradise. After you’ve worked up a sweat exploring and photographing the portraits, head to Bellavista Patio, a really cool outdoor atrium with dozens of trendy rooftops for a cocktail and al fresco meal.
The holy mecca of street art, Valpo is a seaside port town bathed in color. The downtown core is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means the painted facades are protected and preserved for years to come. The city is hilly and maze-like with trolleys and funiculars (elevators that look like gondola cars) the way to traverse the web of side streets. Make sure you stop to snap a picture at the piano key stairs; they’re a major hit on Instagram. You can also see the city for free on walking tour via Tours for Tips.
The city of Buenos Aires in general is New York City meets Europe. There’s lots of green space, parks and room to breathe. But head to the main tourist corridor of La Boca, and you’ll be greeted by giant photo opp. A cross between Little Havana and Barnum Bailey Circus, the neighborhood is sensory overload in all the right ways. If you can peel your eyes away from the street vendors, spontaneous salsa shows, and sidewalk cafes, take in the colorful buildings, life-sized caricatures, and vintage prints.
Looking for more things to do in BA? Check out this Buenos Aires guide.
Special thanks to my PIC and travel bud Carol Johnson for being the best photog.