La Sebastiana, up on Cerro Bellavista in Valparaíso, one of famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda’s houses-turned-museums is well worth the trip for a number of reasons. One, it will get you off the main tourist hills of Cerro Concepción and Cerro Alegre, into a quieter part of Valaparaíso where grandmas come out and sweep the front stoop every morning. The second of course, is the museum itself. It’s set inside a grassy yard, with a café at the entrance. There are descriptive texts available at the front door, and museum docents in every room, as well as an audio guide available in several languages.
Of all of the three houses turned museums that famous Chilean poet Pablo Neruda left behind, this is perhaps that one that most encourages you to look out the windows, with multicolored houses perched on the hills all around, and an expansive view of the ocean. Inside the house, there are ocean-related relics like seashells, buoys, collections of books, and carved wooden music boxes, in addition to poems printed throughout the house, that explain in Neruda’s own words, how he felt a need to be close to the ocean, after spending time in landlocked Santiago.
Neruda originally bought the house in the 1960s, and inaugurated it with a big party, similar to the ones he also held every New Years’ Eve to watch the Valparaíso fireworks, which still take place yearly. After his death in 1973, the house suffered some damage, and was later restored, quirky decorations and all, to its current state in the late 1990s, with the help of Telefónica España. The gardens are a pleasant place to sit for a while, and pose sitting on the bench with the Neruda cut-out, a classic La Sebastiana photo.
Entry is on a first-come, first-served basis, so if you have lots of other plans for the day, like visiting a nearby winery, or a walking tour of the city, early morning is a good time to visit. If you’re lucky, you may be there just as the fog is burning off the horizon, and the fabulous views over the nearby hills and bay are revealed.