La Moneda, Santiago

Old Santiago is a many-splendoured city. A stroll back from Santa Lucia Hill, with its baroque fountain, neo-classical sculptures and terraced gardens, takes us through streets of magnificent buildings, like the grand old Biblioteca Nacional, the Teatro Municipal and the Bolsa de Commercio. Again, like the edifices of Santa Lucia, they are testament to what, in the 18th and 19th century, new world wealth could make of old world inspiration.

La Moneda
La Moneda

The most imposing of Santiago’s buildings stand around Plaza de la Constitucion and the most important among them is La Moneda, seat of the Chilean Government. Designed by the Italian architect Joaquin Toesca and constructed between 1784 and 1805, it is Chile’s finest example of neo-classical architecture. It was originally built to house the Royal Mint, hence the name, La Moneda. In 1846 President Manuel Bulnes appropriated part of the building as his quarters and it served as the Presidential Residence until 1958. Since then, as the Presidential seat and centre of government, it has seen many historic moments, including the suicide of President Salvador Allende after the 1973 Coup d’Etat.

In 2006 President Ricardo Lagos’ administration opened the Moneda Palace Cultural Centre in the basement of the building. The aim was to create a modern civic centre for the people of Santiago and Chile. Its broad range of exhibitions, concerts and theatre reflect not only the national heritage and culture, but also provide a window to the rest of the world through many international shows and events.  Free or low cost entry ensures easy access to all. 3811

Santa Lucia, Santiago

With the Andes as a backdrop, with architecture ranging from fine old sixteenth century churches to sleek modern commercial centres, with stunning squares, gardens and monuments and with a vibrant indigenous culture as well as a dozen different European representations, Santiago, the capital of Chile, is one of South America’s most fascinating cities.

On the summit of Santa Lucia
On the summit of Santa Lucia

The first settlement, Santiago de la Nueva Extremadura, was established on February 12, 1541, by the Spanish Conquistador, Pedro de Valdivia, at the foot of the Huelen Hill. Now known as Santa Lucia, this hill is one of the city’s most significant and most visited sites.

The neo-classical monumental entrance at the foot of Santa Lucia was completed in 1902. It reflects a city which, at the time, enjoyed considerable wealth and liked to flaunt it.  At the centre is a statue of Neptune, god of the sea, surrounded by fountains and flanked by curving staircases which lead up to a terrace with a triumphal arch topped with a dome. The hill is threaded with winding, and somewhat challenging, paths which lead through pretty, sheltered little gardens and rest areas.

The views over Santiago from all sides of Santa Lucia, and most particularly from the summit, are spectacular.