A highlight of any trip to Santiago is a visit to La Moneda Palace. The centre of Chilean history since its opening in 1805, this ornate Italianesque building is an historical treasure that takes up one full city block. The neoclassical building was opened as the royal mint but by 1845 the palace became the residence and seat of government for the Chilean president. While La Moneda still acts as the center of government, it ceased as the presidential residence in 1952.
One of Chile’s darkest scenes in its history took place here in 1973 when during a military coup the Chilean Air Force bombarded the palace. Those tumultuous times are now long gone and the building was soon restored to its former glory.
Today much of the palace is open to the public and visitors can meander through its lovely gardens and courtyards and admire the great artwork inside. The palace’s north front overlooks the stately Plaza de la Constituciòn where an impressive Changing of the Guard ceremony takes place every other day at 10am.
Entering the building and heading south into the courtyards, two 18th century cannon symbolically guard the massive palace. Proceeding past these impressive military artefacts, the courtyard opens up to the peaceful Patio de los Naranjos (patio of the oranges) where orange trees surround an elegant fountain that is over 200 years old. The palace basement which used to act as an underground bunker is now an impressive art gallery showcasing some of Chile’s finest art work.
The quickest way to reach La Moneda by public transport is on the subway. Line 1 serves La Moneda Station on the south side of the palace.