The best approach to the Palacio de la Moneda is from the northern side of the vast, paved Plaza de la Constitución, three blocks west and south of the Plaza de Armas. From here you can appreciate the perfect symmetry and compact elegance of this low-lying Neoclassical building, spread across the entire block. The inner courtyards are open to the public.

It was built between 1784 and 1805 by the celebrated Italian architect Joaquín Toesca for the purpose of housing the royal mint. After some forty years it became the residential palace for the presidents of Chile, starting with Manuel Bulnes in 1848 and ending with Carlos Ibáñez del Campo in 1958. At this point it stopped being used as the president’s home, but it continues to be the official seat of government. One ceremony worth watching is the changing of the guard. In front of the Justice Ministry is one of Chile’s few monuments to President Salvador Allende, with his arm outstretched.

 

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