La Moneda is easy to spot – its white, neoclassical walls make up the presidential palace that takes up an entire city block in downtown Santiago. Construction began in 1781 and was completed in 1805, when it was used as a mint, which is what the term moneda translates to in English.
The gigantic Chilean flag that waves in front of La Moneda, from a grassy traffic circle in the middle of the Alameda (Avenida Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins), can be seen from blocks away. There are two nearby plazas that serve as popular meeting and lunchtime spots, each with lawns, fountains and benches.
History buffs will remember that this building was bombed in 1973 as part of the coup d’etat that ended Salvador Allende’s presidency and preceded Augusto Pinochet’s rise to power. There are still, a few areas where the damage has been left for visitors to see. There is also a statue of Salvador Allende at the southeast corner of the Plaza de la Constitución, which is occasionally decorated as part of political demonstrations.
Visitors can visit the exterior of La Moneda at any time. Beneath the building is the Centro Cultural Palacio La Moneda, a large space with several art galleries (entry to all is included in one admission ticket), two movie theaters, an independent bookstore, a restaurant and a high-quality crafts store that sells terra cotta and woven items.