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Historical Places in Chile

Updated on May 27, 2012

In the heart of Santiago, the capital of Chile, is the Plaza de Armas. The square is the historical centre of the city and surrounded by Spanish colonial buildings, including the 18th Century Cathedral and the elaborate main post office which was once the Spanish governor’s residence. The square is the hub of life in the city, always a busy place with local artists in the day and evening activities to be found too.

The Plaza de Armas dates back to 1540s when Pedro de Valdivia founded the city. Valdivia conquered Chile for Spain, the Plaza founded in 1541 as the nucleus of the country. The Plaza was surrounded by the Royal Court of Justice (now the National History Museum), the Governor’s Palace (now the Central Post Office), the Metropolitan Cathedral, and other colonial homes. The Plaza had trees and gardens added in the mid 1800s creating a promenade that became the social centre for fashionable society, which since has moved uptown. A wide range of people can be found on the Plaza daily from shoe shiners to comedians and preachers, to old men playing chess and young couples, as well as the street photographers and artists seling their wares.

Also on the north side is the 18th Century Town Hall. Leaving the square to the south visitors will find themselves in the city centre’s main shopping area. The Plaza is thought to be the heart of the city with its trees, fountains, statues and sculptures. Visitors will find vendors selling bright balloons, hot dogs and drinks, as well as somewhere to sit and rest.

La Catedral Metropolitiana is the fifth such building as the previous four have been destroyed by fire and earthquake. It stands facing east as all churches are meant. The building of the cathedral was started to be built in 1748, consecrated in 1775 but not fully completed until the 19th Century when the towers were added. Visitors walking into this impressive building will note its baroque interior featuring three long naves with barrel vaulting. The main altar is decorated with marble, bronze and lapis pazuli that came from Germnay. The Catedral faces onto the Plaza and is beautiful in the spring when the flowers are out. The Museo del Arte can be found within the cathedral with more religious works on display, including fine silver left behind by the Jesuits.

The Chilean Museum of Pre-Colombian Art is a fascinating place to visit. It’s displays span 4,500 years and approximately 80 pre-Colombian civilisations of South America. The Museum is located in the old Royal Customs House and visitors will find the displays arranged through four rooms around a central courtyard. You can learn about the Incas, Mayans, Aztecs and others with the collection of Latin American artefacts and paintings. The museum is recommended by travel guides as one of the best in Santiago with its placards being bi-lingual.

The Palacio de la Real Audiencia is another impressive building on the Plaza de Armas on the north side. This is a good place for visitors to get an in depth look into Chile’s history, covering the time from the conquest to present day. The building is elegant and is the place Chile held its first congress following independence. The museum winds around a central court and finishes with a photo montage depicting modern political turmoil, as well as literacy and artistic accomplishments in Chile. Visitors will find weapons, agricultural tools, traditional dress, oil paintings depicting early life during the 18th and 19th centuries, showing visitors clearly how life used to be.


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  • Apostle Jack profile image

    Apostle Jack 

    7 years ago from Atlanta Ga

    Interesting and beautiful.

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    9 years ago

    well done A+!!


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