Using Plaza de Armas as a focal point, just a block to the north is the firefighter’s brigade, noticeable by the red tower. A block east of there is the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. It’s a huge church that was started in 1747 and finished in 1808. Vendors sell religious goods out front even when the church is closed to visitors.
To the northeast, tucked away behind some buildings near Parque Forestal is the Posada del Corregidor Zañartu. It was built in 1750 and is one of the last colonial buildings remaining in Santiago. It’s a national landmark that now functions as an art gallery.
On the next block, MacIver, are two more historic buildings. The first is the Iglesia de San Pedro, built in 1896. The next one is another one of the last few colonial buildings, Casa de Velasco, built in the 1730s.
Two block east of Plaza de Armas is one of the most beautiful churches in Santiago, Basílica de la Merced. Originally built in 1566 and used by the city’s elite, it was rebuilt in 1760. It’s worth popping inside to see the ornate decorations.
Southeast of Plaza de Armas, at the intersection of San Antonio and Agustinas, are some incredible buildings, including the Palacio Subercaseaux (1901) and Teatro Municipal (1857).
Also on the corner is a restaurant with a huge picture of Bill Clinton. Clinton actually visited the restaurant on his trip to Chile and the owner changed the name of the restaurant to La Pica de Clinton in honor of the visit. Use your imagination as to what the name means. Hint: it’s slang for a part of the male anatomy.
Two blocks south of the plaza is the Iglesia de San Agustín. It was originally built in 1625, but destroyed and rebuilt twice after earthquakes, the last time being after 1730. There is a famous carving of Christ inside called the Cristo de Mayo. The crown of thorns slipped down to the neck during an earthquake in 1647, and, according to legend, when someone tried to fix it, the face began to bleed and the ground shook. The crown is still around the neck.
Running south from Plaza de Armas is Paseo Ahumada. This is Santiago’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. It takes you four blocks all the way to Alameda. There’s all kinds of shopping up and down the street and inside different passages along the way. One notable building is the Banco de Chile, built in 1925. The rest of the street is full of shops and street vendors.
At the southern end of Paseo Ahumada is La City, which is Santiago’s financial district. Here, you can find Calle Nueva York, a short cobblestone pedestrian street with a large clock tower building at the end, and Bolsa de Comercio, Santiago’s stock exchange, which was launched in 1884.
West of Plaza de Armas are two grand government buildings. The first is the Palacio de los Tribunales de Justicia, built between 1905 and 1930. It’s the main courthouse. I was unable to visit because it was closed for renovation.
The second, directly behind the Catedral Metropolitana, is the Ex Congreso Nacional. It was built in 1876 and used as the Chilean Congress until the military coup in 1973. Across the street is the Academia Diplomática de Chile, which is a school that trains future diplomats. It was founded in 1954.
One final building, just a few more blocks off the grid than anything else in the area, is the Palacio La Alhambra. It was built in 1862 and modeled after the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. It currently holds an art museum run by the Sociedad Nacional de Bellas Artes.