Parque Quinta Normal is a public garden that is surrounded by several good museums. I’ll get to the garden later, but I want to start with a very important museum first.
In the metro station Quinta Normal, there is an exit directly into the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights). This museum is dedicated to the victims of human rights violations during the Pinochet regime of 1973-1990. Admission is free and no photography is allowed. I highly recommend a visit to this museum.
I spent two hours visiting the Museo de la Memoria and I loved everything about it. First, the design is phenomenal. Every exhibit fits in with the design very well. Second, the entire museum is captivating and powerful. It covers the military dictatorship from the very moment it happened, to the tortures, murders, and disappearances of Chilean citizens, all the way to the very end of the regime.
Video installations, including footage of Palacio de La Moneda being bombed, original documents, the full recording of Salvador Allende‘s farewell speech, and several pieces of memorabilia tell the grim story of suffering that the Chilean people endured for almost two decades. Although the majority is in Spanish, every image is understandable to those who don’t speak the language.
Across the street is Parque Quinta Normal. It opened in 1842 for the study of foreign plants. The entire garden is very well maintained and has several museums and an artificial lake on the grounds.
The museums (none of which I visited) include the Museo Nacional de Historía Natural (Natural History Museum), built in 1875, Museo Ferroviario, featuring several rail cars and steam engines, Museo de Ciencia y Tecnología (Musem of Science and Technology), built in 1884, and a branch of the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Museum of Contemporary Art).
The derelict Casa Obrecht, which once housed the Museo Infantil (Children’s Museum), is also on the grounds of the park.
To the north of the park is the behemoth Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes, a church built in the 1930s. It looks like it sustained some serious damage during the 2010 earthquake and was closed during my visit. On the grounds of the church is the religious sanctuary of Gruta de Lourdes.
At the south entrance of Parque Quinta Normal is the very colorful Pabellón París. It was originally built in Paris as Chile’s entry to the 1889 Paris World Exposition, and later reassembled in Santiago. It houses the Museo Artequin, featuring reproductions of famous works of art.
Further south on Avenida Matucana is the Biblioteca de Santiago. It opened in 2005 in an old government warehouse built in the 1930s. Across the street from the library is Centro Cultural Matucana 100, a gallery that opened in 2001. The building was originally a railway warehouse built in 1911. The museum focuses on contemporary works of art by Chilean artists.
About a ten minute walk south on Avenida Matucana, and not a life or death attraction, is Estación Central. This is Santiago’s only remaining railway station, opening in 1885. The most interesting thing about the building is that it was built in 1897 and designed by Gustave Eiffel.