I arrived in Santiago, Chile 2 days before the Labour Day holiday. I haven’t had a chance to explore the city before then and what I found scared me a bit. As I walked through the deserted streets it felt like I was walking through a ghost town! All the shops were closed and there were nearly no people out on the streets. The first thought that popped into my head was, “Where the hell did I just move to?!?”
There wasn’t even a small café open where I could sit down for a morning coffee.
I really wanted to visit the Basilica de la Merced, but unfortunately it was closed on this public holiday.
This church was founded by the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy and constructed in 1795. It is a Chilean National Monument. It is Neo-Renaissance in architecture and I heard it has a lovely little museum with religious objects and art, including a collection of pieces from Easter Island.
I thought that there would at least be some activity on the Plaza de Armas which is the heart and soul of Santiago. It is the centerpiece of the initial layout of Santiago, which has a square grid pattern. But to my surprise there were only a couple of people around, although it was nearly 11am. At least it looked like there were a bit more people were appearing on the streets now that the sun was out.
Surrounding the square are some beautiful historical buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral of Santiago, Parroquia El Sagrario. La Parroquia El Sagrario is a beautiful Catholic church that was declared a national monument as it is one of the oldest historical and architectural landmarks Santiago. Personally I think it is one of the most beautiful buildings surrounding this plaza.
The Former National Congress Building is the former home of the Chilean Congress. Congress met in this building in central Santiago until Salvador Allende‘s socialist government was overthrown by Augusto Pinochet‘s military coup d’état on September 11, 1973.
During the Pinochet dictatorship, Congress was moved to new premises in Valparaíso. The old building was declared a national monument in 1976 and between 1990 and 2006 housed the ministry of foreign affairs. The Senate moved its offices in Santiago to this building in December 2000. On January 26, 2006 the Chamber of Deputies recovered its old offices.
For lunch I sat down at a small café and tried out my 5 Spanish words that I have learnt up till now. After struggling to order coffee with my small Spanish vocabulary the waiter was very happy to offer me an English menu. I ordered a hamburger with tomato and greens, thinking again that I was being quite safe with my order. When my burger came I was quite surprised to find out that the greens are not lettuce as I thought but actually green beans. Yes, they put green beans and tomato on my chicken burger and covered this with ketchup and mustard. This was definitely the weirdest burger that I have ever eaten!!
Palacio de La Moneda, or simply La Moneda, is the seat of the President of the Republic of Chile. It occupies an entire block in downtown Santiago, in the area known as Civic District. The building’s wide, horizontal shape and rectangular composition conveys strength and stability, according to the palace’s listing on the UNESCO website. Here I got some beautiful photos of the wide empty streets and of the guards on their horses in front of the palace.
It is really surprising that the city shuts down on a public holiday, hopefully it will be more livelier this weekend when I go exploring again.