The Chilean building boom of the late 1800s, spurred by rising silver, copper and nitrite prices worldwide, inspired some of the city's most marvelous architecture. Grand palaces were built with stern neoclassical facades fashionably adorned with touches of baroque and art nouveau frill. The finest of them all is at the heart of the ritzy Calle Dieciocho neighborhood: the Cousiño Palace.
The mansion was designed by architect Paul Lathoud for the Cousiño Goyenechea family, a prominent clan who owned everything from the famed Cousiño-Macul Vineyards, to assorted coal and silver mines. The French-inspired building often draws comparisons to Versailles, and has hosted foreign dignitaries from Marshal Tito to Queen Elizabeth.
Today, you can tour its soaring marble halls and 12 sumptuously decorated rooms, each offering a glimpse into the lives of the Chilean aristocracy during those heady boom years.
On the southern border of Santiago's historic center, Cousiño Palace is close to the University of Chile in the once opulent neighborhood of Calle Dieciocho. The area is more maneuverable in a car than the narrow, congested streets immediately surrounding Plaza de Armas, seven very pretty blocks away. Still, it's much more convenient to take the L2 yellow line to the Toesca station. Travelers must visit on a 45-minute guided tour, which are offered throughout the day. Most guides speak both Spanish and English.