Chile's presidential palace, Palacio De La Moneda (La Moneda is translated in English as 'the coin'), was designed by Italian architect Joaquín Toesca to be Chile's official mint. Building started in 1784 and it opened in 1805, while construction was still underway. The minting of coins at La Moneda took place from 1814 to 1929.
In 1845 La Moneda became the seat of government and presidential residence. In 1930, a public square called Plaza de la Constitución was built in front of the palace. In the 1950's, after the presidency of Gabriel González Videla it no longer served as a presidential residence.
During the September 11th (date sound familiar?) 1973 military coup, it was badly damaged by air force attacks, leaving the La Moneda presidential palace in flames and it's democratically elected president,
Salvador Allende dead. The coup was carried out by troops who were directed by Augusto Pinochet and it started an era from which Chile has never recovered. By 1981 the palace had been rebuilt although some bullet marks have been preserved and can still be seen nowadays.
During Ricardo Lagos's term as president, the La Moneda's inner courtyards were opened to the public. On certain days it is possible to enter the courtyard but you may be asked for identification so you may want to bring your passport if you plan to do so. Lagos also re-opened Morandé 80. Morandé 80 is the address for a door located on the east side of La Moneda. The door was constructed in 1906 so that presidents could come into into the palace as common citizens. During the 1973 coup, President Salvador Allende's body was taken away through Morandé 80, and after reconstruction of La Moneda, the door was covered. The door's address is now used as a symbol by Allende's former supporters. Presently, the door is only opened for special occasions.
Finding La Moneda is quite easy. There is a Metro station on line 1 by the same name however you can walk to the palace from the hostel in about 25 minutes.