The Museo de Santiago (Merced 860, tel. 02/6330723) is open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. weekdays except Monday, 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturday, and 11 a.m.–2 p.m. Sundays and holidays. Admission costs US$1.
Perhaps Santiago ’s best-preserved colonial house, the Casa Colorada was home to Mateo de Toro y Zambrano, who became Chile’s interim governor, at age 83, after the colonial governor resigned. Named for its reddish paint, it hosted both José de San Martín and Bernardo O’Higgins after the battle of Chacabuco (1817), and the famous mercenary Lord Cochrane later lived here. Abandoned for many years, it underwent restoration after 1977.
While its style is true to colonial times, only the two-story facade facing Merced is truly original, with its forged iron balconies. The museum itself chronicles the city’s development from its pre-Hispanic origins in the Mapocho valley through its founding by Valdivia, the evolution of colonial society, the political events that brought independence, and its modern transformation under 19th-century mayor Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna. It’s particularly vivid in the models of historic buildings and dioramas of events such as the 1863 fire that destroyed the Iglesia de la Compañía.