We spent a day visiting Bosque de Chapultepec, one of the largest urban parks in the Western Hemisphere, in the heart of Mexico City. As well as walking through the shady paths of the park we also took time to visit the amazing National Anthropology Museum and the historical Chapultepec Castle
Chapultepec, more commonly called the “Bosque de Chapultepec” in Mexico City, is a huge green space in the heart of Mexico City and is one of the largest city parks in the Western Hemisphere, measuring around 1700 acres. The name Chapultepec comes from Nahuatl, the language spoken by the Aztecs, and means Hill of the Grasshopper (“chapul” – grasshopper, and “tepec” – hill). The park is a popular haunt for tourists and the locals alike – it has several forested areas, open spaces, gardens and a large lake which you can happily navigate on swan-shaped pedalos. As well as the usual features of a park, the Bosque Chapultepec is home to several museums, a castle, numerous monuments and statues and a world-renowned zoo.
Getting to the park is relatively easy. If you are staying in the Condesa or Roma districts it is relatively easy to walk there within minutes. From the central district or other areas of Mexico City, you can use public transport. There are a couple of metro stations close to the park – Metro Auditorium (Line 7) and Metro Chapultepec (Line 1). If you don’t fancy the metro, and yes it is somewhat wild during peak hours, you can take Uber, which is inexpensive in Mexico City.
Chapultepec Castle is set high up on a rocky outcrop, this castle has the distinction of being the only castle in North America to actually be the home to a sovereign of a country.
It was originally constructed in 1725 on the orders of the Viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez, and was meant to be a large manor house for the Viceroy, who was the commander-in-chief of the Spanish colony, New Spain. During Mexico’s war of independence, it was abandoned and became derelict. Later is was refurbished and served for many years as a military academy.
Everything changed with the coming of the Second Mexican Empire. In 1864 the castle became the official residence of Emperor Maximilian I and his wife Empress Carlota. Although Maximilian had the title of Emperor of Mexico, he was, in fact, an Austrian prince of the Habsburg dynasty with zero Mexican ethnicity. He was given his position by Mexican monarchists who were puppets of the French who sought to add Mexico to their empire. During this period the castle began to take on its current floor plan, with Maximilian hiring multiple architects to re-design the castle in the neo-classical style which was popular at the time.
His reign was short, lasting only four years when the French were defeated and Mexico became a Republic. Sadly, it did not end well for Maximillian who was executed by firing squad. After his death, the castle once again fell into disrepair. Luckily, today the state has recognized the cultural importance of this castle with a chequered history and it now houses the National History Museum.
|Hours:||Tuesday to Sunday, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Sundays admission is the Mexican public and foreign residents. (Beware – Sundays are going to be crazy!)|
|Admission:||General admission $ 80.00 MXN|
It is worth knowing that the ticket office is at the bottom of the hill – because if you got to the top of the hill before finding out you would not be a happy bunny. The ticket office is called the “taquilla”. This is not be confused (as I did initially) with an establishment selling a Mexican alcoholic beverage!
It is a fairly stiff climb to the top of the hill. There is no obvious easy route for disabled folks or simply unfit. This is also a service road for the castle so be wary of cars and trucks racing up and down with little regard for the tourists.
At the top of the hill, you are greeted with a very majestic building with spectacular views across the city.
As you enter the main building you are whisked through a series of galleries that take you through the history of post-colonial Mexico. Unfortunately, the majority of the information panels throughout the exhibition were in Spanish, which we don’t speak too well, but it was nonetheless interesting to see the displays of costumes and artefacts. There are also several splendid murals (the Mexican’s love their murals) depicting stories around the battle for independence.
From the main galleries, there is an extremely elegant staircase that takes you to the roof. Here are the private gardens and rooms of Emperor Maximilian I, the Alcázar. Maximillian was not a frugal person so he created an incredibly lavish set of living quarters for him and his wife together with a stunning rooftop garden with the most incredible views and its own little viewing tower.
Making the climb up the hill to visit Chapultepec Castle and the National History Museum is well worth the effort. The highlight, at least for me, was the beautiful Alcazar, especially the incredible rooftop garden!
Best time to visit Mexico City
The best time to visit Mexico City is between March and May, even though the streets are pretty crowded this time of year. Your trade-off is beautiful weather, especially considering the city’s winters can be chilly and the summers can be rainy. You’ll want to prepare yourself for the high elevation – Mexico City sits about 7,382 feet above sea level – by drinking plenty of water, slathering on sunscreen and taking it easy (and limiting alcohol intake) your first few days. Another thing to keep in mind: Mexico City’s air pollution is notoriously poor, so on days when the pollution is the worst you’ll likely want to travel with a mask and relegate yourself to indoor activities.
Where to stay in Mexico City
1. CITY CENTRO CUIDAD DE MEXICO
During our stay in Mexico City we stayed at the City Centro Cuidad de Mexico. The outside of the hotel looks typically colonial but the inside is modern. Our room was comfortable, the only drawback being there were no windows. If you want those you’ll need to get a room at the front of the hotel which might be a little noisy.
The best thing about this hotel is its location. It is only a short walk to Plaza del Zócalo, the main shopping areas and the Palais de Bellas Artes.
It is also close to many restaurants and bars as well as the metro stations.
2. HOTEL VILLA CONDESA
Located in the bohemian neighbourhood of La Condesa, this accommodation is surrounded by stylish bars, restaurants and unique shops. Paseo de La Reforma Avenue is 10 minutes’ walk.
Common areas of Villa Condesa include a charming terrace with tables and chairs, as well as a dining room. Guests can enjoy international cuisine and traditional Mexican coffee. A laundry service is available for an extra cost.
3. HOTEL MX ROMA
Attractively set in the Roma district of Mexico City, Hotel MX roma is situated 1.2 miles from The Angel of Independence, 1.4 miles from United States Embassy and 1.7 miles from Chapultepec Castle. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The property has a fitness centre, free WiFi throughout the property and a 24-hour front desk.