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Chapultepec Park, or the Bosque de Chapultepec, is a vast green area, about a thousand acres in all, dotted with trees, scattered with fine museums – among them the marvellous Museo Nacional de Antropología – boating lakes, gardens, playing fields and a zoo. Ultimately, it provides an escape from the pressures of the city for seemingly millions of Mexicans, with the result that the most visited areas get a heavy pounding and some areas are occasionally fenced off to allow the plants to recover. On Sundays, when many of the attractions are free, you can barely move for the throng, but note that on Mondays the entire park and many of the museums are closed.
The park is divided into three sections: the first and easternmost is home to the points of greatest interest, including the Anthropology, Modern Art and Rufino Tamayo museums and the zoo; the Second Section is mostly aimed at kids, with an amusement park, technology museum and natural history museum; and the Third Section contains aquatic and marine parks open at weekends.
The rocky outcrop of Chapultepec (Náhuatl for “hill of the locust”), from which the entire area has taken its name, is mentioned in Toltec mythology, but first gained historical significance in the thirteenth century when it was no more than an anonymous island among the lakes and salt marshes of the valley. Here the Aztecs, still a wandering, savage tribe, made their first home, though it proved to be temporary when they were defeated and driven off by neighbouring cities. Once Tenochtitlán’s power was established they returned here, channelling water from the springs into the city, and turning Chapultepec into a summer resort for the emperor, with plentiful hunting and fishing around a fortified palace. Several Aztec rulers had their portraits carved into the rock of the hill, though most of these images were destroyed by the Spaniards soon after the Conquest.Read More
Visting the park
Visting the park
Chapultepec is a big place with a lot to do. You could easily spend a couple of days here and still not see everything, but if you are selective you can cover the best of it in one tiring day. Though it can be tempting to visit on Sunday, when a lot of the museums are free and the park is at its vibrant best, the Museo Nacional de Antropología and the zoo will be packed – if you want to be able to move freely it can be worth coming during the week.
How you approach the park depends on what you want to see first. The easiest access is via the Chapultepec Metro station, from where you follow the crowds over a bridge across the Circuito Interior (inner ring road). Straight ahead you’ll see the Niños Héroes monument and the Castillo containing the Museo Nacional de Historia. The entrances to the Museo Nacional de Antropología and its acolytes are grouped together along Paseo de la Reforma, less than a fifteen-minute walk from the Metro station, but if that is where you are headed first it is faster to catch a pesero (“Auditorio”, “Reforma km 13” and others) anywhere along Reforma. Visitors with kids may want to head straight for the Second Section, either picking up a pesero along Constituyentes (routes 2, 24 and others) from Metro Chapultepec, or going direct to Metro Constituyentes and walking from there.
Wherever you go in the park there’ll be someone selling food and drink, and the Museo Nacional de Antropología has a good (though pricey) restaurant. Nonetheless, it is as well to take some snacks (or an entire picnic lunch) and a big bottle of water: museum hopping can be thirsty work.