A few miles west of the Historical Center, one finds a huge green area in the middle of this vast urban sprawl: Chapultepec Park. It is the cultural center of Mexico City, featuring a number of museums, the zoo, gardens, and a nice lake for peddle-boating. Oh, and it also has a castle!

Chapultepec Castle sits at the top of the hill, in the spot where the Aztec rulers built their palaces. It has, at times, been the seat of government in Mexico, a Presidential residence, and the palace of Emperor Maximilian during his brief reign (which ended in execution). Today, it is a museum, part palace and part Mexican history.

As far as palaces go, Chapultepec Castle is nothing special. It is even disappointing, though the gardens on the roof are lovely.

What is worth the 70 peso ($4) price of admission and the hike up the hill is the view: nearly 360 degrees of Mexico City!

Dividing the park is the main street of Mexico City: Paseo de la Reforma. A walk along this broad avenue includes incredible street art, fountains, monuments, and green spaces.

If you cross the street, you’ll find one of the top destinations in the entire city, the National Museum of Anthropolgy. This museum is huge, and it is spectacular! You will need to allow at least 3-4 hours, and that would entail moving at a rapid pace.

The museum consists of two floors. The first floor is dedicated to the archaeology of Mesoamerican cultures and the second to the ethnography of modern Mexico and its 68 distinct ethnic groups.

The artifacts stored here are incredible, and though unfortunately most descriptions are only in Spanish, one will still wander in awe staring. Each room is dedicated to a different culture, and each has a video as well. 

The centerpiece of the Aztec collection – also the centerpiece of the museum – is the Stone of the Sun, discovered in 1790. Originally thought to be a calendar, this stone features the god of death, and the photo doesn’t capture that it is about 20 feet in diameter.

The exhibits also contain outdoor sections, where, in the case of the Maya room, entire buildings have been brought in.

The second floor is also fascinating, containing traditional handicrafts, costumes, and more from Mexico’s indigenous peoples, divided by region. Again, each room contains a video as well.

If somehow you have more time, there are two modern art museums to explore, and more! Chapultepec Park is definitely worth a stop on your Mexico City vacation!

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