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4 Days In Mexico City (Part 2 of 3): Bosque De Chapultepec & El Zócalo

When I was planning this trip, I had a hard time figuring out what to see and do in Mexico City over a long weekend.  I also had to consider what was feasible on this trip given that our baby was coming as well.  My hope is that by sharing what we did each day, others who are looking for a short visit to Mexico City will find the information useful.  Here are the posts:

4 Days in Mexico City (Part 1 of 3): Arrival, Coyoacán/San Angel, & Plaza Garibaldi

4 Days In Mexico City (Part 2 of 3): Bosque De Chapultepec & El Zócalo

4 Days In Mexico City (Part 3 of 3): Teotihuacan & Polanco

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Sunday

We used Sunday to see the two major points of interest on our own: El Bosque De Chapultepec and El Zócalo. The former is a huge park in the city with museums, vendors, lakes, and plenty of joggers throughout. The latter is the historic area with significant buildings and the ruins from the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan.

Since we were limited on time and since we had Traveler #3 in tow, we headed straight for the Castillo de Chapultepec at the top of the park. Here’s the Castillo at the top of the hill:

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Here’s the Castillo up close:

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The Castillo was once an imperial palace and presidential residence.  It has artwork and historical artifacts on display on the ground floors, but since all of the descriptions were in Spanish the significance of it all was lost on us.  We did, however, enjoy the rooms that were preserved to show what it was like when the palace was still in use; it was kind of like walking through a palace in Europe but on a smaller scale. Here’s one of the hallways that reminded me more of something you’d find in a European palace:

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The second floor had a beautifully manicured courtyard with sweeping views of the park.

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The view looks like New York City’s Central Park, doesn’t it?

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Families could easily spend all day at this park, and judging by the crowds we saw coming into the park, El Bosque De Chapultepec is a favorite family destination.

En route to El Zócalo, we stopped for lunch at El Cardenal, known for its farm-to-table Mexican food.  The minute I tasted their hot chocolate and the homemade breads, I knew the 30 minute wait to get a table was worth it.  The bread was otherworldly: warm, soft, slightly sweet and crunchy, and full of total melt-in-your-mouth goodness.  Thinking back on it now, I wish I took some to go!

Satisfied from lunch (and still amazed at how good the food’s been so far), we walked toward El Zócalo, passing by the Palace of Fine Arts where you can watch the Ballet El Folklorico:

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El Zócalo is the main plaza in the city today and historically, was the main ceremonial site for the Aztecs.  The plaza, with the Mexican flag in the center of it all and flanked by the National Palace and the Metropolitan Cathedral, is the biggest plaza I’ve ever seen.  Check out a panoramic of the plaza here to see how big this plaza is.

We headed for the Metropolitan Cathedral, which was built when the Spanish explorers came to the city.

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Incidentally, when the Aztecs were there, the city was like Venice surrounded by water all around. When the Spanish came to the city, they dried up the lakes and built on top of it.  Not surprisingly, considering the soft foundation below Mexico City, the whole city is sinking (presumably 4 inches a year).  Evidence of the sinking is apparent when we looked closely at the Cathedral – the foundation was uneven and the chandeliers hung at an angle.

A block from the Cathedral are the ruins of the once thriving Aztec city of Tenochtitlan: El Templo Mayor. We bought tickets to walk through the ruins and see the museum that houses the artifacts that were found as they dug up (and continue to dig up) El Templo Mayor.  Below is a photo of the ruins taken from a cafe overlooking it:

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While the ruins don’t look like much at first glance, it’s amazing to think about the amount of history and the amount of building and rebuilding that happened and continues to happen here.

If you’re planning to go:

  • Museums are often free for Mexicans and residents on Sundays so the sites are often the most crowded then.  If you can avoid going on a Sunday, you can avoid the crowds.  That being said, if you choose to do the same itinerary as we did, it wasn’t so bad to see these sites on Sunday.  Plus, we’d much rather see these sites on Sunday and the pyramids on a weekday to avoid the crowds at the pyramids (see part 3 for our time at the pyramids).
  • We recommend getting drinks at El Mayor, the cafe that overlooks the ruins.  In fact, if you want to skip the walk through the ruins, getting drinks gives you a bird’s eye view of El Templo Mayor.  El Mayor also serves food if you’d rather make a meal out of it.
  • While we didn’t get to see it, the National Palace is worth a visit, and it’s supposed to have amazing murals by Diego Rivera.  Based on reviews on TripAdvisor, it looks like it might be closed so we didn’t get our hopes up.  When we got there, we heard that the National Palace is closed on Sundays anyway so if you want to try for a visit, do it on another day.
  • We got around this day by asking hotels to call radio taxis for us.  I also specified that I wanted one that was metered since some require you to agree to a price beforehand. Radio taxis are fairly inexpensive. To get from El Bosque to Zócalo cost around 80 pesos using the meter.

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Trishia Jacobs - February 26, 2015 - 6:34 pm

Enjoying this. Making me hungry:)!

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