Castillo de Chapultepec
Lonely Planet review for Castillo de Chapultepec
A visible reminder of Mexico’s bygone aristocracy, the ‘castle’ that stands atop Chapultepec Hill was begun in 1785 but not completed until after independence, when it became the national military academy. When Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota arrived in 1864, they refurbished it as their residence. The castle became home to Mexico’s presidents until 1939, when President Lázaro Cárdenas converted it into the Museo Nacional de Historia (National History Museum). Historical exhibits chronicle the period from the rise of colonial Nueva España to the Mexican Revolution. In addition to displaying such iconic objects as the sword wielded by José María Morelos in the Siege of Cuautla and the Virgin of Guadalupe banner borne by Miguel Hidalgo in his march for independence, the museum features a number of dramatic interpretations of Mexican history by leading muralists. These include Juan O’Gorman’s panoramic Retablo de la Independencia (Panel of Independence) in room 6, and David Alfaro Siqueiros’ Del Porfiriato a la Revolución (From Porfirism to the Revolution) alongside the main staircase. Explanatory text is not translated into English. The east end of the castle preserves the palace occupied by Maximilian and Carlota, with sumptuously furnished salons opening on an exterior deck with sweeping city views. On the upper floor, Porfirio Díaz’ opulent rooms surround a lovely patio where a tower marks the top of Chapultepec Hill, 45m above street level. To reach the castle, follow the road that curves up the hill behind the Monumento a los Niños Héroes. Alternatively, a little road-train (M$10 round-trip) runs up every 15 minutes while the castle is open. Back at ground level, follow the south side of the hill’s base to find a formidable monument to Mexico’s WWII veterans on your right. On the left side of the monument, enter the Audiorama, a pebbly garden where you can kick back on body-contoured benches and enjoy opera or classical in septophonic sound.