Posted by: Alex MacGregor | May 6, 2014

More Mexico City: Condesa y Castillo de Chapultepec

Last time I went to Mexico City, I talked about the postcard tourist attractions of the Centro Historico and the Pyramids of Teotihuacan. But the world’s great tourist cities don’t just have a few big-time attractions. What sets apart the likes of London, Paris, Cape Town, and Istanbul from the rest is that you’ve got days worth of interesting and cool stuff to do. So, is Mexico City up to snuff?

I sure think so.

This particular visit I stayed southeast of Centro, in a trendy neighborhood called La Condesa.

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This part of town is definitely a whole lot more laid back and pleasant than Centro.

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Although many foreigners (not entirely unfairly) pin Mexico City as a gritty, dirty sort of place, Condesa bucks the trend. Its streets are tree-lined, with lots of pleasant art-deco architecture. For visitors wary of visiting a developing-world megacity, La Condesa would be a great place to end up.

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Neat!

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“Ephemeral Art: Designer Chocolate”

This stuff would be daringly high-end in Atlanta, no doubt, especially sporting some sort of fascinating reflective black wall for a facade.

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There’s a hint of California here as well, with “Eco-Bicis” ready for rent…

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…and a thriving trade in dog-walking services. When dogs get tired they ride in little plastic crates, evidently.

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And, winning the creativity category hands-down is this loosely but distinctly tooth-shaped dentist.

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By now you’re probably thinking this isn’t Mexico at all. But don’t worry; there are little taco stands and produce carts scattered about, too. Lots of streets look just like this.

Condesa clearly trades more on its general atmosphere instead of sporting big tourist attractions, but on the neighborhood’s northern edge is a big exception: Parque de Chapultepec.

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Wandering around the park on a sunny spring day is a joy.

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Locals coo over bushy-tailed squirrels.

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The big drawcard of the park: the Castillo de Chapultepec. If you still don’t believe me that Mexico City is a totally worthy tourist destination that is criminally under-visited by Americans, here’s yet another point against you.

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Set atop a substantial rise, this building is of comparable national symbolism in the minds of Mexicans as the White House is for Americans.

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First off, it’s a legit castle, used in past wars and everything. During the Mexican American War, six children fought to the death defending the fortress from the Americans. The “Niños Héroes” are honored in this monument, overlooked by the castle above.

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The building served many purposes over its 250-odd year existence. It was a palace, then abandoned, then fortified and made into a military school, then an observatory, then a presidential residence, and now it’s a museum. Which is really cool because you can now explore the entire thing. It was during the spell as a military school that the Mexican-American War occurred and the castle was stormed; the Niños Héroes were students here.

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Stunning visuals throughout.

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The watch tower in the middle of the second-floor garden.

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The building is richly detailed.

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Perhaps most impressive were these stained-glass windows. Incredible.

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Pretty unreal baroque carriage. It looks so delicate!

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Amazing workmanship and detail.

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The room of state gifts was fascinating. Treasures given to Mexico from the likes of Russia and China, back in the day. A bit surreal, even.

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This being Mexico, state treasures aren’t the only surreal thing on display. This chilling mural, atop on the of the castle’s stately staircases, honors the Niños Héroes.

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Arte.

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Other displays cover traditional Mexican culture, which is also always alluring. Gotta love this devil figurine.

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Being set atop one of the highest hills in central Mexico City (although nothing compared to the 17,000′ volcanoes outside of town!), you get some awesome views, too. This is looking northeast towards Polanco, the rich district of central Mexico City.

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But this is the real winner: a view straight down Avenida Reforma back towards Centro!

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Responses

  1. Wow, Alex!! Mexico City here I come. So I wish. Do you know anything more about the Barouque Carriage? And, if it’s okay, I’d like to include the photos of it in the next issue of the Northwoods Harness Club newsletter. Very cool post! Thank you.

  2. Nicely done. Once again you have let me view a place that I would love to visit. Thanks, Fran


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