This 1,600-acre green space, literally the Woods of Chapultepec, draws hordes of families on weekend outings, cyclists, joggers, and horseback riders into its three sections. Its museums rank among the finest in Mexico, if not the world. This is one of the oldest parts of Mexico City, having been considered a sacred place and inhabited for centuries by native tribes as far back as the Toltecs and Teotihuacanos. Several Aztec kings had their effigies carved in stone here. The Mexica poet-king Nezahualcóyotl had his palace here and ordered construction of the aqueduct that brought water to Tenochtitlán. Ahuehuete trees (Moctezuma cypress) still stand from that era, when the woods were used as hunting preserves.
At the park's principal entrance, one block west of the Chapultepec metro station, the Monumento a los Niños Héroes (Monument to the Boy Heroes) consists of six asparagus-shape marble columns adorned with eaglets. Supposedly buried in the monument are the
young cadets who, it is said, wrapped themselves in the Mexican flag and jumped to their deaths rather than surrender to the Americans during the U.S. invasion of 1847. To Mexicans that war is still a troubling symbol of their neighbor's aggressive dominance: it cost Mexico almost half its territory—the present states of Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.
Other sights in the first section of Bosque de Chapultepec include three small boating lakes, a botanical garden, and the Casa del Lago cultural center, which hosts free plays, cultural events, and live music on weekends. Los Pinos, the residential palace of the president of Mexico, is on a small highway called Avenida Constituyentes, which cuts through the park; it's heavily guarded and cannot be visited.
Most visitors enter through the first section of the park, near the Chapultepec metro stop, close to the Museo de Arte Moderno. This is a great place to people-watch, especially on weekends. The less crowded second and third sections of Bosque de Chapultepec contain a fancy restaurant, the national cemetery, a children's museum, and more.