Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Mexico City
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Mexico City is a vibrant and dynamic metropolis that offers visitors a unique blend of ancient history and modern culture. As the capital of Mexico, this sprawling city is the center of the country’s political, cultural, and economic life. One of the most striking aspects of Mexico City is its rich history, with numerous historical sites and museums that provide insights into the country’s ancient civilisations. Visitors can explore the ruins of the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, or admire the impressive collections of pre-Columbian art at the National Museum of Anthropology. Mexico City has a vibrant arts scene, with numerous galleries, theatres, and music venues. From traditional mariachi music to cutting-edge modern art, there’s something for everyone in this dynamic city.

Archaeology & History Sites in Mexico City

Cerro de la Estrella

Although human activity at this site can be traced back to the Middle Preclassic Period, the Cerro de la Estrella became a particular important religious centre for local communities in the Postclassic Period. It was here that the New Fire ceremony took place once every 52 years, carried out by worshippers who hoped to prevent the sun from dying. Its current name derives from the Spanish language, but it was previously known locally as Huixachtecatl (hill of the huizaches). The site is located in the Parque Nacional Cerro de la Estrella.


Located on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco, Cuicuilco has a name that means the “place where songs and dances are made.” The settlement was primarily in use between 800 BC and 600 AD, from the Middle Preclassic into the Classic Period. It has been suggested that a nearby volcanic eruption ultimately brought an end to the inhabitation of Cuicuilco, leaving behind fascinating structures like the Great Circular Base. Excavation has revealed more about religious activities at the site, including some of the earliest depictions of Mesoamerica’s Old God of Fire.


Revealing its significance within the religious worldview of those who used it, the settlement of Mixcoac takes its name from a Nahuatl language term meaning ‘where the cloud serpent is worshiped’. While this site was established on the shores of Lake Texcoco between 400 and 600 AD, during what archaeologists call the Teotihuacan Period, the surviving remains at Mixcoac date largely from the Mexica occupation of 900 to 1521 AD. Spanish invaders destroyed much of the city during the 16th century, leaving only the ruins one can see today.

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor is the main temple which the Mexica people erected at their city of Tenochtitlan – the forerunner of modern Mexico City, in which the temple now stands. It includes the double temple to the gods Tláloc and Huitzilopochtli as well as structures like the House of Eagles and the Temple of Ehécatl. Used between the 14th and 16th centuries AD, during the Postclassic Period, the temple would have borne witness to sacrifices and other rituals through which the Mexica sought to make sense of their place in the cosmos.


The Mexica established Tlatelolco city around 1337, not long after the formation of nearby Tenochtitlán. During the 20th century, archaeologists unearthed the ceremonial enclosures at this Early Postclassic Period settlement, revealing more about the rituals and ceremonies that took place there – including probable human sacrifice. Tlatelolco now constitute the largest exposed archaeological zone in Mexico City, with 67 different buildings having been revealed through excavation. Various artefacts are also showcased in archaeological museums. The settlement’s name probably derives from a Nahuatl language term for terraces.

Museums & Art Galleries in Mexico City

Museo Frida Kahlo

Also known as the Blue House, because of the striking cobalt blue walls, this is a historic house museum dedicated to the life and work of Frida Kahlo. It was in this house that the artist was born, where she grew up, lived with her husband Diego Rivera, and died in 1954. Diego Rivera donated the gifted the house to the state to set up a museum in his wife’s honour. Besides displaying art by Kahlo, there are also works by Rivera and other Mexican artists, as well as the couple’s folk art collection. The museum is located in the Colonia del Carmen neighbourhood of Coyoacán in Mexico City.

National Museum of Anthropology

Opened in 1964, the Museo Nacional de Antropología is Mexico’s largest museum and contains an impressive collection of archaeological and anthropological material from across this culturally diverse country. Material on display comes from all of Mexico’s major heritage sites and ranges from the giant stone heads carved by the Olmecs to objects that ancient Maya had cast into the Sacred Cenote at Chichén Itzá. From a reproduction of Teotihuacan’s temple of the feathered serpent to reproductions of the great mural rock art of Sierra de San Francisco. The iconic Aztec Sun Stone recovered from Zócalo square in Mexico City is also on display in the museum.

National Museum of Art

Located in the historic heart of Mexico City, the National Museum of Art is perhaps the country’s finest gallery. Established in 1982, it now occupies a neoclassical structure that previously housed the Palace of Communications. The museum’s collection focuses on Mexican fine art, namely that produced from the latter half of the 16th century right through to the mid 20th century. In doing so, it provides a fascinating insight into how European styles of art adapted to a New World context and how they were shaped by events like the Mexican Revolution.

Palace of Fine Arts

Now one of Mexico’s leading cultural centres, the Palacio de Bellas Artes (Palace of Fine Arts) hosts a wide range of events. The palace was first commissioned in the opening decade of the 20th century, intended to commemorate the Mexican War of Independence, but economic problems and the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20 meant that work was repeatedly delayed and the structure was only completed in 1934. Originally designed by the Italian architect Adamo Boari, the exterior combines neoclassical and art nouveau elements, with an art deco aesthetic instead predominating in the interior.

Popular Things to do in Mexico City