Mexico’s Cultural Treasures

Mexico City’s impressive National Museum of Anthropology showcases the region’s endlessly rich and diverse pre-Columbian cultural heritage.

Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone) at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone) at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
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The National Museum of Anthropology is Mexico’s most-visited museum. And it’s easy to see why. It has a vast array of exhibits related to Mesoamerica’s cultural history. And it is a region with an exceptionally rich cultural history.

It’s not just about Aztecs and Incas, although there’s an abundance of artifacts from each. But there’s much more than that. There are exhibits on temples of Teotihuacan as well as everyday life in villages in Mexico’s diverse regions. And while the emphasis is squarely on the region’s pre-Columbian history, there are also sections that focus on how cultural heritage as survived in regional areas today.

And then, of course, there are the famous highlights like the imposing and much-misinterpreted Stone of the Sun, which was long known as the Aztec Calendar but is now believed to be what is known as a temalacatl, a stage for sacrificial gladiatorial fights.

What it might lack in the latest whizz-bang museum innovations it more than makes up for with fascinating artifacts. It all makes for an incredibly impressive museum that surely ranks among the world’s best–a place where it’s very easy to spend several hours wandering through the various diverse exhibits.

Photos of Mexico’s National Museum of Anthropology

Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone) at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
In the background is the Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Courtyard and Umbrella at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
The main courtyard is partially shaded by a massive solid umbrella. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Front Entrance of National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
The main entrance. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Aztec Temple at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A replica Aztec Temple. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone) at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Huehuetéotl (God of Fire) Dios Viejo (Old God) at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Huehuetéotl (God of Fire) Dios Viejo (Old God). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Aztec Carvings in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Aztec carvings. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Ceremonial masks. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Teotihuacan Exhibit at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Teotihuacan Exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Woven Textiles on Display at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Woven textiles. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A large Tree of Life (Árbol de la vida). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City

National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
The outside of one of the main buildings. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Courtyard and Umbrella at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A fish sculpture in front of the wetlands pond in the main courtyard. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Courtyard and Umbrella at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Aztec Temple at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Aztec temple. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone) at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Stone of the Sun (Aztec Calendar Stone) in the background, with other stone sculptures in the foreground. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Chiapas Carvings in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Chiapas carvings. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Maya Temples on Display at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A replica Maya temple in an exhibit outside. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Maya Temples on Display at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Maya temple. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Maya Temples on Display at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Maya temple exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Pakal the Great Sarcophagus at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pakal the Great Sarcophagus. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Culture of Guerrero at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Culture of Guerrero exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A large tomb exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Dios de la Muerte (God of Death) at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Dios de la Muerte (God of Death) sculpture in the Maya exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Exhibit on Cultural History of Chililico, Hidalgo, at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Exhibit on Cultural History of Chililico, Hidalgo. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Courtyard of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Huehuetéotl (God of Fire) National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Huehuetéotl (God of Fire). Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Seri Cultural Artifacts at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Seri Cultural artifacts. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Colossal Head at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Colossal head made of stone. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Traditional Weaving Looms from Tlaxcala at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Traditional weaving looms from Tlaxcala. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mosaic of the Jaguar at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Mosaic of the Jaguar in the Maya outdoor exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mayan Building at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Maya building. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Oaxaca Section of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Oaxaca exhibit. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Painted Cave at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Cave paintings. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Masks. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Cabeza Colosal at National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Cabeza Colossal Head. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Traditional Weaving Looms at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Weaving looms. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Paquime Home at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Paquime home. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Pottery. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Mural at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
A mural in the main foyer. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
Foyer of the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City
The main foyer. Photo © David Coleman / HaveCameraWillTravel.com
## What to Know Before You Go

  • This is a large and fascinating museum. Budget several hours to get a proper appreciation for its depth and scope. You can wander around at your own pace, and it can absorb a huge number of visitors before it feels crowded.
  • Food options are limited. There is a cafe on site, but it’s not the most expansive. A better bet is to head across the street, the Paseo de la Reforma, to the sprawling Bosque de Chapultepec, where you’ll find anything from sit-down cafes to food carts.
  • You’ll have to check bags. The bag/coat check is on the left-hand side of the main foyer, next to the gift shop.

Map

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Travel Advice for Mexico

You can find the latest U.S. Department of State travel advisories and information for Mexico (such as entry visa requirements and vaccination requirements) here.

The British and Australian governments offer their own country-specific travel information. You can find the British Government's travel advice for Mexico here and the Australian Government's here.

Health & Vaccinations

The CDC makes country-specific recommendations for vaccinations and health for travelers. You can find their latest information for Mexico here.

by David Coleman

I'm a freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my gear reviews and tips here. More »