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Top Five Must-See Attractions & Museums in Mexico City

Welcome to Mexico City, a vibrant capital bursting with culture, history, and mesmerizing sights waiting to be explored! For first-time visitors, navigating this bustling city can be both exciting and overwhelming. To ensure you make the most of your trip, we've curated a guide to the top five must-see attractions and museums in Mexico City that will immerse you in the rich history of Mexico's past and its present. From ancient ruins to world-class museums and iconic landmarks, these experiences will leave an indelible mark on your journey through Mexico City. So pack your sense of adventure and get ready to discover Teotihuacan, the National Museum of Anthropology, Chapultepec Castle, Templo Mayor, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, each offering a unique glimpse into Mexico's captivating heritage.


Teotihuacan is an ancient Mesoamerican city located approximately 30 miles (50 kilometers) outside of Mexico City. It was one of the most significant cultural centers of the pre-Columbian Americas, flourishing between the 1st and 7th centuries AD. At its peak, Teotihuacan was also one of the largest cities in the world, with a population estimated at over 100,000 inhabitants. The city is renowned for its two impressive pyramids, the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon, which are iconic symbols of Mesoamerican architecture. 


Visitors to Teotihuacan can explore the vast archaeological site, marvel at the intricately designed structures, and gain insight into the civilization that once thrived there through its structures and murals. The murals of Teotihuacan are especially impressive, depicting jaguars as symbols of power and divinity, and featuring bright colors like red, yellow, and green. The site's grandeur and historical importance make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in ancient civilizations and Mexican history.

Teotihuacan Mural_Jaguar

While you can no longer climb the pyramids at Teotihuacan, there is still plenty to see. Among these is Quetzalpapálotl, also known as the Palace of Quetzalpapálotl, a remarkable architectural complex adorned with intricate carvings and sculptures depicting the feathered serpent deity Quetzalcoatl. This palace is a testament to the advanced craftsmanship and religious symbolism of the Teotihuacan culture, offering insight into their artistic and spiritual expressions.

As you wander through the expansive Avenue of the Dead, flanked by ancient residential complexes, temples, and ceremonial platforms, you'll be transported back in time to the bustling heart of Teotihuacan's urban life. The impressive scale and layout of the city's main thoroughfare reflect the city's meticulous planning and organizational skills, showcasing its status as one of the largest and most influential cities in Mesoamerica during its heyday.

The Pyramids of the Sun and Moon are iconic symbols that define Teotihuacan. Rising to a height exceeding 200 feet, the Pyramid of the Sun holds the distinction of being the largest pyramid within the complex. On the other hand, the Pyramid of the Moon boasts a distinctive stepped design and occupies a strategic position along the Avenue of the Dead, the main thoroughfare of Teotihuacan. This pyramid served as a focal point for numerous religious ceremonies and rituals, underscoring its immense spiritual significance within the city's cultural and religious framework.

Avenue of the Dead_Teotihuacan

If you are looking to see artifacts from Teotihuacan, then you have two options: the Museo del Sitio at Teotihuacan and the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. If you're pressed for time, we recommend the National Museum of Anthropology - also, coincidentally, the next museum on our list of the top five must-see attractions and museums in Mexico City. 

To visit Teotihuacan, we recommend a guided tour. We booked our tour via GetYourGuide and could not recommend it enough! We felt that the length of the tour was great as an introduction to Teotihuacan and since we got an early start, we were able to not only beat the rush hour traffic in Mexico City, but also the afternoon heat. Our tour included transportation to/from our hotel in Mexico City, admission to Teotihuacan, a guided tour of the archeological site, bottled water, and snacks. Other guided tours of Teotihuacan are available through GetYourGuide, including tours that offer hot air balloon flights over the pyramids of Teotihuacan and tours that couple a visit to Teotihuacan with other popular tourist sites within Mexico City. If you book an experience or tour through our GetYourGuide affiliate links, we may earn a small commission.

Want to learn more about Teotihuacan? Check out our blog post for Everything You Need to Know About Visiting Teotihuacan

National Museum of Anthropology 

The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is a treasure trove of cultural heritage, housing one of the world's most extensive collections of Mesoamerican artifacts and art. Located in Chapultepec Park, the museum showcases the rich and diverse history of Mexico's indigenous peoples, from the Olmecs and Maya to the Aztecs and beyond. Its exhibits span thousands of years, featuring iconic pieces like the Aztec Sun Stone, a colossal Olmec head, and intricately crafted Mayan artifacts. The museum's layout is designed to take visitors on a chronological and thematic journey through Mexico's past, offering a deep understanding of the country's cultural evolution.

Colossal Olmec Head

For us, the highlight of the museum was seeing the iconic Aztec Sun Stone in-person. The Sun Stone, also known as the Aztec Calendar Stone, is a monumental and intricately carved disk of basalt that measures nearly 12 feet (3.6 meters) in diameter and weighs several tons. Contrary to popular belief, it is not a calendar but rather a symbolic representation of Aztec cosmology and mythology. The Sun Stone features a central depiction of the sun god Tonatiuh, surrounded by elaborate symbols representing the Aztec universe, cycles of creation and destruction, and mythological narratives. Its monumental size and intricate details make it a remarkable example of Aztec artistic and religious achievements, offering profound insights into their worldview and beliefs.


We also enjoyed the Teotihuacan exhibit within the National Museum of Anthropology, since we explored the archaeological site earlier that day. Among the highlights of the Teotihuacan exhibit were the replica of the Temple of the Feathered Serpent, also known as the Temple of Quetzalcoatl, and the Disk of Death. These pieces resonated with us as they offered deeper context and insights into the archaeological site, enhancing our understanding and appreciation of Teotihuacan's rich history and culture.

Disk of Death_National Anthropology Museum_CDMX

The National Museum of Anthropology is a must-visit for history enthusiasts, archaeology buffs, and anyone keen on immersing themselves in Mexico's fascinating cultural heritage. If you only have time during your trip to Mexico City to visit one museum, we highly recommend the National Museum of Anthropology! Most of the museum's texts are in both English and Spanish - particularly for the most famous items in the museum's collection. The museum is closed on Mondays. More information about the National Museum of Anthropology can be found here.

National Museum of Anthropology_CDMX

Chapultepec Castle

Chapultepec Castle, situated atop Chapultepec Hill in Mexico City, stands as a poignant symbol of Mexico's heritage and historical legacy intertwined with Spanish viceroys and Emperor Maximilian. Chapultepec Hill was originally fortified by the Aztecs, but later became a religious center and residence for Aztec rulers. However, the site later transformed into a bastion of Spanish colonial power as a viceregal residence. The castle witnessed pivotal moments in Mexico's history, from the Spanish conquest to the establishment of colonial rule.

Chapultepec Castle Statues

In the 19th century, as part of the Second Mexican Empire, Chapultepec Castle gained further significance as Emperor Maximilian and Empress Carlota (also known as Empress Charlotte in English) made it their imperial residence, leaving an indelible mark on Mexico's cultural landscape. In fact, Chapultepec Castle is the only castle in North America to house European royalty. After the brief reign of the Imperial Couple in Mexico, Chapultepec Castle served as the official residence of the presidents of Mexico until 1940. 

Chapultepec Castle_CarriageChapultepec Castle_Dining Room

Today, the castle's halls and gardens serve as a museum - the National Museum of History - preserving artifacts and narratives that chronicle Mexico's complex and vibrant past, showcasing the enduring legacy of its indigenous roots, colonial history, and imperial ambitions. Additionally, visitors can catch a glimpse into Chapultepec Castle's royal past with its well-preserved royal rooms. Among these are the Emperor Maximilian's bedroom, decorated in the opulent European style, and Empress Carlota's sitting room, showcasing elegant furnishings and intricate decorations. The Dining Room of the Imperial Couple is another highlight (depicted in the photo above), featuring exquisite tableware and furnishings that reflect the grandeur of the imperial era. 

A visit to Chapultepec Castle offers a profound insight into Mexico's rich heritage and the historical forces that shaped its identity. Chapultepec Castle is closed to visitors on Mondays. More information about the castle and its museum can be found here.

Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor is an archaeological site and museum, located in the heart of Mexico City, that holds immense significance as the main temple complex of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan. Templo Mayor was the spiritual and political center of the Aztec civilization, dedicated to their principal deities, Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc. Huitzilopochtli is the god of war, fire, and the sun to the Aztec people. While, Tlaloc is the god of rain and fertility. These principal gods played crucial roles in Aztec cosmology and religious ceremonies, representing fundamental aspects of life and the natural world. Huitzilopochtli symbolized strength, courage, and protection. He was honored through elaborate rituals and human sacrifices, believed to ensure the sun's continued journey across the sky and protect the Aztec people from enemies. Tlaloc, on the other hand, governed rain, agriculture, and fertility, essential for sustaining life and crops in the arid landscapes of central Mexico. The Aztecs revered Tlaloc through offerings and ceremonies aimed at securing abundant rainfall and bountiful harvests, crucial for the prosperity of their civilization. Together, Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc represented the intricate belief system and cultural practices that defined Aztec spirituality and their worldview.

Templo Mayor

The temple complex was a symbol of Aztec power and religious fervor, adorned with intricate sculptures, altars, and ceremonial platforms. Following the Spanish conquest of Mexico, Templo Mayor was dismantled and its stones were used to construct nearby buildings including the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City, while the ruins of Templo Mayor lay buried for centuries until they were rediscovered in the late 1970s. 

Templo Mayor Ruins CDMX

Today, visitors to Templo Mayor can explore the excavated remains of this once-grand temple, marvel at the intricate stone carvings and artifacts on display in the adjacent museum, and gain a deeper understanding of Aztec culture, beliefs, and rituals. One of the most iconic pieces in the Templo Mayor Museum is the Coyolxauhqui Stone, a massive stone disk depicting the dismembered goddess Coyolxauhqui, symbolizing the Aztec creation myth and the cosmic struggle between gods. The museum also houses a range of tools, weapons, ceremonial offerings, and ornaments used by the Aztec people, providing a comprehensive view of their material culture and technological advancements.

Coyolxauhqui_Templo Mayor

Templo Mayor serves as a poignant reminder of Mexico's pre-Columbian heritage and its enduring legacy in the modern era. Templo Mayor is closed on Mondays. Additional information about Templo Mayor and the Templo Mayor Museum can be found here.

Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe 

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City is one of the most revered and iconic religious sites in Mexico, drawing millions of pilgrims and visitors each year. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, specifically to the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, an indigenous Mexican, in 1531. The basilica complex includes the original Basilica, built in the 16th century, and the modern Basilica, completed in the 20th century to accommodate the growing number of pilgrims.

Basilica de Guadalupe CDMX
The story of Our Lady of Guadalupe holds immense cultural and spiritual significance for Mexicans and Catholics worldwide, symbolizing the blending of indigenous and Spanish colonial traditions. The image of the Virgin Mary on Juan Diego's cloak, known as the Tilma (shown below), is believed to be miraculous and has become a powerful symbol of faith and unity.

Tilma_Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Visitors to the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe can experience the deep devotion and spiritual energy that permeates the site, from the reverent atmosphere of the basilicas to the pilgrims' heartfelt prayers and offerings. The basilica complex also houses a museum showcasing artifacts related to the apparition and its historical context, providing insight into the enduring legacy of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexican culture and beyond. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is open daily and has a number of masses each day, in Spanish. Pilgrims can visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe daily from 6:00AM to 9:00PM. The museum's hours differ from that of the Basilica and is open from 10:00AM to 6:00PM. The museum portion of the Basilica is closed on Mondays. Since this is a place of worship and pilgrimage, we highly recommend that you dress modestly with your knees and shoulders covered. Unfortunately, the Basilica does not have an English website, however, if you are looking for more information - you can find it here.

Other Top Attractions & Museums in Mexico City 

Mexico City is a treasure trove of cultural, historical, and artistic gems, offering a plethora of attractions and museums beyond the top five mentioned in this blog post. One such iconic site is the Palacio de Bellas Artes, a stunning cultural center renowned for its Art Nouveau and Art Deco architecture. It houses a world-class art museum featuring works by Mexican masters like Diego Rivera. For a glimpse into Mexico's colonial past, the Zocalo, the main square of Mexico City, is a must-visit with its historic buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace. Art enthusiasts will also appreciate the Museo Frida Kahlo (Frida Kahlo Museum), located in the former home of the iconic artist, showcasing her personal belongings and artwork. These attractions, among many others like the Chapultepec Zoo and the Mercado de San Juan, contribute to Mexico City's status as a vibrant cultural capital brimming with captivating experiences for visitors.

As we conclude this exploration of the top five must-see attractions and museums in Mexico City, it is clear that this vibrant metropolis offers a captivating blend of ancient history, cultural heritage, and spiritual significance. From the awe-inspiring ruins of Teotihuacan and the rich artifacts of the National Museum of Anthropology, to the historical legacy embodied by Chapultepec Castle and Templo Mayor, each site provides a unique window into Mexico's past. The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands as a testament to the enduring faith and cultural fusion that defines Mexico's identity. Whether you are a history enthusiast, an art aficionado, or a religious pilgrim, Mexico City's diverse array of attractions and museums promises an enriching and unforgettable experience that celebrates the vibrancy of Mexican heritage. So, pack your curiosity and embark on a journey through time and culture in this dynamic city that never fails to inspire awe and wonder.

Looking for more information on Mexico and Mexico City? Check out our Mexico City Travel Guide for more popular sites, incredible restaurants, and general information about this vibrant capital! Looking for general information on Mexico before embarking on your trip? From money matters, to crime and safety warnings, we have it all in our Mexico Travel Guide

Have you visited Mexico City? We would love to hear from you!