During our eleven day visit, we were faced with the challenge of narrowing down the list of over 150 museums to a select few. From the most visited National Museum of Anthropology to the ultra-niche Mexican Antique Toy Museum, odds are you can find at least a dozen choices you’ll be interested in visiting during your time in this sprawling city of 9 million. While everyone’s preferences will vary, I’m going to discuss our impressions of the 6 must-see museums of Mexico City we were able to fit into our itinerary, so you can see if they are right for you.
Note: Prices and hours listed are as of January 2023. It seems that prices have recently gone up, with some websites reflecting lower prices than what we actually paid.
Some museums are cash only, so bring as close to exact change as possible.
National Museum of Anthropology (MNA)
Entrance fee: $90 MXN
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 AM – 5 PM
Offering an all-encompassing history of human development throughout Mexico, the Museo Nacional de Antropología is the most visited museum in CDMX. Your visit will definitely take several hours, so make sure to allot at least half a day for your visit.
Located in the beautiful Chapultepec Park, which is roughly twice the size of Central Park, it is a very well-organized museum with an easy-to-follow path throughout and a myriad of important cultural artifacts (there are over 600,000 housed here), including the Aztec sun stone.
While most of the artifact description plaques are in Spanish only, there are enough signs in English throughout each exhibit room to give context as to what you’re looking at. A lot of the rooms have an outdoor area which often has examples of buildings that relate to the time period of the attached gallery.
As a former anthropology major, I found this museum fascinating and it definitely made me want to learn more about Mexican history. It is a lot to absorb, so I recommend going early to avoid the crowds as much as possible (over a million people visit each year), especially if you like to take your time and read all the signs.
Museum of Modern Art (MAM)
Entrance fee: $85 MXN
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10:15 AM – 5:30 PM
The Museo de Arte Moderno is located within a 10 minute walk of the National Museum of Anthropology, so if you start early, you can see both of these in the same day, and still have time for lunch in between.
TIP: If you’re feeling really ambitious, the Tamayo Museum of Contemporary Art is located in the middle of the two. While we personally ran out of time, I read very positive reviews of this museum.
MAM is a two story building, divided into four main galleries, as well as an outside sculpture garden. Two of these galleries house the museum’s permanent collection which includes works by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Frida Kahlo, and Remedios Varo, among others. The other two galleries are for temporary exhibits.
I really enjoyed the round, winding shape of each of the galleries, as it made it easy to wander around at your own pace, and simply backtrack a bit if certain areas were busier than others. Viewing all the galleries took us 1-1.5 hours, and if you enjoy modern art, it’s a wonderful collection.
Templo Mayor Museum
Entrance fee: $90 MXN
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 9 AM – 5 PM
Templo Mayor is actually an archaeological site and museum combined, so you’re getting two for the price of one! It was the main temple of the Mexica (Aztecs) in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. The archaeological excavations of this site didn’t begin until the late 70’s when an accidental discovery of a large circular monolith that represents the lunar goddess, Coyolxauhqui, was found by electrical workers. These excavations allowed the recovery of over 7,000 objects, which you will see in the museum.
The museum is split into eight rooms, half of which represent the god of war, Huitzilopochtli, and the other half which represent the god of rain, Tlaloc. This mirrors the original temple which depicted the god of war on the south side and the god of the rain on the north side.
After years of the temple being continually improved and built up by new rulers, it was destroyed during the Spanish Conquest in 1521 and the stones were used to build structures like the cathedral you see in the background of the ruins. At its original height, Templo Mayor was almost as tall as the cathedral.
The whole tour took about 2 hours, and there was plenty of English signage along the way that was very informative. There was so much to learn here that I could probably write a whole post about it, but if I did that, you’d have no reason to go!
Museum of the Object (MODO)
Entrance fee: $60 MXN
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10 AM – 6 PM
Located in the Roma Norte neighborhood, the Museo del Objeto del Objeto has three stories and houses temporary exhibits which focus on the significance of various objects. Signage is in Spanish and English and it took around 1.5 hours to explore the 8-9 rooms.
For our visit, the museum was showcasing a set of objects from The Museum of Broken Relationships (an itinerant exhibition that has toured internationally). Various items were accompanied by brief stories that detailed the meaning of the object in context with a past relationship. Some of the stories were sad, while others were funny, or shocking.
Past exhibits at MODO include objects of confinement, concert posters, and works of psychiatric patients, among many others. I’d recommend checking their website before visiting, just to make sure it’s something you will be interested in. Overall, I think this is a fascinating idea, and MODO is definitely a unique concept you may not find elsewhere in the world.
Memory and Tolerance Museum
Entrance fee: $115 or $140 (includes audio guide)
Hours: Tuesday – Sunday 10 AM – 6 PM
The Museo Memoria y Tolerancia is located in the historic center, directly across from the Palacio de Bellas Artes. This was the most expensive of the museums we visited at around $7 USD, but that cost included an audio guide, which I definitely recommend if you aren’t a Spanish speaker as there is no English signage at all. Using the audio guide, we spent about 2 hours here.
This museum is dedicated to remembering victims of genocide from the 20th century onward, starting with the Holocaust and ending with Darfur (which is still ongoing). Going through the memory portion of this museum is a sobering experience and I found myself in tears quite a few times throughout. There are photos, artifacts, and video footage from genocides in Germany, Armenia, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Cambodia, and Darfur.
While I’ve been to museums like this in the past, such as the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., what made the Memory and Tolerance Museum unique is that half of the museum is dedicated to recognizing what causes these acts in the first place, and how people can more closely critique the media’s influence and the role they personally play in standing up against intolerance.
The tolerance portion of the museum focused on identifying most commonly targeted groups, universal human rights, and being aware of the power of the media. There was also a room for reflection at the end, which honestly was needed after such an emotional experience.
Entrance fee: FREE
Hours: Everyday 10:30 AM – 6:30 PM
The Museo Soumaya is a unique choice on this list for two reasons – it’s free and open on Mondays (unlike most museums in Mexico City). It houses over 66,000 works, including the second largest collection of casts of sculptures by Rodin. The exterior of the building is impressive in itself, with 16,000 hexagonal aluminum tiles and a curved rhomboid facade. The founder of the museum, Carlos Slim, was once the richest man in the world, and the museum was named after his wife, who was an art enthusiast.
The museum is six floors, with winding hallways connecting each floor. I recommend getting here right when they open, starting on the top floor, and then working your way down. The very top floor houses the Age of Rodin collection, followed by 20 Centuries of Art in Mexico, Romanticism to the Avant-Garde, Old Masters from Europe and New Spain, Asia in Ivory, and Nineteenth Century. The lobby floor has some impressive recreations of Michelangelo’s David and Pietà and the nicest bathroom I’ve seen in all of Mexico.
It took us an hour to go through all the galleries (there weren’t any signs in English to read), and it was getting quite busy as we left with a line waiting outside the museum. I will say, this was my least favorite of the six must-see museums of Mexico City. I was expecting the interior of the building to match the uniqueness of the outside, but in reality, it felt a bit dark, cluttered, and maze-like. Since the works are all so varied, it seemed to be lacking a theme, but I suppose that’s the nature of a private collection.
Tip: There is a contemporary art museum directly adjacent to Soumaya called Museo Jumex, which is also free, so if you’re looking for low cost activities during your time in CDMX, these would be perfect to visit together. Museo Jumex is closed on Mondays though, so make sure to come another day if you want to see both,
A few more museums that were on our list but didn’t have time to visit:
Chapultepec Castle/Castillo de Chapultepec
Museum of Popular Art/Museo de Arte Popular
National Museum of Art/Museo Nacional de Arte
University Museum of Contemporary Art/Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo
Museum of Mexican Medicine/UNAM Palacio de la Escuela de Medicina Museo de la Medicina
2 thoughts on “6 Must-See Museums of Mexico City”
From you descriptions, I would travel there just to see the exhibit of the Museum of Broken Relationships and the Memory and Tolerance Museum.
[…] definitely want to take advantage of the museums of Mexico City, the Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca, and a street food tour on your trip…so […]