Museums Walking Tour (Self Guided), Mexico City

Mexico City is one of the most dazzling cultural sites in the world, boosting many fascinating museums in the city. Mexico City also has a rich history of artistic expressions. It was home to the Aztec civilization and the Spanish Empire both of which have left behind an impressive heritage and a unique culture. Take this self guided walk to explore the rich culture heritage that Mexico City has to offer.
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Museums Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Museums Walking Tour
Guide Location: Mexico » Mexico City (See other walking tours in Mexico City)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.8 Km or 1.7 Miles
Author: doris
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Templo Mayor (The Great Temple)
  • San Ildefonso College
  • National Art Museum
  • Franz Mayer Museum
  • Museo Mural de Diego Rivera
  • Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Art Museum)
1
Templo Mayor (The Great Temple)

1) Templo Mayor (The Great Temple) (must see)

A massive temple-pyramid in the heart of the Tenochtitlán empire, Templo Mayor was the crown jewel and the absolute center of the Mexica world until the Spanish conquest. First built around 1325, the structure was enlarged by successive Mexica rulers, eventually reaching around 60 meters high. Dual staircases led up its face to two crowning temples, one dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war, and the other to Tlaloc, the god of rain and agriculture.

After the Spanish siege on Tenochtitlán, the Templo Mayor was razed, but not all its traces could be erased. On February 21, 1978, electric company workers digging near the cathedral uncovered an 8-ton monolith adorned with carvings of the moon goddess Coyolxauhqui. The discovery prompted a major excavation of the site. After demolishing four city blocks, archaeologists uncovered the base of the Templo Mayor, along with a multitude of artifacts. In 2017, the space was expanded to reveal the partial remains of a round temple dedicated to the god Ehécatl, now open to the public.

The archaeological site is accompanied by a fascinating 8-room museum which holds an extensive collection of pre-Colombian pieces, the majority recovered during the Temple's major excavation, including the Coyolxauhqui stone. Among other artifacts detailing Aztec religion, culture, social structure, agriculture, trading, politics and symbolism, the museum contains a four-meter-long carved monolith dedicated to the goddess Tlaltecuhtli, sometimes referred to as the "earth monster" or "source of all living things", discovered in 2006. The Cuahxicalli Eagle, a representation of a golden eagle with a bowl in its back for receiving the hearts of human sacrifices, is also on display, its level of detail as fixating as ever.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the only places – if not the only place – displaying significant Aztec ruins. You can follow the construction of the seven successive pyramids, as well as the excavation of the Eagle Warrior Temple. The museum is also very worthwhile, well laid out with some impressive artifacts and exhibits, and worth 2-4 hours, depending on your level of interest.

Tip:
The outside part can get very hot. Make sure to wear a hat and stay hydrated, or try to avoid the midday sun. If wishing to climb the Pyramid of the Sun, head there first because long lines can form early.
If you are not Spanish speaking, then check to see if audio guides are available because aside for some signage, most of the museum's text content is not translated in other languages.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 9am–5pm; free Sun for MX citizens/residents
Visitors can make reservations for a guided tour in English
2
San Ildefonso College

2) San Ildefonso College (must see)

Located in the Historic Center of Mexico City, the Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso is an art and culture museum housed in a former educational institute established by the Society of Jesus. The museum hosts both permanent exhibits of famous Mexican artists and temporary exhibits of contemporary artists.

Construction of the building that houses the Colegio began in 1712 and was completed in 1740. The design incorporates Spanish colonial and indigenous architectural styles. The building was used by the Jesuits as a college and as a school and became the National High School of Mexico in 1867. In 1902 an amphitheater dedicated to Simon Bolivar was added to the existing structure.

The Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefonso was used for different purposes after the expulsion of Jesuits from New Spain. It became military barracks for Mexican and invading armies, it was a school of jurisprudence and also the headquarters of the school of medicine. The National High School was again moved to the building and remained there until 1992 when it was remodeled to become the unique museum it is today.

Visitors, students, educational institutions and the general public can learn about the art and culture of modern Mexico and the workers' movements that shaped the mind of the artists at this museum in Mexico City.

Why You Should Visit:
Great place to see Diego Rivera's first mural, along with some of Orozco's most famous, as well as other muralists.
Also, the woodwork in the Salón el Generalito is nothing less than stunning.
As a bonus, you have various interesting changing exhibits of current art.

Tip:
After a visit and if you are hungry – try eating at El Mayor or Las Sirenas restaurants nearby.
El Mayor (on the terrace and top floor of the Porrúa bookstore) has a spectacular view over the Zócalo, Cathedral, National Palace and Templo Mayor site.

Opening Hours:
Tue: 10am-8pm; Wed-Sun: 10am-6pm
3
National Art Museum

3) National Art Museum (must see)

The building formerly known as the Communications Palace that served as the main post office in Mexico City now houses the National Art Museum. The museum has a large collection of art from the 16th century to the works of 20th-century Mexican artists. The architect Silvio Contri designed and supervised the construction of the Communications Palace between 1905 and 1911. The building was constructed for the regime of Porfirio Diaz, a former military dictator of Mexico. The style was an eclectic combination of renaissance and neoclassical styles. The entrance hall has Corinthian columns and an ornate iron staircase designed by the Florentine firm Pignone. The ceiling is decorated with an elaborate allegorical painting representing peace.

The museum houses over 3000 artworks from 1550 to 1955. There are two large art galleries within the National Art Museum that showcase western assimilation and the construction of the nation of Mexico. The collection at the museum includes paintings, drawings, sculpture and ceramics. The museum has paintings by notable Mexican artists including Juan Correa, Miguel Cabrera, Eugenio Landesio and a large collection of landscapes by Jose Maria Velasco.

The museum’s permanent collection is designed to give a panoramic view of the development of the fine arts in Mexico from the early colonial period to the mid-twentieth century. The artwork is subdivided into three distinct periods. The first covered the colonial period from 1550 to 1821. Entitled “Asimilación de Occidente” (Assimilation of the West), it is contained within Salons 1-14 on the second floor. The second covers the first century after Independence and the third covers the period after the Mexican Revolution to the 1950s. It is entitled “La construcción de la Nación” (Construction of a Nation) and housed in Salons 19-26 of the second floor. The last time period is titled “Estrategías plásticas para un México moderno” (Strategies for the fine arts in modern Mexico) and is housed in Salons 27-33 on the first floor. Historically, this period is after the end of the Mexican Revolution when questions of modernity and nationalism were foremost.

Why You Should Visit:
The permanent collections are vast, and when you add the temporary ones, plus the live concerts, guided tours and the other smaller Telegraph Museum inside, it would be easy to spend a day here.

Tip:
Excellent place to bring groups and kids, as it offers workshops all year round and during the summer – for all ages.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5:30pm; free on Sundays
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Franz Mayer Museum

4) Franz Mayer Museum

The Franz Mayer Museum (Spanish: Museo Franz Mayer) in Mexico City opened in 1986 to house, display and maintain Latin America’s largest collection of decorative arts. The collection was amassed by stockbroker and financial professional Franz Mayer, who collected fine artworks, books, furniture, ceramics, textiles and many other types of decorative items over fifty years of his life. A large portion comes from Europe and Asia but most comes from Mexico itself with items dating from the 15th to the 20th centuries. Many pieces in the collection are fine handcrafts, such as textiles and Talavera pottery, and they are important because they are items that often did not survive, as most did not consider them worth preserving.

The museum is housed in the historic center of Mexico City in the former San Juan de Dios monastery and hospital, an 18th-century structure which was rehabilitated for the museum. In addition to displaying the items Mayer collected, of which only over a quarter is visible, the museum still makes acquisitions, holds workshops, sponsors temporary exhibits and has a cafe located in the center courtyard/garden.

Why You Should Visit:
One of the hidden gems in Mexico City... The eye of a private collector is always interesting, but Mayer's eye was remarkable. Not to miss!

Tip:
If you're a teacher/professor, you get a discount for the entry ticket, even if you're not Mexican.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Fri: 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun: 10am-7pm; closed on Mondays
Sight description based on wikipedia
5
Museo Mural de Diego Rivera

5) Museo Mural de Diego Rivera (must see)

Diego Rivera painted a famous mural that takes viewers down the history of Mexico on the wall of the Hotel Prado in 1947. The hotel was badly damaged by the earthquake that shook Mexico City in 1985. The mural called 'Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park' was saved and shifted to its present location, the Museo Mural de Diego Rivera in 1986.

It is a large mural, 15 meters long and 4 meters high, that shows the history of Alameda Park from the time of Cortes to the times of the murder of democratically elected president Franciso Madero and the ensuing years of civil unrest. Many important people who helped shape the history of Mexico are shown in the mural, though not in chronological order.

Visitors to the museum can sit in comfortable chairs and marvel at the vast mural that stretches before them. English and Spanish guides help visitors recognize the figures in the mural and explain the role they played in shaping Mexico’s history.

Why You Should Visit:
The one single mural here makes the place unforgettable – not only for its size but also for its complexity.
Great way to start an exploration of Rivera's murals!

Tip:
You also can walk on the back of the mural to see the special structure built to support it in case of another earthquake.
If you're lucky enough to visit on a Saturday or a Sunday and it's a nice day, you will see much activity in the square next-door...

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5:30pm; closed on Mondays
Sight description based on wikipedia
6
Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Art Museum)

6) Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Art Museum) (must see)

The Museo de Arte Popular occupies a building that was once an old firehouse located in the Historic Center of Mexico City. The museum is dedicated to Mexican folk arts and handicrafts. This repository of folk traditions not only promotes folk art but preserves them by holding workshops teaching children to make traditional crafts.

The building that houses the Museo de Arte popular is an art deco structure that once served as the home of the fire service. Architect Vincente Mediola designed the building. There is a central hall for parking fire engines and three floors with rooms that served as offices and residences. The facade of the structure is made of stone with ancient Aztec reliefs decorated with motifs. A tower with a light to signal emergencies faces the intersection near the museum. The building was donated by the government of Mexico City for a museum and Teodoro Gonzales de Leon was given the task of restoring the building for the purpose. The inner courtyard is now covered by a large glass cupola.

Opened in 2006, the Museo de Arte Popular has a large collection of textiles, pottery, handicrafts made of glass, piñatas and figures of fantastical creatures called alebrijes. An annual parade is sponsored by the museum called the Noche de Alebrijes where large alebrijes are taken on a parade and their creators compete for prizes.

Why You Should Visit:
When you enter this museum, you feel immediately energized by the colors and gorgeous displays of fantastic art! Small and very do-able to walk through and see everything in under 2 hours. The gift shop has tons of crafts from all over the country and many potential fun buys!

Tip:
Make sure to start your visit on the top floor and work your way down.

Opening Hours:
Tue, Thu-Sun: 10am-6pm; Wed: 10am-9pm; closed on Mondays
Sight description based on wikipedia

Walking Tours in Mexico City, Mexico

Create Your Own Walk in Mexico City

Create Your Own Walk in Mexico City

Creating your own self-guided walk in Mexico City is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Chapultepec Park Walking Tour

Chapultepec Park Walking Tour

Chapultepec Park is one of the most famous parks in Mexico City. It is located on the Chapultepec Hill, that has a major historic importance for Mexicans. This park features some of the best known tourist attractions in Mexico city, like the Chapultepec Castle and National Museum of Anthropology. Take this self guided walking tour to explore Chapultepec Park.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Historic Center Walk

Historic Center Walk

Mexico City is a populous, high-altitude capital of Mexico, renowned for its wealth of history and tradition. The local landmarks are numerous and include, among others, the Baroque-style Catedral Metropolitana de México of the Spanish conquistadors and the Palacio Nacional, home to the historic murals by Diego Rivera. All of these are found in and near Plaza de la Constitución, the enormous...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.3 Km or 1.4 Miles
Mexico City's Nightlife

Mexico City's Nightlife

Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world and also one of the most populated. Its nightlife is all about amazing music, great drinks and thrilling fun. The music here is mainly a combination of Spanish and English-language rock, electronic music, some Latin/Caribbean music, Latin pop, and sometimes traditional Mexican music. Take this self guided tour to enjoy the unique nightlife...  view more

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.8 Km or 1.1 Miles
Famous Religious Edifices

Famous Religious Edifices

Mexico City is considered a great vacation destination, featuring something interesting and entertaining for everyone. The landmarks here are amazing and the architecture is impressive and unique. Every religious building in this city is a part not only of Mexican religion but also of Mexican culture and life. Take this walking tour to discover some of the most famous churches in Mexico City.

Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Zona Rosa Walking Tour

Zona Rosa Walking Tour

Zona Rosa, or the Pink Zone, is one of Mexico City's popular neighborhoods. It is located near the historic center of the city, and was called Pink Zone because of the pink tiles that are prevalent here. The area is noted particularly for its splendid Beaux-Art architecture, the city's best handicraft markets and antique shops. Take this self guided tour to discover the beauties that...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.7 Km or 2.3 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Mexico City without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Mexico City, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.6 Km or 2.2 Miles

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