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GoWithGuideFind your perfect tour guide at GoWithGuide. Relax and cherish unforgettable tours with loved ones. Create personalized tours for a truly memorable trip!

Your In-Depth Guide To The Museo Nacional de Antropología

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by GoWithGuide travel specialist:Pia V.

Last updated : May 21, 20247 min read

Things To Do

With over 150 museums to choose from, Mexico City is every history buff's dream destination. In fact, Mexico's vibrant capital is said to have more museums than any other city in the world! Out of all of them, the Museo Nacional de Antropología is the most popular to visit - indeed, it is the most visited museum in the whole country. Focusing on Mexico's pre-Columbian past, this is the largest museum in Mexico, which welcomes around 2 million visitors a year.

 

For a visitor, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the Museo Nacional de Antropología is absolutely massive. The collection features around 600,000 artifacts, and the museum itself covers almost 8 hectares of land. In other words, make sure you have enough time to take it all in! Due to the museum's sheer size, we strongly recommend the use of a private guide. With a guided tour, you won't have to worry about running out of time or missing anything important. Here are the need-to-know highlights of visiting the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

 

History  

kornemuz, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The artifacts housed in the Museo Nacional de Antropología date back to Mexico's pre-Columbian past. The collection covers all civilizations which were once prominent in the current territory of Mexico, including the ancient Aztec and Maya civilizations. The museum's most famous piece, the Aztec Sun Stone, is thought to have been created in the early 1500s, while others date back even further.

 

The museum's collection first began to take shape in the late 1700s, when the collection of historian Lorenzo Boturini was transported to the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. This was the beginning of the museum's present-day collection. Over the centuries, the collection grew and grew and was subsequently divided into collections focusing on natural history, history, and anthropology. The historical collection is now housed in the National Museum of History in Chapultepec Park, a huge green space which neighbors the Museo Nacional de Antropología.

 

The construction of Museo Nacional de Antropología, which was designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, began in 1963 and was completed the following year. Though the building is over 50 years old, it still wows visitors with its bold and futuristic design. It is a popular destination for its architecture alone. The museum was officially opened in 1964 by Mexican president Adolfo López Mateos.

 

Important Info Before you Visit

 

The museum's permanent collection, which focuses on Mexico's pre-Columbian heritage, is divided into 23 rooms. In addition to this, it also hosts temporary exhibitions, which often focus on a particular civilization or a specific aspect of Mexican traditions. Besides the vast indoor spaces, the museum also features generous outdoor areas with benches and tranquil water features. 

 

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, from 9 am to 5 pm. Note that the museum is closed on Mondays. The entrance fee is $85 MX (about $4 USD), with discounts available for local citizens and foreign residents in certain categories. It's best not to visit the museum on a Sunday, as this is the day when local residents enjoy free entry to the museum, so it tends to be even more crowded than usual. 

 

Taking photos is permitted in the museum, but only for personal use. The use of flash photography, tripods, or any kind of lighting is not allowed. If you wish to use a video camera inside the museum, note that a special permit is required and a fee of $45 MX will apply. 

 

Touring this huge monument is bound to leave you famished. Luckily, there is a café on the premises, with a menu inspired by Mexican culture. Note that the café is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The museum also has a gift shop which offers replicas of many of the museum's most famous artifacts, along with postcards, books, and other souvenirs.

 

Must See Exhibitions

Aztec Sun Stone

The Aztec Sun Stone is undoubtedly the most famous artifact in the museum. The Sun Stone is huge in size: its diameter is around 3.5 meters, and it weighs a staggering 24,500 kilograms. The stone was discovered during the renovation of the Mexico City Cathedral and dates back to the early 1500s. Much of the stone's original meaning is still up for scientific debate, with carvings alluding to cosmic cycles, warfare, and the Aztec gods. 

Jade Mask of the Zapotec Bat God

This jade mask is an arresting relic of the ancient Zapotec civilization, dating back to somewhere between 100 BC and 200 AD. The mask was discovered in Monte Alban, an important archaeological site located in present day Oaxaca, once a major Zapotec city. In pre-Columbian times, bats were widely revered in the local culture. As cave dwellers, these winged creatures were thought to have a special connection to the underworld. 

Pakal’s Tomb

This is a recreation of the tomb of Pakal I, a revered Mayan leader who ruled the city of Palenque for 68 years until his death in 683 AD. The original tomb still stands in the archaeological ruins of Palenque where it was discovered in the 1950s. The replica housed in the Museo Nacional de Antropología captures the mystery and majestic nature of the original tomb, the most striking feature being Pakal's jade mask.

El Paraguas

El Paraguas, or The Umbrella, is not actually a part of the museum's collection, nor is it a historic relic, but it is a must-see attraction nonetheless. This large structure is the perfect representation of the museum's bold and modern design, which was unveiled in 1964. El Paraguas is a large concrete column which towers over the center of the main courtyard. With its cascading water feature, the structure is designed to represent the connection between man and nature.

 

Conclusion

 

The Museo Nacional de Antropología offers a grand introduction into Mexico's pre-Columbian past. The meticulously curated museum offers so much to see that you could easily spend an entire day here. It's quite easy to lose track of time - or even get lost inside this huge monument! Private tours are the best way to explore this world-famous museum without getting overwhelmed. A local guide will help you navigate the enormous collection and gain a deeper understanding of Mexico's rich heritage. Understanding the local culture and history will make your visit to this beautiful country all the more rewarding.

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I have been a volunteer local guide since 2018, during that time I have met people from all around the world which taught me a lot to interact with all kinds of people as well as to show my city in an authentic and interesting way. I like taking people to places that show the other Mexico city's face, a closer perspective to how its inhabitants live it day by day. History and photography are my other two great passions                                                                                                                                 

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