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Reproduction Of The Temple Of The Feathered Serpent In Teotihuacan - National Anthropology Museum In Mexico City

Mexico: Mexico City – National Anthropology Museum

Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology

National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropologia) in Mexico City contains the world’s largest collection of ancient Mexican art and also has ethnographic exhibits about Mexico’s present-day indigenous groups. It is huge, with 23 permanent exhibit halls. If you so wish you could easily spend a day wandering around this museum.

They don’t like you taking large bags or backpacks through the museum but there is a free bag and coat drop place in the main foyer (next to the gift shop – which is also worth a visit!) ‘

There are free guided tours, in different languages, which will take you on an hour-long tour through a couple of the exhibition halls. We were lucky enough to hop on one of these tours.

The museum itself is laid out around a central plaza, in the centre of which is a very imposing water feature. If you have young children with you they are likely to make a beeline straight for this and unless you intercept them you’ll likely be towing around some bedraggled and potentially miserable offspring through the museum – this museum is not interactive so young kids may find it a yawn!

The central plaza of the National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City

The exhibitions galleries are organized by the major cultures that have developed in Mexico, from the first inhabitants to the current indigenous peoples. There are believed to have been five major civilizations that developed in Mexico: Olmec, Maya, Teotihuacan, Toltec, and Aztec.

A map of the distributions of ancient Mexican civilizations

Mexico’s indigenous population is one of the two largest in the Americas (only Peru is comparable in size). More than one in ten Mexicans speak an indigenous language. There are 56 recognized indigenous languages. Around 8% of Mexico’s populations are classified as indigenous – but as you might expect most Mexican’s have some indigenous ancestor.

The first part of our tour took us to the Mayan galleries. Most people have heard of the Mayan civilizations – they occupied large parts of Central America, from South-Eastern Mexico through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The height of the Mayan civilization occurred from around 250 AD to 950 AD. After 950 AD the Mayan civilization collapsed – but many modern-day Mexicans can trace their roots back to this amazing civilization.

Reconstruction of a Mayan temple facade
A mural depicting the history the Mayan civilization
Mayan galleries at the National Anthropology Museum
Mayan artefacts

The next stop on our tour was the galleries of the Aztecs. This civilization came a bit later than the Mayans, the peak of their culture being between 1250 AD and 1521 AD. They set up base in the Valley of Mexico and built their capital city, Tenochtitlan, in what is now Mexico City. The Aztecs were fierce warriors and were doing very well until they met with the Spanish conquistadores under the leadership of Hernán Cortés – who defeated them in 1521, signalling the end of Aztec rule.

The most famous exhibit in this gallery is the Sunstone, which depicts the five consecutive worlds of the sun from Aztec mythology. The stone was discovered in the central plaza of Mexico City. It is huge, measuring 3.58 metres in diameter, is 98 centimetres thick, and weighs 25 tons. The stone would originally have been laid flat on the ground and possibly anointed with blood sacrifices.

The original Aztec Sunstone
Model of Tenochtitlan
Ocelotl-Cuauhxicalli

Our tour ended in the Aztec galleries, but there is much more to see but we decided to do a quick pass through some of the other galleries, stopping briefly at exhibits that caught our eye. There is a mind-boggling amount to see. The displays are primarily static displays of artefacts or reconstructions of buildings and monuments so after a while we were getting overwhelmed. It is one of those places you need to visit a few times to fully appreciate!

Reproduction of the Temple of the feathered serpent in Teotihuacan
Replica of ball game "rings" - from Xichen Itza
Location:Paseo de la Reforma Avenue and Gandhi Road s / n Col. Chapultepec Polanco
Website:mna.inah.gob.mx/
Google Maps:Map
Hours:Tuesday through Sunday 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sundays admission is the Mexican public and foreign residents. (Beware – Sundays are going to be crazy!)
Admission:General admission $ 80.00 MXN

Best time to visit Mexico City

The best time to visit Mexico City is between March and May, even though the streets are pretty crowded this time of year. Your trade-off is beautiful weather, especially considering the city’s winters can be chilly and the summers can be rainy. You’ll want to prepare yourself for the high elevation – Mexico City sits about 7,382 feet above sea level – by drinking plenty of water, slathering on sunscreen and taking it easy (and limiting alcohol intake) your first few days. Another thing to keep in mind: Mexico City’s air pollution is notoriously poor, so on days when the pollution is the worst you’ll likely want to travel with a mask and relegate yourself to indoor activities.

Where to stay in Mexico City

1. CITY CENTRO CUIDAD DE MEXICO

During our stay in Mexico City we stayed at the City Centro Cuidad de Mexico. The outside of the hotel looks typically colonial but the inside is modern. Our room was comfortable, the only drawback being there were no windows. If you want those you’ll need to get a room at the front of the hotel which might be a little noisy.

The best thing about this hotel is its location. It is only a short walk to Plaza del Zócalo, the main shopping areas and the Palais de Bellas Artes. 

It is also close to many restaurants and bars as well as the metro stations.

2. HOTEL VILLA CONDESA

Located in the bohemian neighbourhood of La Condesa, this accommodation is surrounded by stylish bars, restaurants and unique shops. Paseo de La Reforma Avenue is 10 minutes’ walk.

Common areas of Villa Condesa include a charming terrace with tables and chairs, as well as a dining room. Guests can enjoy international cuisine and traditional Mexican coffee. A laundry service is available for an extra cost.

3. HOTEL MX ROMA

Attractively set in the Roma district of Mexico City, Hotel MX roma is situated 1.2 miles from The Angel of Independence, 1.4 miles from United States Embassy and 1.7 miles from Chapultepec Castle. Boasting family rooms, this property also provides guests with a terrace. The property has a fitness centre, free WiFi throughout the property and a 24-hour front desk.

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