The varied natural landscape, colourful culture and fascinating history of revolution means there is a host of fascinating sights to discover in Mexico. From the Frida Kahlo Museum to the ancient Mayan temples, downtown skyscrapers and surrealist sculptures tucked away in the jungle, you can feast your eyes on the old and the new here, and everything in between.
The Mayan Temples of Palenque sit at the foot of the northernmost hills of the Chiapas highlands, being one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico, with more than a thousand visitors venturing here each day. Official guides are on-hand here, offering an informative two-hour tour, plus vendors selling refreshments and souvenirs can be found along the many paths through the ruins.
The Temple of the Inscriptions (the largest pyramid), is a monument specifically built as a tribute to King Pakal after he died in 683 A.D. and is where his burial chamber lies. Inside the temple, the walls are covered in hieroglyphics describing the family tree of King Pakal, but the crypt itself is closed to the public.
The Temple of the Cross, Temple of the Sun, and Temple of the Foliated Cross are also part of the Palenque site. Each graceful temple is built on top of a pyramid and houses original art in the form of sculpted stone and stucco panels, as well as painted murals.
The Monumento a la Revolución (the Arch of the Revolution), is located on the Plaza de la Republica in Mexico City. Completed in 1938, this amazing monument was built to celebrate the Mexican revolution and is now a very popular tourist attraction.
Today, the 65-metre-high Linternilla – the peak of the monument, is reached by a panoramic glass elevator. At the access deck inside the stone and copper dome, you can climb the spiral staircase up to the observation deck, which offers amazing 360-degree views over the city.
Take the opportunity to admire the huge male and female sculptures by Oliverio Martinez, which were commissioned to represent Independence, the Reform Laws, Agrarian Laws, and Labour Laws. The Revolutionary Museum at the base of the monument houses various exhibits, appertaining to the revolution and spanning a period of 63 years, so it’s definitely worth a visit.
Both the monument and the Plaza had extensive makeovers back in 2010, and the monument’s renovated structure is now lit up by spectacular colour-changing lights every evening.
Located in one of the oldest and most beautiful neighbourhoods, the Frida Kahlo Museum – also coined as the ‘Blue House’ (because of its bright blue walls), is one of the most popular museums in Mexico City.
Once the home of the famous artist, Frida Kahlo, this house now acts as a museum – displaying some of her artwork as well as various personal belongings and artefacts, which provide an insight into her life.
Discover Frida’s jewellery and clothes and visit the kitchen with clay pots hanging on the walls, featuring the tiled stove where she once cooked for her friends and husband (Diego Rivera). Frida suffered with her health, and her crutches, wheelchair and medical corsets can even be found on display. You really do experience a window into her life as you walk around the museum, and imagine the life she led when she was not painting, with each object telling a story.
Today, the museum is a tourist hotspot, so it’s best to get there first thing in the morning or book your tickets in advance if you want to avoid queuing.
Museo Nacional de Antropologia is Mexico City’s largest and most visited museum. Located in the heart of the Bosque de Chapultepec, it covers an area of almost 20 acres, and with several gardens and 23 individual exhibition rooms, it attracts around three million visitors a year.
Designed by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, the sprawling building centres on a courtyard dominated by a towering water feature. The 12 ground-floor halls are devoted to pre-Hispanic Mexico, while the upper-level halls show how Mexico’s native descendants live today.
Some of the most well-known exhibits on show include the ceremonial headdress of Moctezuma and the iconic Aztec Calendar Stone. If you’re interested in murals, you will find several in the museum, by artists such as Rufino Tamayo and Leonora Carrington.
On arrival, you can join one of the free one-hour guided tours, but it’s best to make a reservation beforehand, as it does get a little busy. The guides here are amazing, speaking English and offering a very informative and interesting insight into Mexico’s history.
The Palacio de Bellas Artes is one of Mexico City’s most visited buildings, with over 10,000 people (tourists and locals) a week venturing to see it.
The outside of the Palacio has a very decorative white marble facade, and the art-deco style interior houses the offices of the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes. Not only that, but it also features the main hall and adjacent rooms (which spread across three levels), as well as the theatre, with an amazing stained-glass screen made of almost a million pieces of beautiful Tiffany New York glass.
The top floor of the main hall is the Museo de Arquitectura, combined with the Museo de Bellas Artes. You will find incredibly ornate works of art on display throughout the building, with murals by famous Mexican artists including, David Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo and José Clemente Orozco.
Today, this site is the most important cultural centre in Mexico City and hosts events like the fortnightly Ballet Folklórico de México, along with many other dance, opera and theatre performances. It also holds frequent art, sculpture and photography exhibitions.
Plaza Garibaldi has been home to mariachi bands since the 1920s. These small, Mexican ensembles originally consisted of musicians wearing charro suits, playing a variety of stringed instruments.
Nowadays, Mexico City’s mariachi bands (wearing flamboyant, silver-studded costumes) will entertain you with their music. For a fee, these musicians will play for a set period of time – usually half an hour, or if you prefer, you could treat your loved one to a single rose and a romantic song.
If folk music is more to your taste, you can hire one of the Garibaldi’s sons Jaroche groups to play some northern-style folk songs. As well as the bands playing here, there is plenty to see and do in Plaza Garibaldi; you can have your picture taken wearing a sombrero, astride a horse, visit the Tequila Museum, purchase a couple of souvenirs from the street sellers or have a meal or drink in one of the bars and restaurants lining the square.
The Santuario de Atotonilco, located just outside San Miguel de Allende is a church complex built in the 18th century by Father Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro and frescoed by a local painter called Antonio Pocosangre.
Outside, the church looks simplistic but the interior inside is extremely ornate, with its ceilings, walls and columns almost completely covered with paintings of scenes from the gospels, the life of Christ and the crucifixion.
The main church here is free to visit, but there is a small charge to enter the small chapel on the left-hand side, though it’s definitely worth the few pesos charged to see the magnificent murals, ceiling frescoes and statues.
Approximately 5000 people still come to here to worship every week, and four or five times a year the cloisters are used for a week-long retreat and spiritual exercise. During Holy Week (Easter), the activity increases with large numbers taking part in a spiritual refuge, in which fasting and prayers are carried out.
The Templo Mayor was once the main temple of the Mexican people but was destroyed in 1521 after the Spanish Conquest. However, in 1978 electrical workers unearthed a stone monolith, which archaeologists soon realised was of the Aztec goddess – Coyolxauhqui.
This find then led to the realisation that the ruins of the Templo Mayor were actually buried on this site and needed to be explored and preserved. Today, visitors can discover the actual ruins of the temple before entering the museum, with its vast collection of artefacts and relics appertaining to the ruins themselves, as well as the Aztec culture in general.
The displays in this fascinating museum are neatly laid out, with explanations in both Spanish and English alongside each exhibit. So, holidaymakers can easily spend two or three hours exploring this unique and interesting tourist attraction in Mexico City, uncovering both history and culture along the way.
The holy city of Teotihuacan (the place where the gods were created), is a large archaeological site, approximately 50 kilometres north-east of Mexico City. The ruins of Teotihuacan are now one of Mexico’s biggest tourist attractions, with an estimated two million visitors a year.
A much-visited tourist attraction, Teotihuacan is an awe-inspiring and important cultural centre in Mesoamerica, and anyone lucky enough to come here will be fascinated and impressed by the magnificence of the structures and the history behind them. The main focal points of this significant UNESCO World Heritage Site are the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun, as well as the Avenue of the Dead walkway which links the two pyramids to the Temple of Quetzalcoatl.
Archaeological evidence suggests that animal and human sacrifices were carried out here, and the on-site Museum of Teotihuacan Culture displays various artefacts, including bones and pottery that seem to support this. In 2014, a number of large subterranean tunnels were also discovered, prompting more excavations, still ongoing in some areas of the site today.
The Torre Latinoamericana (Latin-American Tower), was the world’s first major skyscraper to be successfully built on land prone to earthquakes. Opened on April 30th 1956, the tower withstood an earthquake shortly after it had been built, all while other buildings in the town were damaged or destroyed, later repeated in 1985 and 2017.
To commemorate its 50th anniversary in 2006, a brand-new façade was built on the lower floor and the Mirador observation roof was completely restored. The platform was also enlarged so that more visitors could enjoy the wonderful views over Mexico City, as well as the buildings, the mountains and the volcanos. New facilities were also added, and today the tower features lifts, air-conditioning, offices, apartments, a communications hub, restrooms, a souvenir shop and a refreshments outlet.
Admission to Torre Latinoamericana includes access to an on-site museum, which tracks the construction of the tower and the history of Mexico City. Even better, there is no entrance charge if you’re just visiting the bar here for a scenic drink.