How to learn about Aztec and Mayan history at the National Anthropology Museum

No trip to Mexico City is complete without a visit to the National Anthropology Museum (Museo Nacional de Antropología). Experts consider it one of the greatest museums on the planet! The massive structure houses an extensive collection of pre-Columbian Aztec and Mayan artefacts. It is located in the north end of beautiful Chapultepec Park.

The National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City

The National Anthropology Museum in Mexico City

Visit the museum early on in your vacation to get a better understanding of the pre-Columbian history of Mexico. We went before we started visiting the other major sites around Mexico City (specifically Teotihuacan and Tenochtitlan). The museum rewards you with an overwhelming amount of information, and gorgeous displays. There are precious artefacts, and full-scale reconstructions of parts of important buildings. But most impressive is the seemingly endless parade of gigantic statues, some dating back well over 2,000 years.

Of particular note are the statue of Coatlicue and the Stone of the Fifth Sun. The latter is commonly called the Aztec Calendar Stone, but this is a misnomer as the stone is no longer believed to have filled any astrological or astronomical function. Both are located in the Sala Méxica, directly opposite the main entrance.

The Sun Stone, or Aztec Calendar Stone, at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City

The Sun Stone, or Aztec Calendar Stone, at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City

Take your time

Originally, we planned to visit the museum in the morning, then explore Chapultepec Park in the afternoon. We sorely underestimated the amount of time we would need to fully appreciate the wealth of history available at the museum! Spend most of the day there, and take breaks when necessary to rest your tired feet.

There is a sit-down restaurant located in a beautiful courtyard in the basement of the museum, but there are other options. We ate at one of the countless food vendors that line the main path through the park. Try elotes, an extremely popular street food in Mexico City consisting of steamed corn on the cob slathered in spicy mayonnaise, dipped in a crumbled, powdery cheese, and sprinkled liberally with chile powder–oh and a few squeezes of fresh lime juice. Sadly no picture. It is possibly the messiest thing I have ever tried to eat. We were covered in red-tinged corn-on-the-cob goodness. There are not enough napkins on the planet for this food.

As for most of our transportation in and around Mexico City, we took the metro, getting off at Chapultepec Station on the No. 1 line (the pink line). Plan on spending an entire day at the museum–it really is worth it! Then plan on spending another day in the enormous Chapultepec Park, which is also worth it. We didn’t make it back to the park during this visit, but we will definitely explore Chapultepec in more detail on our next visit to Mexico City!

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