The best archaeological sites in Mexico City

Mexico City boasts an abundance of historic treasures that will blow your mind. Here are the ones you really mustn’t miss
La pirámide del Sol en Teotihuacán
Foto: Iván Macías
By Mariana Guillén and Time Out Mexico City contributors |
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Mexico's pre-Hispanic era (which chronologically began in the year 2000 BC) is culturally rich and particularly captivating. The experience of seeing with our own eyes the grandeur that was the pre-Hispanic villages through their architecture, daily tools and other objects of either religious or decorative significance, is the best way of taking us back in time to understand the Aztec way of life.

The best archaeological sites in Mexico City, and the surrounding areas, are both excellent options for a trip in order grasp the pre-Hispanic history of Mexico. These sites give us a clearer idea of the social and religious relations that existed within these spaces and they allow us to marvel at the passage of time and the contrasts with current society. 

Be prepared for your expedition! We highly recommend comfortable footwear, drinking water, a hat and sunscreen.

Archaeological sites in and around Mexico City

Things to do

Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacán

One of Mexico’s most famous tourist sites is the la Zona Arqueológica de Teotihuacán, a majorly important ancient Meso American city, located northeast of the Valley of Mexico. With more than 264 hectares including impressive constructions like la Calzada de los Muertos, la Ciudadela, el Templo de la Serpiente Emplumada and las Pirámides del Sol y la Luna. The importance of Teotihuacán, which in Náhuatl means “where men become gods,” is based on its geographic setting. Inhabitants of other cities in the region, like Tenochtitlán and Tlaxcala, used it as a meeting point, which resulted it in becoming an important trade center for the region. If you want to visit, we recommend that you take a bus from the Central del Norte statin or the Turibus that you’ll find in the Centro.

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Museums

Templo Mayor, museo y zona arqueológica

icon-location-pin Cuauhtémoc

Majestic even in name, the main temple houses Mexico’s most precious history. The vestiges of this ceremonial center tell of the lineage of all Mexicans and of the vast cosmogony that still prevails. Leaving no room for doubt, each archaeological piece is fitted with information in both Spanish and English. A guide is not necessary as the route is very concrete and well planned. The fusion made between the ruins and the city outside is fascinating. Drums and Bells adorn the walkway of Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli with great harmony. We recommend you enjoy the museum and respect the rules, especially regarding cameras, as flashes are forbidden in order to prevent deterioration of exhibited ancient materials. Keep an eye out for the legend of the god of War and seek out the story of Coyolxauhqui.

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Things to do

Zona Arqueológica de Tlatelolco

icon-location-pin Tlatelolco

The Plaza of the Tres Culturas is a space where you can perceive the three important eras of Mexican history through architecture: pre-Hispanic, colonia and contemporary. The first is represented by the ruins of Tlatelolco – the most important trade center of Pre-Hispanic Mexico – a site that offers its visitors the possibility of admiring more than 60 structures, including altars, platforms and temples. It also offers a small museum that exhibits pieces of daily and ceremonial use such as its military campaigns, trade and its relation to villages like Tenochtitlán. Upon touring the zone, you can find a number of explanatory texts that follow a very specific order from beginning to end. Probably one of the most attention-calling vestiges is the view of the lovers: the bone remains of two people who died in an embrace.

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Pirámide en el Parque Nacional Cerro de la Estrella
Foto: Loops Sandoval

Parque Nacional Cerro de la Estrella

This area is primarily known for its presentation of the Passion of the Christ during Semana Santa, but also includes an archaeological zone enclaved in the Área Natural Protegida Cerro de la Estrella, including caves and petroglyphs. Unfortunately, the archaeological zone and the park are quite unkempt, and the curation of the museum leaves a lot to be desired. There really is no clear explanation over the history and archaeological style. Even so, the opportunity to see the entire city from the top of the pyramid is an unforgettable experience, especially on a clear day.

Visiting the site with very small children is not recommended as cars are not allowed to climb the hill, and the walk to the peak takes about a half hour. Also, don’t forget to bring water, a hat and sunscreen.

Find more attractions in Mexico City

Vista de la Alameda Central de la Ciudad de México
Foto: Alejandra Carbajal
Attractions

The best attractions in Mexico City

If it’s your first time, we recommend the places that house the archaeological legacy of pre-Hispanic cultures, monuments and the city’s biggest lung, just past the metropolis’ first skyscraper.

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