You may have heard this before, but there’s a museum-related controversy here in Mexico City. Some claim that we have more museums than any other city in the world, while others say it’s London that takes the top spot. Either way, the fact of the matter is that you will find dozens of them all over town, and you may be surprised at how eclectic the selection is. There’s the Tequila and Mescal Museum downtown, the Wax Museum and the Ripley Museum in Colonia Juárez, and even a Cartography Museum in Observatorio. With so many options, it’s challenging to narrow the best down to just five, but this selection features a fun-for-all mix: classic art (MUNAL, the National Art Museum), pre-Historic culture (National Anthropology Museum), history (Museo Nacional de Historia), decorative arts (Franz Mayer Museum) and contemporary art (MUAC, the University Museum of Contemporary Art).
Museo Nacional de Arte: MUNAL
This breathtaking building in downtown Mexico City—housed in the old Public Work Palace and designed by Silvio Contri—has an impressive collection of national works of art, spanning from the 16th century to the 1950s. Expect painting from masters such as Manuel Ocaranza, Gerardo Murillo (aka “Dr. Atl”) and José María Velasco, famous for his evocative landscapes.
Museo Nacional de Historia: Castillo de Chapultepec
Sitting atop Chapultepec hill is this gorgeous castle, which was built as a summer house for viceroy Bernardo de Gálvez and served as official residence of emperor Maximiliano I. These days, you can view furniture, paintings and historic documents on display, and take a tour of the castle’s many rooms, including Empress Carlota’s bedroom.
Museo Nacional de Antropología
You may need a day or two to see everything this sprawling museum has to offer. The building’s 23 exhibition halls include thousands of articles from Mexico’s pre-Hispanic civilizations, including the Aztec’s Stone of the Sun, giant stone heads from the Olmecs and a large model of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlán.
Museo Franz Mayer
Dedicated to decorative arts and design, this downtown museum features pottery, textiles, silverware and furniture from the 16th through the 19th centuries, as well as more than 10,000 folk art objects and impressive photographic archives. It also hosts exciting temporary exhibitions, including the winners of the World Press Photo competition every fall.
Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo
The largest public collection of contemporary art in the country is housed inside this amazing building, designed by renowned architect Teodoro González de León. Expect everything from paintings, sculptures, photos, installations and graphic arts, from respected artists such as Gabriel Orozco and Jan Hendrix, as well as emerging talents. The museum also hosts activities like artistic workshops and concerts.