Mexico has a unique mix of cultures and traditions that change every time you cross state lines. The history of the country is much the same, both before and after the arrival of the Spanish. From the Caribbean to the Pacific, there are no two parts of Mexico which are the same. To celebrate this history, we’ve tried to visit as many museums as possible. We’ve decided to collect a few of these together in one place. The result of this effort are the “9 Incredible Museums we visited in Central Mexico.”
From the Aztecs and Mayans to colonization and revolution, Mexico has been through a lot during it’s history. Mexico is a country with many diverse people that live within it’s borders who have somehow rallied together under the same banner of Mexico. Museums are a fantastic way of exploring a country. It’s an effective way to learn about regional histories and how it ties in to the big picture.
Over the the last few years, we’ve spent a lot of time exploring different regions across Mexico. We’re always on the hunt for a good museum.
This last fall we visited a few different cities in Central Mexico and learned quite a bit along the way. From the ancient civilizations found at the Amparo to the mummified remains of the Museum of the Mummies, Mexico has a little something for everyone.
Museums in Mexico
Mexico is one of the most wonderful countries with a long a storied history to explore. Our selection of museums come from a small sample size, as we’ve only visited Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla and Guanajuato City. This list is still a work in progress.
This is our best of Central Mexico, so far.
Please leave a comment below; we would love to hear some of your suggestions for museums to explore on our next trip through Mexico. Next time we visit Mexico City, Monterrey or Guadalajara, it would be fantastic to have a list of places to visit ready to go! We hope you're able to find some inspiration for your next trip with the "9 Incredible Museums we visited in Central Mexico."
9 Incredible Museums we've visited in Central Mexico
1 Museum of the Baroque (Puebla)
Baroque is a style that was developed by the Catholic Church in Rome during the 17th century. The style eventually made its way to the Americas via the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. Puebla's Museum of the Baroque examines on the special bond which this style shares with Mexico.
The Baroque style was unique in that it influenced all parts of society, including art, architecture, music and fashion. Baroque was meant to be extravagant, as an extension of the Catholic Church to counter the protestant movement.
The enormous heritage of Puebla and Mexico will be the axis to describe this essential period of universal history and the fundamental principles of Baroque aesthetics, as well as its projection in all areas of European and Latin American societies in the 17th and 18th centuries.- International Museum of Baroque
The style became locally known as Churrigueresque. The museum is home to many exhibits, including paintings, sculptures and musical instruments alongside many interactive displays.
This museum located in Puebla, Mexico. The city is the perfect setting for a museum of the Baroque, as many of the historic churches and civic buildings throughout the city were greatly influenced by the style.
The Museum of the Baroque was opened to the public in 2016. The museum itself is a work of art; it was designed by Japanese architect Toyoo Ito and has a very modern layout. If you're planning to spend a few days in Puebla, this should be at the top of your list.
2 Alhóndiga de Granaditas (Guanajuato City)
Another great museum where the setting shares equal importance with the contents. Located in the center of the old city of Guanajuato, the Museum of Alhondiga is located in an old grain storage building that played an important role during the Mexican Revolution.
The museum has many displays chronicling the colonial history of Guanajuato, as well as highlighting the pre-columbian civilizations that lived in the area.
Guanajuato played an important role during the early history of Mexico. The Spanish first explored the region in the 1500s and soon after silver was discovered in the surrounding areas, the area quickly grew. In 1810, during one of the early battles in the Mexican War of Independence. When the city was under siege, the revolutionaries trapped the Spanish inside the Alhondiga, a bloody battle which they would eventually win.
The Museum has been build inside the former grain storage facility, which was originally built between 1798 and 1809. There are many old photographs and displays telling the story of the city and the surrounding region.
The museum has a great exhibit on the Chupícuarios, the pre-columbian society that once occupied the lands for thousands of years before the arrival of the Spanish. There are some great exhibits explore the localized history.
3 Palacio Bellas Artes (Mexico City)
The Palacio Bellas Artes (The Palace of Fine Arts) is one of the top things to see in Mexico City, so we assume you're already planning to visit this incredible attraction. Two of Mexico's most famous muralists - Rivera and Orozco - have left art inside the museum. These are some of the best found anywhere in Mexico.
This building was completed in 1934 and is one of the most important cultural landmarks in the city. It is located close to the historic center of the city, located at Alameda Central Park.
Palace of Fine Arts is an incredible marble building which shines in the daylight. Designed in the Art Nouveau style, it looks like an opulent Palace, topped with a distinct orange and yellow roof. It is sometimes known as the “Cathedral of Art in Mexico” as it hosts important theatre, opera and other shows in the massive concert hall.
"The Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts currently exhibits seventeen permanent mural works by seven national artists executed between 1928 and 1963, maintains an intense program of temporary exhbitions, has a Editorial stamp that disseminates the most relevant research on national and international art, and offers a large number of activities for all kinds of audiences."- Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts
The inside of the palace is decorated in a Art Deco theme. It is an incredible achievement in itself, especially the ceiling of the dome. The highlight of the museum was definitely the murals by some of the country's greatest artists. The Carnival of Mexican Life by Diego Rivera and Catharsis by Jose Clemente Orozco.
4 Diego Riviera Museum (Guanajuato City)
Diego Rivera is a folk lore hero in Mexico. His legacy is hard to collect in one place. He is best known for his large scale murals. As a result, his artwork is very permanent, so it's hard to collect any of his work in one place. The Museum in Guanajuato is built inside his family home, where he was born in 1886.
Rivera's family home was transformed into a museum in 1975. Today it displays many of his sketches and early paintings, telling the story of his life. The lower floors of the museum have preserved the home as it would have looked in the years that he lived there
Diego Riviera flourished in the post-revolution era of Mexico, and began creating murals in the early 1920s. Diego Rivera's work can be found in Mexico City, New York and Detroit. He was a leading figure of the Mexican Muralist movements.
His artwork and legacy is difficult to appreciate in a museum. The best way to experience his body of work is to travel around North America. One of the most famous are the 27 murals he painted for the We wouldn't recommend this museum if you haven't already seen some of his artwork around the works. One of the highlights of the museum is looking at early sketches of his massive works, such as the Carnival of Mexican Life at Bellas Artes.
The museum has many of his earlier or lesser known paintings alongside many of the sketches that were the early designs for some of the murals we have seen. There is no photography allowed inside the museum (except inside the temporary exhibit room), so we're asking you to trust us.
Our visit to Guanajuato coincided with the start of the Cervantino, we were lucky enough to visit the lower gallery while Mexican artist José Castro Leñero was explaining some of his work from the Sea of Memory serries
5 Hospicio Cabañas Museum (Guadalajara)
Hospicio Cabañas is historic complex located in Guadalajara and is one of the largest hospital complexes found anywhere in the world. It has been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its cultural importance to Mexico. It was was founded in 1791 by the Bishop of Guadalajara
Guadalajara is one of Mexicio's cultural centers and is Mexico's second largest city. The Hospicio Cabañas was one of the early pillars which the city has grown around.
It is also home to an incredible museum, the highlight of which are large scale frescoes and murals by Jose Clemente Orozco. There are 57 individual frescoes, painted between 1936–39, the highlight of these is the The Man of Fire. Alongside Diego Riviera and David Clemente Siqueros, he is one of the countries most famous artists.
The Institute preserves and disseminates the heritage in its custody; In the Main Chapel there are 57 frescoes by the Jalisco muralist José Clemente Orozco made from 1938 to 1939. It is the repository of the largest collection of works on paper by the great painter. It also has the Jalisco People's Collection, the Mathias Goeritz Fund and the "Roberto Montenegro" Collection of Popular Arts.- Cabanas Cultural Institute
Cabañas Cultural Institute is now responsible for maintaining the historic site. Alongside the frescoes and permanent collections, there are many temporary exhibits that come through the galleries here. The historic importance of both the building and the frescoes makes this one of the top attractions in the city.
6 Popular Art Museum (Mexico City)
Mexico City is home to several incredible museums; The Museo de Arte Populares (Popular Art Museum) is definitely one of the best. This museum features many different types of popular art, from handicrafts and folk art while still promoting the work of modern day Mexico. The museum is built into an old fire hall and has a large indoor plaza with balconies looking down from each of the 4 floors.
The museum has done an amazing job of collecting and promoting the vast history of art in the country. Some of it focused on the past, such as traditional clothing and handicrafts from across Mexico. Some of it was quite forward looking, like the Volkswagen Beatle and various musical instruments covered in traditionally designed beads.
Since its opening to the public in March 2006, the MAP has set out to be an indisputable reference point for Mexican popular art, promoting it through its permanent, temporary and itinerant exhibitions; as well as workshops for children, artisans and the general public; competitions, seminars and extra wall activities.- MAP / Museum of Art Popular
We visited just before the Day of the Dead, so there were many skulls and other “death” themed displays.
Our first trip to Mexico City took place in November, and many of the exhibits were focused on the Dia de la Muerte (Day of the Dead) which happens in early November. Another exhibit that the the museum often features is the annual Noche de Los Alebrijes (Night of the Alebrijes), but most of these were still on display along Paseo de Reforma, where they would be used in the parade.
Noche de Los Alebrijes is a parade of massive fantastic creatures made of cardboard or wood and painted in bright colours. This tradition began in 2007 and features art from Central Mexico and Oaxaca.
7 Museum of the Mummies (Guanajuato City)
Mexico is one of the few countries in the world that celebrates death. The most common example of this is the Dia de la Muerte (day of the dead), where people will leave offerings and remember family members long ago passed. This fascination with death is on full display in Guanajuato at El Museo de las Momias (Museum of the Mummies).
The Museum of the Mummies is not for everyone. There are over 100 mummies on display here. It is one of the most unique attractions we visited in Mexico during our trip across Central Mexico. This is one of those wacky and weird attractions that you only find every so often. We couldn't say no.
Most of the bodies on display are the result of a cholera outbreak in the mid 1800s. Cemetery's across the city had run out of space as a result of the quick burials. A tax was implemented that families needed to pay for permanent burial and between 1870 and 1958 hundreds of bodies were taken out and stored in nearby rooms. The dry climate of Guanajuato preserved the bodies in a form of natural mummification.
The museum came about because of the locals curiosity about death. At some point in the late 1800s or early 1900s, the cemetery workers began charging a few pesos for people who wanted to visited these well preserved bodies. It was officially turned into a museum in 1969.
Mexico has a unique relationship with death. Celebrating humanity's relationship with life and death, the museum has been set up in a tasteful way. The museum is home to over 100 naturally mummified bodies in different stages of disrepair. These were people, who had families, lives and stories. It was a nice reminder to live life to its fullest because at a certain point, we all end up the same.
It was certainly one of the most memorable things we did in Mexico.
8 Amparo Museum (Puebla)
The Amparo museum is one of the most impressive museums we've been to in Mexico. The museum is located in the historic center of Puebla, and has an incredible collection of exhibits covering the thousand year history of Mexico. It's collection of pre-Columbian artwork - with over 2000 pieces - dates back as far as 2500 BCE.
The museum has a vast collection that consists of pre-Columbian, colonial, modern and contemporary art. It has done an incredible job of exploring the history of Mexico over the last 4500+ years. The museum opened its doors in 1991, and located inside two colonial-era buildings from the 16th and 18th centuries.
The mission of the museum is to promote the history of Mexico.
"Contribute significantly to the cultural development of the inhabitants of the state of Puebla and Mexico through the visual arts, promoting the strengthening of the person through significant experiences, training and enjoyment to improve their standard of living, that of their community and that of the country."- Amparo Museum
The building was the original home of one of the city's first hospitals. The older of the two buildings was built in 1534 and was used to house the Hospital de Nuestra Señora y San Juan de Letrán. The museum also includes a second building, bult in the 18th century. In 1871 it became the residence of the Espinoza family, who were responsible for the formation of the museum in 1991.
The Amparo Museum quickly became one of the most culturally important in Mexico. In 2013 it went under several upgrades which helped to modernize the space, including an incredible rooftop patio with views of the city skyline.
The collection of artwork at the museum is quite vast. It promotes modern art and contemporary art with several rotating exhibits. The permanent collection explores Mexico's ancient history, with incredible pre-hispanic art from across Mexico, including the Aztecs and Mayans. The second floor of the museum has been preserved. The rooms have re-created the experience of life of the wealthy Espinoza family during the 19th/20th centuries.
It is certainly one of the best museums we've visited in Mexico.
9 Museum of National History (Mexico City)
Our last stop on our tour of Museums in Mexico is located at Chapultepec Castle in the center of Mexico City. Located in the massive urban park known as Bosque Chapultepec. Built in 1785 at the request of the local Viceroy, today it is home to the Museum of National History.
The setting for this museum is incredible. The castle has many beautiful gardens built to brighten the day of the castles' original inhabitants. It has been the official residence of Viceroys, Archbishops and Emperors. It has been home to different government agencies, such as a Military Academy and a astronomical observatory.
This incredible attraction is built on top of a hill. From the balconies of the castle there are some of the best views of the Paseo de Reforma and the sprawling expanse of Mexico City. The museum is able to weave together the story of the history of Mexico, from Colonization until today.
"The National History Museum is the enclosure that holds the memory of the history of Mexico, from the conquest of Tenochtitlan to the Mexican Revolution. Its rooms display a diversity of objects representative of four centuries of Mexican history."- National History Museum
In 1939 the president of Mexico decided that the castle would become the home of the National Museum of History. Some of the art has become part of the museum itself. Many of the Mexico's most famous muralists - including Juan O’Gorman, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros and Jorge González Camarena - have painted the walls of the museum.
The Museum of National History has many great exhibits, including sculptures, paintings and historic items. Other rooms have been restored to their former glory with extravagant decor, meant to remind the viewer of the importance of the castle. In many ways it’s like looking into a time capsule.