We’ll kick off the guide with the big guns. Mexico City’s Museo Nacional de Antropología (National Museum of Anthropology) is the country’s top tourist attraction and easily one of the world’s most simultaneously ambitious yet comprehensively curated museums. Covering the Mesoamerican, pre-Hispanic history of Mexico, there are exhibits that will keep you occupied for days, from pottery to jade remnants and even the famed Aztec sunstone, tomb of Mayan ruler Pakal and the headdress that allegedly belonged to Moctezuma.
If you’re feeling morbid and find yourself in the lesser-traversed and underrated state of Aguascalientes, then the Museo Nacional de la Muerte would make for the ideal place to stop by. Only inaugurated in 2007, this museum covers everything from the iconography of death in Mexico (think sugar skulls and papel picado) to exhibits on funeral culture in the country. From the nation that brought you the Day of the Dead, this is one unmissable, if unique, museum.
A second Mexico City entry (we couldn’t include just one of the capitals 150+ museums!), the Museo Nacional de Historia is popular for its iconic location within the historically fascinating Castillo de Chapultepec. This neo-Gothic building was once the home of royalty, but now houses collections ranging from the conquest of Mexico to the Revolution. Walk up or hop on the train if you’re feeling lazy, but don’t forget to explore the gardens and enjoy the wonderful views over Paseo de la Reforma and the Bosque itself.
If you want something a little out of the ordinary and totally one-of-a-kind, then you must visit Guanajuato’s famed Museo de Las Momias. There you’ll find a collection of eerily well preserved mummies that were discovered in the Panteón Santa Paula. It’s said that the unique conditions of the soil helped preserve them so perfectly and they’ve since become one of the symbols of Guanajuato and its rich, albeit unsettling at times, culture. This is something you can’t miss if you stop by the colonial city of Guanajuato.
Just next to the emblematic Templo de Santo Domingo in the centre of Oaxaca City’s historic downtown is the excellent Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. Actually situated in the temple’s former monastery, the collection curated in this museum covers the breadth of Oaxacan cultural history with a focus on indigenous culture. However, it’s not all about the exhibits at Museo de las Culturas, as the views from the massive windows are literally picture perfect and the spectacular botanical garden is another often overlooked highlight of the museum.
Breathtakingly beautiful, despite its outwardly industrial appearance, Horno3 is a fascinating and iconic Monterrey attraction that effortlessly combines history with interactive science and technology exhibits that are guaranteed to grab your attention. In terms of the historical context provided at Horno3, you can learn more about the steel industry of Monterrey (it sounds boring, but it’s really not!) all while wandering through the grounds and furnaces that once belonged to one of the areas biggest manufacturers.
Easily one of Guadalajara’s most recognisable and impressive edifices, the Hospicio Cabañas is also a fantastic museum, perhaps best known for the stunning José Clemente Orozco mural Hombre de Fuego that can be found inside. Originally constructed in 1791, it was previously an orphanage and hospital among other things, that was reopened as a museum filled with impressive exhibits from the aforementioned Orozco, as well as Polish artist Mathias Goeritz. There are also curated temporary exhibitions hosted here from time to time.
Up there as one of the country’s best, if not the best, natural history museums, La Paz’s Museo de la Ballena y Ciencias del Mar is an exceptional example of the cultural treats that can be found on the Baja Peninsula – it’s not all celebrity hangouts and surf spots! As you can imagine, it’s entirely centred on marine life and is all about educating visitors on the world that exists beneath the surface of the water. Museo de la Ballena y Ciencias del Mar is a must-visit.
Mexican history isn’t all about the Aztecs – in fact, it’s far from it and the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida, in everyone’s favourite colonial town of Mérida, is dedicated to reminding us of that fact. At the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya, you’ll be treated to an in-depth rundown of the Mayan culture and world, through exhibits that touch upon textiles, religious relics and jewellery. However, the exhibitions aren’t the only draw, as the stunning modern architecture of the museum, is spectacular.
Finally, we round off our guide to the best museums in Mexico with Puebla’s Museo Internacional del Barroco. If you thought the previous entry was housed in a jaw-droppingly modern edifice, then wait until you see the award-winning, Toyo Ito-designed curvy white building that contains the International Baroque Museum. As a city heavily influenced by the Baroque aesthetic, this museum seeks to explore the artistic movement that defines so much of modern day Puebla’s appeal and architecture. Anyone with an interest in art history will be thrilled.