What remains of the Aztecs’ Great Temple (Templo Mayor) sits right in the middle of Mexico City, but many tourists miss it. In 1978, a massive, 8-ton (7,000-kilogram) stone depicting Coyolxauhqui (the Aztec goddess of the moon) was unearthed, marking the location of the temple, a gathering place sacred for the Aztecs during the 1300s and 1400s.
Located next to the Metropolitan Cathedral, close to the Zócalo, the ruins of the Great Temple currently consist of walls embedded with stuccoed skulls and enormous carvings dedicated to Tlaloc (the god of storms) and Huitzilopochtli (the god of war). Throughout the 1980s, excavation revealed an unprecedented trove of treasures from the Aztec Empire, with more and more being uncovered all the time.
Today, visitors can tour the ruins and explore the on-site museum, which houses artifacts, such as the monolith of the moon goddess, knives, masks, sculptures, and other objects. Excavation work at the UNESCO World Heritage Site continues today. Book your ticket in advance to skip long lines, or join a sightseeing tour of Mexico City that visits the Great Temple.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Visit the museum before exploring the ruins to get a better understanding of the archaeological site.
- You’ll walk through the ruins on gated pathways.
- The Great Temple is a must-visit for history buffs and those interested in the Aztecs.
How to Get There
Driving isn't recommended because traffic can be heavy and parking expensive. Since the Great Temple site is situated near the historic center, it’s easily accessible by public transit. Via the Metro Line 2, hop off at the Zócalo stop, which is a quick walk from the museum. The archaeological site is also a stop on many bus tours.
When to Get There
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am to 5pm. Admission is free Sundays, so expect crowds. The best time to visit any outdoor spot in Mexico City is between March and May, when it’s sunny and not too hot. But, it is also the busiest time of the year because of this.
National Museum of Anthropology (Museo Nacional de Antropología)
The National Museum of Anthropology allows visitors to explore Aztec history further. Located in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City’s most-visited museum hosts a collection that includes notable historical items, such as the Aztec Stone of the Sun, the giant carved heads of the Olmec people, and the Aztec Xochipilli statue. From the Great Temple, it’s a short ride via public transit.