El Templo Mayor is a popular tourist spot in the heart of Mexico City. You’ll have to visit when you’re in the area. Unfortunately, it’s located near other spots and relatively easy to overlook. For this reason, you’ll find a guide helpful before visiting this spot.
This article will cover all essential information regarding El Templo Mayor. This information includes the area’s location, details, activities, and attractions. We’ll also add some nearby restaurants and hotels as extra information if you need them as you explore.
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
About the El Templo Mayor
El Templo Mayor is a popular tourist attraction in Mexico City’s heart. It’s an ancient structure that once served as the main temple of the Aztecs in Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City).
The structure’s architectural design dates from the Mesoamerican Postclassic period. Huitzilopochtli, a god of war, and Tlaloc, an agricultural deity, had separate shrines at the top of the pyramid.
It was rebuilt six times after the first temple was constructed in 1325. Finally, in 1521, the Spanish destroyed the temple, and the Metropolitan Cathedral replaced it.
As such, the temple’s original location is the cathedral, but the archaeological site and the museum are beside it.
According to an Aztec legend, the temple was where a snake was caught in an eagle’s beak when it was perched on a cactus. In today’s Mexican flag, you’ll see this symbol.
El Templo Mayor witnessed numerous human sacrifices. Its staircase was filled with the bodies of those sacrificed after they had their hearts ripped out. While some kids may find the blood and gore fascinating, others may want a less graphic version.
El Templo Mayor refers to the main area or archaeological site. However, you can also find the museum beside it, which presents all the items found during the excavations. Here, you can find an excellent exhibition area.
The two areas of El Templo Mayor have the same operating hours and days. Both areas are open from Tuesdays to Sundays, like most museums in the city. The sites open at 9:00 in the morning and close by 5:00 in the afternoon.
El Templo Mayor has an entrance fee of 90 MXN (around 5 USD). This entrance fee already includes access to both the archaeological site and the museum. If you’re bringing kids under 13 years old or students, you don’t have to pay an entrance fee.
If you wish to hire an audioguide, you can choose between Spanish and English at an additional cost.
You can see some remains from the street; if you’re okay with that, you don’t have to pay. However, it’s worth paying to see the museum exhibits and get up close to the ruins.
If you’re visiting this spot, you’ll likely visit Zocalo Square. But, if you want to know more about it, read our guide article about Zocalo.
El Templo Mayor sits amid the Historic Center of Mexico City. As such, you’ll find it beside other popular attractions.
How to Get to El Templo Mayor
El Templo Mayor is one of Mexico City’s biggest attractions. Thus, if you’re here for the first time, you’ll almost certainly pass through it.
However, this temple is simple to overlook if you aren’t searching for it. Instead, you have to head to the east side of the cathedral and gaze down to view the excavated remnants since the Spanish erected the enormous cathedral on top of the ancient temple.
While navigating around Mexico City might be stressful, public transit is a simple way to reach Templo Mayor. It is a five-minute stroll from the Metro station exit once you take the Zócalo stop.
If you’re bringing a car to visit the temple, you’ll need help finding a parking spot. Parking spots are plentiful within a block or two of the area. However, most parking lots are either paid or limited because you’re in the city center. With that in mind, you must be prepared if you have a car.
Activities To Do at El Templo Mayor
When it comes to activities, you’ll find that El Templo Mayor is more of a museum and a sightseeing area.
For instance, the museum houses some of the best Aztec artifacts you will ever see, excavated from the ruins surrounding the site.
On the other side, the archaeological site is quite fascinating for tourists. When Cortés and his Spanish travelers arrived at Tenochtitlan nearly 500 years ago, they were greeted by the Temple and other structures you see here.
If you wish to understand better how the area looked before wandering around the ruins, you may visit the covered museum inside the archaeological site.
This area contains a detailed scale model of the old city. Getting to the covered museum is a short walk from the exit, so if you wish to do that, start walking from there. The museum is across a small walkway on the right side.
Attractions at El Templo Mayor
As mentioned earlier, El Templo Mayor is visible from the street, so you can look without entering. However, if you pay the entrance fee, you can enjoy the following attractions up close:
The Museum Building
The museum was designed by a Mexican architect and opened in 1987. The museum includes two sections.
The Southern Part is dedicated to themes of Huitzilopochtli’s worship, such as battles, sacrifices, and tributes. On the other hand, the Northern Part is devoted to Tlaloc, which concentrates on topics like farming, vegetation, and wildlife.
The museum was created according to the form of the original Templo Mayor. In this sense, the museum exemplifies the dualistic concept of life and death, water and battle, and the symbolism symbolized by Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc that was prevalent among the Aztecs.
Monolith of Tlaltecuhtli
The 13 by 12 foot Monolith of Tlaltecuhtli is the biggest one ever found. Since the Aztecs thought that the world was devoured by the god Tlaltecuhtli before being broken off and utilized to create the new soil, the god is also regarded as the earth monster.
Monolith of Coyolxauhqui
The Monolith of Coyolxauhqui emerged accidentally as a large stone disk in 1978 while electrical workers were working. The digging of the complete Templo Mayor began when this spot was discovered.
Among the most documented practices of the Aztecs was a blood sacrifice, which is the subject of a whole exhibit in the museum. In addition, human bones, knives used as sacrifices, and other relics from funeral rituals may all be found here.
Since the area sits amidst the city center, you’ll have no problem searching for places to eat during your exploration. Here are some of the nearest restaurants to El Templo Mayor:
Caracol de Mar
Address: República de Guatemala 20, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone Number: +525559498304
Website: Caracol de Mar
La Casa de las Sirenas
Address: República de Guatemala 32, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone Number: +52 555 704 3273
Website: La Casa de las Sirenas
Address: República de Argentina 15, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06020 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone Number: +52 555 704 7580
Website: El Mayor
Street food vendors are available near the area that sells snacks. So now, if you are keen on experiencing the best food in the city, a food tour is for you. To know more, read: Food Tour in Mexico City: A Journey Through Flavors.
Since El Templo Mayor sits within the city center and besides other tourist spots, most people find it best to stay nearby. However, if you also plan the same, here are some of the nearby hotels:
Hostal Mexiqui Zocalo
Address: República de Guatemala 30, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06020 Ejido del Centro, CDMX, Mexico
Phone Number: +52 555 789 5506
Website: Hostal Mexiqui Zocalo
Address: Donceles 95, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06020 Centro, CDMX, Mexico
Phone Number: +52 555 518 5232
Website: Hotel Catedral
Address: República de Guatemala #20, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06000 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico
Phone Number: +52 559 689 0543
Website: Círculo Mexicano
El Templo Mayor is one of the archaeological sites and museums in Mexico City that depicts the rich yet exciting culture of the ancient Mexican citizens or the Aztecs. While the sacrifices that once took place in this ruined temple seem horrifying, it’s one of the things that makes this place worth visiting.
If you want to know more places to visit in the city, read about the Things to See and Do in Mexico City.