8 ancient ruins in Mexico City you should visit

Mexico is worldwide known for its ancient cities that once stood tall and magnificent. Built by masterful native architects and artists today lie in ruins – awaiting for our eyes to see their grandeur of times past.

Chichen Itza is one of the Seven Wonders of the modern world but Mexico City has wonders worth of sightseeing and marvel upon. Here’s a list I’ve compiled of ancient ruins if you’re ever at the Mexican capital and wish to delve into the experience of indigenous cities.

If you don’t mind walking, a bit of sun, and wandering amongst millenia-old buildings then this is for you!

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Teotihuacan
Location: Northeastern Mexico City metro area.
Walking: *****
Native food: Yes
Touristy: Yes
Built not by Aztecs but by a multicultural population of Huuastec and Otomi people, it became the most powerful city of its time, much more than Mayan cities. Two major pyramid-temples and dozens of smaller ones await you. Plus, the exquisite palaces that still stand are a delight. It is a huge place, after all it is the actual downtown of one of the most massive cities in the world.

Cuicuilco
Location: Southern Mexico City’s Pedregal area.
Walking: **
Native food: No.
Touristy: Yes.
There is a spirited debate concerning its antiquity, some say 8000 years old but mainstream scholars have it at 3000 years old. Famous for its round pyramid, one of the oldest structure in the Americas. No texts survive so we don’t have any info on Cuicuilco’s history. Nowadays surrounded by shopping malls, expect traffic.

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Tenayuca
Location: northern Mexico City, in Tlalnepantla municipality.
Walking: **
Native food: No.
Touristy: Partly.
Founded by Xolotl the Great, it was once the capital of the Chichimec Domain. Part of it is enclosed by government, but the other part you can literally walk into it. Main structures are the towering pyramids and a palace complex. Mainly local tourists know of this place.

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Santa Cecilia Acatitla
Location: Northern Mexico City, Tlalnepantla municipality.
Walking: *
Native food: No.
Touristy: No.
Firsthand, it is hard to reach it, located in a maze of streets but nothing Waze or Google Maps can’t handle (I’ve been to places that aren’t in the satellites yet!). Once you get there the reward is the ONLY native pyramid temple intact. Lots of photo-ops. A small museum houses the artifacts found there. Don’t go late, locals say it can be dangerous during the night.

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Tlatelolco
Location: Near downtown area and Reforma Avenue.
Walking: ***
Native food: No
Touristy: Partly
The ancient ruins share its place with a colonial church and mid-20th century apartment buildings. Thus known as the Three Cultures Plaza. The place is well organized but there is literally no parking area or usual tourist-trap vendors. Local tourists and couples do hang in there. In Tlatelolco Hernan Cortes fought the definitive battle that meant the defeat of the Triple Alliance, aka wrongly-named Aztec Empire.

Pino Suarez subway station
Location: Downtown southern area.
Walking: *
Native food: No.
Touristy: No.
Inside this station of Mexico City’s subway is a drum-like temple built by the Mexica Aztecs in honor of the spirit of the wind, Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl. It is definitely not touristy, as this subway station is used by local commuters. The ancient city of Tenochtitlan is under modern Mexico City, this means most buildings remain down there, but not visible, except a few like this one.

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Calmecac
Location: Downtown
Walking: *
Native food: No
Touristy: Yes
When the Spanish Centre was digging to build an underground parking garage of their own they stumbled with the Mexica Aztec university, known as Calmecac. This ancient school was where people studied priesthood, sciences, and military. Not only the ruins are down there but artwork that was found as well. Once done, you can check for contemporary art upstairs.

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Tenochtitlan
Location: Downtown
Walking: ***
Native food: Yes
Touristy: Yes
Last but not least the proper capital of the Mexica Azteca. Decimated by the Hispanics, they never imagined countless pyramids would survive under the main temple, since they were built like Russian dolls. One can walk around them seeing each period. The walk culminates with the museum. Outside there are restaurants, yes, but if you want authentic Aztec food try crickets with chilli.

If you’re interested in Ancient Mexico history check out my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.

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