Tenochtitlan was the capital city of the Aztec Empire and is now the location of current-day Mexico City. Founded in 1325 by the Mexica people, Tenochtitlan has an interesting history about its location. According to ancient prophecy, the wandering people were waiting for a sign to decide where to build their city. When they encountered an eagle standing on a cactus with a snake in its mouth, it was determined that this was the symbol to settle and build a city. Today, this symbol is still an important part of Mexican culture and adorns the Mexican flag. Although an island in a swamp may not have seemed the most ideal place to build a city, the Mexica people listened to the symbol and ultimately developed one of the most thriving civilizations of ancient times.
History took a different course when Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived in 1519. When he landed, the city was one of the largest in the world, comparable in size only to the great cities of Europe. With more than 200,000 people, the impressive city showed many signs of sophistication. After conquering the city, Cortes decided to keep some of the structure of Tenochtitlan and built his city in the same location. This decision means that travelers today don’t have to go far during a visit to Mexico City to see the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Amazingly, the ruins managed to stay undiscovered until the late twentieth century, but today, the Templo Mayor is a popular tourist attraction.
During the 1970s, amid the construction of a Metro line, the Templo Mayor was discovered; at the time, this main Aztec temple in Mexico City had been undiscovered beneath the city for more than 400 years. A small portion of the Templo Mayor has been excavated and is now open to visitors. Of all the artifacts recovered from the ruins, the most famous may be the Aztec Sun Stone. This relic was once located halfway up the pyramid and was created around 1470. A visit to these ruins makes visitors aware of how modern day Mexico City was influenced by Tenochtitlan. The main square, the Zocalo, for example is located on the space that was once the main plaza and market of Tenochtitlan.
Conquistador Hernan Cortes was in charge of razing and leveling of the city, but luckily, elements of the Aztec Temple in Mexico City survived. This temple was dedicated to two gods, the god of war and the god of rain and architecture. In 1987, the fascinating site was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List. Located just northeast of the Zocalo is the modern-day archaeological site and the Museo del Templo Mayor. The museum is home to the more delicate artifacts and relics that were discovered. A visit will also include the chance to see the excavated temple, which is exposed and labeled to help visitors understand its purposes and development over time.
The Aztec temple in Mexico City contained a fascinating array of objects, many of which were offerings, either for tribute or trade. Expect to see sculptures, knives, beads, and even remains of human sacrifice. The eight main exhibition halls of the museum display these incredible objects. The museum is closed on Mondays but is open from Tuesday through Sunday between 9 am and 5:50 pm, with the last tickets for each day sold at 5 pm. Admission to the museum and ruins is inexpensive most days and is free on Sundays. If you are planning on taking video footage, this costs an extra fee. Don’t miss this fascinating attraction of the Centro Historico that reveals a great deal about how the ancient Aztecs lived.