Last Updated on October 30, 2023 by Soumya
As an art lover, I always wanted to see the Diego Rivera murals in Mexico City.
Rivera painted massive murals depicting all aspects of life, in epic numbers! He turned all of Mexico City into a huge canvas filled with color and life.
In journalist parlance, he was truly prolific.
My purpose behind writing this article is not just to provide you with a list of places to find the best Diego Rivera murals in Mexico City but also to give you interesting insights into some of his famous paintings so that you can visualize what went on in the mind of the master when he was creating his masterpieces.
The last time I visited Mexico City for 2 days, I was excited to check out the History of Mexico mural by Diego Rivera at Palacio National.
Over time, I kept adding more paintings and places to my Mexico City murals bucket list. Museums, palaces, public buildings – everything just seemed to scream Rivera. So, let’s find out what I have in my kitty.
5 Best Spots for Diego Rivera Murals in Mexico City
One quick thing that I want to point out is that the first two places on this list are the ones that hold the highest number of Diego Rivera murals. And guess what? They are free to visit. Yay! So, don’t miss out on those.
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Mexico City National Palace
Diego Rivera murals and the Mexico City National Palace are almost synonymous with each other.
The National Palace, now the seat of the Mexican Government, in Mexico City Center definitely holds a special place in the birth and propagation of Mexican muralism.
The second-floor walls of the National Palace are adorned with a series of murals that Rivera painted between 1923 to 1939.
There are hundreds of murals, each echoing Rivera’s unique style and his profound love for Mexico’s rich cultural history.
Best Diego Rivera Mural at the National Palace
The most famous mural is “History of Mexico,” a breathtaking panoramic depiction of Mexico’s past from the Aztec times to the Mexican Revolution.
The mural is one of the most grandiose ones I have seen. It covers all three walls of the stairwell and depicts the happenings in vivid detail.
Rivera took 6 years (1929 – 1935) to complete the History of Mexico mural.
Unmissable highlights include the serpent and the eagle (symbol of Mexico), natives fighting against Cortes, and the victory of the Mexican Revolution. Be sure to also spot Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in the painting.
✦ Pro Tip: You can visit the murals at the National Palace only on an official guided tour which you can book ahead of time or join on a walk-in spot. Remember that the lines can be long.
We booked our National Palace tour well ahead of time by emailing the authorities. To find out how we did that, check my National Palace guide here.
The tour is free of charge. However, you’ll be required to deposit an official ID which you can collect after the tour ends.
Secretariat of Public Education
Another treasure trove of Rivera’s murals lies in the heart of the city at the Secretariat of Public Education.
Although this location boasts the highest concentration of his works with an astonishing 230+ mural panels spread across three levels of the building, it remains a hidden gem in Mexico City.
Rivera painted the murals between 1923 and 1928, reflecting the early years of his muralist career.
Rivera’s depiction of Mexico’s workers in everyday scenes is a powerful tribute to the country’s people – their culture and traditions.
Below the murals, you can see grisaille layers depicting more scenes and painting concepts.
If you are a fan of Rivera’s art, the Secretariat of Public Education is a must-visit spot to understand his deep connection with Mexican society.
Best Diego Rivera Murals at the Secretariat of Public Education
The Rural Teacher Mural
The mural shows an indigenous woman teaching local kids and adults while a guard keeps constant watch. Rivera portrays the complexities in the lives of rural teachers – being under constant scrutiny in addition to lacking basic teaching supplies.
The Corn Festival shows the decoration of a corn plant and its celebration as a life-giver in Mexico.
Day of the Dead
On this panel, Rivera represents “Dia de los Muertos” or the Day of the Dead, a Mexican festival that honors the dead.
This one is an interesting mural that depicts Frida Kahlo, with short-cropped hair, handing weapons to soldiers of the Mexican Revolution.
The mural also shows the famous photographer Tina Modotti and her then-lover Julio Antonio Mella, a Cuban communist revolutionary. In the painting, you can also see Vittorio Vidali, an Italian communist. Vidali would soon court Modotti after the infamous killing of Mella.
✦ Pro Tip: Join an expert-led tour like this one and see the best of Diego Rivera murals in three different places including the Public Education Secretariat.
Palacio Bellas Artes
The Palacio Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts, is yet another brilliant site in Mexico City to view the riveting murals of Diego Rivera.
This grand cultural center brims with artistic masterpieces of many mural masters. Rivera’s murals are definitely a highlight.
Best Diego Rivera Murals at Palacio Bellas Artes
Man at the Crossroads
The most famous mural at Palacio Bellas Artes is the “Man at the Crossroads”.
Originally commissioned for the Rockefeller Center in New York, this turned out to be one of Rivera’s most controversial pieces. The mural was destroyed due to its depiction of Lenin.
However, Rivera recreated a smaller version of it at the Palace of Fine Arts and retitled it “Man, Controller of the Universe.”
This mural stands as a brilliant testament to Rivera’s political beliefs and artistic defiance.
Carnival of Mexican Life, Dictatorship
Another significant piece at the Palace of Fine Arts is “Carnival of Mexican Life, Dictatorship”.
This is a tall and narrow mural that represents a dictator rejoicing in the chaos of society. He looks from a height instead of being involved in the life of the common man.
✦ Pro Tip: The murals at Palacio Bellas Artes are best enjoyed on a guided tour like this one.
The Discover Fine Arts Muralism Tour is run by a group of students who are passionate about Mexican art and culture. They take you around the Palace of Fine Arts and explain the history and meaning of murals by Diego Rivera and other exponents of Mexican muralism.
Priced at only $10, this highly-rated muralism tour is good value for money and very enlightening.
Diego Rivera Mural Museum
The Diego Rivera Mural Museum in the historic center is a great place to see one of the most famous murals by Rivera. It is called the Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central.
The museum has an interesting history. It was built solely with the purpose of housing this one mural!!
This mural was first painted and housed in the Prado Hotel, located near Alameda Central Park. The 1985 earthquake completely destroyed the hotel and the mural was moved to an available parking lot.
Once the mural was shifted in Dec 1986, the Diego Rivera Mural Museum was built around it and became its new home.
Diego Rivera Mural Museum is open 10:00 am – 6:00 pm, Tuesday – Sunday. For the latest schedules and admission charges, check the official website here.
Highlight of the Diego Rivera Mural Museum
Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central Mural
The mural is quite similar to the History of Mexico mural from the National Palace in terms of what it depicts. It is divided into sections on Spanish colonial rule, independence, revolution, and the dream of a modern Mexico.
Although the characters are political, the setting of the mural in Alameda Central with balloons, candyfloss, and musicians in the scene gives it a fresh feel.
Be sure to notice a young Diego Rivera holding the hand of La Calavera Catrina, the elegant character associated with Dia de los Muertos. The motherly figure of Frida Kahlo stands behind Rivera.
✦ Pro Tip: If you’re looking for a great Mexico City mural tour that also includes the Diego Rivera Mural Museum (not all of them do), check out this awesome private tour with the most knowledgeable guide.
Old College of Saint Ildefonso
Art lovers should not miss visiting the Old College of San Ildefonso, now a museum, where the Mexican muralist movement was born.
Right after the Mexican Revolution, in the 1920s, this old college became the workplace of Mexico’s first mural masters including Diego Rivera. They created some of Mexico City’s earliest mural works on the courtyard walls of San Ildefonso College.
The Creation Mural is one of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals that adorn the walls of the college. He painted it in 1922 and strangely, did not add any political ideas to it.
✦ Pro Tip: Here’s a great mural art walking tour in downtown Mexico City that covers 3 important mural spots – the Secretariat of Public Education, Palacio Bellas Artes, and the Old College of Saint Ildefonso.
Bonus Places for more Diego Rivera Murals
Palace of Cortes in Cuernavaca
I get that the murals of Mexico City are a totally offbeat attraction in Mexico. But nothing can beat the uniqueness of a colonial-era mansion in Central Mexico hiding a stash of rare, unseen Diego Rivera murals.
Rivera fans will love a trip to Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morelos, for his beautiful murals at the Cortes Palace.
Diego Rivera painted an entire corridor on the second floor with an extensive mural called the “History of Morelos, Conquest and Revolution”.
Painted between 1929-1930, the mural depicts the Spanish conquest of Mexico as well as the life and fights of locals against the Spaniards.
Rivera also touches on the large-scale religious conversions that happened in the area and the cruelty that was inflicted.
It is ironic because one of the early 16-century monasteries that was set up by Spanish missionaries to convert the locals is located right here in Cuernavaca and is a UNESCO World Heritage site today. It is called the Cuernavaca Cathedral.
✦ Pro Tip: Travelers often visit Cuernavaca on a day trip from Mexico City. If you’re looking for a great tour that also covers Palacio Cortes, then check out this highly-rated, private, full-day tour.
Yet another great place to see murals in Mexico City is the Chapultepec Castle Museum.
I did not see any Rivera creations here but there are many murals by other famous muralists including David Alfaro Siqueiros, Juan O’Gorman, Jose Clemente Orozco, and Gabriel Flores.
The theme generally revolves around the Mexican Revolution and the unjust treatment of indigenous people by the Spanish.
One of the most famous murals is that of the fall of a young hero (you can see the Ninos Heroes Monument in Chapultepec Park) in the battle against the Americans. Gabriel Flores painted it.
The sheer size of the murals makes you wonder about the time and the patience that these masterpieces must have demanded.
Best Mural Tours in Mexico City
Here are some of my favorite Diego Rivera Mural Tours in Mexico City.
- The Muralist Art Semi-Private Walking Tour is led by the best mural tour guide that can ever be, Emiliano. The tour has 80+ 5-star reviews and is one of my favorite Mexico City walking tours.
Diego River Murals FAQ
Some of Diego Rivera’s most famous murals in Mexico City include the “History of Mexico” at the National Palace, “Man at the Crossroads” at the Palace of Fine Arts, and “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central” at the Diego Rivera Mural Museum.
You can see Diego Rivera murals at several public buildings and museums in Mexico City. The list includes the National Palace (now the seat of the Mexican government, the Secretariat of Public Education), the Old College of Saint Ildefonso, the Palace of Fine Arts, and the Diego Rivera Mural Museum.
Through the History of Mexico mural, Diego Rivera depicts the history of Mexico in one frame. From the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish to the Mexican Revolution and the dream of a modern country, the mural is Rivera’s version of the past, present, and future of Mexico.
Diego Rivera painted several murals as part of the Mexican muralist movement that intended to provide a common vision to all Mexican people and instill in them pride for their country.