UNAM Campus Attractions

  • 01 of 06

    World Heritage University Campus

    Library Building of the National Autonomous University of Mexico
    ••• UNAM Library building with mosaic by Juan O'Gorman. Javier Belmont / Getty Images

    Mexico's National Autonomous University (UNAM) campus in Mexico City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2007. It may seem strange that a university campus would receive this recognition, but upon learning about the history of the campus and all that it encompasses, the designation makes perfect sense.

    History of the UNAM

    Mexico's principal university was founded on September 21, 1551 with the name of the Royal and Pontifical University of Mexico. It became the National University of Mexico, shortly before the Mexican Revolution, in April 1910 when Justo Sierra, educator and first rector, presented the Constitutive Act of Higher Education, and then presented the project for the university itself, under the presidency of Porfirio Diaz. The university received its autonomous status in 1929, which gives it the freedom to define its own curriculum and manage its own budget without interference from the government.. The UNAM is the largest and most important university in...MORE Mexico and Latin America.

    The UNAM Campus

    The university's present campus, which is known as the C.U. for Ciudad Universitaria (University City), is a large and very special place, with many attractions for visitors and locals to enjoy.  The campus contains over 2,000 buildings and covers an area of 

    The campus was designed and built in the late 1940s and early 50s and was a collaborative effort by a variety of different professionals, including architects, artists and engineers. It is considered to be a singular example of such a disparate group of professionals working together and a symbol of modernity of post-revolutionary Mexico.

    The campus design incorporates green spaces and large open-air plazas as well as several museums, a stadium, an ecological reserve and botanical garden, making it a good spot to spend a day. One of the best-known features of the campus is the mosaic on the wall of the library building, which was created by Mexican architect and artist Juan O'Gorman (who also designed Diego Rivera's house studio). The campus also has a mural by prominent Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros and a mosaic by Diego Rivera decorating the exterior of the university's Olympic stadium.

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  • 02 of 06

    Nature Reserve and Botanical Garden

    UNAM Botanical Garden
    ••• Botanical Garden at the UNAM. © Suzanne Barbezat

    Ecological Reserve

    The UNAM is the only university that has a full-fledged natural protected area within its campus. The Reserva Ecológica Pedregal San Ángel was declared a natural reserve in 1983 and originally had a territory of 124.5 hectares. Since that time, the extension of the reserve has grown an additional 112 hectares and now encompasses 237.3 hectares. The area is of particular interest because it is made up of large deposits of volcanic rock which harbors a wide variety of plant and animal life that are unique to this special ecosystem.

    The Espacio Escultorico is a sculpture garden, the majority of which is made up of huge, abstract pieces, and is set within the ecological reserve. 

    Botanical Garden

    The botanical garden makes up one section of the ecological reserve, and can be visited daily. Admission is free, and the garden is open from 7 am; many students and locals come here for a morning run. The Botanical Garden of the Institute of Biology of the UNAM is the second oldest...MORE botanical garden in the country. In addition to maintaining collections of living plants, the garden conducts outreach and education as well as research and conservation of Mexican plant diversity.

    The garden is an excellent location to learn about Mexico's biodiversity. It contains more than 1600 species of plants that are representative of Mexico's forests, deserts and jungles. Among them are over 300 plant species that are threatened or endangered. The garden's educational program teaches how the general public can contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity and learn how scientific research is a basis for knowledge and sustainable use of plant resources.

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  • 03 of 06

    Universum Science Museum

    Universum Science Museum in Mexico City
    ••• Universum Science Museum on the UNAM campus. Image courtesy mexicocity.gob.mx

    Also located within the grounds of the UNAM is a  science museum with interactive exhibits that are fun and educational for the whole family. The museum's mission is to contribute to the formation of a scientific and technological culture, and to promote interest in science and technology in society in general. Some of the museum's permanent exhibits include a butterfly pavilion, a medicinal plants display and a planetarium. There's one area of the museum that is dedicated to children aged from 1 to 6 years of age, although many of the museum's other exhibits will be interesting to them as well. See more ideas of what to do with children in Mexico City.

    Learn more about the UNIVERSUM museum on their website: universum.unam.mx

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  • 04 of 06

    Art Museums and More

    UNAM's MUCA Museum
    ••• The UNAM's MUCA Museum. © Suzanne Barbezat

    The UNAM campus is home to several other museums, including MUCA (Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Artes), the University Museum of Science and Art, which hosts a variety of temporary exhibits, mainly multimedia artwork by Mexican artists.

    Another university museum is the MUAC (Museo Universidad de Arte Contemporaneo), a contemporary art museum with a permanent collection that has artwork dating from 1952, when the campus was inaugurated, to the present day.

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  • 05 of 06

    Cuicuilco Archaeological Site

    Cuicuilco Archaeological Site
    ••• The round pyramid at Cuicuilco archaeological site. © Suzanne Barbezat

    Located just off the UNAM campus is the archaeological site of Cuicuilco. I include it here because it is a good sight to combine with a visit to the UNAM, and gives some insight into the area's ancient history and geology. The archaeological site consists mainly of a large, round pyramid, one of the very few pyramids with this shape that can be found in Mexico. It is a site that pre-dates Teotihuacan. The inhabitants of Cuicuilco were forced to abandon the site when the volcano Xitle erupted, which left the extensive deposits of volcanic rock that now make up the geologic foundation of the whole area.

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  • 06 of 06

    Visiting the UNAM Campus

    Mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros in the UNAM campus, Mexico City
    ••• Mural by David Alfaro Siqueiros in the UNAM campus. Moment Editorial/Getty Images / Getty Images

    The UNAM is a good attraction to include on a visit to Mexico City. Since many of its attractions are open on Mondays, you may want to plan your visit for that day, when the majority of museums in the city are closed. 

    UNAM Campus Location:

    The UNAM is located to the southwest of Mexico City's historical center, near the borough of Coyoacan. It is relatively easy to reach via public transportation, however, this mode of transportation can be quite slow.

    How to get there:

    You can take the metro to Universidad metro station, the southernmost point on line 3, or take the metrobus to the C.U. station. Once inside the campus, you can get around using the university's transportation system