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Monterrey, the third largest city in the country, balances old and new Mexico with charm and charisma. Skipping over Monterrey, set against the Sierra Madre mountains, would mean missing out on a mix of vibrant museums, tempting shopping, and amazing outdoor adventures. From evening strolls around the massive Plaza Makro to afternoons spent enjoying cerveza (beer) and carne asada (grilled steak) here are the best things to see and do during a visit to Monterrey.
Where better to begin exploring Monterrey than in the city’s center square? The Macroplaza, within walking distance of many popular attractions on our list (including the MARCO and Palacio del Obispado) is ostensibly the largest public square in the world. The 230ft (70m) Faro del Comercio structure is the easiest landmark to spot, especially at night when it shoots out green lasers. Use the Explanada de los Héroes or the Neptune Fountain as a central meeting point where you can begin and end your day touring the city.
The Cerro del Obispado is the site of two of Monterrey’s most popular attractions: the Palacio del Obispado and the Mirador Asta Bandera. The former Bishop’s Palace is an 18th-century relic which the Museo Regional de Nuevo León now calls home. After learning about Mexican history, visitors can make the short trip to the Mirador Asta Bandera where walking trails and a carousel await, to give adults and children a moment to appreciate a superb view of the city.
Though you can view Monterrey’s most famous peak from the Obispado’s Mirador, why not get as close as possible with a hike? Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Hill) reaches 6,000ft (1,820m) into the sky. An hour’s hike up a rather steep incline will reward you with a fantastic view of the city – though experienced hikers are free to continue climbing another few hours to make it to the top.
TEC de Monterrey’s Eugenio Garza Sada campus is a stunning sight, especially for those with an eye for architecture. The square brick buildings were seemingly dropped into the ground – or perhaps they rose into the sky, not unlike the mountains behind them. Regardless, these structures bring beauty and brains to the table: TEC de Monterrey is one of the top-ranked private universities on the planet. Plus they’ve got a good athletics reputation – so be sure to catch a football game when in town.
Although it’s an artificial river, the Paseo Santa Lucía only enhances the natural beauty that surrounds Monterrey. The teal water and white pathways lounge comfortably against the blue sky and green mountains in the distance. This riverwalk is easily one of the most peaceful places in the city, winding 2mi (3km) from Fundidora Park to the Macroplaza. Consider it an easily accessible thoroughfare as you meander through Monterrey, but don’t wander too quickly: the cafes, art installations and patches of green space will tempt you to sit in serenity and stay awhile.
The history of Monterrey’s steel industry is forged in an interactive, entertaining and thrilling experience at Parque Fundidora. This former foundry is now a unique family-friendly destination connected to the Macroplaza via the Santa Lucía Riverwalk. A water park, theme park, art facility, and playgrounds are just a few of the park’s attractions. Airy green spaces and striking steel structures create a beautiful space to enjoy a picnic beneath the Mexican sun. Though one could easily spend the entire day in the park, a quick afternoon walk through Parque Fundidora is enough to discover one of Monterrey’s most creative spaces.
Ice-skating in Mexico isn’t as odd as it sounds – and the rink within Parque Fundidora is a smooth way to spend an afternoon. Not only is it a great place to cool down for adult travellers, but it’s also a fun activity that the little ones will love. The ice-skating rink is just one of the many arenas in the Fundidora sports complex, which means solo travellers can use the facility to keep up with their exercise routine while abroad.
The old world of Monterrey, just east of the Macroplaza in Barrio Antiguo, is surprisingly modern and designed for a contemporary crowd. This trendy zone lures locals and tourists with its art galleries, shops, nightlife and cafes housed in 17th-century buildings. Casa de los Abuelos hits the spot with local favorites like gorditas and pozole. International fare is also available with Hare Krishna’s Indian buffet and Sabor A Colombia’s South American eats. Torn between options? Indulge in more than two dozen stalls at Mercado Barrio Antiguo.
After hitting the streets of Monterrey, explore Nuevo León’s underground in nearby García. The Grutas de García cave system runs beneath the El Fraile mountain within Cumbres de Monterrey National Park. Accessing the caverns requires a cable car ride up the mountain, elevating the experience with astounding views of the countryside. Once inside the grottoes, natural light illuminates the stalactite and stalagmite formations. Guided tours last just under an hour, and anyone can extend their excursion by opting to skip the funicular ride and hike back down into the park.
The City of Mountains knows how to serve up a juicy steak, but before ordering up another hunk of beef, we suggest trying cabrito whenever possible. Monterrey’s goat dishes blend Mediterranean ingredients like oregano and tomatoes with Mexican favorites like onions and chilis. Cabrito is prepared every which way: oven-roasted, spit-roasted, braised, grilled and pulled off the bone. Unfortunately, travellers likely won’t stumble upon cabrito at a street side food stall, however, restaurants throughout the city like El Rey del Cabrito and Restaurant los Cabritos Alameda are guaranteed to have it on the menu.
Travellers will find meat on every menu throughout the state of Neuvo León, but the best bite of Monterrey isn’t found at a restaurant. Just as Mexico’s neighbours to the north cherish outdoor barbecues, the locals in Monterrey find any excuse to host a carne asada. This cultural cookout is a celebration in itself and those lucky enough to accept an invitation to one will be treated to grilled steak, quesadillas, fresh salsa, chunky guacamole and plenty of cold beer.