Hemmed in by mountains, Monterrey is an underrated Mexican city, known for being more industrial than interesting. However, scratch below the surface of its bad reputation and some-would-say unappealing architecture and there are a lot of hidden gems to be found. Read on for our collection of the top 14 things to do on your next visit to Monterrey.
Definitely one of Monterrey’s top attractions is the MARCO, otherwise known as the Museo de Arte Contempóraneo. With current temporary exhibitions from artists such as German artist Otto Dix (to mark the Dual Year of Germany-Mexico) and Argentine Tomás Saraceno, there’s always something new and eye-opening to see, plus the courtyard has great views of the Cerro de la Silla. Perhaps MARCO’s most characteristic feature though is the giant bronze dove that guards the door.
A vast expanse, the Macroplaza is situated slap bang in the centre of Monterrey. One of its most eye catching features is undoubtedly the towering orange Faro del Comercio, a slim orange structure designed by Luis Barragán. To one side, there’s the aformentioned MARCO modern art museum, as well as the beautiful cathedral. Head to the top end of the Macroplaza and you have the Museo del Palacio. It’s well worth a visit, if not just for a bit of relief from the blazing midday sun that the wide-open Macroplaza offers no shelter from.
Admire the views over the impressively vast expanse of urbanity Monterrey has to offer from the Mirador Asta Bandera, which features an enormous flag. A fairly easy climb, locals will point you in the right direction to reach this Monterrey landmark. On your way back down, drop into the Palacio del Obispado. A pleasingly yellow building, it features a selection of well laid out and fascinating displays about Monterrey’s history.
Monterrey is known for being surrounded by mountains, and it is in fact one of the most appealing aspects of the city. The most famous peak is Cerro de la Silla, and while you can get a good view of it from the Obispado’s Mirador, it’s worth taking some time to admire in its own right. Named for the saddle like shape of its double peaks, Pico Norte and Pico la Virgen, you can even climb it.
Most university buildings are known for being, for want of a better way of putting it, ugly as sin. However, TEC de Monterrey’s Eugenio Garza Sada campus is a different kettle of fish altogether; in fact, it’s instantly recognisable for its pair of square building brick buildings that look like they fell from the sky. As well as being visually pleasing, it also ranks highly in global university league tables and is one of Mexico’s top higher learning institutions.
Gleaming white pathways guide you down the length of this artificial and impressively teal coloured ‘river’. Water features and bridges are spotted along the length of Paseo Santa Lucía, as are rose-selling vendors. Unsurprisingly, this is a popular spot for couples to take a romantic stroll or even just lounge on the grass. Alternatively, you can board a small boat which will take you up and down the length of the river and give you a chance to leisurely admire the views.
Easily the best part of Monterrey, which is an overwhelmingly urban space, Parque Fundidora perfectly combines the city’s industrial history with open green areas. Dotted with striking steel structures, including the brutal but strangely beautiful Horno 3, this is a vast expanse of a park. Take a pair of roller skates and make the most of the wide walkways, or rent a bike and soak up the familial atmosphere. Duck into the Centro de Las Artes if you want to escape the blazing Monterrey heat.
As mentioned above, Horno3 (or Museo del Acero Horno3 to give it its full title) is located in Parque Fundidora and is a striking edifice which has been turned into a museum that pays homage to Mexican industry. Once part of the Monterrey steel industry that was located in this park, Horno3 is one of Mexico’s largest museums. Take a trip in the lift which leaves you on the viewing platform and enjoy the breeze and the view.
Another option for when in Parque Fundidora is to pop into the ice rink and try your hand at skating. A popular pastime, it’s often busy but definitely makes for an enjoyable hour or so. It may seem strange to go ice skating in Mexico, but it’s actually a deceptively perfect way to beat the heat and cool off. Plus, it’s always fun to see the range of ages and abilities that strap on a pair of skates and give it a go.
By day, this small but perfectly formed area is a great spot to get lunch. Littered with a host of cafés serving up vegan lunches and hearty breakfasts – such as Tierra Libre for their relaxed atmosphere and refreshing Italian sodas or Casa de las Abuelas, a quaint café which serves quesadillas in handmade tortillas – you’ll not go hungry. By night, Café Iguana is the obvious choice, with its live music, multi-level seating and neighbouring pizza shop!
For a day trip outside the centre, Las Grutas de García also make a great choice. Easily accessible via public transport, ticket vendors are always fotted about La Alameda. Once there, the tour itself lasts about 40 minutes, and shows you around some of the notable stalagmite and stalactite structures in the caves. Some of them bear little more than a passing resemblance to their supposed appearance, but it’s an enjoyable day out all the same. A cable car transports visitors to and from the grutas (caves), but if you really want, you can walk back down to the bottom.
Cabrito, or goat, is the Monterrey food you must try on your next visit. While it certainly isn’t a cheap dish – you don’t get street food prices with this meat – it’s a cultural and culinary experience that’s worth the financial investment. Realistically, you can find cabrito in tons of locations across Monterrey but easily the most well-known place to try this local favourite is El Rey del Cabrito.
Regios (the name of people from Monterrey) love a good carne asada, or BBQ. Despite this being a widespread trend across northern Mexico, you should definitely make your best efforts to wangle an invite to a carne asada from a local, as that’s where you’ll see the true side of Monterrey’s culture and people. Don’t forget to bring a six pack of Tecate if you really want to fit in.