Things to Do in Monterrey
Build in the early 1980s, this popular town square is a hub for commerce and the fourth-largest plaza of its kind in the world. Impressive monuments line the pedestrian zone, including Faro del Comercio, which shoots green laser lights into the city sky each night.
Visitors to the plaza can wander the halls of the Palacio de Gobierno, where local government offices are located, or explore the Biblioteca Fray Servando Teresa de Mier—the city’s iconic public library. Visitors can escape the noise of the city in nearby Jardin Hundido—located at the center of Macroplaza—where quiet fountains and well-kept gardens provide a true urban oasis.
Stationed just beyond the small mountain town of Garcia, about 30 kilometers outside of Monterrey, the Garcia Caves (Grutas de Garcia) in Cumbres de Monterrey National Park are a popular destination among travelers to northern Mexico. The picturesque caves house 16 different chambers, including el salon de la luz, where natural light cascades down through the rock ceiling onto the cave floor below. Several other natural rock formations, like El Nacimiento (the Nativity) and La Torre China (the Chinese Tower) make for unique photo ops reminiscent of haunted deserts well below the surface of this spectacular park.
Similar to San Antonio’s popular riverwalk across the border in Texas, the Mexican city of Monterrey boasts its own popular esplanade, known as the St. Lucia Riverwalk (Paseo Santa Lucía). The pedestrian walkway, which runs along an artificial river and connects the Macroplaza to Fundidora Park (Parque Fundidora), attracts tourists and locals with its relaxing setting, restaurants, boat rides, murals, and museums.
Looming over the southern end of Monterrey’s sprawling Macroplaza, the Metropolitan Cathedral (Catedral Metropolitana) is not only the city’s spiritual center, but one of its most prominent landmarks.
Although construction started in 1626, the cathedral took over 100 years to build and blends a number of different architectural styles, including an ornate Baroque façade and a striking neo-classical bell tower. The interiors are equally impressive, adorned with elaborate murals and a fine collection of religious art and sculptures.
The charming cobblestone lanes and elegant colonial architecture of Villa de Santiago have earned it a place on Mexico’s list of ‘Pueblos Mágicos’ or ‘Magic Towns’ - traditional towns known for their unique culture, history and heritage. The architectural highlight of Villa de Santiago is the baroque church of Iglesia Santiago Apostol, which dates back to 1854, but there are a number of other attractions, including the grand fountain and pavilion of bustling Plaza Ocampo, the fascinating Santiago History Museum, a colorful handicrafts market and an excellent range of restaurants known for serving up some of Nuevo Leon’s best cuisine.
Less than half an hour from Monterrey, Villa de Santiago is also strategically located for exploring nearby sights like La Boca Dam, a popular summer swimming spot, and the Cola de Caballo, or Horsetail Falls, where activities include hiking, horseback riding and even
Locals gather at this park in the center of Monterrey to run the track, watch hockey tournaments at the popular ice rink, navigate the ramps of the skate park and experience the outdoors in an otherwise urban jungle. Situated on more than 100 hectares or land, Fundidora Park is home to expansive green spaces, concert venues, pedestrian walkways and the unique Museum of Industrial Archeologial Site, making it a destination for nature as well as for history and culture.
More than 13,000 indigenous trees and plants make the park feel like a truly urban escape, while two five-star hotels lend a bit of luxury to this destination loved by locals.
The scenic skyline of Cerro de la Silla (aka Saddle Mountain) in the rugged foothills of Cumbres de Monterrey is one of the main draws to this national park, but Cola de Caballo—also known as Horse Tail waterfall—in another popular stop in this urban escape just outside Monterrey. Located in the town of Villa de Santiago in Nueva Leon, Cola de Caballo looks like the horse tail it’s named for and cascades some 130 feet into a crystal clear swimming hole that has become a favorite among travelers.
Sprawling across the foothills of the Sierra Madre Mountains and blanketed with pine and oak forests, the Chipinque Ecological Park is one of Nuevo Leon’s most enchanting natural attractions and the most easily accessible part of the Cumbres Monterrey National Park.
Centered around the 2,200-meter peak of Chipinque, the park is a favorite retreat of city dwellers, with ample opportunities to explore and an abundance of untamed wilderness filled with exotic birds and wildlife.
Along with a vast network of hiking and mountain biking trails, rappelling and rock climbing are popular activities, and Chipinque is also home to an astronomical observatory, a butterfly farm and several natural lookout points, which offer views over nearby Monterrey and the surrounding countryside.
Less than an hour from Monterrey, the Rodrigo Gómez Dam (La Boca) is a popular retreat for both locals and tourists, especially during the summer months, when the floating restaurants and waterfront BBQ areas play host to family picnics and lively social gatherings.
Often combined with a visit to the nearby Cola de Caballo (Horse Tail) Waterfall and Villa de Santiago, theRodrigo Gómez Dam is the ideal spot to cool off after a day of sightseeing and as well as swimming, the reservoir is also a hotspot for watersports and outdoor activities. Visitors can try their hand at fishing, zoom around the lake on a jet ski, soak up the scenery with a kayak or boat cruise, or enjoy hiking or horseback riding in the surrounding mountains.
Barrio Antiguo’s cobble streets and colonial structures may be some of the oldest in the city, but once the sun goes down the area comes alive with locals and tourists looking to experience the electricity of true Monterrey night life. Poplar Padre Mier is the prime party zone, where thumping discothèques and chic dance clubs line the streets.
Travelers who want to avoid the nightlife scene can still enjoy a visit to Barrio Antiguo. World-class restaurants and quiet cafes are perfect for relaxing over a cup of strong Mexican coffee or a plate of flavorful local cuisine. On Sunday afternoons regional artists and antique dealers set up street side tables for a unique alfresco shopping experience.
More Things to Do in Monterrey
A natural adventure park with over 200 hectares of jagged limestone peaks and desert, dotted with pockets of lush forest, Parque La Huastecais a thrilling destination for hikers, mountain bikers and climbers. The canyon walls, towering up to 300 meters tall, are not only an impressive sight, but rigged with a vast network of Via Ferrata climbing rungs and ziplines, so even first-time climbers can scale the peaks, rappel down the cliff sides and brave the Tyrolean traverses.
Located in the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park, La Huasteca Canyon also has a wide network of walking trails, viewpoints and picnic areas from which to enjoy the views, as well as several swimming spots along the river.
The iconic natural skyline of Cerro de la Silla—known as Saddle Mountain for its unique carved out “u” shape—is one of the highlights of a trip to Cumbres de Monterrey. The national park, located in the northern part of the Sierra Madre Oriental, just outside Monterrey, is home to some of the country’s highest mountains, winding rivers, thundering waterfalls and narrow canyons. Travelers can explore indigenous flora and fauna lining quiet pine-oak forest trails or hike to scenic waterfalls, like popular Cascada Cola de Caballo, where rushing waters resemble a horsetail and nearby streams offer the perfect place to cool off and escape the hot Mexican sun.
Founded in 1890, the historic Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery (Cervecería Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma) produced its very first beer in 1893. Its initial frosty brew was delicious enough to win first prize at the Chicago and Paris world fairs. Today, the once independent purveyor of barley and hops operates as a subsidiary of big-name beer company Heineken, but visitors can still experience the old world charm on a visit to the brewery, where a popular beer garden plays host to travelers and offers a free glass of Bohemia, Dos Equis or Carta Blanca to patrons.
This well-loved city in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon may be home to some of the country’s major corporations, but there’s also plenty for travelers not on business trips to do and see. The seventh-largest city in Mexico, visitors love the Centro Cultural Alfa—a science museum with an impressive planetarium and plenty of interactive exhibits perfect for the younger set. Contemporary music acts and world-class performing artists take to the stage at the Auditorio San Pedro, and travelers in search of exclusive shopping can head to the ritzy Calzada del Valle and Calzada San Pedro or visit Paseo San Pedro and Plaza Fiesta San Agustin for more mainstream offerings.
Galleries at Museo del Vidrio showcase the history of Mexican glass manufacturing, including pieces that date back as far as the 18th Century. Unique tools like glass molds and medal spires are on display in ground-floor halls, and daily glassblowing demonstrations draw crowds of interested travelers. One of the museum’s most popular exhibits is a traditional stained-glass workshop that’s more than 100 years old. A well-stocked shop in the heart of the museum sells items made on site, making it the perfect place to pick up a piece of Monterrey.
With a series of permanent exhibitions celebrating the world’s cultural diversity, the State Museum of Popular Cultures is one of Monterrey’s most unique attractions and offers an unparalleled insight into Mexico’s cultural heritage and traditions, as well as popular cultures from around the globe.
The museum is also notable for its surroundings, housed inside the landmark Casa del Campesina, Monterrey’s oldest civil building and former Governer’s Palace, which dates back to the early 18th century.
Proudly flying Mexico’s largest monumental flag, the Mirador del Obispado (Bishop’s Lookout) is impossible to miss, but the scenic hilltop esplanade is best known for its unbeatable panoramic views, which look out over the city of Monterrey and the surrounding mountains. Set at the top of the 775-meter-high Bishop’s Hill, Monterrey’s highest point, the Mirador del Obispado takes it name from the grand baroque Palacio del Obispado (Bishop’s Palace) that sits atop its peak and now houses the Nuevo León Regional Museum.
While locals gather at the Mirador del Obispado year-round, the most atmospheric time to visit the lookout point is during one of the many annual celebrations and military ceremonies, like Mexican Flag Day and Mexican Independence day, when the Mirador hosts live music, traditional dance performances and huge firework displays, set against a backdrop of the neon-lit city below.
As one of Mexico’s largest shopping malls, Plaza Fiesta San Agustin offers a myriad of options for shoppers and whether you’re looking to pick up some unique souvenirs, sample an array of international cuisine or just enjoy a glimpse of local life, visiting the mall makes a popular side trip from Monterrey.
With more than 350 shops, you’ll find just about everything at Plaza Fiesta San Agustin, from department stores like Dorians and Sears to high street favorites like Zara, Mango and Guess, and top brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Levis and Swarovski. Also on-site is a multiplex cinema and a huge food court featuring a range of ethnic cuisine, fast food and high-end restaurants.
Home to Mexico’s largest baseball park, champion team Monterrey Sultanes and more than 50 Little League networks, Monterrey is the undisputed heart of Mexican baseball, so it seems only fitting that the city would host the Mexican Baseball Hall of Fame (Salon de la Fama del Beisbol).
The Hall of Fame was inaugurated in 1973 and honors over 170 of Mexico’s biggest names, including US-based players like Josh Gibson and Roy Campanella, and recent inductees like All-Star pitcher Teodoro “Teddy” Higuera, pitcher Mercedes Esquer and outfielder Jimmie Collins. Located on the site of the Cuauhtémoc Moctezuma Brewery, Mexico’s oldest brewery, the museum features an interactive baseball exhibition, displaying memorabilia and player’s personal belongings, alongside individual plaques for each player.
A pedestrianized shopping street running through the heart of Monterrey’s central Zona Rosa district, Avenida Morelos makes a popular alternative to the city’s glitzy shopping malls, with a large number of handicrafts stores and a distinctly local flavor.
Stretching over almost 10 blocks, the shopping arcade is the best place in the city to shop for local specialties, which include leather goods (most notably Mexico’s largest selection of cowboy boots), marquetry wooden boxes and hand-painted alebrijes (wooden figures), along with clothing, furnishings and souvenirs. Even if you’re not shopping, Avenida Morelos is an atmospheric spot to pass an afternoon, with a wide selection of restaurants, cafés and bars, from which to watch the world go by, and entertainment provided by street musicians and performers.
An imposing steel and concrete structure that dominates the south end of the Macroplaza, the modern Palacio Municipal (City Hall) stands in stark contrast to the ornate Metropolitan Cathedral and the classical Old Municipal Palace nearby.
Inaugurated in 1976 and fronted by a towering statue of Ignacio Zaragoza on horseback, the City Hall is one of Monterrey’s most recent landmarks and has a number of spaces open to the public, including a small museum (Spanish only). Notable highlights include Rufino Tamayo’s magnificent artwork, Homage to the Sun, on the south side of the building, and Julio Carrasco Breton’s Monterrey 2000 mural in the central courtyard.
In the heart of Fundidora Park, the Sesame Street-themed Parque Plaza Sesamo is a nostalgic and family-friendly day out. Here, you can meet and greet iconic characters such as Elmo and the Cookie Monster; explore Count von Count’s Castle; and make a splash in the waterpark zones.
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