10 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Monterrey
Although one of Mexico's most industrialized cities - it's also the wealthiest and most westernized - Monterrey boasts one of the country's most attractive large city settings. It lies in the Santa Catarina Valley, dominated by the curiously-jagged 1,740-meter-tall Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain) and 2,380-meter-tall Cerro de la Mitra (Mitra Mountain) and is the capital of the state of Nuevo León. Despite being an ultra-modern city, Monterrey has managed to retain some of its old-Spanish atmosphere in its narrow alleys, flat-roofed houses, and picturesque patios. First settled in the 16th century, its importance as a cultural hub is evident in its many fine museums and galleries, along with its numerous public squares and parks used to host a variety of events and festivals.
See also: Where to Stay in Monterrey
1 The Macroplaza
The world's fourth largest public square, Monterrey's Macroplaza is a great place to begin a tour of the city due to its proximity to many of the most important tourist attractions, most within walking distance or an easy bus or subway ride. Built in the 1980s, this 99-acre square encompasses a number of older plazas and their monuments, as well as pretty gardens that invite visitors to linger. Perhaps the best known landmark - and certainly the easiest to spot - is the 70-meter-high Lighthouse of Commerce (Faro del Comercio), a massive rectangular structure that is particularly impressive at night when its dazzling green laser shoots out across the city. Other Macroplaza highlights include the sandstone Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno) with its colonial patio and fresco-decorated state apartments and artifacts, among them the guns used to execute Emperor Maximilian and his generals in 1867. Other features of note are the Heroes' Esplanade (Esplanada de los Héroes), the massive Neptune Fountain (Fuente de la Vida), and a memorial to the city's founder, Diego de Montemayor.
2 MARCO: The Museum of Contemporary Art
Opened in 1991, the stunningly designed Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, or MARCO for short) stands on Gran Plaza and is a must for those curious about Mexican art. In addition to its many excellent temporary exhibitions, MARCO boasts an extensive permanent collection of modern art from across the country. Highlights of the museum's 11 galleries include numerous fine paintings, sculptures, and installations from leading Latin American artists, as well as a smattering of works from international artists. The building itself is something of a piece of art, with highlights including its sculpture garden and a fascinating courtyard with a reflective mirror fountain. Also of interest to art lovers is Pinacoteca de Nuevo León, a museum offering visitors a look at fine art from Nuevo León from the 19th century onwards.
Address: Zuazua y Ocampo, Monterrey, NL 64000
3 Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Monterrey
Monterrey's most important catholic edifice, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Monterrey (Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de Monterrey) is well worth including on a walking tour of the city's downtown core. Work on the building started in the mid-18th century but it took some 150 years or so to finish, finally being declared complete around 1890. Although not granted cathedral status until 1994, this impressive structure has long been the seat of the local archdiocese. In addition to its fine exterior with twin towers and fancy ornamentation - the result of many different influences over the decades - the building boasts a fine interior with many examples of 19th-century colonial artwork, including a number of large murals by well-respected Mexican artist Angel Zárraga.
Address: Juan Zuazua 1100, Centro, 64000 Monterrey, NL
4 Editor's Pick Fundidora Park and the Santa Lucia Riverwalk
One of the most pleasant walks in Monterrey is along the spectacular Santa Lucia Riverwalk (Paseo Santa Lucía), a man-made river that stretches nearly three kilometers across the city connecting the Macroplaza to Fundidora Park. Along the way, you'll discover numerous interesting sculptures (including a genuine Canadian Inukshuk, a stone landmark or cairn), fountains, and other architectural highlights as the river meanders through the pleasant parkland along its riverbanks. A fun way to experience the riverwalk is to stroll to Fundidora Park and explore its attractions before heading back to Macroplaza by boat. Fundidora's highlights include a number of fun attractions for kids, including playgrounds, an ice rink, and Sesame Street Park, a theme park based upon the popular TV show. It's also home to the CONARTE art center.
5 The Museum of Steel
One of the largest museums in Mexico, the Museum of Steel (Museo del Acero) is a must see when in Monterrey. Built within a former steel mill, this fascinating attraction on the perimeter of Fundidora Park celebrates the city's long tradition as a steel manufacturing hub. Built around the old plant's massive 70-meter-tall blast furnace, the museum includes numerous exhibits dealing with the production of steel, as well as related products and industries. Also worth a visit for those wanting to learn more about the city's history is the Metropolitan Museum (Museo Metropolitano de Monterrey), and the Museo de Monterrey with its large collection of modern art by Latin American artists. Another museum dedicated to the city's industrial past is the Glass Museum, opened in 1992 and concentrating on the history of glassmaking in the region.
Address: Avenida Fundidora y Adolfo Prieto S/N, Parque Fundidora, 64010 Monterrey, NL
6 Mexican History Museum
Perhaps making up for the city's lack of ancient Mayan or Aztec archaeological sites - Monterrey was never settled prior to the arrival of the Spanish - the Mexican History Museum (Museo de Historia Mexicana) boasts a superb collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts. Built in 1994, this hi-tech museum offers visitors a look at Mexico's rich history since the first people settled around the country thousands of years ago to colonial times and the present day through its vast collections and many interactive displays. Spread across four large halls are exhibits dealing with the country's cultural, economic, and political history portrayed through the use of art and models. The museum also boasts a fun man-made river with boat rides, and an on-site restaurant and store. Hot Tip: Be sure to book the services of an English speaking guide or purchase an English language guidebook upon entry.
Address: Calle Doctor José Ma. Coss 445, Centro, 64000 Monterrey, NL
7 The Obispado and the Regional Museum
Perched high up on a hill called Cerro del Obispado stands the former Bishops' Palace, or Obispado. This splendid old palace, dating from the end of the 18th century, served at different times as both a fortress and a hospital, and in 1913 was even the hold out of notorious bandit and revolutionary hero Francisco "Pancho" Villa. These days, the building is home to the Regional Museum (Museo Regional de Nuevo León) with its many interesting exhibits focusing on the state's cultural and economic development. Of particular interest is the chapel with its fine Churrigueresque façade and numerous artifacts relating to the Mexican War of Independence. Cerro del Obispado is also a popular destination for its superb views over the city, along with its monuments, including the huge Mirador del Obispado. It's also fun for families traveling with children due to its carousel and pleasant walking trails.
Address: Rafael J. Verger S/N, Obispado, 64000 Monterrey, NL
8 The García Caves and Horsetail Falls
Just a short drive northeast of Monterrey is the small town of García, home to the Garcia Caves (Grutas de García), one of Mexico's largest cave systems. Reached by a fun cable car offering superb views over the surrounding countryside, this fascinating network of caves part way up the 1,080-meter-tall El Fraile mountain, part of the Cumbres de Monterrey National Park, makes a fascinating excursion away from the bustling metropolis. Two paths descend into the brightly-lit caverns, which were formed more than 50 million years ago, ensuring you'll get plenty of good photos of the amazing rock formations within. Of particular interest is a chamber known as the Light Chamber (El salón de la luz), named after the nearly translucent quality of the cavern's ceiling. Another worthwhile diversion is to the beautiful Horsetail Waterfalls (Cola de Caballo) about 40 kilometers southwest of the city. Named after the wispy patterns made by the water as it plunges to the pool below, the falls are accessible via footpath and rope bridge.
Address: Carretera a Villa de García S/N, Parque Grutas de García, Santiago, NL
9 The Alfa Planetarium
A fun attraction suitable for all ages is the superb Alfa Planetarium (Planetario Alfa). Housed in a perfectly cylindrical building that appears to rise out of the surrounding trees like a massive thimble, this ultra-modern attraction is as much a science center as it is planetarium. One of the leading such facilities in Latin America, the planetarium includes highlights such as an observatory offering evening stargazing workshops, interactive technology, and hands-on science exhibits, as well as an aviary with bird species from across Latin America. There's also a state-of-the-art Imax theater offering a wide range of science and nature related films.
Address: Av Roberto Garza Sada 1000, Carrizalejo, 66254 San Pedro Garza García, NL
10 La Purísima Church
One of Monterrey's more unusual modern buildings is La Purísima Church (Iglesia La Purísima), just a little west of Gran Plaza at the junction of Avda Padre Mier and C Serafin Peña. Widely regarded as one of the best examples of modern sacral architecture in Mexico, this unusual looking catholic church - it's not unlike a WWII era aircraft hangar with its tall walls that curve up to form the ceiling - was constructed by Enrique de la Mora y Palomar in 1946. After marveling at the interesting exterior with its many sculptures and monuments, be sure to pop inside for a look at the interior décor, as well as a chance to admire the curving structure up close.
Address: Serafín Peña, Centro, Monterrey, NL
Where to Stay in Monterrey for Sightseeing
We recommend these centrally-located hotels in Monterrey near popular city attractions:
- Fiesta Americana Monterrey Pabellon M: luxury high-rise hotel, light-filled contemporary interior, city and mountain views, floor-to-ceiling windows.
- MS Milenium: mid-range pricing, near shops, helpful front desk staff, indoor and outdoor pools.
- NH Collection Monterrey: affordable 4-star hotel, contemporary decor, near upscale shopping mall, beautiful mountain views.
- Hotel Ibis Monterrey Valle: budget hotel, friendly staff, outdoor pool, free Wi-Fi.