Hiking, lots of shopping, attending a soccer game, and visiting a world-class museum are among some of the best things to do in Monterrey, Mexico. This northern capital is bustling and has it all!
Not to be confused with Monterey, California, this Mexican city is located in the northern part of Mexico. Those living on the eastern Texas border can easily make it a day trip. It only takes them two or three hours to get there. In fact, many Mexicans living on the American side do this on a regular basis.
Table of Contents
- Visit Parque Fundidora
- Visit Paseo Santa Lucía
- Visit the Macroplaza
- Visit a Museum
- Visit Barrio Antiguo
- Visit Mirador del Obispado
- Go Hiking
- Go Shopping
- Catch a Game
- Visit Mercado Juárez
- Eat Carne Asada or Cabrito
- Go to Villa de Santiago Nearby
- Best Time to Visit
- How to Get There
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- Suggested Budgets
- Tips for Saving Money
- How to Stay Safe
- Apps to Download
- Final Thoughts
Visit Parque Fundidora
A former steel factory, Parque Fundidora is a must when visiting Monterrey. The park is conveniently located near the downtown area and offers lots of activities for the whole family.
There are playgrounds, bike trails, workout stations, food stands, artificial lakes, an indie theater, a skating rink, an aviary, and a few museums. You can go walking, rent a bike or a paddleboat, and spend a whole day of fun! It’s the perfect spot to spend a whole day with your family or date.
If you’d like to learn more about Parque Fundidora, I wrote a post about it. You can check it out here.
Visit Paseo Santa Lucía
Right next to Parque Fundidora, you can find this beautiful riverwalk. Reminiscent of the San Antonio River Walk in San Antonio, Texas, this artificial river stretches for 1.55 miles (2.49 km) and is 3.93 ft (1.2 m) deep.
There are cafes and restaurants along the river where you can grab a bite or drink some wine or coffee. The area along the river is beautifully decorated and illuminated at night. Many couples love to eat here and rightfully so.
You can also find beautiful murals painted by local artists. Don’t forget to bring your phone or camera to take lots of pictures.
If walking is too much for you, you can ride a boat either at Parque Fundidora or at the other extreme by the Macroplaza.
One of the best times to visit is around Christmas. They decorate the place with Santa Clauses, snowmen, and other Christmas figures. It looks awesome at night!
Visit the Macroplaza
The Macroplaza is connected to Parque Fundidora by Paseo Santa Lucía. It is the largest plaza of its kind in Mexico and the fifth-largest in the world. It hosts smaller plazas, gardens, and several monuments.
This plaza is located in the heart of the Historic Center of Monterrey. There are several famous, historical buildings either inside or around it like the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace), the Biblioteca Fray Servando Teresa de Mier (a public library), the Teatro de la Ciudad, the Cathedral of Monterrey, among others.
Lots of locals head over on September 15 to celebrate Mexico’s independence as the governor yells “Viva Mexico!” (Long live Mexico!).
Visit a Museum
There are several interesting museums in Monterrey. You can find both permanent and temporary exhibitions of all kinds. Most of them are located in the downtown area around the Macroplaza. I recommend you check out the following museums:
- Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MARCO): contemporary art exhibitions showing paintings and sculptures of Mexican and international artists.
- Museo del Noreste (MUNE): exhibitions showing the history of the northeastern states of Nuevo León, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas, as well as the once Mexican Texas.
- Museo de Historia Mexicana: hosts over 1,200 historic pieces ranging from the pre-Hispanic period up to the 20th century.
- Museo del Palacio: more than 400 pieces including artwork, historical documents, photos, and clothing of Nuevo León.
- Museo Metropolitano de Monterrey: over 300 historical pieces distributed in four rooms.
- Museo del Dulce: exhibition showcasing the culture of sweets in Nuevo León. Includes tastings.
- Museo Estatal de Culturas Populares: one of the oldest buildings in Monterrey that showcases artistic expressions from the region.
Insider tip: You can visit Museo de Historia Mexicana, Museo del Noreste, and Museo del Palacio with the same ticket.
Visit Barrio Antiguo
Barrio Antiguo is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Monterrey. It was rescued a few years ago and currently hosts coffee shops, restaurants, bars, antique shops, and art galleries.
There are old houses with colorful facades where brides and quinceañeras love to do their photoshoots.
A market sets up shop on weekends. You can find antiques and lots of cool things! There are also musicians and artists on site. The place has a hipster, laidback touch. You’re going to love it.
At night, the place takes on a new light as the bars and nightclubs welcome visitors. This is the place to go party at night. Of course, only if you’re into that.
Whether you visit by day or night, don’t forget to stop by this old, beautiful neighborhood.
Visit Mirador del Obispado
You can get a spectacular view of the city from atop the Mirador del Obispado. The observation deck consists of a huge esplanade with a 328-ft high Mexican flag in the middle of it.
The flag is there most of the time, but they take it down when it’s too windy or raining too much. Just keep that in mind when you visit.
There’s also a museum on site. The building was a church and a fortress. It was occupied during the American invasion of 1848. The museum closes early, but you can visit the observation deck at night. The city looks more beautiful by then. Don’t miss out!
Monterrey is known as La Ciudad de las Montañas (City of Mountains) due to the many large mountains/hills that surround it. The most famous mountain is Cerro de la Silla, but there are many more. You don’t even have to leave the city or go too far. Some of the best places to go hiking are:
- Cerro de la Silla
- Cerro del Topo Chico
- Cerro de las Mitras
- La Huasteca
- La Estanzuela
Many locals climb to the mountain top early to watch the sunrise. Just grab some comfortable shoes and head over to one of the many mountains in the city. You can even have a picnic while you’re there, but make sure to pick up your trash.
There are shopping plazas and malls all over Monterrey. Locals love to go shopping, especially during those hot summer days. You can find all kinds of things at different price ranges.
If you’d like to take a break, just head over to the food court to grab a bite or catch a movie.
Some of the best places to go shopping are:
- Galerías Monterrey
- Galerías Valle Oriente
- Plaza Cumbres
- Nuevo Sur
- Esfera Fashion Mall
- Paseo San Pedro
- Paseo La Fe
- Paseo Tec
- Pabellón M
- Fashion Drive
- Plaza Fiesta San Agustín
- Interplaza Shoptown
Catch a Game
Mexicans, but Regios particularly, love soccer. There are two local teams: Rayados and Tigres. There’s a lot of competition between the two teams. They’re part of the local culture.
The games are usually held on Saturdays. But don’t wait until the last minute or you risk not finding a ticket. They sell up fast.
Monterrey soccer fans are hardcore fans. They arrive at the stadium early since soccer is not only about the game. There are music shows, raffles, contests, and entertainment for the whole family.
No matter which stadium you visit, you will have a blast. The ambiance is like no other. No wonder Monterrey fans are considered the best in Mexico.
You can also catch a baseball game but be advised that baseball is not as big of a deal as soccer.
Visit Mercado Juárez
Mercado Juárez is an indoor market in the downtown area. It has been in operation for 100+ years. Inside, you can find all kinds of things: vegetables, dairy products, meat, traditional sweets, herbs, household items, clothes, and much more!
This is the place to go if you want to buy Mexican souvenirs. Many vendors are willing to negotiate their prices, so it’s better if you speak Spanish. Make sure to bring cash with you since credit cards are not usually accepted.
You might also want to go if you want to eat authentic Mexican food. There are many cheap eateries inside the market.
Eat Carne Asada or Cabrito
Carne asada (barbecued meat) and cabrito (kid) are staples in Monterrey. Locals eat them both on special occasions and for no reason as well. They’re the perfect excuse to get together with family or friends to celebrate a birthday, watch a game, or simply hang out.
You can find them easily in town. Some of the most famous restaurants are:
- El Rey del Cabrito
- El Gran Pastor
- El Gran San Carlos
- El Pipiripau
- Los Cabritos Alameda
You didn’t visit Monterrey if you didn’t eat cabrito or carne asada when you set a foot in town. Try them out. They’re delicious!
Go to Villa de Santiago Nearby
Villa de Santiago, simply known as Santiago, is a pueblo mágico less than an hour away from downtown Monterrey. Locals and visitors head over there when they want to escape the hustle and bustle.
Santiago is surrounded by nature. You can find waterfalls, underground rivers, caves, and mountains. If you’re into extreme sports, you’ll love it here. If that’s not your thing, you can go fishing or kayaking. No worries.
One of the most famous spots in the Presa de la Boca, a dam. Locals go there to ride boats and horses and eat delicious seafood.
The Historic Center is charming and gets crowded on weekends. There are many restaurants around the main square. The food options include Mexican, Italian, and Spanish dishes.
On the way between Monterrey and Santiago, you will pass by Los Cavazos. Here you can buy all sorts of handicrafts and eat delicious food, too. Most of the restaurants in this area are buffet-style unlike the ones in the Historic Center.
Best Time to Visit
It’s hot most of the time in Monterrey, especially during the summer months. The best time to visit in terms of weather is the period between November and April.
Contrary to what happens in other parts of Mexico, Semana Santa (the week before Easter) is a good time to visit Monterrey as many locals head of out town during that week.
How to Get There
There are direct flights between Monterrey and international destinations such as Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, and Madrid. International airlines include United, American Airlines, and Delta.
Some of the bus companies that serve Monterrey are Omnibus de México, ETN, Greyhound, Futura, Noreste, Frontera, and Grupo Senda.
Where to Stay
There are all kinds of hotels for different preferences and budgets. I recommend either staying in downtown Monterrey or San Pedro Garza Garcia. The latter is really close to Monterrey and easily accessible by taxi or Uber. Hotel prices start from as low as 400 pesos ($20) per night and some like Holiday Inn include a breakfast buffet.
Hostels are not very common, but you can find a few.
Here are some lodging recommendations:
- Casona Allende
- Santa Lucia Mty
- Fiesta Inn Express
- Gran Hotel Ancira
- Casa Lucia
- Hotel Plaza Arteaga
- My Family in Monterrey
- La Casa del Barrio
- Comfort Inn Monterrey Valle
- Antaris Cintermex
Remember you also have the option of Airbnb. Monterrey offers a lot of houses, apartments, and lofts to give you more privacy than a hotel.
Where to Eat
Don’t know where to eat? Here are some other recommendations:
- Fonda El Limoncito. An old home converted into a restaurant with a casual setting. Live music on weekends. Delicious breakfast and other regional dishes (including vegetarian and gluten-free options). The average check is 160-200 pesos ($8-$10) per person. Address:Calle Guillermo Prieto 938 Between Francisco Javier Mina Street and Diego de Montemayor Street, Monterrey 64000 Mexico.
- Me Muero de Hambre. A colorful building housing several restaurants, some of them with a view. Options include seafood, pizza, pasta, tacos, and other Mexican dishes. The average check is 150-220 pesos ($7.50-$11). Address: Francisco J. Mina #1003 corner with Morelos, Barrio Antiguo, Monterrey 64000 Mexico.
- Taquería Juárez. An inexpensive restaurant offering authentic Mexican dishes such as enchiladas, flautas, and tacos. The average check is 150-200 pesos ($7.50-$10) per person. Address: Galeana 123 Norte Centro, Monterrey Mexico.
- Taquería La Rosa Nautica. An excellent place to eat tacos a vapor (similar to Mexico City’s tacos de canasta) at a diner setting. The average check is 90-120 ($4.50-$6) per person. Address: Galeana 221 Nte., Monterrey 64000 Mexico.
- Cafetería Gaby. Breakfast combos and lots of affordable dishes. Don’t forget to order something from the bakery. The average check is 80-150 pesos ($4-$7.50) per person. Address: 814 Calle Hermenegildo Galeana Sur 64000 Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico.
- Mercado Juárez. The city market with plenty of options such as carne asada, cabrito, and tacos. The average check varies, but it’s one of the cheapest places to eat in Monterrey. Address: Calle Juárez a Calle Vicente Guerrero, Ruperto Martínez, Centro, 64000 Monterrey, N.L., Mexico.
The Noreste bus line runs between the airport and the downtown bus station. You can get your ticket at Terminal C for 115 pesos ($5.75). You can check the bus schedule here. However, if you prefer to take a taxi, expect to pay around 400 pesos ($20). The fee varies per city area.
Monterrey has several bus routes that cover practically the whole city and metro area. Bus fares run around 12 pesos one way. You can pay in cash or with the Tarjeta Feria (a card you can buy at Oxxo and reload as needed).
The Monterrey metro system (Metrorrey) is a rapid transit system that consists of three lines running north-south and east-west. Line 1 is elevated, while Line 2 is half elevated and half underground. The fare is 4.50 pesos one way.
The taxi base fee is 14 pesos ($0.70) and 8 pesos ($0.40) per kilometer after that. Taxis usually have a minimum fare between 30 and 50 pesos ($1.50-$2.50) regardless of the traveled distance.
If you don’t want to use public transportation, don’t worry. Uber operates in this city. You can pay by card or cash.
Another option besides Uber is Didi. It’s usually cheaper than Uber, although the problem is, it’s not always possible to pay by card.
Remember you can always rent a car if you don’t want to rely on public transportation.
If you’re backpacking, you’re looking at around 1,200 pesos ($60) per day. This includes accommodation at a hostel/cheap hotel, a combination of street food and home-cooked food, local transportation (buses/subway), and a few attractions per day (museums, parks, etc).
A mid-range budget is around 1,850 pesos ($92.50) per day. This includes accommodation at a 2-star hotel/Airbnb, cheap restaurants, a few more attractions than the backpacker budget, and a taxi if need be.
Finally, if you don’t want to limit yourself, then a luxury budget will cost you at least 5,200 pesos ($260) per day. This includes staying at a 4-star hotel, eating at nice restaurants, taking taxis/Uber everywhere, and taking tours/guided trips.
Keep in mind these figures are just estimates. Some days you will spend less, while others you will spend more. This will give you a foundation to plan your budget and adjust it as necessary.
For your convenience, I created a table comparing the budgets we mentioned above. The prices are in Mexican pesos (20 pesos=$1)
|Lodging||Meals||Transportation||Attractions||Average Cost Per Day|
Tips for Saving Money
While Monterrey is not the cheapest city to visit, there are several things you can do to save money. For example:
- Stay at a hostel or use Couchsurfing (an app that connects travelers looking for free lodging).
- Eat street food. Food stands are easy to find and are an affordable option. Other excellent options are visiting the city markets or mall food courts.
- Use public transportation as much as possible.
- Although Uber is generally cheaper than taxis, fares can increase considerably due to surge pricing. This usually happens on weekends and weekdays before/after work hours. In that case, a regular taxi might be a better option.
- For cheap souvenirs, head over to Plaza México or Mercado Juárez (both downtown).
- Look for free walking tours online. You just have to tip your guide at the end of the tour.
- Free attractions include Parque Fundidora and Paseo Santa Lucía. While admission is free, you will have to pay for bike rentals or some other services.
- A couple of museums are free on Tuesdays and Sundays (the Museo del Noreste and the Museo de Historia Mexicana). The Museo del Palacio is free every day.
How to Stay Safe
Downtown Monterrey and San Pedro Garza Garcia are relatively safe areas. Tourists are rarely the targets of drug violence. However, something you should beware of is pickpocketing/mugging. Always have your belongings with you whether on the bus or walking on the street.
Use common sense. Avoid going out alone at night, especially in dark alleys or empty streets. Don’t bring expensive stuff. Leave it at your hotel.
Avoid motels as they’re not the same things as American motels. Mexican motels are places for intimate encounters if you know what I mean.
Some areas to avoid are the neighborhoods of Independencia, Sierra Ventana, San Angel, Niño Artillero, Garza Nieto, San Bernabe, La Risca, and La Campana. Also avoid the northern part of downtown, especially the areas around the streets of Reforma, Villagomez, and Villagran as they’re known for some prostitution and violence.
Rideshare apps are safe to use. Avoid taking street taxis. If you need to take one, ask at your hotel or hostel and they should be able to request one for you. You can also look up “taxis de sitio” online.
As to COVID, please follow the local authorities’ instructions/recommendations. Generally speaking, in Mexico, it’s standard practice to check your temperature and require you to wear a facemask and put on disinfectant in public places, whether indoors or outdoors.
If you ever find yourself in an emergency, you can dial 911.
Don’t forget to buy travel insurance. You never know when you will need it.
Apps to Download
To make the most of your visit, I recommend downloading the following apps:
- Google Maps. Find driving directions and download maps for offline use.
- Parkopedia Parking. Find the nearest garage/parking lot.
- Uber. The most important rideshare service in Mexico.
- Moovit. Get the ins and out of public transportation. Just enter your origin and destination and find out which bus to take.
- Pasaporte NL Extraordinario. Discover activities and events going on around you. You can buy tickets as well as check in and earn points that can be used to get discounts or other rewards.
- Google Translate. If you don’t speak fluent Spanish, then make sure you have this app.
- TravelSAFE. Connect to an emergency hotline by just pressing the SOS button.
- MyCurrency. Find the latest exchange rate to know how much something is costing you.
- Tripadvisor. Learn about other travelers’ experiences and recommendations for hotels, restaurants, and other places in town.
- Busbud. Find bus schedules (when traveling to other cities) and book cheaper tickets online.
- Travello. Find other travelers on the road and make new friends.
As you can see, there are plenty of activities to do in Monterrey. Whether you’re into nature, adventure, gastronomy, or cultural experiences, there is something in store for you.
Make sure to add Monterrey to your travel bucket list. You won’t regret that decision.
I hope you found this useful. As always, feel free to leave your questions and comments in the comments section below, and I will be more than glad to help. Bon voyage!
Book your trip now!
Book your flight
The first thing you have to do is find cheap flights. But where do you find those? There are many search engines, but the one I highly recommend is Skyscanner. Here you can compare fares from all over the world and pick the one that suits you best.
Book your accommodation
The next thing you have to do is secure your lodging. Whether you prefer a hostel, a guesthouse, a B&B, or a hotel, you can find them all on Booking. You can find lodging of all kinds ranging from cheap to expensive and somewhere in between. Many people have scored good deals using it.
Another popular option is Hostelworld. This website focuses on hostels as opposed to hotels.
Book a tour
In some places, you might want to hire a tour. Not all places are equally accessible to visit by oneself. It helps enormously when you visit with a local guide who can show you around and answer any questions you might have…all in your native language. My to-go place is Viator as they offer tours of all kinds and have a presence all over the world.
Rent a car
Public transportation is usually cheaper than renting a car, but it’s sometimes more complicated and time-consuming. That’s a reality. In some cases, it’s more convenient to rent a car. My recommendation is Rentalcars.com. Here you can compare rates and choose the one that fits you best.
Book your bus tickets
You can save money by booking bus tickets online. My favorite site to do this is Busbud.
Get travel insurance
Never travel without a travel insurance policy, especially during these days! Travel insurance can save your life. My recommendations are World Nomads and Insured Nomads. Both companies cover COVID-19 related incidents, which is crucial these days.
Just click on the “Plan your trip” tab at the top of this page, and you will find more resources like getting Mexican insurance for your foreign car, buying travel accessories, and learning Spanish. And, of course, don’t forget to check back often to read about more tips on Mexico travel.