I couldn’t miss the opportunity to write about this city. After all, I was born and lived here for some years, so it has a special meaning to me. Many would say it is not a tourist destination. I would say more specifically that it’s not your typical tourist destination. However, that does not mean there is nothing to do there.
I was pleasantly surprised the other day when I was googling something about Monterrey and I saw a “what to do in Monterrey” line under related searches. To many people, this would come across as weird. But to me, it means that people are gradually becoming interested in visiting my hometown. Stereotypes are being overcome, and that fills me with joy. Monterrey has a lot to offer everyone. It’s just a matter of digging and you will find your treasure for sure.
Table of Contents
- Monterrey at a Glance
- How to Get There
- Entertainment for the Whole Family
- Cultural Scene
- If You Are into Nature
- Where to Stay
- Where to Eat
- Suggested Budgets
- Tips for Saving Money
- How to Stay Safe
- Best Time to Visit
- Apps to Download
- To Wrap Up
Monterrey at a Glance
This is Mexico’s third-largest city. It is an industrial hub for both domestic and international companies, and that is probably the main reason people don’t think of it as a tourist destination. When people look for destinations in Mexico, they usually look for places like Mexico City or Cancun. Monterrey is rarely an option, although it seems that’s slowly changing over time.
It has a strong American influence due to its proximity to the U.S. You will see this reflected in its cuisine, media, people, and culture in general.
Temperatures can get really high during the summer reaching 40°C (104°F) or more. Winter temperatures rarely reach below 0°C (32°F) and it rarely snows. If anything, you can see “snow” or sleet on top of Chipinque Park at certain times of the year.
How to Get There
Monterrey is served by General Mariano Escobedo International Airport, located about 30 minutes from the downtown area. Airlines at this airport operate routes mainly within Mexico and the U.S., except for a few that cover Havana, Panama City, and Madrid.
Entertainment for the Whole Family
One of the main attractions in the city is Parque Fundidora. This used to be one of the most important steelmaking companies, if not the most important, in the whole country. It went bankrupt in the 90s decade, and the government transformed it into a large, beautiful park for the general public. Regios (people from Monterrey) love to visit this park on weekdays and weekends alike.
You can easily spend a whole day touring its facilities. Admission is free for everyone, but you will have to pay for some activities. Among the services that the park offers there are:
- Lots of green spaces to play sports, have a picnic or just lay down.
- Several multipurpose plazas.
- A running track and a bike track. You can bring your own bike, or you can rent one for 30 pesos/hr (approximately $1.50).
- A skating rink. Admission and skates rentals are 130 pesos (approximately $6.50). I believe the price is per hour, but I’m not sure.
- Sports stations with machines to work out.
- Playgrounds for the little ones.
- An indie movie theater.
- Beautiful sculptures.
- An art center.
- Museums for both kids and adults.
- A convention center.
- Concert venues.
- An aviary.
- An artificial lake that offers boat rentals.
- Fountains, benches, bridges, restrooms.
- Vending machines, concession stands, and a few restaurants.
- Medical services.
Parque Fundidora hosts several events like music festivals, food festivals, and marathons throughout the year. Make sure to check their website for upcoming events.
Paseo Santa Lucia is another attraction you won’t want to miss. It’s a beautiful artificial river like the Riverwalk in San Antonio, with murals, fountains, cafes, and restaurants alongside. There are boat tours every day of the week. The ticket is 100 pesos ($5) for adults, 50 pesos ($2.50) for seniors (60 & up) and kids 7-10, and free for kids below 6.
Paseo Santa Lucia is conveniently connected to Parque Fundidora. I love taking a walk here at night and watching all the illuminations. During the Christmas season, they decorate the place beautifully.
The Macroplaza. This is the city’s main square and one of the largest in the whole world. You can easily get around the downtown area from here. There are sculptures, plazas, fountains, and old buildings all around. Here you will find the Cathedral of Monterrey as well as the Teatro de la Ciudad (City Theater).
Barrio Antiguo. It’s one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. Its streets are lined with old houses that will transport you back in time. There are also several cafes and restaurants all over the place. On weekends, there is a market where you will find all kinds of antiques. If you are into the hipster scene, then this is your place.
Monterrey also has several museums among which we can mention: MARCO (the Museum of Contemporary Art), the Museum of Mexican History, and the Museum of Monterrey. Works of art include paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings, etc.
A museum you shouldn’t miss is Museo del Obispado. It has ten display rooms with lots of artifacts about the history of Monterrey. Outside of it, there is an observation deck where you will get a superb panoramic view of the city. There is also a giant Mexican flag on display weather permitting. I love coming here at night.
You can also attend a play or a concert at one of the several venues in the city. Such venues include Teatro de la Ciudad, Teatro Monterrey del IMSS, Arena Monterrey, Auditorio Banamex, and Showcenter Complex. Check for the latest calendar of activities in the newspaper or online during your visit.
If You Are Into Nature
Monterrey is surrounded by mountains or hills all around and that’s why it’s earned the nickname of “The City of Mountains”. These include the distinctive Cerro de la Silla, Cerro de las Mitras, and Cerro del Topo Chico. You don’t have to be a professional hiker to visit any of these places, but you certainly need to be somewhat in shape. Some people have gotten lost, but that’s because they get off the trails. Don’t do that unless you are with a professional guide or someone who knows well the area.
Chipinque. This park is located in the municipality of San Pedro Garza Garcia, not too far from Monterrey. You can go hiking or biking here. It’s a forest on the outskirts of the city. There are tall trees all over the place and, if you’re lucky, you might run into some wildlife like birds, butterflies, squirrels, among other animals. There are also several observation decks and a couple of playground areas for kids.
La Huasteca. This is an impressive canyon located about 15 minutes from the city center. Activities include hiking, biking, and rock climbing. There are guided tours available for your convenience. You can also camp here.
Soccer is the main sport in the city. You could say it’s a religion. Tigres and Rayados are the two local teams. If you happen to be in the city on a game day, you might want to catch a game. The Rayados stadium is one of the most modern in the whole world. They also say their fans are the best in the country. You’ll have to see that for yourself.
There’s also a baseball team named Sultanes. Baseball used to be very popular but was eventually replaced by soccer. Not too many people attend games during the regular season, but playoffs tend to attract big crowds. This might be another option for you during your visit.
The city has a huge amount of malls and shopping plazas. You can buy brand names at several of these. You can also shop for electronics, gifts, books, among other things. Malls have a lot of restaurants with all types of cuisine, as well as bars, cafes, movie theaters, beauty salons, bowling alleys, kids’ areas, etc. Some of the most famous include Galerias Monterrey and Plaza Fiesta San Agustin. You can go to one of these just to escape the summer heat. Remember Monterrey can reach super high temperatures, so places with A/C are sought for by locals and tourists alike during hot days.
Nightlife is concentrated in two areas: Barrio Antiguo and Centrito Valle. Barrio Antiguo is located in the heart of downtown Monterrey, while Centrito Valle is located in an exclusive neighborhood of San Pedro Garza Garcia. A word of advice for you: Dress to impress. Mexican clubs, especially the ones in Monterrey, tend to have strict dress codes. Bouncers won’t probably let you in if you’re wearing shorts, a T-shirt, or flip-flops.
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.
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
I would say Monterrey’s cuisine is famous for three dishes: cabrito (baby goat), carne asada (grilled meat), and machaca (shredded dried beef). As you can see, we Regios love our meat.
The most famous restaurant for cabrito is El Rey del Cabrito. Even celebrities go eat at this place. Cabrito is more on the pricey side, so consider this if you’re going. But if you want to eat something from the region, you should try it at least once in your life. Many people, including locals, don’t like this dish because of its strong odor. I can’t say it’s my favorite, but I like it nonetheless. The average check is 300-600 pesos ($15-$30) per person. Address: Avenida Constitucion Ote. 817 entre Dr. Coss y Diego de Montemayor, Monterrey 64000 México.
If you want to try carne asada or steaks, the options are endless. One of the most famous places is La Nacional. This place is not cheap either. The average check is 300-600 pesos ($15-$30) per person. Address: Avenida San Jeronimo 1106, Monterrey 64660 Mexico.
You can eat machaca virtually everywhere from fancy restaurants to taco stands. Machaca is usually combined with scrambled eggs and eaten for breakfast.
Mexico is known for tortillas, actually corn tortillas. However, Monterrey is known for flour tortillas. We do eat corn tortillas, but flour tortillas are very common here unlike other parts of Mexico. So wherever you go, make sure to try them. They’re delicious!
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.
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.
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.
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.
To Wrap Up
You didn’t think there were so many activities to do here, right? As you can see, Monterrey has an ample variety of interesting places and activities for all ages.
Today we discussed not only activities, but also lodging options, eating out, moving around, dos and don’ts, and everything you need to know to plan your next visit.
I hope you found this useful. If you did, please don’t forget to share and subscribe to our newsletter. Bon voyage!
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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 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 more tips on Mexico travel.