Thumping to a hectic beat, Monterrey is big, loud, proud, and prosperous! Sprawled across 958 square kilometers and home to a whopping one million-plus population, Monterrey is the capital city of Mexico’s northeastern state of Nuevo Leon. Despite these big numbers, there is still room for you to come join the party.
Monterrey is industrial and ecological, modern with an ancient heartland, a mass of human activity and creation that’s surrounded by spectacular mountain ranges of Sierra del Fraile (y San Miguel), Sierra de las Mitras, Cerro del Topo Chico, Cerro de la Silla, and Cerro de Chipinque. The city pulses with new start-up businesses, a hip art scene, a sick nightlife, and adventure sports to knock the air out of Tarzan. Its museums, parklands, and galleries are top-notch and unmissable. The city buzzes with vigor — after years of drug wars, it has come out the other side with a roar.
The city’s heartland focuses on the massive 400,000-square-meter main square shared by ancient statues, modern monuments, fountains, and gardens. The folks who designed the Fundidora Park and Santa Lucía Promenade made it mad, marvelous, and massive (280 acres). Built on the old site of an iron and steel-melting foundry, it has been named an industrial heritage museum and public park. There’s a free bus tour around the park, a boat tour, plenty of bikes to hire, and the three foundry ovens are still in place as well as other industrial “furniture” dotted throughout. One of the three huge blast furnaces (horno No. 3) is now a museum. Hard to imagine, but steel can be interesting, at least in Monterrey. A man-made river runs through the park, where you can row your boat — gently or vigorously — downstream. There’s also an ice rink, amusement park, concert halls, urban art, hotels, bars, restaurants, cinemas, and an Arts Center where you can learn origami (for example), plus a stadium, conference center, and 13,000 native tree species. If you’re thinking “Pipe down about the damn park!” well, you’ll see what I mean when you get there.
But moving on down the checklist: dip into the Metropolitan Cathedral of Monterrey (clock the great view of Cerro de Silla mountain), the Old Municipal Palace of Monterrey, and then get yourself into the very beautiful Museum of Contemporary Art (MARCO) designed by Ricardo Legorreta and featuring works by Mexican and Latin American artists.
Now we can head down to Barrio Antiguo for local color, cabrito (goat), cobblestones, and colonial architecture in the Spanish old town of the city. It’s both colorful and cool: hip bars and restaurants, art galleries promoting local talent, a booming nightclub scene, and live music. The Callejón cultural outdoor market sells antiques, local arts, and crafts.
Foodwise, for breakfast order Machaca; a dry-cured meat mixed with egg, and chile piquín. Another favorite with our Monterrey mates is the pinto bean: frijoles con veneno are cooked in pork fat with bay leaves. The dish of choice in these parts is spatchcocked baby goat slow cooked over an open fire of mesquite wood. Served with the frijoles, it is sensational. For a classic dish from the taco stands, choose carne asada; thinly sliced meat grilled over coals, and topped with salsa, onions, guacamole, and a wedge of lime. Where anything goes in a taco, take your pick. Leave room for a ribeye steak and Mexican traditional aguachile (shrimp, lime, serrano peppers).
As a note of caution, some say Colonia Independencia is dangerous (e.g. drugs, etc.), but there are other options — this is a great hiking country: day-long guided tours offer adventures up, in, under, and over mountains and rivers and there’s plenty of rappelling, rafting, canyoning, and parapente. Or you can leave the world behind and head upwards in a hot air balloon.
This column is taken from the March 2021 issue of Dockwalk.