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Despite the fact that Monterrey is one of Mexico's most industrialised cities, the diversity of this wealthy and ultra-modern state capital makes it the ideal place to spend a very entertaining and enlightening day. Lying in Santa Catarina Valley, Monterrey has managed to retain some of its old-world Spanish charm, as can be seen in its labyrinth of narrow alleyways, typical flat-roofed houses, and flower-filled patios. It's a haven for culture-vultures, with many fine museums and galleries scattered amongst its public squares and parks, and it boasts a vibrant nightlife and unique art scene.
If you're planning to spend some time in Monterrey, here's our list of the top 8 things to do in the city.
No visit to Monterrey would be complete without spending some time in the Macroplaza. Popular with locals and visitors alike since the early 1980s, it's holds the title of the fourth largest public square in the world. It's an ideal place to begin your exploration of the city, as it's close to many of the best known tourist attractions. Covering an area of 99 square acres, the Macroplaza boasts pretty garden areas and several older plazas, as well as a number of monuments including the 70 metre high Lighthouse of Commerce, the Government Palace, the enormous Neptune Fountain, and Heroes' Esplanade.
Take in the unique atmosphere of the city with a walk along the impressive Santa Lucia Riverwalk. You’ll discover a range of interesting sculptures and architectural features along the route, and, as it's almost 3 kilometres long, it'll give you chance to walk off your breakfast or lunch! Starting at the Macroplaza, the walk leads you all the way to Fundidora Park where you'll find an ice rink and several playgrounds, including one based on the popular TV show, Sesame Street. Rather than walk back, catch a boat along the man-made river and take in the sights from a different perspective.
If you're feeling energetic, visit the 18th century former Bishop's' Palace or Obispado, perched high on top of the Cerro del Obispado. During its life it's been both a fortress and a hospital, although today it's home to the many exhibits of the Regional Museum, including some from the Mexican War of Independence. It's also a superb place to take in the views of the city, and is a starting point for several walking trails around the hill.
Designed to be a perfect cylinder, the Alfa Planetarium is a fun attraction for all ages. Both a science centre and planetarium, it's one of the leading facilities of this type in the whole of Latin America, including an observatory, stargazing workshops, and many hands-on exhibits. There's also an aviary, and an Imax theatre showing science and nature films on site.
The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, otherwise known as MARCO, is located on Gran Plaza. Its eleven galleries are home to several permanent collections of modern artwork from across Mexico, and it also hosts temporary exhibitions throughout the year. The museum is filled with fine paintings and sculptures from some of Latin America's leading artists, as well as some works from international artists. Don't leave without taking in its sculpture garden, where you'll find an amazing reflective mirror fountain set in a beautiful courtyard.
Built around the blast furnace of a former steel mill, the Museum of Steel is one of the largest museums in the country, and has been designed to celebrate Monterrey's tradition as the centre of steel manufacturing. The museum contains numerous exhibits to do with steel production, plus other products and industries. The Glass Museum is also worth a visit; opened in 1992, it documents the history of glass making in the region.
While Monterrey doesn't have any ancient Mayan or Aztec archaeological sites, you will find lots of interesting Pre-Columbian exhibits at the Mexican History Museum. Housed in four large halls, this hi-tech museum contains interactive displays and items dating back thousands of years through to colonial times.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Monterrey is a spectacular structure with its twin towers and detailed exterior. Once inside, you'll find an equally impressive interior housing many fine examples of 19th century artwork, including murals by Angel Zárraga, a well respected Mexican artist.
As the sun disappears, the cobblestone streets of the Barrio Antiguo or Old Neighbourhood will start to call your name... Once in this famous area, you'll find many places to try spicy Mexican food and enjoy a few well-earned drinks in a vibrant setting. And if you've still got some energy to burn, join the locals and dance away the rest of the night in one of the city’s lively clubs.
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