Weekend in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico

Almost a month after returning from Ghana, I was itching for another trip. My guiding light for choosing a destination is price. For less than $100 per person to fly roundtrip from Tijuana to Monterrey, it was a no brainer. So for a quick weekend at the end of February, Crystal and I found ourselves in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon.

We arrived at the Monterrey airport early morning and quickly navigated our way to the taxi kiosks. It is important to know which zone.you are traveling, as that determines price. We didn’t know, but thankfully a worker helped us determine the correct zone and we were on our way.

WHERE I STAYED

Hoteles Antigua $$65.06/night

First and foremost, I would like to thank Alejandro for all of his hospitality. He want above and beyond for us and his hotel was beautiful.

I chose this boutique hotel based on location, as I really wanted to stay in Barrio Antigua for the colonial architecture and proximity to the Macroplaza and Santa Lucia River. I booked the room through AirBnB. Prior to coming, I asked Alejandro if we could store our luggage before checking in at 3pm. Thankfully he yes, and asked what time we would arrive. He met at the hotel around 9am, and stored our luggage at an adjacent hotel which he also owns. Alejandro shared that he once lived the hotel we were staying at. After renovating for almost a year, he opened his first hotel. His success allowed him to repeat this process two more times with adjacent lots. When I come back to Monterrey, I will definitely try all his hotels.

Our room was past the pool up a spiral staircase. At the landing, you will find a small table and chair perfect for overlooking the pool in the morning with a coffee. Inside is beautiful with two queen size beds, a tv connected to Netflix, a large bathroom, and space I just wasn’t used to as a budget traveller. The room felt super luxurious, and the air conditioning was great for afternoon naps and escaping the Monterrey heat.

WHERE I ATE

Cafe Belmonte $$ Recommended to us by Alejandro, Cafe Belmonte was the perfect way to start our trip in Monterrey. Filled with lush plants and natural light, this cafe is delightful. I always get an espresso and a jugo de verde, and they did not disappoint. My chilaquiles were solid.

Pangea $$$$ Number 15 on the top 100 restaurants in Latin America, this was my first fine dinging tasting menu experience (excluding omakase). It was a meal I will never forget.

We sat outdoors, and the plants and casual sofa like seating options gave the meal a cool, modern vibe. We split a testing menu and the abbreviated 3 course option, since I don’t eat meat and a full testing menu would be a waste. Every course was amazing, and I still think this was the tastiest meal I’ve ever had. Make your reservation online, it’s worth it.

2 DAY ITINERARY

Day 1: Sunday

After breakfast at Cafe Belmonte, we decided to walk to the Macroplaza to explore. The plaza is bookended with two government palacios and a large fountain in the middle. The grounds were dotted with vendors selling agua frescas and crafts. Of course, Crystal and I had to grab a creamy cantaloupe agua fresca.

Wafts of live music seemed to emit from the Palacio Municipal de Monterrey, so we decided to check it out. Upon entering the courtyard, we were pleasantly surprised to discover a live brass band complete with a singer and dozens of elderly couples swing dancing. It was mesmerizing to watch the zoot suited men twirl their heeled partners across the floor. We spent the next couple hours watching the dancers, starting on the ground floor and then taking an elevator up a couple floors for a bird’s eye view. Even if there is not live music the day you go, I still recommend the Palacio as the courtyard is decorated with large Diego Rivera-esque murals by Julio Carrasco which are worth checking out.

After the impromptu show, we walked over to the other end of the plaza to the Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Nuevo León. This palacio, unlike to the first we visited, is an ornate historical building reminiscent of European grandeur. Inside was a free exhibit on the history of Monterrey, all in Spanish, so my understanding was minimum. The architectural details of the building were stunning, so I still recommend checking this out even if you don’t read Spanish.

After leaving the exhibit, the sun was blazing, and Monterrey heat is no joke. Luckily, our room was finally ready for check in, and we were ready for a nap.

We capped our first night with a dinner a spectacular dinner at Pangea, located in a modern mall reminiscent of the Americana in Glendale, very unlike the colonial Antigua neighborhood we were staying in.

Day 2: Monday

Please note that many restaurants in Monterrey are closed on Mondays. We learned this lesson the hard way when the place we chose for breakfast was closed when we arrived. Even if google says open, it is always best to call and double check. All was not lost however, as the neighborhoods along the journey to breakfast were cute, and warranted some pictures.

After breakfast, we walked back to the Santa Lucia River to catch the boat that would take us to Parque Fundidora. A cute and short little ride along the river, the boat is a great way to get out of the heat. Be sure to grab a seat toward the front of the boat for the best views.

Monterrey is known for being the richest city in Mexico, and that is owed to its steel production. The Parque Fundidora was historically an the industrial, but has since been transformed into a massive wonderland of museums and theme parks. We saw people biking through the park, and that seemed to be the best way to traverse the  45,000 m2 site.

We walked the park for maybe an hour, but then I got hot and hungry (and very cranky) and decided it was time to go. We took the boat back toward our hotel and grabbed some empanadas and an elote along the way.

It was a quick trip, so we barely scratched the surface on things to do in Monterrey. The city is also in the process of rebranding into a outdoor recreation wonderland, so hopefully my next time back will be filled with hiking and canyoneering

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