The otherworldly backdrop of tortuously shaped mountain peaks is always in view in Mexico’s third-largest city and second-largest industrial center. A small way station for much of its history, Monterrey came into its own after independence and, with the arrival of the railroad, quickly grew into the country’s economic powerhouse. It is now Mexico’s wealthiest and most modern city. While business and the high-tech industry draw a steady stream of business travelers, Monterrey also offers nonstop diversions for leisure travelers, from exceptional museums to outdoor adventures.

Things to Do

The central Macroplaza is a showcase for Monterrey’s modern architecture, including the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MARCO), Mexico’s best modern art museum outside of the capital. The Barrio Antiguo’s cobbled streets and colonial buildings exude boho atmosphere. At nearby Parque Fundidora, a former steel factory complex, you can walk old blast furnace catwalks high above the city. El Obispado, a museum in the restored 18th-century bishop’s palace, crowns Monterrey’s highest hill and offers 360-degree city and mountain views.

Restaurants and Dining

Northern Mexican cuisine revolves around richly flavored meat produced by semi-arid soil conditions. Monterrey’s specialty is cabrito al pastor—baby goat slow-roasted over mesquite coals—famously served by the landmark El Rey del Cabrito restaurant. Artsy La Casa de Maíz turns out a cornucopia of fresh takes on the corn-based dishes of southern Mexico. In the suburbs, Fonda de San Francisco reinvents indigenous, pre-conquest recipes, conjuring dishes as unusual as they are delicious.

Nightlife and Entertainment

The Barrio Antiguo is nightclub central, going full tilt on Thursday, Friday, and especially Saturday nights. Cafe Iguana is the place to groove to eclectic underground music. For something a little more sedate, order a margarita and settle back for some live music at Nueva Luna. Not sure what you’re in the mood for? El Zócalo contains five of the city’s most popular clubs, each with a different style.

Active Pursuits

The dramatic crags surrounding Monterrey are repositories of adventure. Climbers test their prowess on the massive limestone cliffs of Potrero Chico. Ride a horse into Huajuco Canyon to Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls), Mexico’s largest waterfall, and cascades deeper in the canyon. Chipinque, an ecological park in the Sierra Madre foothills, draws birders, hikers, mountain bikers, and climbers. Parque Nacional Cumbres de Monterrey is the country’s first national park, a haven for rappellers, mountaineers, hang-gliders, and mountain bikers.