Monterrey may be a highly metropolitan city, but there is still an existing old soul downtown.
Known as El Barrio Antiguo, it is what’s left of the historical portion of Monterrey, where colorful buildings are closely packed together along cobblestone streets.
In recent years, Barrio Antiguo has been revitalized as more restaurants and bars have been popping up. The old homes and brilliant colors also provide ample backgrounds for Instagram-ready selfies.
Barrio Antiguo is easily accessible from the hub of Monterrey’s downtown, the Macroplaza. A large square in the center of town, the Macroplaza is home to modern art sculptures, old-style gazebos, government buildings and impressive fountains.
Just off the Macroplaza, right before entering the tight streets of Barrio Antiguo, is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Monterrey. The cathedral was built between 1705 and 1791. Outside, the cathedral resembles the opulence of the baroque era, with extensive detailing and niches for the saints. However, it also speaks to the Spanish colonial-style architecture with its high arches and subdued coloring.
Each Sunday, Barrio Antiguo sees an influx of people as merchants and collectors bring their items into the streets for the weekly market. Spanning many blocks, the market sells everything from miscellaneous antiques, thrift clothing, handmade jewelry and even birds. Along every corner is a musician serenading the crowd. At one point, a group begins to dance in the middle of the street and invites others to join them.
The market provides opportunity to not only explore Barrio Antiguo but to also become fully immersed in rapid-fire Spanish.
Despite modernity creeping in to Barrio Antiguo, you can still find marks of traditional Mexico. Lining the entrances of homes are colorful, hand-painted tile. Intricate steel gates create security and beauty. Tall, flowering trees dot the streets with pink. Hand-painted ceramic signs welcome you into a home.
It’s not unusual to see modern posters and stickers against the side of colonial or traditional homes. This clash of old and new exemplifies the tradition of Monterrey, and its continuous push for modernization.