If you're in the mood to museum-hop while in Mexico, then Toluca is the place to be. Toluca, the capital of the State of Mexico, boasts a dozen or more museums -- only Mexico City possesses more museos -- and is famous throughout the country for its cultural focus.
Los Portales, 120 arches built in three sections during the 19th century, designate the city's shopping, dining and downtown district. The arches also serve as a familiar landmark and meeting spot for city residents and tourists; arriving at Los Portales, you'll find you're within easy walking distance of Toluca's many parks, gardens, hotels, restaurants and museums.
Violins, Trumpets and Guitars
After 9:00 p.m., Toluca's bustling downtown pedestrian area comes alive with the sounds of mariachi bands, so it's worth venturing out at night to steep yourself in some traditional Mexican folk music.
Toluca: La Bella
Alternately known as La Bella, or The Beautiful, Toluca draws many architecturally-minded tourists. Visitors come specifically to bask in the downtown area's notable 19th-century colonial architecture and Neoclassic-style facades of the city's various government buildings, palaces, Cathedral of Toluca and several historic temples.
A good way to check out everything Toluca has to offer is to hop on the Tranvía, the city's motorized trolley, which departs from the cathedral and passes two dozen sites of interest during a 50-minute ride.
Nevado de Toluca, or The Naked Lord
One of the highest cities in North America, Toluca, Mexico is located in a breezy valley at the base of a volcano called Nevado de Toluca. At the top of the stratovolcano sits a wide caldera, or crater, containing two lagoons that can be visited by car or bus. The last eruption of the volcano took place over 10,000 years ago; the volcano has been relatively quiet since.
Indigenous people named the volcano Xinantecatl-- meaning "the naked man or lord" -- because they thought the crater's silhouette looked very much like the naked outline of a sleeping man. The area around and including the volcano has been designated a state park where visitors can hike, mountain climb, bicycle and just enjoy the area's natural scenic beauty.
Beware of Toluca's Traffic
One word of caution concerning Toluca: traffic can be heavy because of the city's surrounding industrial sprawl, but it's especially bad on Fridays when villagers flock to the market -- Mercado Juárez -- to buy, sell and trade goods and produce.