Orizaba is a dark horse city, overshadowed in more ways than one by its eponymous volcano (the highest mountain in Mexico) and characterized by an unconventionally laid-out downtown which, while not drop-dead gorgeous, has enough booty to lure the moderately discerning. The most striking sight is Gustave Eiffel’s unique art-nouveau Palacio de Hierro (Iron Palace). The most revealing is the excellent art museum, home to the second-largest Diego Rivera collection in Mexico. Equally improbable (for Mexico) is a rather salubrious urban river walk, amid bridges, greenery and (caged) animals.
Orizaba was founded by the Spanish to guard the Veracruz−Mexico City road. An industrial center in the late 19th century, its factories were early centers of the unrest that led to the unseating of dictator Porfirio Díaz. In 1898, a Scotsman running a local steel factory founded Mexico’s first soccer team, called Orizaba Athletic Club. Today the city has a big brewery and is home to cement, textile and chemical industries.