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Discover the Beauty of Puebla with these Popular Experiences and Hidden Wonders


| 14 mins read

Located just 140 kilometres from Mexico City, Puebla is a mesmerising colonial city that boasts colourful street markets and a quiet sort of charm, all set against the backdrop of majestic snow-capped volcanic mountains. Beyond its picture-perfect scenery, Puebla is teeming with rich culture, stunning architecture, and unique and delicious cuisine. To top it all off, it is a UNESCO Heritage Site for its exceptional cultural significance. Join us on this journey through both the popular experiences that showcase the heart of Puebla and the hidden wonders that offer a unique glimpse into the soul of this enchanting city.

The Must-Have Experiences

City Tour of Puebla: A Journey Through Time

The very first and entirely unmissable thing to do when entering this historically and culturally rich city is to familiarise oneself with the roots of the city. A historical tour of Puebla - given by a resident who is as passionate about the city as we all are of our native regions - promises an immersive journey through centuries of rich cultural heritage and architectural marvels. The well-preserved colonial buildings, vibrant streets, and stories of how they came to exist are all brought to life when hearing it “straight from the horse’s mouth”, as the saying goes.

The heart of the city is the iconic Zócalo Square, known formally as “Plaza de la Constitución”, flanked by the majestic Puebla Cathedral and the municipal “palace” of Puebla. The main square comes alive in the afternoon and stays alive far into the night, making this one of the best places to people-watch and connect with the locals for an immersive experience.

Tips by our local guides: Make sure to plan your trip on Fridays/Saturdays, as the cathedral has a gorgeous light show that can be watched from the main square on these days.

The reason for Puebla’s notoriety for its stunning architecture is made clear while visiting the Santo Domingo Church and its accompanying Rosary Chapel. The entirety of the Chapel (located to the left of the altar in the Church) is gilded in gold, with light entering directly from above, making it one of the most sparkling examples of ingenuity. It is said that the Virgin Mary presented Saint Dominic, the founder of the Dominican order, with a rosary, because of which he built a church dedicated to the “Lady of the Rosary”.

The city's longstanding history becomes more apparent in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Puebla’s Historical Center. This urban gem boasts a captivating streetscape with a staggering 2619 monuments and 391 blocks. As we wander the narrow cobbled streets, marvel at the 16th-century facades adorned with distinctive Talavera tiles, each step revealing a testament to the city's rich history. Brace yourself to be dazzled by architectural jewels around every corner. Visit the Casa de Alfeñique, a fine example of Baroque architecture, and learn about its fascinating history.

As required from a city with so many stories to offer, Puebla has numerous excellent museums that will interest those wanting to delve deeper into its past and present. The Amparo Museum houses an extensive collection of pre-Hispanic artefacts, colonial art, and contemporary pieces, offering a comprehensive view of Mexico’s diverse heritage. The Casa de Alfeñique, once the place of residence for the elite of the city, serves as a fine example of Baroque architecture and a place to learn about how the other half lived in the 19th century.

A Culinary Adventure: Embark on a Puebla Food Tour

Located in what is perhaps one of the best countries for foodies and culinary explorers, it is expected that Puebla is teeming with mouthwatering dishes just waiting to be relished. But what makes it unique is that the city goes beyond typical Mexican fare, with dishes so distinctive that they are absent even in nearby Mexico City!

One of the dishes that should not be missed is a steaming clay pot filled with "mole poblano," a rich, complex sauce of chillies, nuts, and chocolate poured over the tender chicken. This delicious treat is so popular that it is lovingly anointed as the “national dish” of Puebla! To balance out the hot chilli flavours, savour the smoky sweetness of "chiles en nogada," poblano peppers stuffed with ground meat, raisins, and walnuts adorned with a creamy walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds – a visual and culinary masterpiece.

To discover all that the city has to offer in terms of food, follow a trusted local guide who will lead you through the (albeit delicious) maze of flavours beyond the city. In quaint villages, sample the earthy, comforting "sopa Azteca," a layered tortilla soup with vegetables and cheese, or indulge in the unique "cemitas," Pueblan-style sandwiches stacked with savoury fillings like "milanesa" (thinly sliced, breaded meat) and the local favourite, "papaloyo" (a butterfly-shaped, cheese-filled poblano pepper). All this goodness while also regaling you with the story behind them, the process of making them, and even introducing you to some of the people who cook them best. Who said following your stomach won’t find you any friends! 

No exploration of Puebla's culinary landscape is complete without a sweet ending. Puebla's Calle de los Dulces ("Street of Sweets", also called Street of Santa Clara) boasts over 40 shops overflowing with cookies, traditional candies, and local delicacies. Bite into a crispy "camote" (sweet potato) fritter dusted with cinnamon sugar, or savour a delicate "mole poblano" ice cream, a testament to Puebla's creativity and the city's ability to surprise your taste buds at every turn. Or go the traditional route and try "Pasita," a sweet bread soaked in rum syrup and often enjoyed with a cup of coffee.

Witness the Mastery: Immerse Yourself in a Talavera Workshop

This unique ceramic art form, named after a pottery-producing city west of Madrid, reached its peak in Puebla due to its unique black and white clay and blending of cultural influences. The surge in churches and cathedrals created vast canvas-like surfaces, prompting a surge in this decorative art form.  Protected by a special designation, the Talavera art form adheres to specific limitations and traditional techniques, while some workshops embrace innovation through modern designs.

Today, you can immerse yourself in a workshop dedicated to preserving the centuries-old art of Talavera, guided by a passionate local, and witness the entire process, from raw materials to the final product. The two types of clay are meticulously combined, then shaped and dried before undergoing its first transformation in a fiery kiln. After this initial firing, the pieces are dipped in a base coat, ready for the vibrant colours to be applied by hand. Each piece requires days of artistic attention before returning to the kiln for its final transformation. Handpainting your own Talavera tile offers an opportunity to create a unique souvenir and a lasting memory of your Puebla experience.

Celebrate with Locals: Festivals in Puebla

Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead):  Observed on November 1st and 2nd, Puebla joins other parts of Mexico in celebrating this day with a unique blend of solemnity and festivity. Families construct vibrant altars adorned with offerings for deceased loved ones, while cemeteries transform into lively spaces filled with music and joyful activities.

Cinco de Mayo (May 5th): Holding particular significance in Puebla, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the 1862 Mexican victory over the French army at the Battle of Puebla. The city comes alive with vibrant parades, music, and dance performances, while historical reenactments offer a glimpse into this pivotal moment.

This is a perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of the Battle of Puebla by exploring the historic Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe on a guided visit. These forts played a crucial role in the Mexican victory and today,  offer visitors a chance to explore the ramparts, tunnels, and cannons, gaining a deeper understanding of the battle strategies and the resilience of the Mexican forces. Guided tours provide insightful commentary and historical context.

Feria de Puebla (Puebla Fair): Held from mid-April to mid-May, the Feria de Puebla is a family-oriented celebration of the state's rich culture. This lively fair features amusement rides, concerts, and even bullfighting, offering memorable moments for all ages.

Ambulante Film Festival: As the name suggests, the Ambulante Film Festival shines a spotlight on local and international independent filmmaking talents. Showcasing a diverse range of genres, the festival also celebrates other visual art forms like plays, musicals, and documentaries, fostering experimentation within the filmmaking field.

Explore the "City of Churches", Cholula:

Journey beyond Puebla's vibrant streets to the charming town of Cholula, located only 30 minutes from Puebla and aptly nicknamed the "City of Churches" for its numerous sacred structures. Here, history unfolds at your feet as you climb the Great Pyramid of Cholula, the largest pyramid in the world by volume, cleverly disguised as a natural hill. Atop this ancient marvel, explore the captivating Church of Santa Maria Tonantzintla, built in the 16th century. This architectural wonder seamlessly blends indigenous and Catholic elements, offering a testament to the region's rich cultural tapestry.

A major church to visit in Cholula is the San Francisco Acatepec, constructed in the 17th century. This architectural gem exemplifies the Mexican Baroque style, renowned for its dramatic ornamentation and elaborate details. Step closer to be dazzled by the church's distinguishing feature: a stunning mosaic crafted from thousands of colourful Talavera tiles.

Tips by our local guides: The churches put on a great fireworks display on some days, and while the schedule is not fixed, ask your local guide to let you know if you can schedule the time of visit for these shows.

For a truly immersive experience, visit Cholula during the Cantona Spring Equinox celebration held on March 21st. Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of traditional dances and music, explore alternative therapies, and savour delectable regional cuisine. This unique event allows you to witness indigenous cultural practices firsthand and connect with the natural world that surrounds Cholula.

For Those Willing to Go Just a Smidge Beyond

Hunt for Street Art and Souvenirs

While the Centro Histórico displays beautiful, thought-provoking art, nothing quite prepares one for the spectacle that awaits in the Barrio de Xanenetla. The narrow cobbled streets of this neighbourhood are transformed by the murals of the Ciudad Mural. These extraordinary artworks, a collaborative effort between residents and the artists of Colectivo Tomate, adorn the walls of modest homes, stores, and workshops. More than just decoration, these murals are a vibrant tapestry woven from the memories and personal histories of the people of Xanenetla.

Take home some memorable souvenirs from the Parian market that opens at 10 am and bustling until sunset. The market is a short walk from either Rosewood or Cartesiano hotels and offers a delightful array of souvenirs. Peruse colourful painted mugs and intricately hand-stitched dolls, and fuel your shopping spree with a coffee and pastry at the charming Santo Patrono cafe, easily identified by its vibrant pink facade.

For a unique treasure hunt, wake up early and head to Los Sapos, the antique market, before the crowds arrive. Spread across the entire day, your local guide will introduce you to a diverse mix of items, from 200-year-old ceramics and hand-carved chests to vintage action figures and nostalgic Coca-Cola trays. Don't miss the hidden gems tucked away in the brick-and-mortar stores lining the market, as these often hold the most surprising finds.

Enjoy a show at the Teatro Principal:

Travel back in time and discover the Teatro Principal, a beautifully preserved theatre built in the 18th century. Immerse yourself in the grandeur of its architecture, featuring a horseshoe-shaped balcony, intricate plasterwork, and a breathtaking ceiling mural. Explore the theatre's history by taking a guided tour and learning about its past performances and renovations. If you're fortunate enough to visit during showtime, catch a performance and be captivated by the acoustics and theatrical atmosphere of this historical gem.

La Casa del Mendrugo and the accompanying Museum:

Housed within the historic La Casa del Mendrugo, the Museo Casa del Mendrugo beckons on the second floor. Stepping back in time, this building served as an educational institution and even a Federal Treasury. Remarkably, its restoration in 2010 unearthed fascinating archaeological treasures, including a 3,500-year-old grave. This museum showcases these unearthed remains alongside stunning Talavera pottery and intricately carved “Amos Por Siempre” - a collection of incised and engraved Zapotecan skulls.

Tips by our local guide: La Casa del Mendrugo is home to some of the best mole, pipian, and chalupas in Puebla, so do not forget to enjoy a meal there.

Discover Atlixco and Atlimeyaya on a Private Tour

A pleasant way to discover the beauty of Mexico is to go on a private tour of the stunning Atlixco and Atlimeyaya, located only 30 minutes away from the city. First, immerse yourself in the magic of Atlixco, aptly nicknamed the "City of Flowers." Breathe in the intoxicating aroma and lose yourself in the kaleidoscope of colours at the vibrant flower market. Wander through the charming zócalo (main square), where colourful buildings and inviting cafes line the streets. Don't miss the opportunity to visit the stunning Santa Maria de Cholula church, its intricate facade a testament to the town's rich history.

Nestled amidst a verdant valley, Atlimeyaya unveils its breathtaking natural beauty. Hike up to the Cascada Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Waterfall) and marvel at its cascading waters, surrounded by lush greenery. Relax by the natural pools at the base of the waterfall, or take a refreshing dip if the weather permits.

Huey Atlixcáyotl: A Celebration of Culture

If you find yourself in Atlixco around September, be sure to experience the vibrant Huey Atlixcáyotl festival.

This annual celebration honours the pre-Hispanic deity Quetzalcoatl and showcases the region's rich cultural heritage through vibrant parades, traditional dances, and ritualistic reenactments.

Unravel the Mysteries: Explore the Secrets of Puebla Tunnels:

Long considered an urban legend, these passageways were rediscovered in 2015, sparking intrigue and historical exploration. The tunnels, believed to be up to 500 years old and stretching for over 10 kilometres, were likely used for various purposes. Theories suggest they served as secret passages for soldiers during battles, escape routes for the clergy, or even hidden pathways for everyday citizens.

Today, a portion of the tunnel system is open to the public, offering guided tours that take visitors on a captivating journey beneath the city. The tour starts with personal stories and legends, followed by a visual history of the Bubas Bridge. An art room showcases the city's colonial past through "Los Dos Pueblos" murals and sculptures. Upstairs, the Water Museum details the city's connection to water. The tour ends with a stunning viewpoint and the historic Puente de Bubas, showcasing the city's coat of arms and the "Queen's Shield," the oldest document related to its foundation.

Planning Your Puebla Adventure

  • Seasonality: Puebla experiences a mild climate year-round, with the rainy season occurring from May to October. If you prefer cooler weather, consider visiting between November and April.

  • Accommodation: Puebla offers a diverse range of accommodation options to suit various budgets and preferences. From historical mansions converted into charming boutique hotels to modern chain hotels and budget-friendly hostels, there's something for everyone.

  • Language: Spanish is the primary language spoken in Puebla, but basic English is understood in tourist areas. Learning a few basic Spanish phrases will enhance your experience and allow you to interact with locals more effectively.

Beyond the List: Create a Unique Puebla Experience

  • Consider attending a cooking class to learn the secrets of preparing traditional Poblano dishes like Mole Poblano or Chiles en Nogada (stuffed poblano peppers in walnut sauce).

  • Take a day trip to the Africam Safari Park located near Puebla and encounter various African animals in a semi-open environment.

  • Visit the Estrella de Puebla Ferris wheel for breathtaking panoramic views of the city, especially at night when the city lights illuminate the landscape.

  • Learn about the city's vibrant street art scene by taking a guided walking tour or exploring the colourful murals in various neighbourhoods.

  • Immerse yourself in the nightlife by visiting a traditional cantina or enjoying live music at a local bar or club.

Remember, this is just a starting point. With its numerous historical sites, cultural offerings, and hidden gems, Puebla has something to offer every traveller. So, explore, discover, and create your own unforgettable memories in this captivating Mexican city!