The city of Puebla is not only home to beautiful colonial architecture, decorated with hand-painted Talavera tiles, but it’s also the birthplace of popular Mexican dish mole. From partying at vibrant fiestas to exploring beautiful libraries, here’s why you need to visit Puebla.
While millions of tourists pour into Mexico City every year, the smaller city of Puebla to the southeast is still a popular getaway – and one worth putting on your bucket list. Its wide streets are home to one of the biggest antique markets in Mexico, Poblano treats like raisin liqueur and rich mole, as well as handmade artisan wares – so you’ll definitely want to bring a piece of Puebla home with you.
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See the first library in the Americas
The Biblioteca Palafoxiana, besides being drop-dead gorgeous – if you can say that about a library – is considered to be the first library of the Americas. It’s named after Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, Puebla’s bishop and a voracious reader who donated his own collection of 5,000 books to the Colegio de San Juan with the stipulation that they be made available to the public. The collection now includes over 45,000 books and manuscripts, ranging from the 15th to the 20th century. The guided tours given by the library’s docents are quick, entertaining and highly recommended.
Drink raisin liqueur with cheese
La Pasita has been part of Puebla City since 1916 and was originally a local grocery store called El Gallo de Oro. This bar and liquor store specializes in making homemade liqueurs, particularly the one it’s named after — La Pasita, a raisin-flavored sweet liqueur served with a hunk of aged, salty cheese on a toothpick. We know it sounds odd, but trust us on this one. On most afternoons, the cantina is packed, with guests crowding around its few tables. If you can’t find a seat, you can always take a bottle to go.
Try one of Mexico’s most well-known dishes
Although many will argue the claim that mole was created in Puebla, there is no doubt that Mexico’s creamy, rich sauce made of numerous ingredients is now one of Puebla’s biggest exports. Mole can be found in most traditional restaurants throughout the state, including tiny mom-and-pop fondas, each with its own personal recipe. In Puebla City, you can also visit the mole grinders where folks come to get large quantities of the sauce. Just the smell in the air will make you hungry.
Satisfy your sweet tooth
Puebla’s colonial nuns had a lot of time on their hands and, apparently, a flair for cooking. They are said to have created some of Mexico’s most well-known dishes, including mole, chiles en nogada and Puebla’s famous traditional candies made of pumpkin seeds, candied nuts, marzipan and sesame. If you have a craving for something sweet, head down to Calle Santa Clara in Puebla’s Centro Histórico to visit some of the city’s oldest candy manufacturers and shops – where you’ll also find plenty of free samples.
Visit Mexico’s active volcano
A story of star-crossed lovers tells us that Popocatépetl is still mourning the death of his love, which is why he refuses to be silent, spewing out ashes and rocks every few months from the northern edge of Puebla’s city limits. This volcano and its partner, Iztaccíhuatl, can be found in the national park that bears their names, the latter of which can be trekked by experienced climbers looking for adventure.
Gaze at the world’s widest pyramid
You might not see it, but located under a grass-covered mound topped like a wedding cake by a canary yellow Catholic church is the world’s widest pyramid. Measuring 1,300 by 1,300ft (400 by 400m), Tlachihualtepetl – its native Maya name – is thought to have been socially and economically connected to the nearby Teotihuacan people. It was dedicated to Quetzalcoatl, the feather-serpent god worshiped by the ancient indigenous natives of the Valley of Mexico.
Explore the Unesco World Heritage site centre
A stroll through Puebla’s Centro Histórico should be at the top of your list. You’ll want to pop into Puebla’s towering cathedral just off the main plaza, but make time for stops along the Calle de los Dulces. The area is filled with sweet shops, alongside the historic Museo de la Revolución and Teatro Principal. At night, bars light up and the colonial casonas that now hold offices are ripe for the ghost tours telling legends of old.
Party at the Cinco de Mayo Festival
Contrary to what the festive Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the United States may have us believe, Cinco de Mayo isn’t so widely celebrated in Mexico – and no, it’s not Mexican Independence Day. However, you will find a lively May 5th party in Puebla, where the town commemorates – you guessed it – the victory at the Battle of Puebla. Don’t miss out on the annual parade, where performers reenact the battle, mariachis serenade the streets and stalls serve up mole as part of the simultaneous International Mole Festival.
Buy talavera pottery
You’ll see buildings decked out in talavera tiles all over Puebla, and it makes sense to pick some up for yourself, too. The pottery style is part-indigenous, part-Spanish and uniquely Pueblan. A handful of shops have the Mexican government’s denominación de origen seal of approval, meaning they stay true to the technique’s traditions. Some stores even offer guided tours, taking you through the process as wet clay turns to finished, painted product. Others, meanwhile, offer workshops on making your own talavera to take home.
Looking for more? Don’t miss the best bars in Puebla. You’ll be less than a two-hour drive from the Mexican capital, so why not extend your stay with one of the best hotels in Mexico City? Or treat yourself to a luxurious stay at a boutique hotel in the capital – bookable with Culture Trip. While you’re there, don’t miss the must-visit attractions, including the coolest neighbourhoods in Mexico City.
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