David and I recently took a long weekend trip to explore Puebla City, Mexico; a mid-sized city about 2 hours from CDMX. Puebla was originally founded by the Spanish in 1531, and was the first Spanish city NOT built on an existing Aztec town. Because of this, walking around Puebla in some ways feels like walking through a European, colonial town. Puebla City's compact layout is perfect for anyone who only has a day or two to visit, as many of the highlights are within a 15-20 minute walk of each other. We crammed a lot into our time (we attempted to check off everything in the Lonely Planet guide), so take our word for it that these are the top things to do!
1. Enjoy the zocalo
One of the best things about even the smallest towns in Mexico is that they all have a central square (zocalo) where locals come to enjoy the weather, spend time with family, eat lunch, etc. The zocalo in Puebla City is particularly beautiful with lots of benches, balloon vendors, and restaurants. We returned to this spot a few times during our trip to cool off in the shade, and people watch.
2. Take a 1/2 day trip to Cholula
Cholula is one of the Pueblos Magicos, and is conveniently only a few miles from Puebla City. In fact, if you are feeling adventurous, take one of the collectivo buses and you will arrive in about 30 minutes. Alternatively, simply hop in a cab or Uber for the short ride. While there are other activities in Cholula, namely visiting all 39 churches, the main reason to visit is the Zona Arqueológica. This historical site takes you underneath the widest manmade pyramid in the world, and then up to the top, where you can step inside the ornately decorated church. If you are lucky, you will also get incredible views of the surrounding mountains (we did not).
3. Stroll through the markets
If you are in Puebla City on a Sunday, you will find yourself in shopping heaven. First head over to Calle de los Sapos for the small, but impressive antiques market. Most vendors are set-up by 10:30, but don't forget to walk inside the actual stores lining the street as well. Next, walk a few blocks over to Analco Park, which hosts a local artisans market. We picked up some homemade herbed salad dressing from a mother-daughter duo.
4. Eat at Restaurante de Aplicación
This small restaurant is the training kitchen for the culinary students at IEU, which means you get high quality food for super low prices. It's only open Monday-Friday until early afternoon, so I would recommend going for breakfast or brunch. For only a few dollars, you will be treated to fresh juice, coffee, fruit, a pan dulce, and your main dish.
5. Buy some talavera
Talavera is a type of pottery unique to Puebla, which is often identified by its classic blue and white designs. You will find talavera all over the city, but I strongly encourage you to head to Uriarte, which is the oldest company in Puebla, and one of the few remaining where the artists still work in the building. During the week, they also offer tours of the facility.
6. Visit the oldest public library in Latin America
Biblioteca Palafoxiana was established in 1646, and is now part of the larger Casa de la Cultura (which regularly hosts free cultural performances). The room has been remarkably well maintained, and you can see a number of books on display throughout the room.
7. Buy some dulces on Avenida 6 Oriente
Puebla is well known for it's traditional sweets and candies, and there is no better place to try them then on Avenida 6. There are easily 30-40 shops in only a few blocks, so I would recommend buying a little something from a few different ones.
8. Eat at El Mural de los Poblanos
Read my separate post here, but I promise it's worth it, especially if you are looking for a place where you can try all the classic Poblano dishes in one place.
9. Drop into a few of Puebla's museums
For a compact area, Puebla has an impressive number of small, and inexpensive museums, many of which highlight the historical and political importance of the region. We visited 6 of the museums recommended by our travel book. Here's a list, pick a few!
Have you visited Puebla recently? What was your favorite thing to do?
Walking enthusiast, and kitchen experimenter currently living out my dream in Mexico City, Mexico.
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