Spotlight on Puebla, a charming colonial city

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Puebla is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the fourth-largest city in Mexico.
Puebla is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the fourth-largest city in Mexico. Photo Credit: Russ Bowling

Mexico’s colonial side doesn’t get much more charming than the city of Puebla, which makes a great daytrip from Mexico City but can also stand on its own as a destination. Tucked at the feet of the Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl volcanoes, Puebla is a Unesco World Heritage Site and the fourth-largest city in Mexico.

The city dates back to 1532 and holds an important place in Mexico’s trade history. On their route toward Mexico City, the merchandise of ships arriving from the Philippines would first go through Puebla, which has brought threads of Asian artistry to the city. This can be seen on Talavera ceramic vases, pottery and the tiles that decorate facades in churches, houses, fountains and patios.

Your first reason for visiting Puebla is for its food, most notably mole, chiles en nogada and chalupas. 

Street food in Puebla is the best way to experience the cultural flavors of the city. Chalupas are a tortilla with green or red sauce, topped with onion, chicken or shredded beef. Try the quesadillas with mushrooms, chorizo, pumpkin flower or huitlacoche.

Cemitas are also quite popular in Puebla. These are special sandwiches prepared with melanesa, avocado, queso oaxaca and chipotles. And, of course, you can’t leave Puebla without sampling mole poblano.

Street food can be found everywhere, but worth a visit is the el Mercado de la Acocota, a smorgasbord of traditional Puebla treats all under one roof.

While visiting Puebla a trip to Cholula is extraordinary. Cholula was as impressive an Aztec city as was Tenochtitlan, which is modern-day Mexico City. The city stood at what appears to be a hill but is actually the largest pyramid ever built, covering 46 acres and spanning more than 1,300 feet on each side. The Great Pyramid can be explored via a labyrinth of interior tunnels, or above ground by walking through excavations at the pyramid’s base. Take time to climb the pyramid, where you will find the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de los Remedios, a church built at the top.

Other highlights in Puebla include Los Fuertes, Spanish for the forts, which sit on top of the Cerro de Guadalupe; this  is where the Battle of Puebla took place in 1862. The defense of the city by Gen. Ignacio Zaragoza from invading French forces is celebrated every year throughout the month of May, specifically on May 5; this historic event is what Cinco de Mayo is actually commemorating.

The Zocalo, or the city center, of Puebla has gorgeous colonial architecture. Stop by Los Sapos, the art district, where painters offer their paintings and a flea market is held every weekend.

Stay at Casareyna (http://www.casareyna.com/en/), a luxury boutique hotel with 10 suites, a poblana kitchen restaurant, a bar and an art gallery. For something modern and chic, consider the design-forward La Purificadora, a member of Grupo Habita (http://www.lapurificadora.com/main.html). Located in the historical city center, La Purifacadora is housed in a 19th century factory used to purify water. At Meson Sacristia de la Compania, travelers will find more traditional Mexican decoration and style as well as a restaurant (http://mesones-sacristia.com/espanol/english/index.php).

Traveling to Puebla from Mexico City is very easy via bus. There are continual bus services between the cities throughout the day and night, both from the TAPO terminal and from Benito Juarez Airport. The journey is approximately two hours but can vary depending on traffic leaving Mexico City. Travelers can also fly into Hermanos Sernan Airport. Direct flights are available from Houston, Dallas, Panama City and several cities within Mexico.

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