Puebla is probably Mexico’s most charismatic colonial city. Nowhere in Mexico is Spain’s influence more prominent: from the moment you drive into the city, you see the dome shaped roofs of churches and buildings, suggesting Spanish and Moor influences which arrived centuries ago and which have remained here in Puebla ever since.
Puebla is famous for one of Mexico’s most notable battles, which took place on May 5th 1862, against the French. 6,000 well armed French troops, sent by Napoleon III to occupy Mexico City (they had to take Puebla first) were defeated by 2000 poor, rag-tag, and poorly armed Mexicans. Although the French returned to occupy the city a year later, the event is a centerpiece in Mexican history and a symbol of its struggle and persistent determination against its foreign invaders. Today “Cinco de Mayo” (fifth of May) is a holiday in the State of Puebla, celebrating the victory of the Batalla de Puebla (Battle of Puebla).
Besides the famous Battle, Puebla is famous for its cuisine – some of Mexico’s most popular national dishes, including Mole and Chile Poblano were created in Puebla.
When the Spanish arrived, they brought with them Talavera (itself a Moor craft), a very strong and hard-wearing ceramic, which was colorfully decorated and used primarily for tiles (wall and floor). Today, Talavera is still manufactured here. Talavera is not an inexpensive good anywhere you buy it in Mexico, although you’ll find some of the lowest prices for it here in Puebla.
Puebla is Mexico’s fourth largest city, although most of its three million inhabitants live outside of the colonial center. The most notable industry here today is car manufacture: VW employ over 7,000 people to manufacture cars in Puebla, including the VW Beetle; the only place in the world where Beetles are made. When you see a VW Beetle, think of Puebla – it began its life here!
The colonial center is a colorful, vibrant and charming reflection of what Mexico’s colonial days looked and felt like. The main plaza is the central focus of the colonial city and weekends see the center packed with locals and visitors, enjoying the relaxed atmosphere, street performers and live bands.
The state of Puebla also hosts Mexico’s most famous (and non-dormant) volcano: Popocatepetl. If you drive or take the bus to Puebla, you’ll see this magnificent tower of natural energy from the south side; it is sometimes capped with snow. In the 1970’s you could see it from Mexico City, but today, air pollution blocks the view. If you want to see the Volcano, travel EARLY in the morning – late mornings and afternoons bring heat that causes mist so a clear view is obscured from the road to Puebla. There are no less than 3 other volcanoes in the area: Iztaccihuatl, Malinche and Citlaltepetl.
A short drive from Puebla is the colonial town of Cholula; famous for its church, which is flanked by the volcano Popocatepetl – see Key Attractions, below, for more details and links.
Puebla is a very religious city and serves as host to over 70 churches, as well as its magnificent Cathedral, which you’ll see as part your colonial city exploration.
Puebla is well connected by road with Mexico City, and also has an airport, so its very accessible. It’s do-able on a day-trip, but staying longer to explore the nooks and crannies is even better and will provide you with a much better experience of this beautiful and important colonial city.
It can also serve as a good base to explore more of Mexico’s southern provinces, providing a good springboard for places such as Taxco, Veracruz, and Cuernavaca. You can discover all of these places with Mexperience.
The look, feel and atmosphere in Puebla’s colonial center is distinctly Spanish/Moor. The colonial center is well preserved, the streets are cobbled or laid with old-style paving stones. The atmosphere is a relaxed one and the surroundings are colorful; the spirit here is distinctly colonial.
Start your experience in the main plaza (Zocalo). The main tree lined square is surrounded by a selection of shops and restaurants; many people breakfast here.
Puebla’s Breath-Taking Cathedral
On the south side of the city’s Zocalo (main square) is the Puebla’s breath-taking cathedral. This cathedral is featured on reverse side of all $500 peso bank notes, and for good reason: the cathedral is a beautiful work of colonial architecture.
The cathdral’s bell towers are 69 meters high (over 207 feet), making them the tallest bell towers of any cathedral in Mexico. The tone of the bells is truly exceptional, and the interior of the cathedral is awesome; you’ll also see the largest church organ in Mexico inside.
Adjacent to the Cathedral, you’ll find Casa de La Cultura which takes up a whole block and hosts, among other things, the oldest library in the Americas: Bilioteca Palafoxiana.
A lot of the architecture here features Talavera tiles – look out for them as you explore the various streets and plazas around this picturesque colonial city.
There are a couple of Temples you shouldn’t miss: Templo de San Francisco and Templo de Santo Domingo; both have excellent examples of 16th and 17th century (respectively) architecture.
Learn Spanish in Puebla
There’s no better way to learn Spanish than by becoming immersed in it at a language school in Mexico. Puebla is one of Mexico’s finest colonial cities and is also well-known as a cultural and language center; there are number of fine language schools here. Read our guide to Learning Spanish in Mexico for more details and to find a language school in Puebla.
Cerro de Guadalupe
Away from the colonial center, up on the hill, you’ll discover one of Puebla’s main parks: Cerro de Guadalupe. Take a trip here if you’re looking for some nice views and some green surroundings. There is also a a couple of historical forts here and a museum as well.
Just a fifteeen minute cab ride from the center of Puebla is the town of Cholula. Although the most famous attraction of Cholula is its famous archaeology park, the town itself provides an excellent base to explore nearby villages and procure some fine art and Talavera ceramic ware. Also, if you want to see the Volcanoes clearly, Cholula is the perfect place to stay overnight so that you can see the volcanoes clearly early in the morning. For more details, read our complete Travel Guide to Cholula and see the Photo Gallery.
Museums and Art in Puebla
Puebla has a good number of Museums to visit. The main ones include:
Museo Amparo – which is one of the best archaeological Museums in Mexico;
Museo Bello – situated in a colonial house in the historic center, the museum hosts fine art, furniture and antiques from around the world;
Museo de Artes Populares – (Popular Art Museum) offers a selection of Mexican Arts and Crafts, as well as a traditional kitchen, displaying native Mexican cuisine;
Museo de la Revolucion – (Revolution Museum) is house that staged the first battle of the 1910 revolution.
Museo del Ferrocarril – S (Locomotive Museum) hosts a couple of handful’s of vintage locomotives.
Golf in Puebla
The climate in Puebla is ideal for golf all year-round, and due to the influence of the high number of multi-national companies based here, there are several good golf courses where you can play.
By Air – You can fly to Puebla from the US and and other points in Mexico including Mexico City, Guadalajara, Leon and Tijuana. Connect to the Mexperience guide about Air Travel in Mexico for more details.
By Bus – You can travel to Puebla on a luxury bus from Mexico City – the trip takes around 2 hours. Buses travel from the Southern Bus Terminal and also directly from the Airport. Connect to the Mexperience guide about Bus Travel in Mexico for more details.
By Car – Driving to Puebla is very fast and efficient on the high-speed road that connects the Capital to Puebla. Take Highway 150D South, or from Veracruz 150D, West. See the detailed Mexperience guide to Driving in Mexico and Mexico’s Toll Roads for full details.
From the Airport – The airport is about 10 miles west of Puebla and ground transportation is available into town; buy your tickets from the terminal building inside the airport.
Taxis – Puebla’s street taxis are not metered, so agree your price before you get in. Your hotel can arrange taxis for you; some post their rates on a board in the lobby. If you speak Spanish, you will have a distinct advantage and be able to negotiate a better price! Another good reason to Learn Spanish!
Rent a Car – If you plan to explore the region independently, renting a car would be a smart option as it will give you the freedom and flexibility to see more of the area and its surrounding attractions. Learn more about Renting in a Car in Mexico on our detailed guide. You can rent a car from Mexico City or the airport at Puebla: see the Travel Reservations Center for Car Rental in Mexico
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Telephone: Connect to the Communications in Mexico Page on Mexperience for full information about keeping in touch and the latest table of national dialing codes.
Exchanging Currency: Banks with ATM machines are found throughout the downtown area of Puebla, especially in the areas around the main plaza (Zocalo). During business hours, they and the local Casas de Cambio will buy traveler’s cheques and cash from you as well. Read about currency exchange in Mexperience’s Money Section.
Travel Insurance: We recommend that you are adequately covered with travel medical cover and/or travel assistance cover when you are visiting Mexico. Read the Mexperience guide to Travel Insurance in Mexico for full details and links to specialist insurance suppliers.
Internet Access: Internet cafes can be easily found in towns and cities across Mexico and WiFi is increasingly commonplace–from cafes, shops, hotels, and some cities even offer free WiFi in some defined public spaces.
Active Volcano Alert: Popocatepetl is currently semi-active, although recent volcanic activity has settled down again. However the State of Puebla and in particular the immediate areas surrounding the volcano are on yellow alert. The city of Puebla, and Mexico City itself are not under immediate threat and it is quite safe to travel to both places. Constant monitoring of volcanic activity takes place, and if the situation changes, notice will be given.
We have no specific restaurant recommendations at this time.
Puebla is quite a lively place at night, with authentic Mexican Mariachis wondering the streets and restaurants, in search of people to hire their musical services. A real treat!
Locally Hosted Parties – Check with yours and other Local Hotels about public parties they may be hosting during your stay. Traditional Mexican theme night parties are popular with the locals, and there’s a chance you could join a really special night out – the real Mexican way, and certainly on the eve of September 16th – Mexico’s Independence Day. Hosted parties usually include dinner, dancing, a show and / or live music (usually authentic Mexican Mariachis) plus all drinks for a fixed fee and are always excellent value for money! Ask at your hotel to find out what is happening locally.
Night Bars / Restaurants – There’s a good variety of Late Night Entertainment in Puebla to keep you happy and entertained into the early hours. Check the Mexperience Travel Center for details.
Puebla is the home of Talavera ceramic-ware, and you can buy a selection of items including colorful tiles, crockery and dinnerware made from this hard-wearing (and “unbreakable”) ceramic craft. The ceramic ware is not inexpensive anywhere, but Puebla is the best place to buy it, as it is among the least expensive of the places in Mexico that sells it. While you are here, be sure to savor Mole Poblano, a rich, dark savory sauce made with chocolate, bananas and spices. It’s traditionally served over chicken accompanied with Arroz a la Mexicana–delicious.
Puebla enjoys year-round, spring-like weather. The climate is ideal for taking part in a variety of outdoor sports and activities and for taking in the local culture, architecture and scenery. Rains are seldom a feature here; when they do come they tend to be during the months of April thru November, but as with most monsoon areas, the rains tend to be fierce and brief in the late afternoon, leaving the evenings dry and cooled off. You may need a wool pullover for cooler mornings and evenings, especially in the winter months.
Weather & Climates in Mexico
Learn more about the weather and climates through the seasons and regions by connecting to the Mexperience guide about Weather and Climates in Mexico