Puebla is a scenic mountains town just 2 hours east of Mexico City. It is as quaint, as it is charming, featuring beautiful colonial architecture and modern designs. The food in Puebla makes it a destination in its own right as gorging yourself on tacos Arabes and mole poblano will make anyone happy.
Puebla has a lived in feel that isn’t matched by anywhere else I’ve been in Mexico. The streets are packed with locals and the tourists, for the most part, are Mexicans visiting from other parts of the country. There aren’t tourist agencies on every corner and you’re left discovering things on your own — something that can be a very joyous way to travel.
It’s picture-perfect: a colonial city full of colorful street markets and backed by snow-capped volcanoes that’s hard to resist. On top of that, Puebla has a ton of history, culture, beautiful architecture, and some delicious, unique food. It’s even a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Puebla is part of my Mexico travel itinerary which includes Mexico City, Puebla, Oaxaca, and the Pacific coast!
Getting to Puebla
Almost all visitors to Puebla will be coming from Mexico City. This was actually the first destination on our trip. We landed at the Mexico City Airport and came straight to Puebla. From Mexico City Airport, there is a bus station literally next door to the main terminal. We walked outside of the airport and the bus station was right there. There are numerous bus companies here and there are frequent trips to Puebla.
We went with ADO which I’ve taken before in the Yucatan while visiting Cozumel, Tulum, etc and I very much enjoyed it. The bus runs hourly and costs 200-400 pesos one way depending on the time of the day. The bus ride is just over two hours and drops you off at the Puebla CAPU station. Alternatively, you can also take an Uber from the airport for roughly 1,000 pesos. If you are 3-4 people, this could be a no brainer as it is faster and more convenient. I was originally planning on doing this until I realized how close the bus station was. Make sure to tip the Uber driver some cash for going so far out of his way!
From Mexico City itself, there are very frequent buses from TAPO to Puebla CAPU. You don’t need to buy any tickets ahead of time. Simply rock up and choose the bus company of your choice and you will be on the next bus out!
Puebla and Cholula
When most people refer to Puebla, they are actually combining the greater area of Puebla and Cholula, less than ten miles away. In some ways, Cholula is a suburb of Puebla (and is home to La Universidad de las Américas Puebla), and in other ways, Cholula is an entirely separate city.
Both are worth visiting and their proximity makes them simple to combine. Puebla, by far, is more famous for its historic center but Cholula is where I found the most character. Partially because of the student body, Cholula has amazing nightlife: everything from fun bars to incredible jazz music and everything in-between. It’s also very walkable and easier to navigate.
The Great Pyramid of Cholula is a sight worth seeing. Although it is not an exposed rock pyramid like the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, it is actually the largest man made pyramid in the world. It is covered by vegetation however so you can’t really tell it’s man made. There is a small catholic church at the top and the views of the surrounding mountains are fantastic.
I enjoyed staying in Puebla, but I would definitely not be opposed to staying in Cholula as well and Ubering into Puebla.
Things to Do in Puebla
Puebla has a dozen photogenic sites, but none of them take particularly long to visit. The ones I think you shouldn’t miss are on a short, easy walking route. If you started early, you can squeeze this all in before dinner.
If you tend to linger, want to spend time in Puebla’s museums, see Cholula’s architectural sites, or sightsee in the dozens of local churches, you’ll definitely need a second day.
Museo Amparo and the rooftop
Puebla’s art museum, the Museo Amparo, is one of the cooler museums I’ve been to in Mexico. It is a bit out there with lots of modern art, propaganda pieces from the Mexican movement of the 60s and 70s, and various other pieces. I did really think their timeline of the world on the first floor is amazing. It’s a wall the size of a tennis court that spans the history of civilization of the world split by region.
The rooftop at the Museo Amparo is worth the visit alone. Take the elevator to the top and enjoy the unobstructed views of Puebla. There is a restaurant and cafe here as well but no one seemed to mind me coming up here to take some pics.
Capilla del Rosario and Santo Domingo Church
Inside the Church of the Santo Domingo, there’s a chapel entirely gilded with gold. Every surface is covered, making this a site like no other. The chapel is to the left of the altar — make sure you don’t miss it.
Callejon de los Sapos
The alley of the frogs really has nothing to do with frogs at all. These days, it’s a colorful street lined with artwork for sale and leading to antiques shops. Even if you’re not a shopper, it’s a cute street to walk down. Definitely the most photogenic part of the city.
Mexico’s first library, and sometimes considered the first in the Americas, this isn’t much more than a quick stop. Still, it’s interesting to peek inside for the wood carving. There is an entry fee of 30 pesos per person.
Hint: The library is inside the Casa de la Cultura on the upper floor and is easy to miss if you aren’t looking for it.
Like all Mexican cities, Puebla’s main square comes alive starting in the late afternoon and heading into the night. It’s surrounded by the municipal “palace” and cathedral, among other things, but in my opinion it’s better for the people-watching than for the sites.
Hint: On Friday and Saturday nights, the cathedral exterior displays a colorful light show. I missed it due to the timing of my visit, but from the photographs, it looks like it’s worth a visit.
Museo Internacional del Barroco
Located outside of the old town, this museum is brand new and dedicated to Baroque artists. The Museo International Del Barroco is easily reachable by Uber and takes 20-30 minutes from the old town. As you leave the old part of Puebla, you can see the huge contrast between the traditional cobble stone streets with colonial buildings to the modern and high rise buildings of the new city.
What to eat in Puebla
Puebla is an incredible culinary destination. There are foods here that are uniquely Pueblan and are even hard to find in Mexico City which is only 2 hours away. Get your appetite in gear and enjoy all the amazing cuisine Puebla has to offer!
Tacos Arabes Bagdad
Tacos are one of the mainstays of Mexican cuisine. I spent an incredible amount of time consuming tacos in Mexico city which I detailed in my ultimate Mexico city tacos tour.
Puebla is known for its own type of taco. Lebanese immigrants settled in Mexico generations ago and brought their spit roasting shawarma style cooking. Eventually they adopted the cuisine to local flavors including the use of pork and corn tortillas (tacos Al pastor)
Tacos arabes are somewhere in between. They are spit roasted with pork but cooked in traditional spices and use a flour based pita taco combo. As pitas are larger than a standard taco tortilla shell, expect each tacos arabes to have much more meat. It is absolutely delicious and taqueria serving tacos arabes are widely available in Puebla.
Tacos arabes Bagdad was one of the first restaurants. Located in the old Town, this place serves up delicious tacos for cheap. We got a bunch of the tacos arabes and tried their pastor as well. The tacos arabes are incredible tender, juicy and flavorful. The pita taco gives in a different texture than your standard corn tortilla but it goes well with the spices and absorbs the spicy salsas. Make sure to add copious amounts of salsa as the flour pita is drier than a corn tortilla.
Las Ranas Taqueria
A classic and extremely popular taqueria in the heart of the city center. Las ranas was my first Impala. These tacos are some of the best tacos we had in Mexico. you can see the guys cutting the pastor from outside on the street and the smell just naturally enticed you into the restaurant.
We were the only tourists in the entire restaurant but it was packed at 9 in the evening. We ordered 8 pastor tacos, one carne taco, topped off with two horchatas. We also ordered one tacos arabes but it was a flour pita filled with pastor seasoned pork as opposed to the traditional stuff. This is a must visit in Puebla.
El Mural De Los Poblanos
There exists other types of food in Mexico except tacos. Hard to believe, but it is very true. Mole is one such food that is distinctively Mexican. There are actually many types of mole in Mexico but Puebla is famous for producing the mole poblano. What is mole exactly? It’s a dark creamy sauce made with 20+ different spices, including chili peppers and cacao. The cacao (chocolate) helps counteract the heat from the spices but does not dominate the taste. There are subtle hints of cacao as well as other complex flavors I can’t describe.
El Mural De Los Poblanos is perhaps the most famous restaurant in Puebla. We came here for an upscale dinner one night to sample what made them famous, mole poblano. I was never a fan of mole in the past but that is only because I had it at mediocre restaurants. It was absolutely superb here. I had the sauce with duck and it was incredible. The complexity of the flavors was unlike any food I’ve had. We also tried the tacos arabes here which was made with lamb like it was traditionally in the Middle East. Also delicious.
I’d recommend making a reservation here as it gets packed with tourists and locals alike. We waited almost 1 hour for a table for two. The dishes are also quite expensive compared to the rest of Puebla, but it will still feel quite cheap for visitors from Western countries.
For a more casual family style atmosphere serving amazing mole, check out Fonda la Mexicana as well.
Churros are one of the simplest and yet most delicious desserts I can think of. It’s just fried dough coated with cinnamon, sugar, and topped off with various fillings of your choice. There is an abundance of churros in Mexico and Puebla. The best was this churros stand right across the street from El Mural De Los Poblanos on Avenida 16 de Septiembre making the freshest most delicious churros. They fried the churros on the spot and top if off with various sauces like lechera, chocolate, vanilla, strawberry etc. No need to get dessert at your restaurant when you can just come here and get an amazing churro for 20 pesos.
Cemitas La Poblanita
Cemitas are uniquely Pueblan and the pride of the city. These overstuffed sandwiches are packed with copious amounts of stingy white cheese, and served with your choice of meats. I chose the traditional milanesa which is a pork cutlet but they had carnitas, pollo, and carne options as well. They’re served on a large white roll with guacamole, onions, veggies, and of course chilies. They also brought out additional chilis adobo giving it a smokier taste which went extremely well with the white cheese.
There are many little shops selling cemitas in the old town and I settled on Cemitas La Poblanita. These sandwiches are huge and for 50-60 pesos, they will fill you up for lunch and then some.
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