Planning to visit Puebla, but don’t know where to start? What are must-see tourist attractions in Puebla City and what places to visit in Puebla and around? Let’s take a closer look at sightseeing in Puebla and make an ideal itinerary for one day trip to Puebla City.
What should you know about Puebla City?
Puebla is the fourth-largest city in Mexico, just a two-hour drive from the capital (it’s 108 km, but there’s no accounting for Distrito Federal traffic). Puebla is the capital of Puebla state, and people from there are called “poblanos”.
Within Mexico, Puebla has a reputation for strong religious roots. The Spanish built the city at the intersection of two rivers and dubbed it their new Jerusalem, and there seems to be a stunning church on every corner. Locals tell there are 365 – one for every day of the year.
Puebla is where the Mexican army defeated French forces on May 5, 1862, in the Battle of Puebla.
The Historic Center of Puebla City is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Following an earthquake in Puebla in September 2017, many of the city’s most famous attractions have gotten fixed up and are ready to host visitors again – which means that contributing to the city’s economy is more vital than ever.
What to do in Puebla City?
Start at the central Church of Santo Domingo, which is most notable for its over-the-top Baroque-style Capilla del Rosario, which drips with so much gold you’ll wonder how it doesn’t come crashing down to the floor.
Then stop into the Templo de San Francisco, a bright-yellow structure that pays homage to local hero Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio (who happens to be a step away from sainthood), and Puebla Cathedral, with its stunning black limestone front and stunning gold organ, which is the second-tallest church in the country.
As you’ll see from its church interiors, Puebla is known for its Baroque architecture, which made it a logical home for the International Museum of the Baroque, which opened in 2016.
The museum – which looks more like the Guggenheim Bilbao on the outside with minimalist sweeps of white and silver — gives useful background on Baroque art and shows off some classic examples.
Beyond art, history buffs will want to visit the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, a 17th-century book collection and reading room that is widely considered the first public library in Mexico.
Talavera pottery is one of Puebla’s proudest exports. The mud is baked, glazed, and hand-painted, most traditionally in blue and white patterns. It’s so strongly associated with Puebla that even the local Starbucks has Talavera-style decor.
What to eat in Puebla?
Some of Mexico’s most beloved foods have their origins in Puebla, most notably “mole poblano” sauce. Nearly every restaurant in town has its own “mole poblano”, so you’ll have to sample a few different ones — for research, of course.
Besides the “mole poblano”, also try “tacos arabes” (meat and cheese wrapped in pita bread instead of corn tortillas, inspired by Lebanese immigration to the area) and salad with nopales, a local cactus (it’s on the Mexican flag).
And if your sweet tooth still isn’t satisfied, head to Candy Street (“Calle de Los Dulces”). This street is lined with small, locally-owned candy stores that sell some of Puebla’s most beloved sweets, including “camotes” (cigar-shaped rolls of colorful coconut), candied citrus rinds, and the small round “tortitas” de Santa Clara.
If you’re in town during the fall, Pueblan specialty “chiles en nogada” (peppers stuffed with ground meat, fruit, and nuts all covered in a milky sauce) is a traditional thing to eat around Independence Day on September 16.
Just a few miles from Puebla is the town of Cholula, which is known for having the largest pyramid in Latin America — yes, bigger than Giza and Chichen Itza, but with significantly fewer people.
Much of the Pirámide Tepanapa is obscured beneath a hill, with the vivid yellow Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios (“Church of Our Lady of Remedies”), a popular pilgrimage site for people seeking cures for diseases or chronic ailments, at its peak.
There is now a nice “tourist train” that runs between Puebla and Cholula, dropping you off just at the base of the pyramid. However, the train still has limited hours, so you’ll need to plan ahead. Most days, there are three departures from Puebla in the morning and three returns, each about 40 minutes long, from Cholula in the late afternoon and evening.
If you prefer more flexibility, you may be better off catching a local bus (there are direct buses from Puebla’s Plaza Pedrera throughout the day) or taking an Uber one or both ways.
Beyond the pyramid, there are quite a few fun things to see and do in Cholula. If Talavera is on your wish list, head to the Santa Caterina factory and shop, one of the official government license holders to sell the products. Their range is huge, from dishes to candleholders to jewelry and even decorative eggs a la Faberge.
When lunchtime rolls around, walk through the meandering Mercado Municipal Cosme del Razo, a multi-street series of stalls where you can sample a local Cholula craft beer, custom-order tacos to be cooked in front of you, buy a traditional embroidered dress or shirt, and pick up handmade wooden toys and crafts as souvenirs – all in a single short stroll.