How to spend 24 hours in Puebla, Mexico

Thanks to a new world-class museum, a crime clean-up and a flair for chilli-chocolate sauce, Mexico’s fifth-largest city, Puebla, is starting to attract the attention it deserves

5 mins

Puebla’s scrubbed up well. Just a few hours south-east of the capital, Mexico’s fifth-largest city had been flying under the radar until a former local governor reduced crime, improved infrastructure and generally made it more attractive to visitors. New hotels and restaurants followed, with the 2016 opening of the Museo Internacional del Barroco (International Museum of the Baroque), designed by Toyo Ito, helping put Puebla on the map. But it’s still far less known than the likes of Mexico City or Oaxaca, and the absence of tourists is part of its easy-going, authentic charm.

The city was originally built by the Spanish, close to the pre-Columbian town of Cholula. It’s known as the original source of mole, Mexico’s chocolate-chilli sauce, as well as for its colourful Talavera tiles and pottery, an abundance of vibrant churches and its UNESCO-listed Centro Histórico, a great place to discover on foot.

Colourful streets in the centre of Puebla (Shutterstock)

Colourful streets in the centre of Puebla (Shutterstock)

How to get to Puebla

At the airport
There are no direct flights between the UK and Puebla’s Hermanos Serdán International Airport. The best way to reach Puebla is to fly to Mexico City and catch a bus or rent a car.

Getting into town
Taxis from Puebla airport to the Zócalo take about 30 minutes and cost around Mex$400 (£14.50).

Other ways to arrive
Buses run regularly from Mexico City’s TAPO and other stations to Puebla (; The journey takes around two hours; singles cost from around £8. Or rent a car from Mexico City, exploring the Aztec pyramids of Teotihuacan on the way.

Several companies offer tourist shuttle services or private cars from Mexico City airport to Puebla via Teotihuacan from around £20.

Aerial view of Puebla's church, Cholula (Shutterstock)

Aerial view of Puebla's church, Cholula (Shutterstock)

Things to do in Puebla

Explore the Centro Histórico on foot, starting at Parian Market (daily), which sells everything from knitted cacti to traditional sweets. Grab a bench at Barrio del Artista (the Artist Quarter) and watch locals painting in bold colours.

Stop at the shop at the Museo de la Talavera Poblana Armando or do a factory tour (Mex$85/£3.10) to see handmade ceramic tiles, vases, pots and dishes. You’ll also find Talavera workshops on the streets nearby.

Continue to Museo Casa de Alfeñique (Mex$80/£3), an old house covered in Talavera tiles and filled with regional art. You’ll have looped back to El Parian’s fondas (Mexican kitchens), serving traditional food, including pots of mole – grab a bite. Then work along Callejón de los Sapos (Alley of the Frogs), browsing the antique shops and flea markets.

Detour to Museo Amparo (free), filled with pre-Columbian artefacts, from Aztec to Zapotec, and Mexican art. Great roof terrace too. Then call in at Biblioteca Palafoxiana (Mex$80/£3), founded in 1646 and recognised by UNESCO as the oldest public library in the Americas. Across the street, dominating the Zócalo, is the Catedral de Puebla (free), Mexico’s second-largest cathedral. Go inside to see its ornate chapels. On the backstreets behind, La Churreria sells fresh churros. Soak up life on the Zócalo before walking along Cinco de Mayo to Baroque masterpiece Capilla del Rosario (Rosary Chapel; free), which has a section decked out in gold.

In the evening, join locals hurling abuse at Lucha Libre wrestlers at Arena Puebla (from Mex$113/£4.10). If it’s closed, you can still see luchador masks being made nearby. For dinner, seek out chiles en nogada (meat-stuffed poblano chillis with creamy sauce) at restaurants around the Zócalo. Finish with drinks at one of the square’s rooftop bars.

The Palafoxiana Library was built in 1646 and it has more than 45k books (Shutterstock)

The Palafoxiana Library was built in 1646 and it has more than 45k books (Shutterstock)

Where to stay in Puebla

Top end: Azul Talavera Hotel is next to the Templo de San Francisco. The grand hotel, built around a quiet courtyard, has a rooftop pool with city views. Interiors mix modern design with traditional textiles and tiles. Doubles from £120pn.

Mid-range: Quinta Real Puebla, close to the cathedral, is housed inside the former Convent of the Immaculate Conception, which dates back to 1593. Doubles from £57pn.

Budget: Colonial de Puebla is a B&B built into a Jesuit monastery, with arched doorways and vaulted ceilings. Rooms are simple and comfortable; some have balconies. The restaurant serves food in the courtyard. Doubles from £35pn.

What the locals suggest in Puebla

Fransico Linares

Fransico Linares

The area of the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe is of great historical value – this was the scene of the historic battle of 5 May 1862, when the French army was defeated. It’s great to walk around the monuments, tunnels and museum, and ride the cable car for views over the city to Popocatépetl. It’s also worth visiting the Church of Fatima, the colourful old indigenous neighbourhood, and stopping at the restaurant of Doña Lupita, which has delighted locals with tasty traditional cemitas (sandwiches) for over 76 years.

Francisco Linares, guide, Journey Latin America

Where to go near Puebla

Stay another day at least, to head out to the International Museum of the Baroque (a 20-minute taxi/bus ride from the Zócalo). In the afternoon, visit a market, such as Cinco de Mayo, to sample dishes like mole poblano or nopales (cactus) stuffed into blue corn tortillas.

It’s also worth staying in Puebla long enough to take a trip to Cholula on the Puebla-Cholula Tourist Train. Once there, climb to the 16th century Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, which sits on a hill that’s actually the massive hidden Great Pyramid of Cholula, dating from the third century BC. Enjoy views of the town and Popocatépetl volcano.

From Puebla, Mexico City is the obvious next stop, visiting Teotihuacan en route. But it’s worth renting a car to drive south to Helia Bravo Hollis Botanical Garden in Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Biosphere Reserve, Mexico’s cactus capital. Stay overnight in cabins in the reserve. From there, you could take a road-trip south into Oaxaca, known for beaches, indigenous cultures, Spanish architecture and mezcal.

Puebla Essential Travel Information 

Historic streets of Puebla (Shutterstock)

Historic streets of Puebla (Shutterstock)

Population: 6.5 million

Language: Spanish (various dialects across Mexico); English spoken in busy tourist areas.

Time zone: GMT-5

International dialling code: +52 222

Visas: Not required for UK nationals for stays of up to 180 days.

Currency: Mexican peso (Mex$, MXN), currently around Mex$28 to the UK£.

Health issues: The historic centre and most of the city feels safe, crime-free and hassle-free to wander. Protect yourself from the hot sun. Don’t drink water from taps.

Recommended guidebooks: Mexico (Lonely Planet, 16th edition)

Smartphone app: Google Maps is useful, though many hotels supply handy maps of downtown’s main attractions.

Climate: Average high temperatures are 20-26°C year-round. It can get hot and humid. Dry season is November to April.

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