Puebla, the landlocked Mexican state located just 2 hours by car from Mexico City, is a fun and easy road trip that will mix things up on your Mexican adventure. It makes a great detour especially if you’re doing 5 days in Mexico City.
Why Puebla? Let’s face it, Kevin and I aren’t your typical beach bums (our pale skin gets burned even on a cloudy day!), and we’ve done the whole ancient ruins thing (visiting the mysterious Teotihuacán Pyramids, which are well worth the trek!). Puebla is a walking city, with a compact historic center and is filled with museums and plenty of culture. But perhaps the biggest draw for me is its deep culinary influence — literally influencing food from around the world. That’s quite a feat for a pretty tiny place!
Puebla’s culinary legacy stretches back to the Mesoamerican age — and is a crossroads of multiple ethnic regions. Ever hear of a Poblano chili? It literally translates into the chili pepper of Puebla. My mind is blown! And while many Mexicans will debate the exact origins of mole, a thick sauce which contains chocolate and spice, the dish represents the pinnacle of Mexican cooking tradition. And you’ll find some of the best mole in Puebla.
Check out our top 5 favorite things about Puebla — and soon you’ll wonder why you haven’t been there sooner!
5. Wandering the Main Square of Puebla
The main square (or Zócalo) is located in the heart of Puebla and the spot where you’ll find locals and visitors milling about, street performers and food vendors. The colonial center is well preserved with cobbled stone streets and a soaring Baroque Cathedral. You can’t miss it — it has the tallest bell tower of any cathedral in Mexico.
We enjoyed taking in the sights and poking around the many restaurants and cafes that line the leafy park at the center of it all. I particularly enjoyed the shopping (obviously!) while Kevin appreciated hanging out on the couch at Catalina Cafe.
4. Drinking at the Local Watering Hole: La Pasita
La Pasita, which started off as a grocery store, is an institution in Puebla. On most days, you’ll find a line that wraps around the block with visitors looking to try one of its unusual libations like the house’s namesake Pasita, made from raisins and is very sweet.
The place is tiny with knickknacks hanging from the walls and pretty much zero awareness of any line once you’re inside. Don’t be shy and flag down one of the workers behind the counter who will serve up your alcoholic shot within minutes.
It’s considered the oldest cantina in Puebla — with an on-going promise to customers that if they can drink 100 shots without passing out, they’ll drink for free, win 100,000 pesos (around $5,400 USD) and the cost of their funeral. And rumor has it that only one person has ever done it, while another person got close with 98 shots but ended up hospitalized (and had to foot the bar bill!).
3. Antique Browsing and Snacking on Crickets at Alley of the Frogs
If you enjoy shopping — or even if you don’t — Alley of the Frogs has a lot of energy and atmosphere. But if you do like shopping, you are in luck! It’s here that you’ll find a concentration of handicrafts, antiques and other household junk. A few months back, I was looking for a 1930s-era typewriter and couldn’t find one anywhere. I literally was tripping over them — I mean, I actually almost fell over one!
You’ll also find other unusual items here — such as traditional sugary Mexican candy, kids selling bags of dried crickets (for snacking!) and live musicians, mariachi bands and other performers. The place was thumping on the Saturday afternoon when we visited.
2. Chowing down on Authentic Mole
If there was one thing I knew we had to do, it was try Puebla’s famed mole poblano. Perhaps the most famous spot in all of Puebla is the gorgeous restaurant El Mural de los Poblanos located just a 5 minute walk from the main square.
Be sure to get your name on the list before you start wandering around the square. We went in the late afternoon and we still had to wait over 45 minutes. It’s a favorite spot for locals as well as the many Mexican tourists wanting to try traditional Poblano dishes.
We recommend ordering the 6 mole sampler, each with a different flavor profile and some containing the traditional recipe made with chocolate and others without the chocolate. Around the holidays, they also have a fortune teller roaming around the room. I couldn’t help it, and had my future read by the fortune-telling bird. Though, I got my fortune in English (and made no sense!). Maybe the bird can only speak Spanish? Oh well, I’ll get my fortune in Spanish next time!
1. Browsing the Spectacular Baroque Museum
Now the shocker to us all — our favorite part of Puebla was a museum! I was dreaming of eating the mole, which don’t get me wrong, was top-notch. But maybe what made the Baroque Museum come out on top was just how unexpectedly compelling it was. Kevin, who pretty much falls asleep when I say the word “museum,” was enthralled. In fact, after spending over 2 hours here he proclaimed it was “The best museum he’s ever been to.” Now, that’s quite the endorsement!
What could have been a very dull and obscure topic was done in an interactive way — with touchscreen descriptions for artwork and well organized sections covering music, theater, science and innovation and the great artistic masters of the period. Plus, it was all translated in English (along with German, French and of course Spanish).
But why a Baroque museum here? In short, Puebla is considered to be the largest and best-preserved baroque city in the Americas. The sleek museum opened in 2016 and continues to bring in tourists like us around the world. It wasn’t too packed the day we visited, but certainly hope others will add this to their list of places to check out while in Mexico.
The Baroque Museum is well worth a visit to Puebla alone. Though, eating copious amounts of mole is another good reason too!