Photo: Russ Bowling, Puebla
Puebla City (Ciudad de Puebla) (elevation: 2,160 meters or 7,085 feet) is the capital of the state of Puebla and the fourth largest city in Mexico. Puebla is a modern city with rich history and beauty. The city is justly famous for its colonial architecture, gastronomy, and folk art.
Founded in 1531 with the name of Puebla de Los Angeles (City of the Angels). According to legend, angels laid rope across the empty land to indicate where the city’s principle streets and buildings should be constructed.
Puebla holds a special place in Mexico’s history. In 1862, the ill-equipped Mexican army under the command of General Ignacio Zaragoza defeated the French on May 5, aka Cinco de Mayo. This event is celebrated widely among the Mexican-American population in the United States, but it not celebrated much in Mexico outside of this city.
Historical note, after the 1862 battle, the city’s name was changed to ‘Puebla de Zaragoza’ in honor of the victorious general.
Among the city’s fine attractions are the Amparo Museum, Calle 2 Sur #708 and the Revolution Museum, Avenida 6 Ote #206. Mole poblano is said to have been invented at the Convento de Santa Rosa, now a museum of popular art, Avenida 14 Pte #305.
Landmarks include the cathedral, the Palafox Library (which is reputed to have the largest theology collection in Latin America), the Museum of Natural History and Fort Loreto.
The Rosary Chapel of Santo Domingo Church is a fine example of Churrigueresque architecture. Construction was completed in 1690. The chapel is covered from top to bottom in gold leaf, tiles, and woodwork.
The National Railroad Museum, 11 Norte #11005, is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am-5pm. Free admission.
Traditional city markets include Mercado el Carmen and Mercado Venustiano Carranza, bordered by 16 and 18 Poniente and 3 and 5 Norte.
Parian Market is noted for its regional crafts.
Artesania and Folk Art
Puebla is famous for distinctive crafts, including Talavera pottery and tiles. Talavera is quite expensive, with each piece being unique. Original pieces are signed at the base and identify the workshop.
When Spain established this outpost in 1531 artisans from Talavera de la Reina were encouraged to settle in Puebla City. Ceramics were needed to adorn churches. Today the crafts range from tiles to monumental vases. Sink basins and even toilets can be made from talavera.
There are about a dozen certified workshops in and near Puebla City. One example is the Uriarte Talavera factory.
Traveler’s tip — In Mexico City the most famous display of talavera is the Casa de Azulejos which houses the famous Sanborns restaurant. It is an entire house built of tiles.
Puebla City is famous for its cuisine, with world-renowned dishes that owe their existence to the blending of prehispanic and Spanish menus.
The famous mole poblano, a chocolate chile sauce used in white meat dishes, was created by the nuns of the Santa Rosa Convent.
Chiles en nogada (chiles stuffed with meat and covered with a pecan sauce) was prepared by the nuns at Santa Monica convent for Agustín Iturbide, the first ruler of independent Mexico. Chiles en nogada feature the colors of Mexico’s new flag: green, white and red. The popular dish is available in late August and September, timed for the annual walnut harvest and Mexico’s Independence Day.
The Santa Clara convent was famous for its sweets, including camote (crystalized sweet potato candy, photo), jamoncillo (a mix of pumpkin seeds, almonds and sugar) and the tortita (a cookie with a cream on top). These and other goodies are found on the ‘Street of Sweets’ where you will also find the convent.
Puebla has a number of sports teams. The baseball franchise is the Pericos.
Guadalupe Hill Park is located two kilometers northeast of the Zócalo. The Loreto Fort houses the Intervention Museum documenting the French occupation of Mexico.
The river that once separated Paseo de San Francisco district from the city is now a road.
Cuexcomate is an inactive volcano which stands at 13 metres (43 feet) with a diameter of 23 metres (75 feet) and is thought to be the smallest volcano on Earth. The volcano is located between 3 Poniente and 4 Norte in the Colonia La Libertad.
Location — Puebla City is located 113 kilometers (70 miles) southeast of Mexico City and 320 kilometers (199 miles) north of Oaxaca City and west of Xalapa and Veracruz City. Just 7 kilometers (4 miles) away is Cholula.
Transportation — The Centro de Autobuses is located 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) north of the Zócalo. There is regular service to and from Mexico City, Cuernavaca, Oaxaca City and Veracruz City.
Hermanos Serdán International, aka Puebla International (PBC), is located 22 kilometers (14 miles) west of town.
Where to stay