Is Puebla worth visiting? If you are considering paying a visit to the west-central Mexican state of Puebla and its capital city Puebla de Zaragoza, you might question whether it is worth your time or energy at all.
After all, it is far from the most common travel destination in the country and unlike places like Cancun, Tulum, and Puerto Vallarta, a lot of people haven’t even heard of the area nor know anyone who has visited unless they have traveled extensively across Mexico.
Visitors love Puebla for its colonial architecture, rich food, world-famous art, and friendly community vibe. Aside from its architecture, food, and culture, lies a rich history that’s at the heart of Mexico itself.
It absolutely is worth a visit if your Mexico itinerary allows, and in this article written by an expat Travel Writer based in Mexico, we will discuss the reasons as to why.
Read on below to learn more about this incredible destination so you can decide for yourself whether Puebla is worth visiting.
All About Puebla, Mexico
Puebla is one of Mexico’s most vibrant destinations, with modern highrises sharing the skyline with 16th-century cathedrals. It’s also one of the safest cities in Mexico, with a secure tourism infrastructure.
The city was founded in 1531 as Ciudad de los Ángeles by the Spanish. Unlike many other cities in Mexico, including nearby Cholula, it likely didn’t have an indigenous population living there.
The Europeans built a grid-like city with Spanish-style squares and cobblestone roads. From the 16th and 17th centuries, the city grew into one of Mexico’s largest and most influential cities.
Puebla is located in the middle of the Valley of Cuetlaxcoapan, a region famous for its flavorful produce and pleasant highland climate that’s not too warm and not too cold. Towering above the city is the massive Popocatepetl volcano and its surrounding mountains that offer some of the best natural scenery in the country.
On top of the natural scenery, the city is full of things to see and do, from sports matches to cultural events. There’s always something going on in Puebla and whether you’re visiting for a day or even two weeks, your schedule will be filled up with fun and rich cultural activities.
Is Puebla Worth Visiting in 2023?
We are completely in love with Puebla as a culturally rich Mexico travel destination and we believe that in the next few years, it will really start to grow in popularity as a tourism destination. Puebla is one of the best day trips from Mexico City that you can take, and it is a good contender as a weekend/week-long travel destination in itself whether you are traveling from the US, Canada, or further afield.
For the time being, Puebla continues to fly largely under the radar, and while you could argue that it doesn’t get the attention and recognition it deserves, this means that for now, it retains its authentic Mexican culture and atmosphere, and has not been gentrified or changed in any way to cater to international tourists. From here, we will look at some of the reasons why Puebla is absolutely worth adding to your Mexico travel radar.
Poblano Cuisine is delicious and unparalleled
Puebla is world famous for its diverse Poblano cuisine that continues to be among Mexico’s most celebrated. It’s also home to world-renowned chefs, excellent restaurants, and street food that’s considered some of the best in the country.
The city is also home to two dishes that compete for being the national dishes of Mexico: Mole Poblano and Chiles en Nogada.
Most famous local dishes in Puebla
Arguably the most famous Poblano dish is the beloved Mole Poblano, a thick stew of cacao, chilis, onions, and spices served with chicken and fresh corn tortillas. Its origins are hazy at best, but many people claim a nun created the dish in the Santa Rosa covenant to impress the visiting Archbishop of Puebla in the 17th century.
Regardless of its origins, you have to try it if you’re in Puebla. It is one of the key foods you must try in Mexico.
Another amazing Poblano dish is Chiles en Nogada. This seasonal dish is made up of a deep-fried or grilled green poblano chili that’s carefully stuffed with meat and spices and covered in a thick and savory walnut sauce.
As a final touch, many chefs and home cooks sprinkle cilantro and pomegranate seeds over the dish. The dish was created in the 19th century to honor Mexico’s independence from Spain. Its white sauce, red pomegranate seeds, and green chili are made to look like the Mexican flag.
Street food in Puebla
Street food is another fantastic reason to visit Puebla. At any festival, celebration, or just about any park and street corner in the city, you’ll find something mouth-watering and convenient.
Dishes like cemitas, tacos arabes, Chalupas Poblanas, crispy thick tortillas topped with savory beans with meat or chapulines (fried grasshoppers) and covered in rich salsa verde or rojo, are a specialty worth trying.
And for anyone with a sweet tooth, Puebla’s desserts and candies are a major draw. To try as many types of sweets as you can handle, head down to the Calle de Ducles (Avenue of Sweets).
Here, you can grab some chocolate, some Jamoncillo de Pepita, Dulce de Leche con Nuez, and the most famous Poblano candy, camotes. These rolled-up sweet potato cakes are so popular and tasty that it’s hard not to eat a whole box of them.
Puebla’s street art and handcrafts scene is charming
From murals to artisanal markets, Puebla’s streets are filled with colorful and handmade art. The city’s rich artistic traditions go back centuries. Today, you can easily find some of the most expressive pieces in Mexico, in places like Barrio del Artista.
The most famous style of art in the city is Talavera Poblana. These handmade ceramics consist of clay and thin colorful enamel. You can find all sorts of Talavera, including tiles (azulejos), talavera pottery, and more around the city.
Make a visit to El Patio de los azulejos, a colonial-style building covered in Talavera tiles that’s now a popular museum.
When you’re in Puebla, walk through town and you’ll see plenty of murals covering the walls of buildings. Street art has become synonymous with the city.
From giant murals to small independent designs, you can spend an entire week viewing them. A lot of the street art pieces here are politically motivated and raise awareness of important issues affecting Mexican society.
For example, the concerning issue of women’s rights and femicide in Mexico, or the importance of protecting the rights and cultures of the various indigenous groups that call the country home.
Puebla is filled with fun cervecerías and pulquerías
During the day, Puebla is a quiet place where you can easily spend your time strolling around town and relaxing in parks. At night, however, be prepared to experience some of the best nightlife in Mexico.
As both a tourist city and a college city, Puebla is full of incredible bars and late-night hangouts.
Puebla is famous for its craft beer and cervecerias. You can hop around the city and try dozens of popular breweries and bars that specialize in beer.
On the weekends, you can catch live music and have plenty of fun.
If you want to sample more traditional beverages, you’ll love Puebla’s growing pulque scene. Pulque is the traditional beverage of indigenous Central Mexico and there are plenty of wonderful places to sample it in Puebla.
The drink is made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant. Now, more than ever, the drink is seeing a surge in popularity, largely thanks to the younger generations who are seeing it as a great alternative to cocktails and beer.
For another alternative tipple, you can try raisin liquor at La Pasita (Av 5 Ote 602). As the name suggests, this unique liquor is made of raisins and has a distinct taste that is quite unlike anything else.
It is served in a small shot glass to be sipped (not knocked back like a tequila slammer!) and a chunk of goat’s cheese is added to the drink. La Pasita is one of the oldest bars in town and is credited with the invention of the beverage.
It dates back to 1916 and is the size of someone’s living room. Patrons – from old timers who live local to tourists, stand around the bar and knock back raisins as they catch up on the local gossip.
The colonial architecture is gorgeous
As soon as you step foot in Puebla, you’re greeted with striking colonial architecture and cathedrals that date back to the 1500s. Puebla is an architecture fan’s paradise. The colorful facades and avenues are filled with historical buildings that make you feel like you’ve traveled back in time.
Make your way around the city to visit historic churches like Capilla del Rosario, and Templo de Santo Domingo. The Spanish church built this 17th-century chapel with ornate details and features that are considered some of the most intricate in the Americas.
Head to the Zócolo de Puebla to see amazing 17th and 18th-century colonial architecture around the city’s central square. Nearby are the city’s famous museums such as Museo San Pedro de Arte and Museo Universitario Casa de los Muñecos. In these historic buildings, you’ll find not only fascinating exhibitions but some of the city’s most celebrated architecture.
Puebla boasts a charming historic center and cathedral
On top of architecture, the Zócolo is home to plenty of bars, restaurants, street vendors, art fairs, and lively events. You’ll see locals and tourists mixing in a fun atmosphere.
Take a relaxing stroll around the lush Zócolo grounds and enjoy the music of live musicians or sit and appreciate the fun atmosphere.
The zocalo (main square) is also the center for festivities in the city. Performers of all types, such as clowns, street artists, dancers, and musicians, come here to entertain people of all ages. You’ll see people from all over the world who come here to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the city center.
Next to the Zócolo is the world-famous Puebla Cathedral. This monumental cathedral was built from 1575 to 1649.
It’s one of Mexico’s most celebrated cathedrals and once you enter, you’ll know why. Inside the grand hall are beautiful arches, carvings, organs, and more. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, making it a must-visit part of your time in Puebla.
Puebla is home to the oldest library in the Americas
Just a block away from the Zócolo and the Puebla Cathedral is the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the oldest library in the Americas. This one-of-a-kind library houses thousands of rare and historical books, some dating back to the early years of the Spanish conquest.
The library was built in 1646 when Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza donated his personal collection of 5,000 books to the Colegio de San Juan, as long as they were to be free for the public. The library grew in size and eventually rivaled many libraries in Europe at the time.
As soon as you step inside the library, you’re surrounded by beautiful old books held in centuries-old bookcases that climb the historic building’s walls. If you love books, then this destination is a must.
Puebla is a great jump-off point for a day trip to Cholula
Just a short bus or taxi ride away is the ancient city of Cholula. This small city is famous for the Great Pyramid of Cholula, the largest pyramid by volume in the world. This structure predates the Aztec Empire and today you can experience the incredible monument up-close. There’s also a museum dedicated to the societies that built the pyramids and life in ancient Cholula.
Cholula is a small, walkable Pueblo Magico, or Magical Town, full of markets, historical buildings, and fantastic restaurants. Walking in the community, you’ll see plenty of cultural landmarks and experience live music, art, and some of the best street food in Mexico.
Spend your day in Cholula, walking around the Kiosko del Centro de Cholula green space. Next, visit some of the city’s wonderful buildings and museums, including the Convento de San Gabriel Arcángel, Museo de Sitio de Cholula, and the Regional Museum of Cholula.
After grabbing some food, end the day by hiking up to the top of the Great Pyramid. You can visit the Santuario Nuestra Señora de los Remedios church on top.
From here, you’ll get remarkable views of the surrounding landscape, including Puebla, Cholula, and the snow-capped volcanoes of Popocatepetl and Citlaltépetl, Mexico’s highest peak.
There are always exciting festivals and events taking place
Puebla is a one-stop shop for traditional and non-traditional events and festivals. From colorful art and food fests to one of Mexico’s largest national holiday celebrations, there’s plenty to celebrate throughout the year in Puebla.
Cinco de Mayo is usually a minor event in Mexico, compared to other festivals like Dia de Los Muertos and Dia de la Independencia. But in Puebla, this is one of the biggest festivals of the year.
The national holiday celebrates Mexico’s defeat of the invading French army during the battle of Puebla and the city celebrates with gusto. Every year, huge musical acts and performers converge on the city to march in the parade of all parades with military bands and plenty of excitement.
If you’re visiting during May, you’ll be in for a serious treat.
Another important holiday celebration done well in Puebla is Dia de los Muertos. This national holiday is celebrated on November 1 and 2 and is one of Mexico’s most famous holidays.
During this time, families paint their faces and visit the graves of their deceased loved ones. In Puebla, the celebration ends with plenty of food and after-dark celebrations that continue well into the morning. Nearby, in the village of Huaquechula, people place elaborate and colorful altars in their homes and light delicious-smelling incense.
If you’re in Puebla in May, try to attend the famous and hugely popular Feria de Puebla. This festival hosts tons of cultural highlights and Mexican traditions, including bullfights, livestock expos, and exhibits that showcase the works of emerging Mexican artists.
During the festival, you’ll find all kinds of entertainment, including rides, games, and even circus acts. You’ll also have endless food vendors set up during the entire event, so you can try all of Puebla’s most famous dishes in one exciting place.
The Callejon de los Sapos (alley of the frogs)
The obscurely named Callejon de los Sapos (alley of the frogs) is one of the most picturesque little streets in Puebla and a place that you must be sure to stop by. (The El Pasita bar is located on the corner of the street so you really have no excuse to miss it).
This promenade, characterized by its colorful houses painted in every color of the rainbow and its cobbled road, is a photographer’s dream. It makes a great backdrop for your Puebla travel photos and the street is also lined with quaint coffee places and ramshackle tiendas (stores) selling antiques, artwork, bric-a-brack, and other trinkets that make for great souvenirs from your trip to Mexico.
The street is named after an unfortunate incident that took place way back in the 6th century when a local flood caused the area to be overrun with toads! Fortunately, there are no more of the slimy green pests running free in the area today but the name has stuck.
Admire sweeping vistas from the forts of Guadalupe and Loreto
Located high on Acueyametepec Hill above the city skyline of Puebla de Zaragoza, you will find the historic fortresses of Guadalupe and Loreto (Fuertes de Loreto y Guadalupe). These fortresses were originally Catholic chapels that were repurposed as military buildings for use by the Mexican army during the 19th century.
The original religious hermitages that were built here were constructed by Franciscan friars in the 16th century. One temple was dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe while the other was built in honor of San Cristóbal.
Defensive structures and protective walls were added around the sites in 1816 to protect Puebla and its residents from insurgents. Today, these fortresses contain interesting museums that showcase artifacts recovered from the region and tell the story of the battle that took place here on the 5th of May 1862.
Is Puebla Worth Visiting? Final thoughts
As you can see, the city of Puebla and the wider Puebla state region are wonderful places to visit. Between its historical sights, cultural attractions, and world-famous food, the city is full of amazing experiences.
What’s more, are the people who call it home. For being a big city, Puebla often feels like a small community with friendly people and a welcoming energy that you’ll be sure to love.
There are plenty of things to do in Puebla and regardless of how long you choose to spend in the area, you will never find yourself bored or twiddling your thumbs. Puebla is also relatively safe and can be enjoyed by everyone from couples and families, to solo travelers of all ages, genders, and backgrounds.
Do you have any other concerns or questions about visiting? Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any help with planning your trip.
If this is your first time traveling to Mexico, you might also enjoy reading these tips for visiting Mexico. Have a safe trip and enjoy Mexico!
Buen Viaje! Matt and the Mexico Travel Secrets team Xo