Famous for colonial architecture, colorful cobblestone streets, volcanoes towering high above the city, and warm hospitality, Puebla City is Mexico's fourth-largest city. While it's only 130 kilometers southeast from Mexico City, and could be visited during a day trip from CDMX, we recommend spending a week in the city.
Puebla is ideal for travelers who want the amenities of a city but need to escape the bustling Mexico City. Also ideal for travelers who don't suffer from altitude sickness. The city is located 2,135 m (7,005 feet) above sea level.
Traveling between Mexico City and Puebla is super simple. Head to the TAPO bus terminal at any time, as buses leave every 30 minutes. We chose the ADO bus line because we'd heard that they have nice comfortable buses. Each ticket costs $214 pesos ($12 USD) and takes roughly two hours. We confirm that the buses have comfortable seats and the ride is a breeze. You'll arrive at the CAPU terminal in Puebla and can call an Uber to transport you to your hotel from there.
Things to do:
Museo Amparo - This museum is a must-see in Puebla. Located in the city center, this museum is housed in a historic building dating back to the 17th century. The coolest part is that they've added modern glass cubes to both the inside of the building and the terrace. The way that the new and old effortlessly meet is something that architecture nerds like myself love. We spent about three hours wandering the museum and discovering Mexico's history. Our favorite collection was the African American collection on the top floor which focuses on the struggles of racism and slavery in Latin American countries. We learned a lot and thought the museum was beautifully done. Don't miss the rooftop with views of the cathedrals and volcanoes. The museum is open everyday except Tuesdays and the entrance fee is $35 MXN ($1.86 USD) each.
Cholula - Cholula is a town twenty minutes away from Puebla City and closer to the base of volcano Popocatépetl. It's most famous for its ancient pyramids with a photogenic Spanish church on top. Apparently Cholula used to have the biggest pyramid in the world, but these days, it's virtually a giant hill with a church on top. From the top, some crumbling evidence of a pyramid is visible, but it's pretty difficult to imagine what it looked like in the past. You can choose to tour the archeological site and the surrounding tunnels for a deeper dive into the history of this ancient site.
We took a day trip to explore Cholula. We began the day at 9:00 AM by hiking up to Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios. Once we arrived at the top, we were only surrounded by a handful of others out exercising. We spent a couple of hours soaking up the sunshine, people watching, and journaling. We recommend getting here early to beat the crowds. Afterwards, we walked down to the city center and wandered the streets. In the middle of the city, there is a local market. This market was one of the best we've ever visited in Latin America! Aisle after aisle of fruits and vegetables, flowers, bread, local cuisines, meat shops, and handmade crafts. A great spot to see how the locals live day to day life in rural Mexico. If we were to return to Puebla, we'd opt to stay in Cholula.
Taste Candy - For anyone with a sweet tooth, walk Calle de Los Dulces after lunch. Three city blocks are comprised entirely of candy stores. We typically find Mexican treats to be too sweet, but we tried four different candies. Our favorites were limón con coco and reinitas de coco con piña y miel. We struggled to find this street (TripAdvisor has the incorrect address), but this street is located in the historic city center right near the outdoor walking mall.
Hike the (Inactive) Volcano - Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to hike Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl National Park during our time in Puebla due to our work schedules. However, this may have been a blessing in disguise because Popocatépetl had a pretty major eruption while we were there. If we had more time, we would've loved to hike Iztaccíhuatl -- the inactive half of the twin volcanoes. We hear this is a tough hike with a lot of altitude, so do your research prior to making the trek.
Visit Zapotitlán Salinas - Another thing we didn't do, but wish we had, was discover the cacti park and salt mines of Zapotitlán. Being the desert lovers we are, this other-wordly botanical garden looks like our kind of paradise. Zapotitlán is a two hour drive from Puebla City via bus or rental car. It's located about halfway between Puebla and Oaxaca, so it's on our bucket list for when we're in Oaxaca.
Where to stay:
We opted to stay at this Airbnb with a complete kitchen since we were in Puebla for a week. We spent probably 50% of our time up on the rooftop -- working, blogging, utilizing the gym, and enjoying sunset cocktails. The 360 rooftop views are incredible! Our apartment was beautifully designed and had everything we needed, including a washer/dryer in the unit. The building is located right on the edge of the city center, so it was only a few minutes walk to the museums, churches, etc.
If you're looking for a modern, comfortable lifestyle, consider staying in La Paz. This neighborhood is full of expats and has a downtown Miami vibe. For a moment, we almost forgot that we were in Mexico. Think fancy cars, big gyms, palm tree lined streets, and ritzy bars and restaurants.
Where to eat/drink:
Puebla is a popular tourist destination among Mexicans due to its food. Mole poblano and chiles en nogada are said to have originated here. Unfortunately, we weren't able to try either of the famous dishes because we struggled to find vegetarian versions. We did, however, indulge in cheese enchiladas topped with tres moles one evening. Each of the three moles have a different color and taste. In general, we found that the food in Puebla was a bit more pricey than its neighboring Mexico City.
El Viejo Rosario - If you're looking for a cheap meal, this is the place. The restaurant is a massive space with about 50 tables, which creates a weird vibe, but the food was pretty good. The upstairs has a bit of a better feeling to it, so ask to sit up there. I think we spent about 60 MXN ($3 USD) each for a big plate of food.
Hormiga Negra - Our favorite place for a drink after dinner is somewhat of a secret. This bar is tricky to find, but makes for some good laughs once you find it. The cocktails are crafted with so much love and care, and we loved everything we tried. Definitely recommend this spot.
Casa de Sal - The best way to save money at lunch (around 2:00 PM) and eat a lot of food is to order the menú del día. This comes with unlimited agua fresca, a bread basket, a starter like soup or rice/pasta/beans, and a main course of cheese enchiladas, eggs, extra tortillas, and a dessert. The lady running Casa de Sal is the sweetest and accommodated our vegetarian diet. Guys, we almost had to be rolled out of here! The best part: it only cost us $60 MXN ($3 USD) each.
La Casa de Frida - If you visit Cholula, try this festive restaurant. It's a buffet-style restaurant, so come hungry! This would've been a much better experience had we eaten meat. The options were a bit limited for us, but the chef cooked us huevos sin jamón, cheese quesadillas, and chilaquiles. The restaurant was lively, busy, and even had some musicians at the entrance. The buffet cost us $125 MXN ($6.50 USD) each.