We spent a month in Puebla at the end of 2021, working and exploring. If you’re traveling from Mexico City to Oaxaca, this is a fantastic halfway stop on your journey, and well worth a few days of your time. These are our top picks for things to do in Puebla while you’re there.
And if you’re looking for somewhere to live in Mexico, Puebla might be a great option for you too.
HISTORY OF PUEBLA
Puebla was founded in 1531 and is the fourth largest city in Mexico. The historic centre was named a UNESCO world heritage site in 1987 to preserve its incredible renaissance and baroque architecture.
THINGS TO DO IN PUEBLA
Book A Tour
If you’re a fan of tours, there are plenty of guided walks and day trips that you can take in Puebla. Here’s a few to get you started:
Explore The Secret Tunnels
Long thought to be an urban legend talked about by grandparents and great-grandparents, these tunnels were only rediscovered in 2015. They are believed to be around 500 years and extend for 10km underground. The tunnel system is high enough for men on horseback to ride through.
The tunnels spread from the historic centre of Puebla, and end at the Loreto fort where the equally historic Cinco de Mayo battle took place. Historians believe that the tunnels might have been used during this battle.
When the tunnels were opened, researchers discovered toys, marbles, kitchen items, guns, and bullets – suggesting the tunnels may have also been used by locals to move through the city.
The tunnels (which smell vaguely of historic urine) are open to the public and can be accessed from Cinco de Mayo Road.
Visit Cuexcomate – The World’s Smallest Volcano
Puebla is bordered by two impressive volcanos, but in the middle of Puebla is also the world’s tiniest volcano.
Measuring a modest 43 feet tall, Cuexcomate is technically a geyser – but it’s cuter to think of it as a mighty volcano. Scientists believed it was formed during an eruption of the nearby Popocatépetl volcano that dominates the skyline of Puebla.
Historically, indigenous locals stored grains and meat inside the volcano to keep them fresh, due to the cool temperature. But when the Spanish arrived, they decided the volcano was also a good place to throw the bodies of people who committed suicide – as it seemed like a gateway to hell. This tradition has thankfully ceased, but you’ll definitely be thinking about it when you visit.
Cuexcomate is inactive – and last erupted way back in the 1600s. You can safely enter the volcano and climb down where you’ll see an underground waterfall and stream. Despite its dormant status, this mini volcano still has the potential to erupt one day (hopefully while you’re not inside).
Have A Drink At La Pasita
Our Uber driver recommended this bar to us with some excitement, so we had to find it while we were in Puebla. We weren’t disappointed – it was like walking into a weird old amusement parlour.
The owner has collected hundreds of bizarre treasures from his travels which are on display from floor to ceiling. The liqueurs are made in house, and are all fascinating. I tried two, which was all I could manage in the afternoon, as the flavours are really rich and fruity.
La Pasita refers to the trademark beverage of this bar. It’s a raisin liqueur served with a cube of goat’s cheese on a toothpick. I know it sounds kind of horrible, but trust me – it was super tasty.
We also sampled the witches’ blood Sangre de Brujas (blackberry and hibiscus) and artist’s blood Sangre de Artista (quince and apricot), plus the Cafe con Cafe (mega coffee flavour).
Stroll Down The Alley Of The Frogs & Callejon De Los Sapos
Legend has it that in colonial times, the local river caused regular flooding in this area, which caused many mills to be built to cash in on the freely available water. And with the mills came an infestation of frogs – hence the cute name and the frog fountains you’ll see as you walk around.
If you love street markets and handcrafts, this is the perfect barrio for you to visit. It’s enormous, and has everything from street food, to antiques, art, furniture, second hand books and treasures, and new artesanal handcrafts. You can visit the stores every day, but on the weekend the markets expand to cover several blocks, and this is when the neighborhood is at its most vibrant.
Visit The Biblioteca Palafoxiana
If you’re a writer or book nerd, put this on your list of places to visit in Puebla. Founded in 1646 by Bishop Juan de Palafox, this library contains over 45,000 books and manuscripts covering everything from indigenous languages, to theology, law, arts, astronomy, natural sciences, physics, and medicine.
This gorgeous, baroque book museum is also a research library and owns volumes of Mexico’s earliest printed books from the 16th century, plus several books printed in Europe prio to 1500 – including:
- Andreas Vesalius’ De Humani Corporis Fabrica (printed in Basel in 1543)
- The Nurember Chronicle (printed in Nurember in 1493)
- Malleus Maleficarum (two editions from 1596 and 1669)
You’ll find the Biblioteca Palafoxiana in the Casa de la Cultura building in the historic centre of Puebla. It’s closed on Mondays, and open every other day from 10am to 6pm.
Visit The Rosary Chapel
Often referred to as the Eighth Wonder Of the World, the Rosary Chapel has been wowing visitors with it’s sheer amount of gold since 1650.
I tried to take photos, but they don’t do this place justice. It is S-H-I-N-Y.
Located inside the Church of Santo Domingo in the historic centre, it’s a beautiful example of a new Spanish baroque church. It was built to honour the Virgin Mary, and to teach local Pueblans how to practice the rosary.
Most of the traditional Catholic icons and symbols are decorated with gold leaf, which makes everything shine under the filtered sunlight coming in through the chapel dome. Gold was scarce at this time, and it’s a miracle in itself that all the 23 carat gold leaf has remained intact for the last 300 years. Definitely worth a visit!
Check the visiting times before you go, as this is a functioning church and you cant visit while worshipping is in progress. Entrance to the church is free, and it will cost you 20 pesos to get entry into the inner chapel.
Visit La Catedral in the Zocalo
This church started being built in 1525, and was finally completed in 1690, undergoing many design and direction changes as it was being constructed. Built from black limestone, it’s an impressive sight – with the two tallest church towers in Mexico.
Another unusual fact is that the towers of this church have no bells. This is because (according to legend) there is a river running underneath the church, and the weight of bells would cause the towers to collapse.
Take A Day Trip To Cholula
Puebla is around 30 minutes from Cholula – which is worth visiting for its pyramid. There’s even a tourist train which runs directly between Cholula and Puebla, making it super easy to take a day trip between the two towns.
It’s about the same cost and travel time to catch an Uber from Puebla to Cholula, but the train is a novel experience.
HOW TO GET TO PUEBLA FROM MEXICO CITY
Buses from Mexico City to Puebla leave around every 35 minutes, so you don’t need to book in advance or panic about missing one. Grab an uber or taxi out to the main TAPO bus terminal. We caught an uber from Roma Norte and it cost us $130 MXN and took around 30 minutes to get to the bus station.
There are a couple of bus lines running this route. We caught an ADO as I know they have USB ports on board for phone charging, and some have wifi too. Tickets are $242 MXN each, for a one way journey.
Pro tip – book seats 1 and 2 on the bus if you can – as they have extra leg room!
Once you’re in Puebla, you can easily catch a taxi to your destination. I’m not a fan of local taxis as they love to rip hapless gringos off. The cheapest way to get to the historic centre is to cross the road from the CAPU bus station and catch a rickety (but fun!) local bus outside the Chedraui supermarket, which will cost 17 MXN for two people.
WHERE WE STAYED IN PUEBLA
NH Hotel, Puebla Historic Centre
We stayed at the NH Hotel Centro Historico for a couple of nights while we decided whether we wanted to remain a bit longer in Puebla.
If you do decide to stay longer, like we did, I totally recommend this self-contained apartment. It’s in the historic center, and a short walk from everywhere (including Brico Pizza and La Berenjena Pizza).
Wifi was fast and stable, and you can work easily from the covered rooftop, which is where I’d usually get my work done during the day.
The rooftop view had incredible views of both volcanos bordering the city, and the sunsets were amazing. The perfect place for an evening cocktail!
RECOMMENDED PIZZA IN PUEBLA
I’m basically a walking encyclopedia of the best vege pizza across 25 countries, and this place deserves a special mention – it was so good we went there an embarrassing amount of times during our stay. Bonus is that they’re happy to do a split topping (media y media), which meant David and I could both get our fave pizza fixes.
La Berenjena Pizza
FIND MORE THINGS TO DO IN PUEBLA
Rachael is a full-time digital nomad and freelance copywriter for B2B and SaaS companies. She’s worked with brands like Unbounce, Biteable, Datacom, Viddyoze, and Owler.