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Sitting in south-central Mexico roughly two hours east of Mexico City, Puebla is one of the country’s most spectacular hidden gems—one of its largest and oldest cities, yet still widely unknown to international tourists. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city boasts some of the best preserved colonial architecture in Mexico, with breathtaking churches and vintage structures covered in the colorful Talavera tiles for which the city is famous. Along with its tiles, Puebla is best known for its distinct culinary legacy, with arguably the best street food in all of Mexico. Thanks to a large population of young professionals and university students, the city has also embraced a contemporary and relaxed attitude with flourishing art and nightlife scenes. Across the city, find a range of landmarks and attractions that speak to Puebla’s fascinating mix of old and new.
Centro — As the heart of the city, the Centro is where you’ll find the majority of Puebla’s best-known sites, particularly concentrated around Zócalo square. On the south side of the plaza stands the towering Puebla Cathedral, an elaborate dark stone structure dating back to the 16th century. Nearby, find an impressive collection of domed Catholic churches, along with compelling cultural attractions including the Amparo Museum, the San Pedro Art Museum, the Palafoxiana Library, and the Museum of the Mexican Revolution. Beloved for its shopping, the district groups its stores together to make it easy to find what you’re looking for. Stroll Avenida 6 Oriente in search of handmade sweets or Avenida de la Reforma for Western shirts and boots. The El Parian market offers textiles and ceramics from all across Mexico, while the Plazuela de los Sapos has a wonderful array of knickknacks, antiques, and art. While you’re sure to find amazing food in any part of the city, the district also boasts the most sought-after street eats, with cafes and stalls serving Pueblan classics such as tacos árabes, overstuffed cemita sandwiches, and sizzling empanada-like molotes.
Reserva Territorial Atlixcáyotl — To the southwest of the Centro lies Reserva Territorial Atlixcáyotl, one of the more modern areas in the city. Here, find commercial shopping centers, movie theaters, sports facilities, casinos, and amusement parks. On the western edge of the district, the Metropolitan Ecopark is home to the sleek and sprawling International Museum of the Baroque. Further north, next to the Angelópolis Mall, sits the Star of Puebla, a Ferris wheel offering panoramic views of the city from the height of 262 feet (80 m).
Los Fuertes — Sitting just to the northeast of the Centro, Los Fuertes park houses a wealth of landmarks, from the Battle of Puebla Interactive Museum to the state-of-the-art Puebla Planetarium. Within the park, there’s plenty of green space for recreation and playgrounds for children, as well as Olympic Stadium Zaragoza for occasional soccer matches, concerts, and other events. Of the park’s attractions, one of the favorites in undoubtedly the Puebla Cable Car, a .4-mile-long (660-m) aerial tramway giving riders a bird’s-eye view over the city.
Cholula — Located just 9 miles (15 km) to the west of Puebla, Cholula is the oldest inhabited city in all of North America. Travel out of town to see the impressive saffron-colored church which sits atop the massive grass-covered Great Pyramid and in front of a picturesque backdrop of the snow-capped Popocatépetl volcano. Here, you can also explore other parts of the Mesoamerican ruins through its network of underground tunnels.
Scope out stunning sights of the city and its surrounding country from the top of the Star of Puebla observation wheel. In a glass capsule, slowly rotate to the height of 262 feet (80 m). Upon reaching the apex, gaze out upon gorgeous views of domed churches, tiled roofs, and pastel-colored houses, with towering mountains and green valleys in the distance. Once back on ground, enjoy the other attractions close to the wheel, including the playful in-ground fountain and the serene trails of the Art Garden.
Explore the best that Puebla has to offer on a walking tour of the Centro. With a local guide leading the way, set off on foot around the Zócalo, stopping the admire the intricate architecture of the Puebla Cathedral, the baroque Palafoxiana Library, and the masterfully adorned Chapel of the Rosary, considered by some to be the eighth wonder of the world. Take a stroll down the “Street of Sweets” to sample the city’s renowned handmade candies, and lastly visit the colorful markets of El Parian and Plazuela de los Sapos. Once the sun has set, see Puebla from a different perspective on a double-decker bus. Soak in views of the city’s landmarks lit up at night, and end your tour with dinner at a local eatery.
Speaking of food, no visit to Puebla is complete without fully immersing yourself in the city’s culinary culture. Starting from the center of town, travel to small markets, hole-in-the-wall restaurants, and outdoor food stalls to sample the city’s most-mouthwatering delicacies. Dig into creations invented in Puebla like chocolatey mole sauce, savory cemita sandwiches, freshly fried molotes, and sweet Santa Clara tortita cookies. Treat your taste buds to other Mexican classics including crunchy memela appetizers, hearty chalupas, and candied sweet potatoes.
Once you’ve explored Puebla to your heart’s content, head out of town to experience the breathtaking beauty of some of Mexico’s Magic Towns—destinations that have earned the title based on their mix of historical, cultural, and aesthetic qualities. Discover the elegant architecture and kaleidoscopic gardens of Atlixco, or the archaeological ruins and cascading waterfalls of Cuetzalan. Also outside of Puebla, find the Africam Safari Park, where visitors can drive their own cars or take a bus through a zoo featuring more than 450 species including giraffes, elephants, and jaguars.