This post is one that is near and dear to our hearts. While our other travel guides are about cities that we have visited and loved, this one is about the place that we chose to call home for a short stint of our lives while we earned our Master’s degrees. After visiting Puebla once, I knew that Puebla was the perfect place to spend a couple of years while going to graduate school and attaining true fluency in Spanish. After living here for a while, we are ready to provide you with the top advice and suggestions for your visit to Puebla! A lot of people wonder, “Is Puebla worth visiting?” Once you read this post, I think you’ll know the answer to that!
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Why is Puebla Worth Visiting?
First, we want to address a potential elephant in the room: Why is Puebla Mexico worth visiting? Does this city really deserve a 20-minute-long travel guide? Honestly, is Puebla worth visiting at all? The short answer is yes, but the truth is that it deserves even more!
Most Americans have heard of Cinco de Mayo, but few know that the Battle of Cinco de Mayo took place in Puebla and was actually between the Mexicans and the French – not the Spanish! Puebla was a very important city when Spain ruled Mexico, and its wealth and beauty have extended into the 21st century.
- DID YOU KNOW? - The Battle of Cinco de Mayo took place in Puebla and was actually between the Mexicans and the French – not the Spanish!
It’s located less than two hours from the sprawling metropolis of Mexico City, and for this reason many see it as one of the best day trips from Mexico City. While this is certainly a nice plan, we think you’d be missing out if you tried to visit Puebla as a day trip from Mexico City. How many days do you need in Puebla? We’d say that at minimum you need at least three days. We find new exciting things here every week and can’t imagine trying to experience this place in just a few days!
I am a Philadelphia guy, and I think Puebla reminds me a lot of Philadelphia in a few ways. Both are massive cities that are among the top 5 cities in terms of population in their country (about 1.5 million people each), both are jam-packed with history, and both tend to live a life in the shadow of their massive metropolitan neighbor, in this case either New York or Mexico City. It’s impossible to squeeze all of our favorite places and the must-see’s into one post, but we’ll do our best to summarize the top things to do in Puebla.
How to Get to Puebla
You have two main options when deciding how to get to Puebla. The first option is flying directly into Puebla and taking an Uber or a taxi into the city. Puebla International Airport is very small and your flight options may be limited, but it is definitely the quickest way to get to Puebla. If you choose this route and want to take an Uber, you may need to exit the airport and walk to the main street before you can request it, as Ubers are (for some odd reason) allowed to drop off at the airport but not allowed to pick up. The airport sits about 30 minutes northwest of the city and the trip to the center should cost between 5 and 10 dollars (100 to 200 pesos) in either Uber or Taxi. If someone asked me how to get to Puebla, I probably wouldn’t recommend this option because the flight routes are usually pretty expensive and all require a layover somewhere (unless you’re flying from Houston!)
The second way to get to Puebla, which is almost definitely more affordable for most people, is to fly into Mexico City and then take a bus to Puebla. Buses run from Mexico City International Airport (MEX) all day every day to both of Puebla’s main bus stations: CAPU and Paseo Destino. Both are a bit removed from the center of the city, but Paseo Destino is definitely easier to navigate, it’s a lot nicer, and it is probably closer to where you’ll be staying.
To get to the bus area in the airport, once you’ve passed through customs, you’ll hang a left, following the overhead sign with the bus on it. You’ll need to go up an escalator, pass by a Starbucks, and eventually hang another right up a ramp. There are ticket counters for each bus company here and you can hop on whichever bus heads out next! Once you arrive in Puebla you can simply call an Uber or wave down a taxi to take you to your hotel, Airbnb, or other destination. If someone asked me how to get to Puebla, this is absolutely the option I’d recommend.
Top Things to Do in Puebla
1. Admire the Colorful Colonial Architecture
Being one of the most elite cities when Mexico was under Spanish rule, Spain invested a ton in making the city of Puebla absolutely beautiful. The gem of the city is its massive burgundy cathedral with a stone façade which sits right on the south side of the Zocalo. The cathedral isn’t everything, though! The architecture throughout the entire city is extremely ornate, and the pastel colors express a distinctly Mexican attitude.
A walk down the Callejon de los Sapos is one of the most beautiful ways to witness this love for bright colors, but buildings all throughout the city are colored like pastel sidewalk chalk. One of my favorite things do is go for a walk in a different direction every day and admire the sheer beauty of the architecture in the city! This is easily one of the top things to do in Puebla.
2. Go Church Hopping
Whether you’re Catholic or not, it’s hard not to fall in love with the raw beauty of the churches in Puebla. There are 365 Catholic churches in the city of Puebla, and every single one is stunning! The churches here are so stunning that it would be impossible to leave this off the list of the top things to do in Puebla. Ranging from smaller chapels to massive structures like the cathedral, each church is different and has its own flare.
We highly recommend checking out the cathedral, the Templo de San Francisco de Asis, and the Capillo del Rosario, which is decorated with inexpressible amounts of gold. We try to go to a new Church every Sunday to get a taste for all of the churches that this city has to offer, and we have yet to be disappointed. The cathedral is the nicest cathedral we have visited so far in Mexico, surpassing even the one in Mexico City (which is actually very underwhelming)!
3. Visit the Fort of Loreto and its Beautiful Surrounding Park
Visiting the Fort and its park has been one of the top things to do in Puebla for over a century. The fort was used in the Battle of Cinco de Mayo where the Mexicans fought off the French, and if you visit, you’ll see why they fought over this part of the city! It is very high up and has gorgeous views of the city and the snow-capped volcanoes that lie to the west, east, and north of the city. While it was an area of extreme strategic importance in 1862, it is now a fantastic spot for a sunset picnic.
If you sit on the western slope of the park you’re in for an incredible view as the sun sets over the twin volcanoes of Popocatépetl and Iztaccihuatl. While you’re in the park, be sure to check out the Museum of the Evolution of Puebla, the Regional Museum of Puebla, and the Interactive Museum of the Battle of Cinco de Mayo!
4. Take a Ride on Either the Teleferico or the Estrella de Puebla
While both of these are a bit touristy, they both provide awesome bird’s-eye views of the city. Teleférico is Spanish for Cable-Car, and the Estrella de Puebla is a ginormous Ferris Wheel in the posh area of Angelopolis. The Estrella costs 40 pesos (around $2) for a ride, and the Teleférico will cost you 70 pesos (around $3.50). The reason that we suggest only hitting up one of these spots is that the views are very similar, and you’d be wasting your time to stand in line for both.
If you’re looking for some higher-end dinner spots or some shopping, go to the Estrella. It’s surrounded by malls and restaurants of all kinds (including American places like iHop, Chili’s, and Applebees). If you want to do two of the top things to do in Puebla at once, you can hop on the Teleferico in the middle of the park surrounding the Fort of Loreto.
*If anyone at either place (especially the Teleférico) tries to tell you that purchasing the pictures is mandatory, don’t listen to them. It’s not.*
5. Head to the Callejon de Los Sapos
This one is near and dear to us because it is where we lived for a significant portion of our time in Puebla. The Callejon de los Sapos and its surrounding area, which is just referred to as Los Sapos, is the prettiest street in all of Puebla and is towards the top of the list of the top things to do in Puebla. If you don’t believe us, just look on Instagram. In English its name means “Alley of the Frogs,” because hundreds of years ago there used to be a pond in this spot that was home to hundreds of frogs and toads.
Filled with cute cafes, restaurants, high-end boutique hotels and a lively nightlife scene, this area is by far the best borough of the city. It gives us strong European vibes mixed with the colorful flare of Mexico. On Saturdays there is a cute artisan/flea market that is set up all throughout the area which we’d also recommend seeing! We’d recommend visiting here either in the morning on a weekend or right before or after dinner on a weekday. We hope you love it as much as we do!
6. Walk around the Zocalo of Puebla
In Mexico, the zocalo is essentially the central square of the city and visiting the zocalo isn’t just on the list of the top things to do in Puebla; it’s probably on the list of the top things to do in any city in Mexico. There’s a zocalo in almost every city, and in many ways they’re the center of life and culture in the city. In each zocalo, you’ll normally come across the Cathedral, a pretty park or fountain area, and a ton of food options.
In Puebla, you’ll have the Cathedral (a must-see) on the southwest side, the Municipal palace on the northeast side, and food options lining the rest of the way. Some of the restaurants have great terraces and outdoor seating, and we definitely recommend either eating outside or getting a spot on a terrace. If you want some good Mexican food, try either Mi Viejo Pueblito or La Porfiriana, both located on the southeast side of the square. There is also a colorful Puebla sign in the Zocalo where you can take pictures!
7. Visit Some Great Museums
Puebla is actually jam-packed with cool museums. There are the ones by the fort which we already mentioned, and then there are a few other standout options throughout the city. First and foremost, there’s the International Baroque Museum. This museum is considered to be one of the best museums in all of Mexico, and it is filled with awesome baroque designs and architecture. There are also some awesome views from the roof!
Then there is the Museo Amparo, which houses over 3,500 pieces of Pre-Columbian (that’s before Christopher Columbus) art. Third is the Museo Casa de Alfeñique, which is a preserved 18th century mansion. Finally, we’d say check out the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, which is a huge 17th century library that has thousands of old books. Did we mention that this is the OLDEST LIBRARY IN THE AMERICAS? Visiting any combination of these museums is easily one of the top things to do in Puebla.
The Best Foods to Eat in Puebla
Puebla has a reputation of being a bit of a foodie city, especially for those interested in Mexican cuisine. This makes sense, as both of the national dishes of Mexico, Chiles en Nogada and Mole, originated here. Poblano cuisine is actually considered by many to be the best food in Mexico, which means that the best foods to eat in Puebla are actually some of the best foods to eat in Mexico as a whole!
We wrote a full blog post on all the foods you should be eating in Puebla. If you just want a shortlist here it is: Mole Poblano, Chiles en Nogado, & Carne Arabe. The history behind this food is fascinating. Open our full blog post to see it.
Best Places to Eat in Puebla
1. El Mural de los Poblanos
This place is widely regarded as one of the finest restaurants in the city and easily one of the best places to eat in Puebla. They serve authentic, high-quality Poblano food for a reasonable price by US standards. This place is a bit on the nicer end, and you’d be better off in smart casual attire. This is a great place to try Mole Poblana or Chiles en Nogada, as many people say this restaurant is the best in the world at both of these dishes!
2. Casa Barroca
This is another restaurant on the finer end. They also serve fantastic Poblano food in a beautiful environment. It’s really hard to put either of these first two restaurants above the other, as both serve incredible local food in a fantastic space and belong on the list of the best places to eat in Puebla without a question. This would be another awesome spot to try one of the national dishes! We went for brunch on a Sunday, and it was honestly fantastic.
3. El Cielo de Jalisco
This is less of a restaurant recommendation and more of a quick bite stop, but it still deserves the title of one of the best places to eat in Puebla. It’s an extremely local, little shop and we have one recommendation for you – cemitas arabes and cemitas al pastor (or tortas if they’re out of cemitas!) This place is our go-to for a quick bite, and we’d be lying if we said we go here any less than weekly. Expect to pay less than a dollar per cemita or torta!
It’s a mom & pop so they don’t have a website, but these directions should get you there!
Address: On Calle 4 Sur between Avenida 5 Oriente & 7 Oriente.
4. La Berenjena
We hate to include a restaurant on the list of the best places to eat in Puebla that doesn’t even serve Mexican food, but La Berenjena is just that good. The pizza here is fantastic, along with a good selection of other Italian dishes. There are several locations, but the one we’d recommend is the one in Los Sapos, as you can stroll the neighborhood after your dinner! They have a great indoor and outdoor space and are a good way to mix things up if you want a break from Mexican food.
5. Antigua Taqueria La Oriental
This place is another chain, and it is the home of Tacos Arabes. There are a bunch of these located throughout the city. Their Tacos Arabes are clearly the thing to try, but we’ve never heard a complaint about anything on their menu! We’d recommend it as a great lunch spot. The thing that makes this one of the best places to eat in Puebla is its convenience. There are locations in just about every part of the city!
6. El Patio y Las Ranas
Do you like tacos? We hope so if you’re headed to Mexico! The final place we’d consider one of the best places to eat in Puebla is Las Ranas. It’s our favorite taco joint in town. They have so many different types of meat that you can order in your tacos, and they have very affordable prices. We’d recommend trying their chorizo tacos or their tacos al pastor!
How to Get Around Puebla
Puebla is very much a car city. By that we mean the public transportation exists, but it isn’t the most accessible. There is no subway system – it is all busses and colectivos. While renting a car is always an option, we’d simply recommend using Uber all the time. Taxis are never your best bet in Mexico, and Uber is both safer and cheaper. You can Uber just about anywhere in the city for less than $3!
Ubering will probably be significantly cheaper than renting a car or hiring a driver, and it is definitely easier than driving. If you are worried about using Uber while in Mexico, be sure to read this post about why Uber is safe to use abroad. Driving is a bit wilder in Mexico than it is in the United States. If you do decide to rent a car, though, check out our post on tips for driving in Mexico.
Is Puebla Safe for Tourists?
“Is Puebla safe for tourists?” is probably one of the questions that we get the most when people ask us about our previous home city. A lot of people are worried about visiting different parts of Mexico and tend to wonder things like “is Puebla safe for tourists?” and “how dangerous is Puebla?” We understand the concern, but we think it may be a bit unnecessary. We lived here for two years and have a pretty good grasp on safety in Puebla.
Now, in our opinions, how dangerous is Puebla? No more dangerous than any major city in your own country. In fact, Puebla might even be safer. While we’ve heard stories of various incidents that have happened, they’re rare and are nothing that doesn’t happen in places like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
Writing this section reminds me a lot of my Tijuana travel guide, because I definitely had to talk a lot about safety in that one. If you want to maximize your safety in Puebla, take the basic precautions that you would take in any major city. Don’t do anything illegal, don’t walk around too late at night, and don’t flash any valuables. If you go about your business normally and don’t go asking for trouble, the odds of something happening to you are very low.
Our Final Tips for Visiting Puebla
That’s all we have for you about visiting downtown Puebla! Hopefully this Puebla Travel Guide helps you to plan the ultimate trip to Mexico’s 5th biggest city. If you have any questions, be sure to drop a comment in the comment section or shoot us an email.
If you’re planning a trip to Puebla, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!