A bit of clarification: Puebla is a state, and also a city. It is located right next to the town of Cholula. Both Cholula and Puebla are often collectively referred to as “Puebla”. I would describe Puebla and Cholula sort of like Minneapolis/St Paul. They are two cities/towns right next to each other, but a bit different in personality and style.
What is it about Puebla that makes it different from other cities?
Puebla has so much history (including its own pyramids in Cholula, and Cholula specifically is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Mexico), incredible food, and is one of the safest places to live and visit in Mexico. Also it has Africam safari, so you can see lions, tigers, and bears (OH MY!) in their relatively natural, wild habitats without even leaving North America.
What is the best time of year to visit?
Christmas is “cold” (lows in the 40s, highs in the 70s) but the whole city gets decorated in red, white, and green, with trees bedecked in lights and just a generally festive mood in the air. We’re not Christians, but it still feels really magical.
But Puebla has super moderate and mild weather, making almost any day of the year the perfect day to visit.
Are there any cool festivals or annual events that are not to be missed here?
You know that annual excuse for drinking called Cinco de Mayo that Americans love to use? Yeah, that all started here in Puebla and NO it is not Mexican independence day (that’s actually September 16).
Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory of France in the Battle of Puebla. In Puebla, they host historical reenactments on May 5 along with parades.
The International Mole Festival (with an emphasis on “mole poblano” the region’s specialty) is also a pretty big deal. To be honest, I don’t like mole (shhh it’s blasphemy, I know), it’s a bit too rich and chocolatey for my taste but you’ve got to try it in Puebla.
Places to eat?
I’m a vegetarian, and my husband is a pescatarian, so the Cholula area is better for us, in general, for eating out because it has more of a hipster vibe and awareness of vegetarianism. Traditional Mexican and Poblano (Puebla style) food tends to use a lot of meat or at least meat-based ingredients (like pork lard in beans, for example), which makes it difficult to find suitable, fully-vegetarian dishes. Even if a server tells you, “Yes, it’s vegetarian” what they most likely mean is that it doesn’t have meat chunks, but it could still use chicken stock or some kind of lard in the preparation or the sauce.
Both Recaudo and Divara in San Andres Cholula have incredible breakfasts and tons of options for vegetarians, and have cool vibes. In general, vegetarians in Mexico (outside of tourist areas and Mexico City which will always have a lot of veggie choices and veg awareness) have the best options at breakfast.
Places to shop and what to buy? What is the area known for?
Puebla is probably most well-known for its cuisine, so buying anything related to the kitchen (herbs, spices, etc) is a good bet. You HAVE to try mole poblano, which this city is famous for.
If you’re lucky enough to come on a weekend Sagrado Mercadito is being held, you won’t want to miss it. It’s a big tent full of all the best local and artisanal products you could ever imagine, from food (vegan tamales!) to handmade watches to the incredible embroidery of the women of Yo’on Ixim
, the proceeds of which benefit indigenous families and their education.
What do you do on a Friday night?
If we’re feeling lazy, a safe bet is ALWAYS the VIP movie at Cinemex. For the equivalent 5USD you get your own fully reclining LazyBoy style seat (foot rest included!), blanket, side table, lamp, and a server who comes to you to take your order off the menu which includes pizza, nachos, and typical movie fare like popcorn (full bar service as well, with mixed drinks like margaritas starting at just a few dollars).
For a date night we might go to one of the many incredible restaurants (our favorite Indian restaurant Adrak House just closed though, boo) or for a ride on the Estrella de Puebla, a huge ferris wheel with an incredible view of the city.
For laid-back drinks, bar snacks, and shisha (hookah) we like McCarthy’s Irish Bar in Lomas de Angelopolis. They’ve got a vegan ice cream stand right next to it, perfect for an after-drink sweet.
Cool places to stay?
is gorgeous, but Airbnb probably has the best value. Stay in downtown Puebla for the most authentic experience, but be aware that the church bells ring early and often especially on Sundays.
If there isn’t a major airport nearby what is the best way to get there?
While Puebla has its own international airport (cheap and convenient if you fly United!), Mexico City will be a better bet for most people. There’s an airport bus that leaves several times an hour (and gives you a baggie of snacks and has free wifi) from both Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 direct to Puebla, so you don’t even have to leave the airport to take the bus to Puebla.