At only two hours drive from Mexico City in the Central Mexican Plateau, Puebla is the fifth most populated city in Mexico and one of the most visited cities in the country – though many visit on day trips from the capital, or often en-route to other places. Yet, this 16th century colonial town deserves much more than just a day to be fully discovered! In fact, there are many more things to do in Puebla than you’d expect.
Famous for being the city where Mexican signature dish – the mole poblano – is from, Puebla is a fabulous culinary destination. Lovers of adventure will have easy access to the nearby volcanoes. This World Heritage city is a maze of colorful streets, lively markets, colonial architectural wonders and interesting museums.
Continue reading, and I’ll reveal the best things to do in Puebla.
21 Great Things To Do In Puebla, Mexico
Dine on the Signature Dish Mole Poblano
A trip to Puebla would be incomplete without taking the time to indulge in delicious mole poblano. The eateries in Puebla will proudly serve you this signature dish.
Mole Poblano is a dish that is typically a dark red or brown sauce served over meat, most commonly chicken. The mole sauce is spicy but mild at the same time. Some mole sauces contain a small portion of chocolate, where a hint of the flavor can be detected and blends beautifully with the other ingredients. The most common ingredient in all mole sauces is locally grown chili peppers.
The legend of mole poblano’s invention is a great story. In the colonial period, the nuns of the Convent of Santa Clara in Puebla got word of a visit from the archbishop. The nuns were worried about what to serve the archbishop since they were poor and did not have much food or supplies.
After praying for guidance, the nuns gathered what they did have available. This consisted of day old bread, chili peppers, spices, nuts and chocolate. They combined these ingredients and served the sauce on top of meat from a turkey they killed for the occasion. The word mole is an old Spanish word for mix, but it is now associated exclusively with mole sauce.
The recipe of mole remains a secret, but you may try to unveil it during a cooking class. Book it here.
Stuff your face with Chiles en Nogada
Eating is admittedly one of the best things to do in Puebla, so you may as well go for it while there! Provided you are visiting in the late summer and early fall, during pomegranate, make sure to try the chiles en nogada. These are made with poblano peppers (long, green peppers) stuffed with ground beef or pork, nuts, spices, and fruit and smothered in a thick cream and walnut sauce, sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and parsley.
Much like mole, there is a legend behind the invention of chiles en nogada. The dish was first prepared by a group of nuns in honor of General Agustin de Iturbide, a hero of the Mexican War for Independence. Ingredients were meant to reflect the colors of the Mexican flag.
Snack on a Cemita
Torta is the Mexican word for sandwich. Cemitas are tortas typical of Puebla and usually found at local markets and eateries. These large sesame seeds buns are stuffed with meat, stringy white cheese, hot peppers, avocado and papalo herbs. It’s not exactly a light snack but it certainly is tasty!
Hang Out at the Zocalo
If you want to be in the middle of everything in Puebla, spend some time in the city’s main square. You can sit at an outdoor table at one of the many restaurants in the square and people watch while you enjoy your meal. You can also take this opportunity to view some of the stunning architecture the city is known for, such as the Cathedral.
The tree-lined plaza is home to the San Miguel Arcangel Fountain, which has been a landmark since 1777. Take some time to explore the beautiful gardens of the plaza too.
Bask in the Tranquility of the Cathedral
Take some time to sit and reflect in one of Mexico’s most beautiful cathedrals: Cathedral de Puebla, built in 1575. The front façade was constructed from black limestone and has two towers. The dome roof of this Roman Catholic Church was modeled after St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
The interior of Puebla Cathedral is just as stunning as the exterior. The principal altar, ‘The Altar of the Kings’ or ‘The Major Altar’ was built between 1797 and 1818 and designed by sculptor Manuel Tolsa. The ceiling and walls of the structure contain many paintings that reflect the period of its construction. The rear wall of the cathedral is where the Blessed Sacrament chapel is located. Inside the dome of the chapel is the painting The Assumption of the Virgin by Cristobal de Villalpando.
Stroll along Frog Alley
Anyone that enjoys antiquing will love walking along Callejón de los Sapos, or Frog Alley as it is also known. This alley, located in the Puebla historic center, is lined with shops that have antiques, local artisan pieces, and even furniture. This is also a great place for purchasing souvenirs or gifts for those back home.
Relax in Paseo Bravo Park
On the other side of the zocalo compared to Callejon de los Sapos, Paseo Bravo Park is one of the most pleasant places to hang out in Puebla. The main landmark is El Gallito Clocktower, but make sure to take notice of the Monument to the Heroes of the Independence. Behind the tower you’ll spot the beautiful Villa de Guadalupe Church.
See the Church of Santo Domingo
Another church in Puebla worth a visit is the Church of Santo Domingo. This Roman Catholic Cathedral stands proudly in the center of Puebla’s historic district. The archangel Michael is the patron saint of the Church. The entryway of this three level structure is made from gray cantera stone with a pair of Doric Columns.
Be sure to visit the Chapel of the Rosario and take a look at a fine example of the Spanish Baroque architecture. The Church of Santo Domingo was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1987.
Celebrate, Eat and Shop on Cinco de Mayo St.
Puebla is where Cinco de Mayo festivals – celebrated yearly on May 5th – originated. This annual celebration commemorates the Mexican’s victory at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. The celebration is full of eating, mariachi bands, dancing, parades, military reenactments, and other fun events.
Any day of the year, you can visit Cinco de Mayo Street, where the parades and festivals occur, and visit the museum, and the actual battlefield where this victory happened, which is now a public park.
On Cinco de Mayo Street, you can also dine on the tasty Puebla mole in the local eateries and shop for many goods, including the famous Talavera pottery.
Indulge in a Calle de los Dulces at the ‘Sweet Street’
If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to sample the sweets and candies made famous by Puebla. Come visit this three block long ‘sweet street’ that has these confectionery shops on each side. Try the camote, a candy made from sweet potatoes. Every store has a variety of specially made candies, cookies and even gift baskets. Here you can window shop for your next treat and get a few samples along the way. Puebla ‘Sweet Street’ is located on Av. 6 Oriente.
Study Murals in Xanenetla
You can spend a glorious day walking the cobblestone streets of the Xanenetla neighborhood and view the colorful murals. The area was founded by the Tlaxcaltecas people toward the end of the 17th century. The name Xanenetla comes from the mud the Tlaxcaltecas called xalnene, which was used to make the bricks that constructed the buildings. In 1987, this neighborhood was included in the 600 blocks of Puebla city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
There are over 55 full-sized murals here to view and photograph. There are three themes for these murals: Who We Were, Who We Are, and Who We Want to Be. This street art has managed to revitalize the Xanenetla neighborhood.
Visit Museo Amparo
Visiting the Museo Amparo is one of the unmissable things to do in Puebla. This museum has a collection that traces the development of Mexico over its history. The museum is located in the historic district of Puebla and housed in two colonial buildings that date back to the 17th and 18th centuries.
Opened in 1991, Museo Amparo was sponsored by the Amparo Foundation, founded in 1979 by Manuel Espinoza Yglesias in memory of his wife Amparo Rugarcia de Espinosa. It is considered one of the most important museums in Mexico.
The permanent collection here displays artifacts from numerous periods, including pre-Hispanic up to the Spanish Conquest. Many Mexican civilizations are represented in this museum including Aztec, Maya, Zapotec, Teotihuacan. Items from these periods include pottery, oil paintings, sculptures, furniture, silver, and much more.
Museo Amparo is open Wednesdays to Mondays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Visiting is free.
Explore the International Museum of the Baroque
Opened in February 2016, this contemporary structure is a museum that was designed by award winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito and is one of the most impressive modern buildings in Puebla.
The large permanent collection at the International Museum of the Baroque houses Baroque art and artifacts from the height of the period during the 17th and 18th centuries. The range of the collection covers all categories, including religious and secular items, and everyday items that represent the cultural landscape during this period.
The museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. Admission is 80 pesos ($4 USD).
Take A Ride in Puebla’s Teleferico (Cable Car)
This is easily one of the most fun things to do in Puebla. You can take in the awesome views of Puebla and the surrounding area while sitting in a teleferico, or cable car. This vantage point above the city will allow you to get some incredible snapshots of the colonial architecture of Puebla and the surrounding landscape, including the volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl.
Riding the teleferico costs 40 pesos one way ($2 USD).
Spend Time at Biblioteca Palafoxiana
Book lovers will relish what is considered one of the best libraries in Mexico: this really is one of the nicest places to visit in Puebla. Once you walk in and see the interior of Mexico’s first public library and its 43,000 works, you will be in reader heaven. It is not only a library but also a book museum.
Biblioteca Palafoxiana is also a gorgeous structure of New Spain Baroque. In 1981 it was declared a Historic Monument of Mexico due to its architecture. The library was included by UNESCO in the Memory of the World program in 2005.
The library is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm. The general admission is 40 pesos ($2 USD) with the cost of children under 12 at 20 pesos ($1 USD). The library is free to all every Tuesday.
Visit the Fuertes de Loreto y Guadalupe
Puebla is the main state in Mexico that celebrates Mexican Independence Day on May 5th. This is because on May 5, 1862 Ignacio Zaragoza and his troops defeated the French army at the military posts of Loreto and Guadalupe.
Now a historical site and a museum (the Museum of Non-Intervention), the Fuertes de Loreto y Guadalupe (Forts of Loreto and Guadalupe) are former military forts. Initially these buildings were chapels on top of an Acueyametepec Hill. They were repurposed as military installations at the beginning of the 19th century. The view of Puebla from the top of this hill is an awesome sight.
The forts can be visited Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. Admission is 50 pesos ($2.50 USD).
Explore the Zona Arqueologica de Cholula
A day trip to Cholula, just 20 minutes drive west of Puebla, is definitely one of the best things to do in Puebla. This is where the largest pyramid in the Americas, called Tlachihualtepetl, is located. As it is covered in vegetation, the pyramid now looks like a large hill! This city dates back to the pre-Columbian Mesoamerican civilization. These 2nd century ruins are one of the most important religious centers of the ancient Mexican civilization.
Tlachihualtepetl is Nahuatl for ‘made by hand mountain’. It is known as the Great Pyramid of Cholula and is made of adobe brick and is 180 foot high and the width is a massive 1,480 foot (451 meters) by 1,480 foot. The architectural design of the pyramid is considered to be Teotihuacan. The pyramid is a temple that was dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl.
On the top of the pyramid you’ll find the Iglesia de la Virgen de Los Remedios. From there, you can enjoy magnificent views of Popocatepetl volcano.
The archeological zone of Cholula is open daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. The general admission fee is 80 pesos ($4 USD). Seniors, teachers and students and children under the age of 13 are admitted free of charge. For guided tours of Cholula departing from Puebla, click here ore here.
See Nearby Volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl
If you have an adventurous side, one of the most fun things to do in Puebla is to see and hike near the twin volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. When the skies are clear, you can view Popocatepetl from Puebla and even from Mexico City!
Popocatepetl is Aztec for ‘smoking mountain’. It is one of the most active volcanoes in Mexico. At a height of nearly 18,000 feet (5486 meters), it is the second tallest mountain in the country. Since its 1994 eruption, hiking Popocatepetl has been prohibited.
The name Iztaccihuatl is a Nahuatl word which means ‘white woman’. The mountain received this name because its four snow-capped peaks depict the head, chest, knees, and feet of a sleeping woman. Unlike Popocatepetl, hikers are still able to explore the peaks of Iztaccihuatl, though it is strongly suggested for even experienced hikers to go with a recommended guide.
To book your guided volcano hike, click here.
Pop into the Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos (Trains Museum)
Mexico has contributed a great deal to the railroad industry. You can see the history of Mexico’s railroads at Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos. Founded in 1988, the museum preserves Mexico’s railroad legacy through its exhibits and tours. It’s honestly one of the most interesting places to visit in Puebla, away from the hustle and bustle of the most popular tourist attracitons.
The Museo Nacional de los Ferrocarriles Mexicanos is open Monday to Friday 10:00 am to 4:00 pm. For school groups and guided tours, reservations are required.
See the Views from Estrella de Puebla
The Star of Puebla is the world’s largest portable observation wheel, according to the Guinness’ Book of World Records. The ferris wheel is located in a complex in the heart of Puebla. The wheel reaches nearly 263 feet (80 meters) in height. From the top, you can see a bird’s eye view of the city, its numerous ornate structures, and the Zocalo.
On a clear day, you will also see the surrounding countryside including the volcanoes Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl. After your ride, you can visit the nearby Art Garden, and take a stroll around Linear Park or the Atoyac River Walk.
Spend a day in Val’Quirico
For a taste of Europe in the heart of Mexico, plan to spend a day in Val’Quirico, in neighboring state of Tlaxcala and at just 40 minutes drive from Puebla. Built on the grounds of a former hacienda with the intention of resembling a Tuscan village, this is really a unique place! You will find a lovely village of brown buildings, cobbled streets, nice restaurants and a charming atmosphere.
Buses don’t reach Val’Quirico, so unless you are renting a car for the day, consider joining a guided tour such as this one.
Make sure to read my other posts about Mexico:
- The Best Travel Tips For Mexico
- The Best Itinerary For 3 Days In Mexico City
- The Best Day Trips From Mexico City
- The Best National Parks In Mexico
- Where To Stay In Mexico City
- The Complete Guide To Visiting Teotihuacan
- The Best Mexico Itinerary
- The Best Things To Do In Oaxaca
- The Best Museums In Mexico City
- The Best Beaches In Mexico
- The Best Things To Do In Yucatan
- What To Eat In Mexico
- How Not To Get Sick In Mexico