Tempting though it might be to stay in Mexico City, it’s worth venturing to Puebla - probably the most Spanish of all Mexico’s cities - says Kaye Holland
f (or should that be when) Mexico City’s pollution gets too much, Puebla - with its beautiful colonial buildings - represents the perfect escape from the capital.
Smaller and much more manageable that Mexico City, Puebla is home to the country’s greatest concentration of colonial churches, a stunning cathedral and a fantastic culinary tradition.
Most visitors head straight to the Centro Historico (aka the city’s old town) with its elegant plaza, which is where you’ll find Mexico’s tallest cathedral. So impressive is the Herrersque-Renaissance and early baroque style cathedral that it appears on Mexico’s M$500 bill. And the elaborately decorated interior is so sumptuous, it could convert you to Catholicism.
For more culture and history, check out Puebla’s myriad museums - many of which are housed in beautiful colonial buildings. The best one to explore, in my mind, is the Casa de la Cultura. On the first floor of this 17th century brick and tile former bishop’s palace you’ll find the Biblioteca Palafoxiana - aka the first public library in America. Book worms will be in seventh heaven here: the library shelves creak with rare classics including the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle.
If all that history has made you hungry, you’re in the right place: Puebla boasts some of the best food in Mexico. You can try Puebla’s famous cuisine at food stalls around the plaza or in a colonial style restaurant, but I’d recommend that you make for the $4.1 million Mercado de Sabores Poblanos. This fabulous new food court is a good 15 minute walk from the centre of town, but you won’t regret a step when you arrive and realise that you can eat your way around the region for embarrassingly low prices. Great tasting local specialities to try include pipian verde (pumpkin seed sauce), chiles en nogada (green chillies stuffed with a mix of meat and fruit and covered with walnut sauce and red pomegranate seeds) and tacos arabes (a true local delicacy). Be warned: all are utterly addictive, so arrive with a large appetite.
The best bit? Experiencing Puebla for yourself can easily be done in a day being only a short, two hour bus ride away from Mexico City. So if you’re holidaying in Mexico’s heartland, make time to discover the gem that is Puebla - a part of the country that is largely untouched by tourists meaning it has retained its customs, food and friendliness...