Vibrant, enormous, and full of colors and history. The city of Puebla attracts tourists from all over the world, offering them unforgettable experiences. Find out what are the best Puebla attractions in our guide to Puebla, including top activities and must-see places.
What you need to know about Puebla city
A very common problem people come across is that they mix up Puebla city and Puebla state. It can create lovely misunderstandings. For example, if someone keeps persuading you that Puebla city is 34,306 square kilometers (13,246 square miles) large, don’t trust them. They are talking about the state.
So, the Puebla city:
- is 534 square kilometers (206 square miles) large
- is home to 1,700,000 inhabitants
- is located at the altitude of 2,135 meters (7,004 feet) above sea level (which means you’ll need sun protection if you don’t want to end up burnt)
And, as I suppose you’ve already guessed, Puebla city is the capital of Puebla state in Mexico.
This is why you should visit Puebla city
Puebla in Mexico is one of the most beautiful non-European cities I’ve ever seen. And that’s something—I’ve been in North as well as South America, Africa, and Asia. To see all Puebla attractions worth visiting, you should spend at least two days there.
What’s great about Puebla is that it’s within convenient driving distance from Mexico City. The journey takes only about two hours which means you can squeeze it into your Mexico itinerary pretty easily.
You should take into account that Puebla is really far-reaching and you will need a car to move from one place to another. If you’re not experienced in driving in Mexico, read my article where I explain everything important.
Top 10 things to do in Puebla
When it comes to Puebla activities, these 10 are the best:
10. Laugh at the smallest volcano in the world
Cuexcomate in Puebla is considered to be the smallest volcano on the planet and is therefore visited by tourists laughing at it and saying it’s not worth a visit. But if you read somewhere that it’s the smallest volcano… It’s a mistake, and the writer didn’t fact-check the text. Cuexcomate is not a volcano, it’s an inactive geyser.
It’s 13 meters (42 feet) tall and a staircase leads down in its channel. If you follow it, instead of hot lava and flowing magma you can stumble upon hot artists and flowing wine—cultural events are held in the geyser. How cool is that?
- Address: Libertad, 72130 Puebla, Mexico
9. Take a walk among architectural gems
Take a walk in Zócalo, the city center. You’ll explore narrow streets, colorful colonial houses, diverse people, cozy cafés, and lovely shops. You can do all sightseeing on foot; all architectural landmarks are within walking distance. Don’t forget to visit:
- Catedral de Puebla
- City Hall
- Palacio de Gobierno (town hall)
- H. Ayuntamiento de Puebla (city government office)
- Address: Av. Don Juan de Palafox y. Mendoza, Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
8. Visit Puebla’s traditional marketplace
Breathe in the true atmosphere of Mexico by visiting the local traditional market: El Parián. 112 stands made of brick offer handcrafted items, high-quality and cheap at the same time. You’ll get to buy not only souvenirs, but pretty much anything you could need.
- Address: Mercado de artesanias El Parian local 111, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
7. Do (NOT) touch a book in Biblioteca Palafoxiana
Numbers describe Biblioteca Palafoxiana, the oldest public library in the Americas, better than words:
- 45,000 books and manuscripts
- founded in 1646
- 43 meters (141 feet) long
- 3 levels of bookshelves
The library is open for a visit between 10 AM and 5 PM daily, except on Mondays. The visit takes around 15 minutes.
- Address: Av 5 Ote 5, Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
6. Catedral de Puebla
Look at the picture below and make a guess: How long do you think it takes to build such a cathedral?
The answer is: It took 74 years (with some breaks). The construction began in 1575 and was finally finished in 1649, and consecrated to the Virgin Mary. Today, it serves as the see of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese.
The building is truly fascinating. It consists of 14 lateral chapels and the main altar. The interior is ostentatiously decorated with ornaments, statues, and paintings.
Warning: It’s not allowed to take pictures inside.
- Address: C. 16 de Septiembre s/n, Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
5. Cholula (30 minutes from Puebla)
Cholula is the paradise for all history lovers and enthusiastic explorers of Mexico’s ancient cultures. It’s the oldest still-inhabited village in Mexico and hides true gems. For example the largest pyramid in the world.
Before you start yippeeing and hooraying, let me disappoint you a bit: The pyramid is covered by soil and plants, and resembles a hill rather than a pyramid. But still. The Great Pyramid of Cholula (Tlachihualtepetl) is 450 meters (1,480 feet) wide in its base. For comparison, the Giza pyramid is 230 meters (750 feet) wide.
When you look at the picture, a question might creep into your mind: Why is there a Catholic cathedral on top of the world’s largest ancient pyramid? Well, when Spaniards came to Mexico, they apparently thought: Look, a pagan building! Let’s destroy it! What a great idea! And they covered the pyramid with soil and built a cathedral on top. (Actually, most of the ancient Mexican buildings were christianized by the Spanish after they arrived in the 16th century. But that’s another story.)
The archeological site in Cholula offers plenty of interesting activities: not only the pyramid and the cathedral, but also ruins, tunnels, a museum, several churches, festivals… Deciding what to do depends on how much time you have. For your own sake, I hope you have a lot.
- Address: Calle 14 Pte. S/N, San Miguel, Zona Arqueológica San Andrés Cholula, 72760 San Andrés Cholula, Pue., Mexico
4. San Francisco Acatepec (in Cholula)
San Francisco Acatepec is a typically Mexican baroque church. Vivid colors shine far and wide from the facade, making the building one of the most interesting things to see in Puebla (in San Andrés Cholula, to be specific).
- Address: Puebla 6, La Purísima, San Francisco Acatepec, 72875 San Andrés Cholula, Pue., Mexico
3. Orizaba (2 hours from Puebla)
If you feel an irresistible urge to get away from tourist-packed Puebla, Orizaba is the place to go to. It’s a city in the state of Veracruz, approximately 2 hours from Puebla by car. Here’s a bunch of tips on what to do there:
Teleférico is a cableway which will take you up the hill above Orizaba. The visit is simple: go up, enjoy approximately 30 minutes of beautiful views, and get down again. It’s open from 10 AM to 6 PM every day.
- Address: Centro, 94300 Orizaba, Veracruz, Mexico
Take a walk along the river in Orizaba (Río Orizaba). Locals run a free zoo there, so your walk will be spiced up by animals all around you. It’s surrounded by cafés and restaurants so you won’t starve either.
- Address: Sur 4, Centro, 94300 Orizaba, Ver., Mexico
Fancy a stroll in the wild? 500 Escalones are 500 stair steps, creating a gorgeous hike with a dam at the end. In my opinion, the hike is more about the journey than about the dam so there’s no use in going entirely down, if you’re out of time or tired.
- Address: Autopista Orizaba Cordoba KM. 273+620 S/N, Barrio Nuevo, 94340 Orizaba, Ver., Mexico
Palacio de Hierro
Palacio de Hierro, Iron Palace in translation, was designed by Gustave Eiffel in the 19th century. It was made of 600 tons of steel, and its price was 100,000 pesos—equivalent to 21.3 million Mexican pesos (1.1 million US dollars) today.
There is a café in the palace. Don’t go there. The service is unpleasant, and the coffee undrinkable.
- Address: Fco. I. Madero Norte, Centro, 94300 Orizaba, Ver., Mexico
Final tip for Orizaba: How to get there
Whereas Puebla’s elevation is 2,135 meters (7,004 feet) above sea level, Orizaba lies much lower: at the altitude of 1,200 meters (4,000 feet). Which means you will go down the hill. A lot. And the highway is literally highway to hell.
That fact the road goes down, together with the fact it leads also to Veracruz, Mexico’s second largest port, causes very heavy traffic. Get ready to honk at a truck or to. Or get up early and set off in the morning, when the road is empty.
2. Africam Safari
Africam Safari is a private zoo with more than 2,500 animals and over 300 species from Africa. When I first stumbled upon it on the internet, I was a bit skeptical: African safari in Mexico? But I gave it a chance and I didn’t regret it.
The tickets are quite expensive, but definitely worth it. You’ll go to the zoo in your car, and slowly drive among the animals. I must pay a compliment to the safety—the lioness in the picture below jumped in front of our car and wanted to scratch it, but the moment she raised her paw, the zoo staff came and drove her away.
The safari is open from 10 AM to 6 PM.
- Address: Blvd. Capitan Carlos Camacho Espiritu Km. 16.5, Tecali de Herrera, Heróica Puebla de Zaragoza, Pue. Mexico, 75240
1. Chapel of the Rosario
Finally, we are getting to the most beautiful tourist attraction in Puebla. And that’s the Chapel of the Rosario. I’m not pious and chapels don’t usually impress me… but this one is on a completely different level than any other chapel I’ve seen.
The chapel is hidden in the Church of Santo Domingo in Puebla, and is described as the eighth world wonder by some. Every inch of it is covered in gold. Built in the architectural style called New Spanish Baroque, it shows the wealth of the Church and is full of symbolism. The opening hours are from 11 AM to 1:30 PM and then again from 3:30 PM to 5:30 PM every day, except for Mondays.
- Address: Av. 4 Pte., Centro, 72000 Puebla, Pue., Mexico
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