Puebla is one-of-a-kind. It is a state located between large volcanoes and a mountain range inhabited by native peoples. It is a state full of cobblestoned streets and important cities such as Cholula that was founded over 25 centuries ago. But in addition to its bountiful historical attractions, here you can also appreciate the best of Mexico’s colonial and baroque architecture, world-class restaurants, as well as cultural spaces. These five activities will give visitors a well-rounded perspective of this culturally rich state.
In 1646, the Bishop of Puebla, Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, donated the five thousand volumes from his personal collection to found this public library. Later, the space was nourished by the donations of other Puebla bishops of the viceregal period and of the 18th-century Jesuit collections. Today, it holds more than 45 thousand books, in addition to five thousand manuscripts.
The library, built in 1773, conserves its original bookcase and a baroque altarpiece in which resides a 14th-century Italian oil of Our Lady of Trapani. It also maintains its original arrangement that reveals the pre-eminence of the sacred sciences as the basis of knowledge. This library not only contains very valuable documents; it is also a great document itself.
Address: Av. 5 Oriente 5
Centro Histórico de Puebla
Founded in 1531 by Spanish settlers, the city is full of artistic wonders. There is the cathedral and the temple of Santo Domingo, with its fascinating house of gold (the chapel of the Rosary). You can also find beautiful convents and churches full of history such as La Compañía, Santa Monica, San Francisco, Santa Rosa, among others. But not everything has to do with sacred art. Visitors must also explore the Casa de los Muñecos, the Casa del Alfeñique and the Principal Theater (from the 18th century), among other attractions.
You have to walk the “Street of Sweets” (6 East); visit the galleries and cantinas of the Plazuela de los Sapos; walk through the charming Barrio del Artista, and get lost in the formidable complex that makes up Paseo San Francisco and the Puebla Convention Center. Not to mention you will also be stopped in awe by the talavera shops and workshops (one of Mexico’s finest crafts).
Address: 5 de Mayo and 4 Poniente, Colonia Centro
Ex-Hacienda de Chautla
At the end of the 19th century, Eulogio Gillow, bishop of Oaxaca (and friend of Porfirio Díaz) inherited this hacienda and chose to modernize it. In 1903, he dammed the Atoyac River and built a hydroelectric plant; also, he created an agricultural school in its environs for which was constructed “the castle” as a residence for its teachers. During the Mexican Revolution, the hacienda was abandoned and fell into oblivion.
In recent years, it has been restored and now functions as a park. In the beautiful crystal clear waters, you can row a boat or catch trout. Guided tours are available to get to know the history of the place. Also, the hacienda has a hotel that serves as an ideal base to visit Tlaxcala, Puebla, Huejotzingo, Cholula, and Cacaxtla.
Address: Carretera Federal México-Puebla Km. 4.5, San Lucas el Grande
International Baroque Museum
It would seem bold to invite the winner of the 2013 Pritzker Prize, Toyo Ito, to reinterpret the baroque in a city brimming with art and architecture from centuries past. The result, however, is spectacular, if you just simply look at the museum’s complex façade. In addition to the permanent collection, there are other temporary exhibitions in which you can learn about the history of Puebla and its artistic movements. Also, the venue has a restaurant, Barroco, run by chef Alan Sánchez Guzmán.
Address: Blvd. Atlixcáyotl 2501, Colonia Reserva Territorial Atlixcáyotl
Profética Casa de la Lectura
Profética is, first and foremost, a free public library. It is also a very large bookstore—in fact, the largest in Puebla—with more than 40,000 titles on display. And third, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat. The space occupies the colonial house known as the Casa de la Limpia as it is located next to what was the Convent of the Conception of Our Lady (which today is the Camino Real hotel).
Over time, especially in the second half of the twentieth century, the building suffered a sharp deterioration until it was practically in ruins. In 2000, Elías and Nicanor M. Escalera granted the funds for its reconstruction. Between 2001 and 2003, the architectural intervention of Gonzalo Gómez-Palacio took place, and the work obtained an honorable mention in the 2003 edition of the National Biennial of Mexican Architecture.
Address: Calle 3 Sur 701, Centro
Follow Evan on Instagram.
Other articles that may interest you:
The Guide to Cultural Activities in Oaxaca City
The Guide to Bookstores in Mexico City
San Miguel de Allende: central Mexico’s whimsical World Heritage Site