Discovering Puebla’s Historic City Center

David Lee June 3, 2013 Comments Off
Colorful Facades in the Old City Center

Colorful Facades in the Old City Center

Puebla is the second stop of the Ancient Civilizations tour, and the second of three city centers listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The short bus ride from Mexico City makes for an easy travel day, leaving the afternoon and following morning free to walk the historic city center.

Founded in 1531, UNESCO describes Puebla as follows:

“It has preserved its great religious structures such as the 16th–17th-century cathedral and fine buildings like the old archbishop’s palace, as well as a host of houses with walls covered in tiles (azulejos). The new aesthetic concepts resulting from the fusion of European and American styles were adopted locally and are peculiar to the Baroque district of Puebla.”

Upon arrival, Sergio, my roommate, and I sat down for lunch on the street with a view of the Cathedral. I opted for the mole with chicken, a regional specialty. The chicken breast arrived smothered in a rich, dark mixture of chocolate and spices.

Interior of Puebla Cathedral

Interior of Puebla Cathedral

Sumptuous lunch consumed, we walked over to the Cathedral, Puebla’s largest church. Construction began in 1575, but it took 300 years to finish. Despite an austere front facade, the interior sparkles with gold paint and a massive altarpiece. Looking up at the ceiling design alone was enough to fascinate me.

Our second stop was just a few blocks away. Museo Amparo was a recommendation from Gaby, our CEO. The museum is housed in two 17th and 18th century buildings, which is apparent from the outside, but inside, the museum is in the midst of a million-dollar renovation.

The lobby and finished gallery spaces feature a modern look, mixing glass and steel. The rooftop cafe is worth a visit for its near 360-degree views of the city and surrounding churches. Ironically, due to the construction, most of the ancient pottery and artifacts in the permanent collection were not available to view when we were there.

Downtown Puebla reminded me a lot of Colombia’s pueblos, with its colorfully painted buildings. The historic center features 2,619 monuments across 391 city blocks, making it “the city with the largest number of monuments in the Americas” according to one sign.

As Sergio and I continued our walk, we happened across Cafe Milagros. The sun had begun to set, casting shadows across the yellow and blue facade.

Cafe Milagros

Cafe Milagros

Inside, the cafe was filled with symbols of Mexican culture, from kitschy Lucha Libre (wrestling) masks to skulls, and prints of Frida Kahlo. We grabbed a table, and enjoyed the atmosphere, along with a half dozen young Mexicans.

A few blocks from the cafe was The Society of Jesus Church, with its ornate white facade. Built in the 18th century, it’s one of only two Jesuit churches in Mexico.

Our last stop of the day was The Convent of Santo Domingo, thanks to Sergio and his Lonely Planet guide to Mexico. The Baroque style church was built in the 16th and 17th centuries, and features the Capilla del Rosary, an incredibly detailed chapel painted in gold.