by Viviane d’Adesky
Just a two-hour drive from Mexico City and boasting a cosmopolitan population as the country’s fourth largest city, Puebla is drawing international travelers eager for a dose of colonial charm, without the crowds at competing hotspots like San Miguel de Allende. Puebla’s influx of beautiful hotels and cultural institutions perfectly complement the city’s rich history, a blend of French, Spanish and indigenous influences that earned it the coveted spot as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Read on to discover the city’s most inspiring corners for design devotees.
Where to Stay
Travelers looking for a cozy and colorful pied-a-terre can check into Milagro Hotel nestled in the heart of the historic center. The boutique hotel boasts 15 rooms decorated with rotating paintings by local artists available for purchase. The same crisp white and bright blue tones reminiscent of the city’s delicate talavera ceramics enliven each guest room when paired against the ancient brick that was left exposed for added character. Milagro Hotel provides an ideal jumping off point for those looking to explore the city by foot as it sits within a three-block radius of the city’s oldest museum, Museo Casa del Alfenique, Puente de Bubas and the statue-lined Zocalo.
Alternatively, La Purificadora offers chic accommodations geared towards amenity aficionados in a former ice factory. Retrofitted with contemporary glass balconies and interiors that contrast with the centuries-old stone façade, the 26-room hotel designed by Ricardo Legorreta features a sleek on-site library, minimalist restaurant, sexy glass-walled pool deck with adjoining rooftop bar and revitalizing spa.
What to Do
Aesthetes’ equally as enthralled by modern forms as they are by ancient ones should visit the Museo Internacional del Barroco. The museum, designed by Japanese starchitect and Pritzker Prize winner Toyo Ito, pays homage to the curvaceous lines of the Baroque movement with a sleek ribbon-like exterior that’s just as awe-inspiring as the works of art it holds inside. The museum’s permanent exhibits offer a deep-dive into how the opulent 17th century aesthetic took hold of nearly every street corner in Puebla and inspired visionaries across disciplines, from music to sculpture and even philosophy.
Travelers can also browse a selection of Pre-Columbian, colonial, and contemporary art at Museo Amparo. The museum’s dramatic entrance greets visitors with an iconic sand installation by Yves Klein in his signature cerulean shade. To wrap up the visit, head to the museum’s private rooftop cafe at sunset for a glass of wine and panoramic views of the city’s countless church spires.
Once you’ve settled on your airy rooftop perch, try to spot Iglesia de Santo Domingo, the city’s most emblematic site thanks to its glittering gold-leafed chapel that leaves visitors with sore necks from gazing upwards at the impossibly ornate ceiling details.
Where to Eat & Drink
A trip to Puebla isn’t complete without sampling the region’s most famous dish, Mole Poblano. The savory sauce can be found at multiple restaurants throughout the city, from white tablecloth establishments like El Mural de Los Poblanos with its iconic archways and hand painted mural, to more casual yet equally mouth-watering eateries like El Anafre Rojo that cook their meats in the namesake clay pot used over generations. Whether you’re looking to savor the nutty chocolate-tinged Mole Poblano or mouth-on-fire-hot Mole Coloradito, the culinary possibilities and creative pairings are endless.
For a modern twist on Mexican cuisine head to Maiz Prieto, an unassuming restaurant and cocktail bar blending flavors from two of the country’s best gastronomic regions, Puebla and Oaxaca. Hidden away on the second floor of a colonial-era building, diners can opt for quaint balcony seating to watch locals go by while savoring delicately crafted tlacoyos de chicharron served on minimalistic slate plates. End the night with a cocktail or three, like the tongue-in-cheek Niña Fresa featuring a dangerously misleading blend of agua de jamaica and vodka, beautifully topped with fragrant rose petals.
Where to Shop
Lovers of handmade homewares can meander through El Parian, the city’s largest traditional crafts market, that boasts dozens of vendors showing off their artisinal treasures. Winding between the labyrinth of stalls you can find everything from delicately embroidered tunics to hand-carved alebrijes, the vibrantly colored mythical sculptures first dreamed up by Mexican artist Pedro Linares.
Those on the hunt for a striking talavera masterpiece to decorate their own home with can stop by Casa de Talavera Celia. The workshop-turned-cafe is owned and operated by artist Germán Gutiérrez Herrera who explains the intricacies of the 400-year-old ceramic process over a cup of local coffee. Even more impressive, the cup, saucer and stirring spoon used to prepare your cappuccino are all available for purchase and made in studio.
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