Cinco de Mayo, volcanoes, and food are some things people immediately associate with Puebla in Mexico. Let’s explore these and other things Puebla is known for.
Located in Central Mexico, at a high altitude (2 100+ meters), Puebla is the capital of the State with the same name and one of the largest (4th at the time of writing) cities in the country. Despite being one of the most important cities in Mexico, Puebla is often overlooked by travelers, mainly if they are not foodies. True foodies will know Puebla very well.
Furthermore, there’s much more to Puebla than its unique and marvelous food scene. It is one of the oldest colonial cities in the New World, with unexpected architecture, precolombian ruins, and volcanoes close by, as well as some of the most famous landmarks in Mexico.
So, with no more delays, let’s discuss what is Puebla known for?
Ten things Puebla is famous for
We could not start a post about what Puebla is famous for without talking about the food! Puebla is the food capital of Mexico (maybe together with Oaxaca), home to some of the most popular national dishes in Mexico, like Chiles en Nogada and Mole Poblano. But there’s so much more, so we decided to write a post about the food in Puebla.
From the first minute, it’s impossible not to notice the importance of food in Puebla, even when compared with the rest of Mexico, which is already famous for its exquisite food. Even street vendors seem to offer better and more delicious-looking options.
Long story short… If you are a foodie, you can’t miss Puebla; if you are not, you’ll probably enjoy it too. There are options for almost everyone.
Cinco de Mayo
Cinco de Mayo is a famous celebration of Mexican Heritage. Although it is primarily American, it is also celebrated and well-known in other countries. Yet, we need to mention that the 5th of May is not the Mexican Independence Day; that’s the 16th of September.
Even more interesting is that it is not as widely celebrated in Mexico as many people think. The exception is Puebla, Cinco de Mayo is a holiday in Puebla and is widely celebrated there. The 5th of May festivity is a yearly celebration of Mexico’s victory over the Second French Empire in 1862 at the Battle of Puebla.
The Mexican army was smaller and poorly equipped but could repeal the French military and achieve Mexico’s first major battle victory over a global power. Despite this, the French eventually took Puebla and marched into Mexico City. However, the morale boost and the time gained were significant for Mexico being able to win the war and enhance nationalism.
In Puebla, Cinco de Mayo is usually called El Día de la Batalla de Puebla. It is primely celebrated with parades and historical reenactments with participants dressed as French and Mexican soldiers. There’s obviously lots of food, drinks, and music.
One of Puebla’s most curious fun facts is that it is home to many automotive sector plants and a significant automotive supply chain.
Puebla is home to the largest Volkswagen assembly plant outside of Germany. Furthermore, Audi is also moving to the region, and many other car companies and joining this new cluster in the Baijo region of Mexico.
The WV plant is now 55 years old and has produced more than 13 million vehicles, including the Jetta, Taos, and Tiguan. However, it became famous for producing the beloved vocho (the old WV beetle), including the last models made worldwide.
The production of this legendary car ended in 2019 in Puebla – other assembly plants that once produced it had long stopped. It will be forever loved by motorists in Mexico and globally and an icon of the city of Puebla.
Located only about 10 km outside the center, Cholula isn’t part of Puebla city, but it is very close by and one of the most famous things about Puebla. Cholula is one of the most popular pueblo mágicos as it is easily accessible, lovely, and has some stunning landmarks.
The most striking thing about Cholula is the Great Pyramid of Cholula, also known as Tlachihualtepetl – which means “made-by-hand mountain.” This is an excellent fitting name, as the Pyramid looks like a mountain to the naked eye.
However, if we examine it closer, the mountain is a colossal abandoned pyramid, and nature has taken over. Centuries later, the Spaniards built a lovely chapel on top of it – Santuario de Nuestra Señora de los Remedios.
The church is lovely, colored with a striking yellow, and it’s located on top of a giant pyramid. The ground of the Sanctuary also works as a great lookout, where on clear days, one can see the imposing volcanoes surrounding Cholula/Puebla.
At 66 meters high, the Cholula Pyramid is much shorter than the Giza Pyramid in Egypt and many others. However, with a base of 315×300 meters, it is by far the largest pyramid in the world by volume and even the largest monument ever built. So, despite being a famous landmark in Mexico, it probably isn’t as well-known as it should.
Similarly to Mexico City, Puebla is located in a high-altitude valley surrounded by high mountains and volcanoes, which are part of the Trans-Mexican Volcanic Belt. These volcanoes are part of the stunning natural setting where Puebla was built, and when it’s clear enough, they are perfectly visible from the city and are particularly amazing from Cholula, as we mentioned above.
Popocatepetl and Iztaccíhuatl are the most famous of these volcanoes – they are located between Mexico City and Puebla. They are Mexico’s second and third-highest mountains, reaching 5426 and 5230 meters, respectively. They are also active volcanoes and erupt occasionally. Popocatepetl erupted in 2019.
Puebla is also home to Cuexcomate – a very different Volcano. Located within the city perimeter, only a few minutes from downtown, Cuexcomate is usually known as the world’s smallest volcano, sanding at an impressive 42 feet. However, we need to mention that technically it is not a volcano; it is a geyser. Anyhow, It is a cool natural landmark and a manifestation of the region’s volcanic activity.
Another famous thing about Puebla is the Biblioteca Palafoxiana. This famous library was founded in 1646 by Bishop Juan de Palafox y Mendoza, making it the folded public library in the Americas. Bishop Palafox donated 5000 books from his private collection. He famously wrote, “It is very useful and convenient that there should be a public library in this city and kingdom, where all sorts of people will be able to study as they wish.”
Today, the library holds about 45,000 books, divided into three collections: old books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and broadsheets. This collection includes nine incunabula. The oldest book is the Nuremberg Chronicle from 1493.
In 2005, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana was listed on UUNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
The library room is a beautiful 43-meter vaulted hall with three levels of bookshelves. As It is located in the center of the city, it is very easy to visit.
Capilla del Rosario
Located inside Santo Domingo Church in the center of Puebla, the Capilla del Rosario (or Chapel del Rosario) is one of Mexico’s most famous landmarks. This architectonic jewel was built between 1650 and 1690, and at the time, it was considered the 8th wonder of the world.
Regarded as one of the most prominent examples of the New Spanish Baroque, the Chapel del Rosario was built full of symbolism related to Catholicism and the Dominican order. It is a UNESCO heritage site, part of the Historical Center of Puebla listing.
The chapel’s interior is astonishing, as every architectural structure is covered with golden stucco. The gold used to cover the chapel came from Guanajuato, and it is of high quality – 24 carats – which explains why it is still so impressive after 300 years.
Churches, lots of churches
Puebla is also home to many churches – beautiful, colorful churches. Almost every street in Puebla has a church, nearly all of them were built in colonial style and painted in bright stunning colors.
How many churches? There are 288 parishes in a territory of about 80 square miles. This is quite a large number, and it’s even more impressive if we think it doesn’t include chapels, oratories, and other smaller shrines.
The churches are one of the most remarkable features in Puebla, a city sometimes called the city of angels as it was originally called Puebla de los Angeles.
Together with Capilla del Rosario mentioned above, the immense and imposing cathedral is the most famous church in Puebla. You can’t miss these two, but seeing all the others is tantalizing. They light up the city with their architecture and bright colors.
Some of our favorites include La Compañia, Nuestra Señora del Carmen, Ex-Convento de San Francisco de Puebla, Nuestra Señora de la Luz, and Templo de San Juan de Dios. However, the most fun is wandering around the city and discovering the architectonic treasures most people usually don’t visit or discuss.
What is Puebla famous for producing? Talavera pottery and tiles are very common answers. These distinctive pottery and tiles are originally from Talavera de la Reina in Spain but were introduced in Puebla soon after the city’s foundation. In 1550, Puebla was already a center of Talavera production in Mexico.
After its establishment, Puebla proliferated, and many churches were constructed. Talavera de la Reina artisans were brought to the city to adorn these churches. Plus, the availability of high-quality clay in the region made the ceramic industry’s growth possible. Soon, the art was also taught to indigenous, resulting in new styles, influences, and eventually the creation of a Talavera Poblana.
Talavera Poblana pieces are usually unique and signed at the base, meaning they can become quite pricey, particularly if they are larger or more intricate. Besides the adornation of the churches, today, it is possible to find numerous decorative objects in Talavera, from monumental vases and plates to sink basins and even toilets.
This traditional art decayed for a few centuries but has been revived in recent decades. There are not about ten certified workshops in Puebla. The most famous is probably the Uriarte Talavera factory, close to the city center.
The city of Puebla is also known for being Heroic, which is why the city’s former full name was Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza. In fact, it is known for having been Heroic four times in the short span of only 50 years.
These were some of the most important events in Mexico’s history, where Puebla and its citizens played crucial roles in forging the country’s identity and independence. These events were:
- Cinco de Mayo Battle in 1862 – We have explained it above;
- Siege of Puebla in 1863 – Puebla fell to the French army, but its resistance was heroic, allowing the Mexican army to reorganize. The bravery and exertion in this battle made it legendary.
- The taking of Puebla 1867 – where the Republican army led by Porfirio Diaz took Puebla, defeating the imperialist army. A deciding moment for the creation of the Mexican Republic.
- Mexican Revolution 1910 – when the brothers Aquiles Serdán and Máximo Serdán started a rebellion against the government of Porfirio Diaz. They were eventually assassinated but became martyrs of the Mexican Revolution cause, hence their heroic nature.
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