Mexico City and Puebla
Whether you’re looking for ancient history or cultural delights; the high energy of city life or the mellow charm of the colonial past; gourmet cuisine or street stall tacos; world-class museums or traditional markets, this compelling and charismatic region of central Mexico is not to be missed.
While not everyone who visits Mexico takes time to explore Mexico City, we think the atmosphere, culture and frenetic energy make it one of the most exciting cities in the world and not to be missed. What’s more, just 75-kilometres east of the city, but a million miles away in terms of pace of life, lies the beautiful UNESCO-listed old colonial city of Puebla. Full of cultural charm and culinary flair, it is the perfect place to escape both the literal and metaphorical pulsating heat of Mexico’s capital city and we would recommend adding both destinations to your Mexican itinerary.
For those interested in Mexico’s pre-Hispanic past, this area has much to offer. Built over the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, visitors to Mexico City can explore the partly-excavated site of Templo Mayor, which was the main temple of this ancient civilization. We would also recommend a trip to visit the ruins of Teotihuacan, about an hour from the city which was originally a Toltec and then Aztec ceremonial temple complex and is one of Mexico’s important archaeological sites. Visitors to Puebla will also not want to miss the Great Pyramid of Cholula, the largest pyramid base in the world, so well hidden under layers of earth that it looks like a natural mountain. It certainly tricked Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortés, who after defeating the Aztecs, built a church on top of it in 1519.
Puebla was one of the most important cities in colonial Mexico and the Spanish heritage is evident in the beautiful Baroque architecture of its old colonial buildings. Highlights include the beautiful cathedral, Rosary Chapel and Casa de la Cultura, but with a more temperate climate than Mexico City, this is a lovely place to simply stroll around the tree-lined plazas and narrow cobbled streets. Another colonial highlight is the National Palace in Mexico City’s main plaza, Plaza de la Constitution, once the seat of power of the Spanish Viceroys and don’t miss the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest in Latin America. We’d also suggest a visit to the capital’s Chapultepec Park where you’ll find 10 museums and art galleries, including the National Museum of Anthropology along with a visit to the laidback district of Coyocan, where you can visit La Casa Azul, once the home of Frida Kahlo.
Both cities enjoy a thriving culinary scene and Mexico’s national dish, Mole Poblano, a chocolate and chili flavoured sauce poured over meat, was first created in Puebla and there are many opportunities to take cooking classes in the city. In Mexico City, we’d suggest foodies try the delicious street food or treat themselves to dinner at one of the city’s world-class restaurants, including Pujol and Quintonil, both in the Polanco district.
We think both cities offer much in terms of Mexico’s history and culture, complementing each other in terms of style and atmosphere. For those with enough time, we’d recommend three-nights in Mexico’s exciting capital city and two-nights in charming Puebla, combined with visiting some of the country’s major archaeological sites and beautiful southern beaches. This will give you a real taste of this amazing country.