Puebla de Zaragoza is also known as the “City of Angels”, a nickname that goes back to its founding myth. According to this legend, Bishop Julián Garcés of Tlaxcala dreamt of angels marking out the ground plan of the future city with cord.
In fact, however, Puebla’s city map also features the classic Spanish chessboard pattern, which makes orientation easier for visitors.
Since 1987, the historic centre of the metropolis, founded in 1531 and now home to more than two million inhabitants, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
It owes this status to its impressive variety of churches, monasteries, palaces and patrician houses in the compact old town centre, many of which display the characteristic Talavera tiles.
The splendour of this area often hides behind modest façades, such as the lavishly decorated Capilla del Rosario (Chapel of the Rosary) of Santo Domingo Monastery, or Puebla’s Cathedral, considered Mexico’s tallest and second largest.
In addition to other impressive church buildings such as the former monastery La Concordia with its Patio de los Azulejos and the church San Francisco, Puebla also offers some very interesting secular buildings and squares that can be explored on a walk or by “Turibus”.
Pueblas Plaza de Armas is as old as the city itself and was mainly used as a market place until the 18th century. But it was also always a meeting point and centre of social life. The tree-lined square is surrounded by shops and restaurants.
Its northern side is dominated by the Palacio Municipal, Puebla’s Town Hall, whose architecture is a typical example of the “Beaux Arts” architectural style, which is characteristic of the authoritarian modernization policy of Porfirio Díaz at the turn of the 19th to the 20th century.
The south side of the plaza is dominated by Puebla’s Cathedral, a treasure trove of colonial art whose first construction phase dates between 1575 and 1618. Behind its Mannerist façade, one can admire the high altar and the Moorish Mudejar choir with precious wooden inlays.
At the corner 5 de Mayo/ 4 Poniente you will find the Church of Santo Domingo with the aforementioned Chapel of the Rosary, an outstanding example of Mexican Baroque architecture.
If following from here the 6 Oriente to the 6 Norte to the east, one stands at the back of the Teatro Principal, Mexico’s oldest theatre, whose interior can be visited.
Now, one crosses the artist quarter Barrio del Artista before finally reaching the Casa de Alfeñique, whose façade ornaments really remind strongly of the Meringue-like pastry that gave the house its name.
The next stop on the tour is the Mercado El Parián. On this handicraft market you will find typical Puebla products such as Talavera ceramics, textiles, clothing, onyx figures and traditional sweets of the Poblanos (inhabitants of Puebla).
On Sundays, the Plazuela de los Sapos (toad square) is the venue for an antiques market, which is also stocked by the surrounding shops.
In some of the local pubs that offer a break, you can enjoy live music in the evening. The Casa de los Muñecos is a peculiarity among Puebla’s baroque buildings. The “House of Dolls” has figures on its façade with a delightful story behind them: when the owner of the house, Agustín Ovando de Villavicencio, applied for permission to build a third floor, the city’s superiors dragged him to court in envy to prevent him from having a bigger house than theirs. Ovando de Villavicencio finally paid them back by installing figures caricaturing these dignitaries.
The first tour of Puebla ends again at the Zócalo, but a highlight awaits you with the Amparo Museum, whose collection of pre-Columbian artefacts is internationally considered as one of the most important. In addition to the permanent collection, top-class special exhibitions regularly take place. Since 2014 there has been a beautiful panoramic terrace with a chic cafeteria in the light-flooded new building of the museum, for which “ten arquitectos” are responsible.