Puebla was founded in 1531 and lays at the foot of the Volcan Popocatepetl. Most of the historic downtown still retains much Spanish colonial architecture: facades covered in detailed mosaics, buildings with inner patios, and combinations of bricks, tiles, and artistic designs in white mortar. Puebla is one of those towns that you could spend a whole day just looking at the buildings: beautiful ancient houses of various colors, enormous cathedrals with golden domes and statues of saints, calles with small tents selling ceramics and dolls, restaurants and cafes offering a variety of foods, and the upbeat life of the people of Puebla. It’s truly a magnificent town to visit. We spent a couple of days visiting the city, most of the time the historic downtown; however, we also toured nearby neighborhoods.
We started our visit at the very heart of the historic downtown: the town’s zocalo. The zocalo is where one of Puebla’s most prized colonial buildings is at, the Catedral Basilica de Puebla. The herrerian-style Cathedral is simply outstanding, one of the most beautiful I have seen (no photos can be taken inside). Surrounding the the Basilica of Puebla, there are numerous traditional restaurants and cafes where you can stop and relax; additionally, a few minutes away, the Capilla del Rosariois another must-go site in Puebla (my personal favorite). The much smaller chapel isn’t very extraordinary-looking on the outside; nevertheless, the inside is jaw-dropping. The chapel of the Rosario Virgin is attached to an older chapel–Templo de Santo Domingo, which is a modest, yet beautiful, church–and is probably one of the most dazzling places I have seen. The entire baroque-style chapel is covered in golden stucco, which was given as a gift by a Spanish businessman, and on each side of the room, large canvas from the 17th century cover the walls. At the very center is the Virgen del Rosario in a silk dress, around her, statues of saints are standing, and above her head the dome reach its highest and the Holy Spirit is painted at the center.
Back to the zocalo, we took a toribus which gave us a hour tour around the oldest areas of the town, it’s worth the time. Once done with the bus tour, we visited the Barrio de los Artistas, where local artistas expose their arts in shops or outside on the sidewalks, the colorful canvases contrast beautifully with the bright-colored houses of the neighborhood. Another superb place to go to is the Callejon de los Sapos, which like the Barrio de los Artistas, is filled by paintings, ancient crafts, and bars and cafes (great place to visit on Friday and Saturday night). Nearby the Callejon de los Sapos, the delicious Casareyna Restaurante is a great choice for lunch or dinner. Another calle that must be visited is the Calle de los Dulces, which is a street with only candy shops, where the most popular sweets are the camote, the tortitas de Santa Clara, and the muégano. Once done eating traditional Mexican sweets, the Biblioteca Palafoxiana is an extremely interesting place to visit–it’s the oldest library in the Americas, built in 1646 by a bishop. The library has many books from the 16th century, and only scholars and professors with a special permit may use the books of the Palafoxiana.
Besides visiting all of these sites, it’s an extraordinary experience of its own to just walk around the town of Puebla and appreciate the ancient Spanish architecture and history.
Interesting Facts The Capilla del Rosario is cleaned (dusted off) every 40 years.
- The Virgen del Rosario is changed from her silky dress once a month, and when that’s done, the entire church closes and only a few designated women come in and change her (men are not allowed in).
- The businessman who donated all of the gold to the chapel did it because on his trip to Mexico from Spain, his ship wrecked and as he drowned he saw a woman, a saint, pulling him from the depths of the ocean and saving him from death. Years later, he became the owner of a gold mine and decided to donate gold, in the form of powder, to the Capilla del Rosario, which he personally delivered for seven years.
- The interior designs of the Capilla del Rosario were carved by the indigenous school of arts of Puebla.