Cinco de Mayo has come and gone. But, Puebla’s charms are year-round. The colonial gem put May 5 on the map in 1862. That’s when Mexican forces defeated the French in an improbable victory there. Though in the shadow of Mexico City (75 miles away), Puebla is an historic, cultural and artistic center well worth its own trip.
Home to more than 2,600 historic sites and 365 churches, Puebla’s downtown area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s the birthplace of mole poblano, a national dish. And, it’s close to two of Mexico’s most significant archeological sites, Cantona and Cholula, site of the world’s largest pyramid.
If clients haven’t been to Puebla lately, new infrastructure, attractions and hotels are good reason to return. A new tram-train service launched in January 2017 linking Puebla with the Cholula Archeological Site. The ride takes forty minutes.
The new Regional Museum of Cholula opened in February 2017. It features a collection of alebrijes, whimsical Mexican folk-art sculptures of imaginary creatures and fantastic animals.
Other new attractions include the International Museum of the Baroque designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Toyo Ito. It opened in 2016, as did Los Secretos (“The Secrets”) de Puebla. Those secrets are a series of tunnels connecting downtown Puebla with the military fortress used to defeat the French on Cinco de Mayo.
Long-standing attractions that clients shouldn’t miss include El Parian. The traditional crafts market dates to 1801 and sells an array of authentic goods. Emblematic of the destination are Talavera pottery, the centuries-old Poblano ceramic; textiles, leather goods, jewelry, wooden items and bark paper. Traditional sweets on display feature sweet potatoes, walnuts, pine nuts, and seeds.
Clients with an acute sweet tooth should visit “Calle de Los Dulces” (“candy street”). It’s lined with more than 20 candy shops, some more than a century old. The delicacies prepared by the Poor Clares nuns have been a Poblano tradition since the 18th century.
Cemitas (sesame-seeded rolls with filling) are one of the house specialties at Mural de los Poblanos. The restaurant is in the courtyard of a 17th-century mansion in the historic district. Its name comes from the huge civic mural covering its walls, painted by local artist Antonio Alvarez Moran. Tacos arabes, the culinary fusion resulting from Lebanese and Syrian immigration, is another signature dish. They’re best accompanied by the restaurant’s famous tamarind margaritas.
“Cinco de Mayo, Talavera pottery, UNESCO World Heritage, the colonial center and mole. They’re just some of the reasons to visit Puebla,” Hope Smith, owner of Born To Travel, an independent affiliate of Montecito Village Travel, tells Travel Agent.
The hotel scene is another incentive.
On the minimalist front, Ikonik Hotel Puebla is a relatively new option. The 69-room hotel is centrally located, with a contemporary design that uses recycled materials. It’s part of the Eurostars Hotels portfolio of urban properties with a strong appeal to millennials.
There’s also a major new luxury player in town.
Rosewood Puebla guestroom
Opening on May 18, 2017, Rosewood Puebla is targeting “travelers of all demographics, from couples looking for a romantic getaway to groups of friends seeking a culturally rich adventure,” according to Manuel Leal, managing director at Rosewood Puebla.
It’s the fourth Rosewood Hotels & Resorts property in Mexico.
Located near Puebla’s historic downtown, the hotel is “ideally located just steps away from many of the city’s most well-known sites. This makes it a perfect destination for guests who are looking for a wide range of easily accessible activities and excursions,” Leal tells Travel Agent.
The property has 78 guestrooms and suites, three dining venues, a spa and a rooftop bar and pool with views over downtown. It’s housed in a collection of historic buildings from different eras, including Casa Azul and Casa Verde from the nineteenth century, the Briseno Building from the twentieth century, and the Chapel of Cyrene from the seventeenth century. Weddings can be arranged in the chapel.
The design and construction of Rosewood Puebla was inspired by the city itself, said Leal. Designer Eric Meza Leines used traditional materials, construction methods and local artworks whenever possible. And interior décor gives a nod to the iconic Talavera ware.
“Puebla is a vibrant city that, despite its fantastic variety of architecture, traditional cuisine and colorful ceramics, has remained largely undiscovered by many travelers. It is a wonderful complement to Rosewood’s other properties in Mexico, including Rosewood San Miguel de Allende, Rosewood Mayakoba, and Las Ventanas al Paraiso, A Rosewood Resort,” said Leal.
Smith sees nothing but positive news about the hotel.
“With Rosewood opening its doors, the city will finally have a five-star property to make the stay in Puebla even better,” she said.