Founded by Cortes, in 1531, on his march to conquer the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), the city of Puebla is one of Mexico's most photogenic cities. Puebla is known internationally for the beautiful hand-painted Talavera ceramics that take many forms, from cups, saucers, plates and vases to decorative tiles. Talavera tiles adorn many of the colonial buildings and homes in Puebla. The city is also famous for the Battle of Puebla, on May 5th 1862, when 2000 Mexican troops defeated 6000 French invaders at Fuerte de Loreto. This historic victory (there weren't that many) is celebrated as Cinco de Mayo all over Mexico and in many Mexican themed bars and restaurants all over the world.
Puebla was the first city in Mexico to be built using an actual master plan. The center of the city is the main plaza, or zocalo. Here in the shady plaza, with it's relaxing fountain, is where tourists and locals intermingle to rest, gossip or just to regroup for another shopping assault. On Sunday's the zocalo fills with entertainers and musicians much to the delight of the local children. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, just opposite the zocalo, is thought by many to be one of the most beautiful in churches Mexico. Built between 1575 and 1649, the twin towers rise over two hundred feet into the sky and the bell was said have been put in place by an angel. A short walk around the city center is a real delight for sightseers, with many structures that are centuries old. Visit the tourist office directly across from the zocalo for a list of sights, activities and local cultural events.
Shoppers will delight at the endless surprises in the shops around the zocalo and a few blocks to the west, on Juarez, in an area of upscale shops known as Zona Esmeralda. Antiques are the specialty of the quaint shops of Callejon de los Sapos, on Sundays the plaza in front of the alley hosts a giant flea market. Mole is a tasty local specialty served in the many quality restaurants in the city. Nightlife is plentiful and ranges from low key bars to all out discos. Callejon de los Sapos has some interesting bars, some with live blues and jazz groups and is the place where the mariachis gather at night. Zona Esmeralda has upscale restaurants and bars, many with live music in the evenings. The liveliest of Puebla's bars and discos are located out on the road to Cholula. Bullfights and rodeos are regularly scheduled occurrences and there are usually some lively soccer matches to be found. Historical sites, numerous quality museums, magnificent churches and other local attractions are too numerous to list here. Visit the tourist office for maps, schedules, tour information and helpful suggestions.
A worthy side trip, from Puebla, is to the ancient ceremonial city of Cholula, only a few miles out of town. As you arrive in Cholula it's hard to miss the picturesque church situated on a hilltop with the spectacular Popocatepetl volcano off in the distance. What's is not so obvious is the fact that the hill that the church is sitting on is actually the remains of the Great Pyramid of Cholula, which is said to be the largest pyramid ever constructed. Now a ruin, it is somewhat overgrown and doesn't really look like much to see. At 216 feet tall it is shorter than the largest Egyptian pyramids but it is wider and bulkier. The ruins are less impressive than some of the more famed sites around the Valley of Mexico, although the structures in the Patio de los Altares are worth seeing and there are some nice murals. Exploring the inner tunnels of the pyramid is something that you can brag about when you get home. The city of Cholula is a nice place to enjoy a leisurely lunch around the pleasant plaza, which is surrounded by three classic churches.