Formally called Heroica Puebla de Zaragoza (Heroic from Zaragoza –Spain-), Puebla was a central and one of the most important Spanish colonial cities in Mexico. No longer being called the Heroic, Puebla still remains an essential place for Mexicans. The city serves now as one of the main hubs of central Mexico, receiving students and young adults from all over the country, hence making it the perfect spot for the birth of the cool and the party of the death.
Humbolt café, anyone?
And a fiesta it was indeed, not only culturally, but architectonically as well. Puebla is a city full of history, from Spanish colonisation, to European migration. French, Spanish and even German influences can still be found in little squares, old churches and most of the oldest city buildings -Humbolt Neighbourhood anyone?-...these serve as the perfect spots for young students to set up cafés, bars and second hand shops. The estrange mélange of old colonial, baroque, renaissance and classic churches, squares and mansions with the urban smell of italian style espressos, oatmeal muffins and mango/chili milkshakes made the experience of walking through Puebla even more exotic, vibrant and exciting.
Vintage, Vibrant and Cool.
Even though it is seen as a milestone of Mexico's conservatism, Catholicism and cultural traditions, Puebla struck me as a charming cultural city with a young soul. Indeed, it sometimes felt as if colonial times had never ended, with its amazing cathedral and stunning colonial structures yet once I went beyond the façades, I found myself in between a band playing, a girl selling hand made bags or a fantastic -and affordable- restaurant.
One Gastronomic Epicentre
Puebla is not only worth a visit for its stunning architecture and historical sights, but also for its long culinary history. The best-known mole is of course named after the city, Mole Poblano. Also, when in season, you can find succulent dishes drenched in this chocolate/nuts/chili sauce. Likewise, something that amazed me about traveling through Mexico and especially in student and lively cities like Puebla, was the diversification of the Mexican cuisine into vegetarian and vegan restaurants. The vegetarian options in tiny colonial cities like San Cristóbal de la Casas, Campeche and yes, Puebla, were outstanding, offering all kinds of typical Mexican dishes with a meat-free option!
If you are ever in Puebla and fancy a proper Mexican deal in a delightful colonial patio, go to La Zanahoría. A godsend for vegetarians and mole lovers with creative twists on local cuisine. Must try: Nopales Rellenos (stuffed cactus paddles) and Chiles en Nogada, some kind of stuffed Poblano pepper covered in a walnut/cheese sauce and topped with fresh pomegranate seeds. I'm telling you, to die for.
Finally, of course the party and night scene. What's of a student city without students and their nocturne lifestyles? Hely and I ended up getting our mexican beers on in a student bar not far from the Zócalo -read: Centre- where they had live music that same night. According to a few locals and a some other spectators, bars are all over the place in Puebla, but one has to spot them carefully. This one was indeed kind of off the beaten track, but it was definitely worth the search as their drinks were creative, cheap and abundant! Ask around for 'La bella Epoca' (The Belle Epoque) and locals will show you where to find it.
Puebla is by far one of the most relaxed and culturally vibrant cities I got to visit in Mexico and with only a few hours away from massive Mexico City, it is definitely worth a visit -and a stay-. Strolling through wonderful bookstores, tasty cafés and savoury restaurants made me put Puebla in my list of: Cities to visit again- as it was for me the epicentre of Mexico's bohemian, historical and cultural life.