If you're looking for street parades, music, and food stalls galore, the Cinco de Mayo festival ticks all the boxes - and Puebla is the heart of the action.
Every year on May 5, the city of Puebla commemorates a battle in 1862, where a small but tenacious Mexican army snatched an unlikely victory over well-equipped French forces. While the festivities aren't as big elsewhere in Mexico, the spirit of Cinco de Mayo is also alive across the US, as a celebration of Mexican-American culture and heritage. But the day really belongs to Puebla, and if you're planning a trip to Mexico, there are plenty of reasons to put this attractive city on your travel list.
On Cinco de Mayo (Spanish for May 5) it isn't long before Puebla streets are packed with excited crowds and elaborate floats. Once the parade starts, festivities include traditional dances, mariachi bands, and quirky military re-enactments complete with costumes and mini cannons. Street food vendors are another highlight, with thousands of food stalls selling local favourites including barbecued meats and sweet fried snacks. The parade lasts for hours as it winds across the city, but as afternoon temperatures start to soar, the crowds often divert to the local bars and restaurants to watch the rest of the action on TV.
Old meets new
Puebla's old town is a Unesco World Heritage Site, with the lively Zocalo de Puebla (main plaza), in the centre and the stunning Catedral de Puebla (Puebla Cathedral) just off the square. Dating back to the 1600s, the church features Baroque-Renaissance architecture, two imposing towers, and 14 chapels to explore. Across town, the ultra-modern International Museum of the Baroque is a striking, wave-like building, with a huge collection of art from Mexico's Baroque period in the 17th century.
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The city's Palafoxian Library, (the oldest public library in the Americas) is like something straight out of a Harry Potter film and open for tours, while the charming Antigua Plaza de San Roque is a traditional handicrafts market lined with pottery, fabric, blown glass and silverware stalls. For a different sight altogether, the Estrella de Puebla (Star of Puebla) is the city's version of the London Eye, featuring 54 gondolas with panoramic views across to the neighbouring volcanic range.
Some of Mexico's favourite fare is said to have originated in Puebla, including mole poblano (a thick, savoury-sweet sauce served with meat) and chiles en nogada (stuffed chillis with creamy walnut sauce). Foodies can get their hands on these dishes in plenty of places around town, although the landmark Fonda Santa Clara restaurant is said to serve some of the best. Other treats to try include chalupas — mini corn tortillas with shredded pork and chilli sauce, as well as camote (candied sweet potatoes) and muegano (caramel sweets). Dessert-lovers will be pleased to hear that Puebla has an entire road dedicated to sugary fare; La Calle de los Dulces (Sweet Street).
For more travel ideas, see visitmexico.com
There are no Covid-19 tests or vaccination requirements to fly to Mexico, although some states may ask for proof of Covid-19 vaccine for entry into hotels and restaurants. Check with your airline and accommodation providers for details.