Mexico City and Puebla - Please Recommend

Old Dec 9th, 2011, 08:02 AM
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Mexico City and Puebla - Please Recommend

Hello,

I will be traveling to Mexico for the first time mid-February next year. I will be spending one week in Puebla and one week in Mexico City. It will be for business, but I will have two days free in Puebla when I first arrive, and I will also have most of the evenings free. Please help with recommendations for what to do, what to see, and what to eat while I am there. I know that we will be visiting the Pyramids (Teotihuacán) one day, but I do not have any other sights in mind.

I was also thinking about venturing out during my two free days, and maybe visiting one of the beaches on the coast. I also want to make sure that it will be safe venturing out on my own. Please let me know your thoughts and recommendations. In addition, what is the best means of transportation to get around that is safe and convenient.

Thanks in advance for your recommendations!
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 09:06 AM
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There are so many nice things to see and do in and around Puebla. You can always get to a beach, but the colonial towns are, IMO, the best travel treasures of Mexico. I would slow down and take time to enjoy them.

Go to the Natl. Railway Museum, on the site of Puebla's
old train station that was built in 1869. Great display of refurbished train cars from the golden age of MX's train system. I think this is a "do not miss."
"Parked in neat rows are diesel, electric and steam locomotives along with passenger and freight cars, plus assorted machinery from all over Mexico. Some of the carriages have been refurbished and left open for inspection. There are sleeper and club cars, cabooses, and even a fully equipped mail carriage that was used until the 1990’s. One car has been turned into a gallery that displays historical black and white photos."
http://www.travelerlatinamerica.com/...-national.html

Do a walking tour of Puebla. The churches are fantastic, also visit the "Sweet Street," and there is a nice artist's area where artists have little workshops where they do their work, out in the open air. Plus the outdoor market area and of course the Talavera stores in that area.

Go to Cholula, a short distance by bus or cab. Cholula is the home of the 2nd largest pyramid in the world, and although it is unexcavated, it has a neat system of tunnels underneath it that you can go into, and a fantastic church at the top of the mound. On a clear day you can see the volcano from the top.

Go to Tlaxcala, another lovely colonial town nearby.
http://www.bestday.com/Tlaxcala/

Buses are the best way to get around. I feel very safe in and around Puebla, and I am a woman traveling alone.

If you want to get a good inexpensive and very professional massage, I really like the little spa at the hotel El Sueno in Puebla. I go there every time I am in Puebla. You can email them and get prices and set up appt. ahead of time.
http://www.elsueno-hotel.com/english/spa.html

Food in PUebla:
For the very best tacos arabe, go to Las Ranas (on Av 2 Poniente btwn. Calle 3 Norte and Av 5 de Mayo; close to corner of 5 de Mayo). OMG. They have a huge spit of pork rotating in front of coals in front of the restaurant (w/a pineapple on top so the juices drip down), and one man stays there all day tending to it, cutting it, replacing the meat from the top. He is a busy guy too, because almost all they serve is tacos arabe. Tacos arabe are a Puebla food, they are served in something half way btwn.a flour tortilla and pita bread, not as thick as pita though. The meat is incredibly flavorful and tender, and it is served w/a couple different sauces, onions, cilantro, queso blanco (if you get the gringo type), pico de gallo, etc. The juices just run out of the thing. They are about 12 pesos apieace. Two of them and an Indio dark beer is a meal for me. This was a big highlight for me. I ate tacos arabe at Tony's Tacos and it can not compare to Las Ranas.

Fonda de Santa Clara is also frequently recommended but I have not gotten there. They have a website w/menu and pictures of their dishes and moles (under especialidad de las casa- mole was originally created in Peubla) and chiles en nogada (those are under platillos de temporada). The website will get you hungry.
http://www.fondadesantaclara.com/home.html

You are visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City, correct?

How much free time will you have in Mexico City?
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 10:48 AM
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emd3 - Thank you for all of the great recommendations! This will be very helpful!

I also like really spicy foods. Do you recommend any extra spicy foods or hot sauce to try?
How about the drinking water? I’ve been told not to drink the tap water in Mexico.
Do you recommend any specific alcohol, beer or cocktails?

I will be in Mexico City for a week. I will be busy with work during most days, but I will most evenings after 5:00 pm free. Do you have any recommendation on where to go and what to do in the evenings? I will have one or two completely free days in Mexico City; what should I do?

We will be visiting Teotihuacan from Mexico City during one full day as a group.

Thanks again!
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Old Dec 9th, 2011, 03:06 PM
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Oh, absolutely DO NOT DRINK THE TAP WATER ANYWHERE IN MEXICO. Even the local people don't drink it. Use bottled water for everything that goes into your mouth, even brushing your teeth.

Mexican food as it is made in Mexico is not generally overly spicy hot. But traditionally you will get or can ask for "salsa picante" and you will be brought a red or green based hot freshly made sauce.

On one of your free days, go to Coyoacan just outside of Mexico City and see Frida Kahlo's Blue House (Casa Azul). In spite of how over publicized she and her art are (IMO), her house is fascinating. Coyoacan is a lovely little town, lots of nice cafes and good shopping around the little square.

Very traditional Mexican beer beverage is "michelado" pronounced "mishelado.") It is beer mixed with clamato juice and a little tabasco and lime, and rimmed w/salt. Very refreshing. And of course, margaritas. My favorite Mexican beers are Indigo (dark beer, but not heavy) and Victoria. Superior is also nice.

If you get a chance, try some shots of different mezcals. Mezcal is typically made in Oaxaca and is a smoky drink made from the heart of the agave cactus (same cactus tequila is made from). Good mezcal goes down warm and smooth.

What to do in Mexico City (start calling it the D.F., that is what Mexicans call it, for Distrito Federal- in Spanish it is pronounced "De Efee" with all the e's being soft) depends on what night it is and what is going on. See if you can cathc a perfomance of the Ballet Folklorico at the Palacio de Belles Artes. It is a stunningly beautiful Neoclassical/Art Nouveau bldg., one of the grandest buildings and the most important cultural center in Mexico. I highly recommend the tour of the Palacio de Belles Artes, so you can you see the Tiffany stained glass curtain. It is to die for. There are also murals in the Palacio by Diego Rivera and Tamayo and other important Mexican artists.

Go to the renowned NAtional Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec park.

Go to the Zocalo, see the Cathedral there, see the murals inside the Palacio Nacional, see the Templo Mayor, an Aztac temple undergoing archeological excavation going on next to the cathedral. All fascinating and right in one place.

And definitely do not miss Teotihuacan.

Shopping suggestions in the D.F.:
1) Mercado la Cuidadela: EXCELLENT outdoor covered market that contains many many stalls handmade arts and crafts and clothes from all over Mexico. Excellent prices and quality. You can easily spend a half day in this place. It is one of my favorite shopping destinations in all of Mexico.
2) Fonart, close to the Palacio de Belles Artes. This is a govt. run art and crafts store, with good representation of arts from all over Mexico. But go to La Cuidadlea is you only have time for one place.

Regarding restaurants, where are you staying in the D.F.?
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 04:50 AM
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Thank you again emd3, for all the great suggestions! I really appreciate it!

What are the typical hours for shopping, restaurants, and sights during the week and weekends? When I travelled to Europe, many businesses closed around 5:00 pm. Is it like this in Mexico, or do businesses stay open late like in the U.S.? What about Sunday?

If I do decide to take a trip to the beach, how far is the ride? Should I take a bus? Are the beaches nice in this area and is the weather comfortable enough to go to the beach in February?

I know that our group will want to go out to some bars and clubs a few nights both in the D.F. and Puebla. Do you have any suggestions? How late do the bars and clubs stay open? I will be staying in Polanco in the D.F. Do you have any suggestions for restaurants, bars, and clubs in that area? I was also told that most Mexicans do not have dinner, and that breakfast and late lunches are the primary meals. Is this really the case?

Thanks again for all your recommendations!
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 08:03 AM
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I don't know about Polanco. I suggest you do another posting here, specifically titled re a question about what to do in Polanco at night, places to eat in Polanco, etc.

Look at a map of Mexico. Mexico City and Puebla are right in the middle of the country. You'd need to fly to a beach on the west coast, and with so little time, is it worth it? I suppose you could take a bus from Puebla or the D.F. to Veracruz on the gulf coast (about 3.5 to 4 hrs?), but I don't think the beaches are so great there. I may be wrong, look further into that. Personally, with so little free time, I would explore the D.F. and Puebla and the areas surrounding them, and leave beaches for another trip.
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 07:10 PM
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Lucky, lucky you! Just reading emd3's descriptions make me long to be in either city. You are going to wish you had SO MUCH MORE TIME! Mexico is fabulous and I totally agree with emd3 that the beaches are the least interesting aspect of this fascinating country - full of great culture - music, art, color, artisans, and nice people to boot.

Puebla and DF have MORE than enough to keep you busy and happy for the small amount of free time you have.

And, absolutely, you must eat at Las Ranas. We kept going back again and again - we so loved those tacos arabes and just the whole scene there. On the other end of the scale we also loved the resaurant Mesones de Sacristia de la Compania. Charming atmosphere and very good food!

Puebla has a really good tourist info center near the zocalo.
Have a great time!
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Old Dec 10th, 2011, 07:21 PM
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In Mexico City, I have eaten at and can recommend El Cardenal. I have had both breakfast and lunch at the one at the former Sheraton Centro Historico, which is now the Hilton Mexico City Reforma (1 block down from the Palacio Belles Artes). Excellent. This would make a nice lunch if you spent one of your days off in the Zocalo area, seeing the sights I outlined above, then then walked down to the Palacio de Belles Artes and did a tour there, and ended up at the El Cardinal in the Hilton for lunch, then walk to Fonart and then to La Cuidadela to shop.

Depending on what time you get for the tour at Belles Artes, you might need to have lunch at El Cardenal first (as I think they are only open til about 2-3 pm for lunch), then walk to the tour at Palacio de Belles artes, then do the shopping at Fonart and La Cuidadela.

Then go back to your hotel and rest and have dinner somewhere in Polanco and go clubbing there at night.

That would be a really nice day in the D.F.
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Old Dec 11th, 2011, 12:06 PM
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Above responses are about as comphrehensive as you can get. Only comment is beach will not work in two days, even if you flew, with time at the airport you just would have not time at the beach to enjoy yourself. by bus you are talking 6-20 hours to get to any decent beaches so enjoy where wou are getting to go and have fun.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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Thanks again! I will skip the beach for the other local sights.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 10:28 AM
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VeeDub, please post back here and let us know how the trip goes.
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Old Dec 12th, 2011, 12:30 PM
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Definitely. I have taken all of your suggestions and compiled them into an Excel document that I am going to bring with me on my trip. I'll post back with my trip details when I return late February. I appreciate all the suggestions!
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Old Dec 13th, 2011, 04:35 PM
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You might want to read my trip report on Puebla; click on my name to find it. I would consider Atlixco with its extensive market and other sights more interesting than Cholula. The latter's pyramid, even if physically large, is not as interesting as Teotihuacan.
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Old Dec 13th, 2011, 05:57 PM
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Haven't been to Atlixco so can't comment on that. I did forget to add that if you go to Cholula, try to go on a market day. The market is held mostly in the streets around the indoor market. People from the surrounding villages come and socailize and sell their beans, flowers, produce, etc. It is a colorful market. And indeed, if you can see the Popocatépetl volcano on a clear day from the church at the top of the pyramid, it is a totally awesome sight.

See the 2nd pic down here:
http://trans-americas.com/blog/2011/...puebla-mexico/
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Old Dec 13th, 2011, 06:01 PM
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Oh, almost forgot- when you are at the top of the pyramid at the church up there in Cholula, look around towards the ground, because there is a group of voladores right below the pyramid who do their pole dance and they are visible from the top.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4hz_EZemao
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Old Dec 14th, 2011, 12:50 PM
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I have been looking for a thread JUST LIKE THIS with responses JUST LIKE THIS. Thank you OP for asking the questions and to all those who responded.

I have a few more questions -- since I'm headed to the D.F. for the week between Christmas and the New Year. We will be there for New Year's Eve.

We ARE staying at the Hilton Reforma -- so I will definitely check out El Cardinal. And I think I have good responses for what to do during the day.

But night, and New Years Eve??? And safety? I know the usual get a taxi from the hotel and not off the street; be careful taking the Metro. Any safety tips for New Years Eve and where to go?

Thanks!
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Old Dec 14th, 2011, 01:54 PM
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Hi, VeeDub and everyone! I'm a bit late to the party, but you can read all about what to see, do, eat, and more in the cities of Puebla, Cholula, and Atlixco — as well as other places to visit in and around the state of Puebla on my blog, www.AllAboutPuebla.com. (I live here.)
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 11:15 AM
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Also, I wanted to know about the currency. I have never been to Mexico, so I not familiar with how much things cost compared to the U.S. Are there ATMs available in the airport and in the cities? Are credit cards accepted at most places?

Thanks again!
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Old Feb 2nd, 2012, 12:10 PM
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Any bank in Mexico will have an ATM.

The peso is about 12 to a dollar. Round to 10 to a dollar to facilitate conversion in your head.

Credit cards are generally accepted in stores, restaurants and hotels catering to tourists. Tell your bank and cc company that you are going to Mexico so that they do not put a hold on your cards thinking that the transactions are suspicious.
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Old Feb 12th, 2012, 06:54 PM
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I am in Puebla now, staying at Hotel Colonial. Sunday is a GREAT day to be in Puebla. I walked for hours and ran into probably 8 different Sunday markets in different parks and pedestrian streets, markets w/handmade items, food, handmade furniture, antiwues, live music, mimes, etc. What a great day.

Personally I do not round up or down in my head. I carry a small calculator and just divide whatever I am looking at by the peso rate.

One thing I found out today is that it is VERY difficult to buy a bottle of wine in Puebla's historic center. I wanted a bottle for my room as I knew I'd be watching the Grammys tonight. I ended up having to walk to a big Commercial Mexicana store a half hr away, it is on calle 5 Sur in case anyone needs that info. Well, I got a lot of exercise, lol.

Comida this afternoon was 40 pesos at La Fonda, a ittle place close to the Barrio de Aristas. 4 courses for 40 pesos, what a great deal. I had mushroom soup, chicken taquitos, a pork brochetta w/peppers, onion, pineapple and pork, all roasted on a spear w/a mango sauce, served w/black beans. And flan for dessert. All for around $3.

Based on the recommoendations above, I am going to bus to Atlixco tomorrow for a half day trip.
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