Colonial buildings in Mexico are a treasure waiting to be discovered, and you only need to wander through Puebla’s historic downtown – listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – to immerse yourself in the city’s wonderful architectural surroundings; there are over 5,000 buildings that evoke its epic past and that are waiting to be admired.
Your first stop on a tour of Puebla’s breathtaking architecture must be the cathedral – with its 14 chapels of various styles – that was built in 1575 under the direction of Francisco Becerra Mendoza. The façade has two tall towers built in a Mannerist style, with touches of Baroque with their Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. Other beautiful churches include the Capilla del Rosario built in 1690, an example of Baroque architecture in New Spain, and the church of Santa María Tonanzintla founded by the Franciscans in 1653.
The Biblioteca Palafoxiana is another aesthetic masterpiece. This library was founded in 1646 by its namesake Juan de Palafox y Mendoza for the benefit of the pontifical seminary; it is reputedly the first public library in the Americas. The library has printed matter dating from 1473 until 1910; it has 42,556 volumes, 5,345 manuscripts, and nine incunabula. In 2005 it was listed by the UNESCO as a Memory of the World.
To learn more about architecture in Mexico between the 16th and 19th centuries, be sure to visit the monasteries and former monasteries (El Convento de San Francisco, Convento de la Santísima Trinidad, the Convento de la Orden Militar de Merced, the Ex Convento de Santa Mónica, and more). They all form part of the city’s religious heritage with their sober exteriors but lavishly decorated interior walls decked out with azulejo tiles, preserving contemplative cloisters and courtyards within.