Tiny Tlaxcala, the capital of Mexico’s smallest state, is often overlooked by travelers, but its relaxed colonial charms make it well worth a visit.
Tlaxcala City is an easy day trip from Puebla. You can also visit from Mexico City, but the bus ride is closer to two hours one way. In Puebla, I took an Uber to the CAPU bus station. Upon entering the station hall, the appropriately green ticket booth for the Verdes line is on the left. Buses leave frequently. A one-way ticket is MX$26 (about US$1.40) and the trip takes around an hour. These are second-class buses with no toilets but perfectly comfortable for a short journey.
Locals advised me to visit on Saturday, since Tlaxcala gets a lot of day-trippers from Mexico City on Sundays. I was still mildly concerned about crowds since the Feria de Tlaxcala, the city’s biggest annual tourist draw, had just gotten underway, but I needn’t have worried. I found Tlaxcala to be a sleepy little town with a delightfully laid-back vibe. I didn’t spot another extranjero the entire time I was there.
Upon arrival in Tlaxcala, I exited the bus station and took a right, heading down the hill towards the center. On the way to the zócalo I passed the gorgeous Parroquia de San José and was sad to see it completely cordoned off with yellow caution tape due to damage from the September 2017 earthquake.
This made me concerned that the government palace with its famous mural would also be closed, but luckily it wasn’t. This vivid mural representing Tlaxcala’s long and bloody history was begun by Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin in 1957, with work continuing over the next four decades. It was the last large-scale mural of the Mexican muralism movement.
Afterwards, I explored the spacious tree-filled zócalo and the historic buildings surrounding it. Unfortunately, most of the Museo de Arte was closed as they prepared for a new exhibit, apart from a single room with items from their Frida Kahlo collection, so I wandered over to the Museo Vivo de Artes y Tradiciones Populares. This modest museum seemed pretty forgotten and I was the only visitor, but I enjoyed the handicraft displays and my chat with a local indigenous woman serving as guide to a reproduction of a traditional rural Mexican kitchen.
Next I checked out the lively market in the Plaza Xicohténcatl, ending at my lunch destination, the deservedly popular Pulquería la Tía Yola. I would go back to Tlaxcala just to eat here! The food and pulque were fantastic. The pulquería includes pre-Hispanic delicacies on its menu like worms and ant eggs, but while I’m always game to sample a handful of worms or insects, I’m not sure I could handle an entire plateful. Since I got there around 1pm, early by Mexican lunch standards, I was lucky enough to snag a table on the patio with a fantastic view of the market and the people meandering up the adjacent hill to the Ex-Convento Franciscano de la Asunción.
Belly content, I strolled up the hill to the Ex-Convento. There was a wedding taking place in the cathedral so I killed time by visiting the adjacent Museo Regional de Tlaxcala. It was reasonably interesting but overpriced by Mexican standards in my opinion (MX $55). There is an incredible view of the plaza de toros (bullring) from the hilltop. Workers were preparing the ring for a bullfight that was to take place shortly as part of the Feria de Tlaxcala.