The sound of my footsteps echoed off the stony walls of the tunnel passageway. Overhead, cars were whizzing by. Also overhead were the gleaming floor and art-adorned walls of the newly opened Banyan Tree Puebla.
Puebla is a city built above a network of secret tunnels. The tunnels date back to the 16th century but were only recently rediscovered, and they were unveiled to the public in 2016. Many cities around Mexico have legends that tell the tales of secret tunnels that were used for many purposes, including during the Mexican war for independence. But in Puebla, the tunnels are a reality; they pass underneath the Banyan Tree Puebla on their way to Fort Loreto, where the Battle of Puebla was fought against the French army (a battle that today is the basis for Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico and, perhaps even more enthusiastically, in the U.S.).
Puebla’s past plays a significant role at the surface at the Banyan Tree, as well: its chic Bar Los Lavaderos shares a space with a bit of history. Located just a bit below street level behind the lobby desk, the cozy space is built on the site of the original 19th century Los Lavaderos de Almoloya, where residents of Puebla would come to wash their clothes and catch up on the gossip of the city. While the actual ruins sit behind protective glass, guests of the hotel can sip a cocktail or glass of wine while overlooking one of the great historical sites of the city.
But the Banyan Tree captures the vibe of modern-day Puebla, as well, in spaces like its beautiful rooftop terrace, with its expansive pool, thriving outdoor bar and panoramic views over the roofs and church spires of the city. The spa and fitness center are also located on the roof. And on Wednesday through Saturday evenings, the hotel’s rooftop lunch spot transforms into the Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron, serving Thai food.
In between the rooftop and the tunnels below are 78 guestrooms and suites that live within the original 19th-century building. I checked into a Bliss Junior Suite, which measured at 680 square feet. The room is decorated in the traditional Puebla style, immersing guests in a mix of gorgeous tiles and exposed stone. The highlight of the room was the copper-colored soaking tub in the spacious bathroom.
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In addition to Saffron and Los Lavaderos, the hotel has two other food and beverage options. Pasquinel Bistrot is the all-day dining venue that overlooks the garden courtyard, again featuring exposed stonework and wooden ceiling beams for a historical but sophisticated look. Cello Cucina Italiana will be opening later this year and as the name suggests will serve Italian food.
One of the highlights of Banyan Tree Puebla is its impressive art collection, which can be found throughout the property. Guests are greeted by a magnificent — and I must say, somewhat haunting — horse sculpture in the lobby. Throughout the stay, guests will find large sculptures, paintings and even jewelry, all created by artists from Puebla or from elsewhere in Mexico.
Getting to know Puebla
Banyan Tree Puebla sits on the corner of the bustling Boulevard Heroes de 5 de Mayo. On the other side of the road is the heart of the historical center of the city. It’s about a 20-minute walk to the zocalo and Catedral de Puebla. Along the route, visitors will pass through the historical streets and many of the other interesting sites, like the Museo Amparo or the Museo Casa del Mendrugo.
The hotel can also help to arrange a variety of experiences to help travelers get to know Puebla on a deeper level. Guests can book everything from a cooking class with chefs to Mexican wine tasting, mole making, mixology and more. Beyond cuisine, guests can book museum tours, a visit to the Palafoxiana Library or excursions to San Andres Cholula and San Pedro Cholula.
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After a day of exploring, it’s a welcome reprieve to return to the hotel and check in for a relaxing spa treatment. A major selling point for the Banyan Tree brand is the Banyan Tree Spa. The experience in Puebla keeps the tradition going at the Cobalto Spa, located up on the rooftop.
No matter what adventure you choose at Banyan Tree Puebla, the experience will be done with precision. It’s a welcome newcomer to the luxury hotel scene in Puebla. So much of Puebla’s importance comes from its historical roots, and Banyan Tree Puebla does such a wonderful job at incorporating that history into the modern day luxuries of the hotel experience.
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