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Tlaxcala: An Easy Excursion from Mexico City

by planetnomad on February 10, 2013

In spite of being the capital city of the smallest Mexican state by the same name, Tlaxcala (pronounced Tlas-ka-lah) is big on things to see and do. One of its best draws is its proximity to Mexico City. The trip takes about one and a half to two hours and rewards the visitor with sweeping meadows, wooded backdrops and close-ups of a potentially smoking Popocatépetl in the neighboring state of Puebla. Once there, the compactness and grid layout make for simple navigating.

Active volcano Popocatépetl

The city center is not unlike other colonial towns in Mexico with its charming Zócalo, porticoed buildings, colonial architecture and ubiquitous churches. For a well-rounded and complete visit, the following points of interest are suggested and shouldn’t be missed.

Palacio de Gobierno

Several government palaces in cities across Mexico are home to beautiful murals depicting some historical scene and most of them were produced by highly recognized artists. This one, dating back to 1545, is no exception. The murals on the walls of this structure were painted by the famed Tlaxcalan muralist Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin and present a perfect starting point from which to embrace and appreciate the history of Tlaxcala spanning several centuries.

Palacio de Gobierno

Mural by Tlaxcalan muralist Desiderio Hernández Xochitiotzin

Portal Hidalgo

This lengthy arched walkway dates back to the 16th century and is directly east of the main Zócalo. Though back in the colonial days it served as a place for the exchange of goods from overseas, nowadays, it houses the city offices along with numerous retail shops and outdoor eateries.

Portal Hidalgo

Palacio de la Cultura

A stately structure built in 1950 as the headquarters of the Institute for Advanced Studies in the state of Tlaxcala, it’s easy to pick out with its signature red brick and grey cantera façade, plus its French-inspired front gate.

Palacio de la Cultura

Capilla de San Nicolás Tolentino

One of many churches found throughout the city of Tlaxcala, this one is a combination of old and new. The old part dates back to the 16th century and still has its original stonework and overlooks a small, manicured garden while the newer construction is splashed in a pale mauve color and has a couple of domed cupolas visible from distant parts of the city.

Capilla de San Nicolás Tolentino

Capilla de San Nicolás Tolentino's cupolas as seen from a distance

Teatro Xicohténcatl

A multipurpose theater dating back to the second half of the 19th century, its neoclassic façade is displayed in an impressive grey cantera stone. Inside, you can admire the “Muses” mural done by John Fulton.

Teatro Xicohténcatl

Parroquia de San José

This hard-to-miss complex awash in a terrific orange-mango color with domes topped off in blue Talavera tile gives the city an eternal light and spills forth an impressive exterior design in Baroque fashion. Inside, there’s an illustrious image of the Virgin of Guadalupe assembled out of seashells.

Parroquia de San José

Plaza Xicohténcatl

Named in honor of Xicohténcatl Axayacatzin, the Tlaxcalan warrior who fought against the Spanish conquerors and later would become an ally against the Aztecs, this lazy, little square is directly southeast of Plaza de La Constitución. It’s bound by restaurants, the Museo de la Memoria as well as the famed Pulquería La Tia Yola.

Plaza Xicohténcatl

Ex-Convento Franciscano de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora

One of the first convents to be established in the Americas between 1524 & 1540, it houses the Regional Museum of Tlaxcala and is a short walk from Plaza Xicohténcatl. It is also the site where the area’s original inhabitants became baptized in Catholicism.

Bell tower of Ex-Convento Franciscano de la Asunción de Nuestra Señora

Plaza de Toros Jorge “El Ranchero” Aguilar

This is one of Mexico’s most picturesque bullfighting arenas named after one of its beloved “toreros”, bullfighters. Its original construction dates back to the late 18th century and was renovated in the 1950’s. The adjacent Franciscan bell tower at its perimeter provides an unequal setting, especially at sunset.

Plaza de Toros Jorge "El Ranchero” Aguilar

Other Points of Interest

  • Escalinata de los Héroes
  • Capilla Real de Indios
  • Plaza de la Constitución
  • Museo de la Memoria
  • Museo de Arte de Tlaxcala

Getting Here

By Bus:  ATAH (Autotransportes Tlaxcala Apizaco Huamantla) line departs every 15-20 minutes from Mexico City’s Tapo Terminal. Trip takes approximately 1.5 – 2 hours and costs around 115 MXN Pesos.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Susannah February 15, 2013 at 8:16 am

Thanks so much for this great piece! I have been wanting to check out Tlaxcala for ages and now I definitely plan to go soon. Great photos!

planetnomad February 20, 2013 at 8:07 am

Thanks for your kind words Susannah! If you’re in Mexico City for a couple of days and have some spare time, this is definitely a great escape. Happy Travels!

Cara Lopez Lee October 1, 2013 at 3:10 pm

You always make Mexico sound so inviting, Mark, and your photos are amazing! When I go to Mexico City, I’ll definitely check out Tlaxcala. But next month I’m going to Yelapa.

planetnomad October 2, 2013 at 10:47 am

Always appreciate your kind words Cara! Mexico is so vibrant, both culturally and architecturally, that it lends itself even to the novice like me to capture some memorable images. Enjoy yourselves in Yelapa…I hope to make it there someday!

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