The best things to do in Tlaxcala, Mexico

Discover the history and beauty of the state of Tlaxcala. The rich and diverse gastronomy as well as the music, the town fairs and the museums that enrich. Tlaxcala, the host by tradition, awaits you to live an adventure full of cultural expressions.

The best things to do in Tlaxcala, Mexico
Government Palace, Plaza de la Constitution in Tlaxcala. Photo: Segob

The city of Tlaxcala is located in the Central Highlands, only 113 km from Mexico City and 33 km from the city of Puebla. It is the capital of the smallest state in the country, with an area of 4,061 km. The first settlers of the region arrived there about 12,000 years ago, as evidenced by cave paintings in the area of Atlihuetzia and La Gloria in Tlaxco. The first culture to develop in the southwestern part of the entity was the Xicalancas Olmecs, whose permanence is estimated between 400 and 1200 A.D., settling their capital in Cacaxtla, currently considered the most important archaeological site, especially for its beautiful polychrome murals.

Shortly thereafter, between 1300 and 1519, the Tlaxcaltec culture flourished. Aguerrldacommunity whose form of government, similar to the republican, divided the territory into four main lordships -Tepeticpac, Ocotelulco, Quiahuixtlán, and Tizatlán- and some minor ones such as Atlihuetzia and Tepeyanco, a people that never let themselves be subdued by the Aztec empire, suffering wars, and embargoes until the arrival of the Spaniards.

In 1525 the city of Tlaxcala was founded, one of the first in America to be built in the Hispanic style of the 16th century. In 1535 the city was granted the titles of "distinguished, very noble and very loyal".

Attractions in the city of Tlaxcala

Tlaxcala, "place of tortillas", has a vast heritage of customs, traditions, and cultures that have contributed to the consolidation and greatness of Mexico. Among its main attractions, we recommend a visit to its Main Square, with its fountains and kiosk, surrounded by beautiful buildings, such as the 15th century Government Palace.

The Royal Chapel of the Indigenous -currently the Palace of Justice-; the Alhóndiga, built in the XVI century; the City Hall, located in the so-called Portal Hidalgo, with a neoclassical façade from the XIX century. The former Legislative Palace, in the Porfirian style, known as the Juarez Palace, currently houses the offices of the State Tourism Secretariat.

The Xicoténcatl Theater of marked neoclassical influence; the Ex-Franciscan Convent, currently the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, one of the most beautiful constructions of the 15th century and whose cloister today houses the Regional Museum of Tlaxcala, a Library and a Newspaper Library.

The Plaza de Toros, built with adobe, tepetate, and xalnene, during the 19th century; the Parish of San Jose, a beautiful example of Tlaxcalan baroque from the 17th century, whose interiors are decorated in classical style, but preserve rich baroque altarpieces and the Expiatory Chapel, formerly dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe and which housed valuable oil paintings by Manuel Caro, are all places of interest that you will surely enjoy.

Plus, let yourself be enveloped by the magic of the landscapes and sights that surround the city. A few minutes from the Main Square of Tlaxcala stands one of the most beautiful colonial buildings of the eighteenth century. The Basilica of the Virgin of Ocotlán, patron saint of Tlaxcala, was built with bricks and mortar and especially highlights the so-called Camerín de la Virgen.

Handicrafts of Tlaxcala

In the state of Tlaxcala, the Otomi and the Nahuas, with their great imagination, aesthetic feeling, and technique, are the ones who have transmitted from generation to generation, one of the most beautiful handicraft traditions in Mexico. Examples of this are pottery, embroidered fabrics, basketry, wood, onyx and stone carving, Talavera pottery, silverware, pyrotechnics, saddlery, and the manufacture of paper and cloth flowers.

Surroundings of Tlaxcala

At 4 km from the capital is Panotla, a town with an XVII century parish church dedicated to Nicolás de Bari and with a stupendous mortar façade. Tlaxco, at 42 km, is a town located in one of the most beautiful areas of the state, in the foothills of the mountain range of the same name. This fortunate condition includes such old towns as Atotonilco and its 17th-century parish church, the majestic Peña del Rosario, the Peña Tepozan, the Picacho de Peñuelas, the Peñon de Oro, and the Peñas de Gavial, the latter attractions much visited by mountain lovers.

In San Bernadino Contla, only 13 km away from the capital city, you can visit the artisan workshops where beautiful tapestries are made and admire the 17th-century parish church. At 19 km is the Archaeological Zone of Cacaxtla, one of the most important and suggestive in Mesoamerica, where the visitor feels transported by a culture of more than 1000 years ago. It has magnificent constructions, as well as impressive mural paintings, the best-preserved of those discovered in the country.

To the west, 4 km away is the Archaeological Zone of Xochitécatl, a civic-religious complex where three pyramids stand out as well as the findings of two monolithic piles, four monumental sculptures of anthropomorphic type carved in stone, this zone denotes great importance in the Mesoamerican cultural context. In Yahuquemecan, 16 km away, it is interesting to visit its 18th-century temple, of baroque style and great importance. Hueyotlipan, 36 km west of the city, is famous for its parish, dedicated to San Ildefonso, as well as for its Franciscan convent, whose ruined walls, erected in 1573, evoke the fortress of the early years of evangelization in New Spain.

Tepeyanco, 9 km to the south, is a place where you can appreciate two magnificent examples of colonial architecture: a 16th-century Franciscan convent and the parish church of San Francisco. Located 44 km from Tlaxcala is Huamantla, one of the oldest cities in the state, where we suggest you visit the 18th-century parish church dedicated to San Luis, with a quarry façade in elegant baroque style, the 18th-century Convent of San Francisco, the National Puppet Museum and the Bullfighting Museum.

In Santa Maria Atlihuetzia, 9 km from Tlaxcala, we recommend visiting what was a Franciscan convent of the XVI century, the Church of Santa Maria of the XVIII century, whose baroque facade was built in a mortar and the waterfall of the same name, a waterfall of 30 m high where a modern and comfortable hotel operates, in front of it, on a cliff are some cave paintings dating back more than 12 thousand years old.

The Malintzi National Park at 44 km from the capital, on the slopes of the volcano of the same name, now completely extinguished and snowed during the winter. This place delights those who like camping, as many places lend themselves to it, such as La Cañada, Las Cantinas, El Paso del Cuatro, Los Cerritos, Altamira and, perhaps the most attractive, the Barranca de San Juan The Park has a great hostel, located at 3,000 meters above sea level, which offers lodging, restaurants and sports courts.

Festivals and fairs in Tlaxcala

In Tlaxcala, there is a great fondness for the fiesta brava, cockfighting, traditional dances, and fairs. One of the most important is the Tlaxcala Fair, which takes place at the end of October and beginning of November; in it, you can enjoy, amid great joy, commercial, agricultural, livestock, industrial, and handicraft exhibitions.

But the one you should not miss, in August, is the Huamantla Fair, when entire streets are covered with carpets of sawdust and flowers, taking place the traditional "huamantlada", where many fans are thrown to try their luck as bullfighters along the main avenues. Various exhibitions, mechanical games, palenques, and an endless number of artistic, cultural, and recreational expressions are also organized.

Gastronomy in Tlaxcala

Tlaxcala prepares one of the most exquisite gastronomies in the country, which includes dishes such as Tlaxcalteca soup, malva soup (mushroom soup); chicken, in many different styles, such as "en xorna", in pulque and tocatlan. The barbacoa de hoyo, mole prieto, enchiladas en pasillo and exotic maguey-based stews, maguey worms and escamoles, among others, are a delight to the palate.

Among the sweets, typical are muéganos with panela, alegrías, pepitorias, pinole, buñuelos with piloncillo honey and pan de fiesta. As for drinks, the most traditional and great tasting is the white pulque or cured fruit drinks, the green pulque, a drink prepared with mead, as well as aguas frescas.

Services in Tlaxcala

The city of Tlaxcala has lodging services of diverse categories, restaurants of typical or international food, travel agencies, banks, car rental companies, bars, nightclubs, stores, and everything necessary for the comfort of the visitor.