The sound of my footsteps echoed off the stone walls of the tunnel passage. Cars whizzed by overhead. Also above them was the gleaming floor and ornate walls of the newly opened Banyan Tree Puebla.
Puebla is a city built over a network of secret tunnels. The tunnels date back to the 16th century but were only recently rediscovered and opened to the public in 2016. Many cities throughout Mexico have legends that tell tales of secret tunnels that were used for many purposes including during the Mexican War of Independence. But in Puebla the tunnels are a reality; You’ll pass the Banyan Tree Puebla on your way to Fort Loreto, where the Battle of Puebla was fought against the French army (a battle that is now the basis of Cinco de Mayo celebrations in Mexico and, perhaps more enthusiastically, the US ).
16th-century tunnels run beneath the Banyan Tree Puebla. Credit: Meagan Drillinger
Puebla’s past also plays a significant role on the surface of the Banyan Tree: the chic Los Lavaderos bar shares a space with a bit of history. Located just below street level behind the lobby desk, the cozy space was built on the site of the original 19th-century Los Lavaderos de Almoloya, where Puebla residents washed their clothes and caught up on the city’s gossip. With the actual ruins behind protective glass, guests of the hotel can sip a cocktail or glass of wine while overlooking one of the city’s great historic sites.
But the Banyan Tree also captures the vibe of modern Puebla in spaces like its beautiful rooftop terrace with its sprawling pool, thriving outdoor bar, and panoramic views over the city’s rooftops and church spires. The spa and fitness center are also located on the roof. And Wednesday through Saturday nights, the hotel’s rooftop lunch table transforms into the Banyan Tree’s signature restaurant, Saffron, which serves Thai cuisine.
Stylish guest rooms
Between the roof and the tunnels below are 78 guest rooms and suites housed in the original 19th-century building. I checked into a Bliss Junior Suite which was 680 square feet. Decorated in traditional Puebla style, the room immerses guests in a mix of beautiful tile and exposed stone. The highlight of the room was the copper colored bathtub in the spacious bathroom.
• Connected: Banyan Tree brings its Veya brand to Mexico
In addition to Saffron and Los Lavaderos, the hotel offers two other dining and drinking options. The Pasquinel Bistrot is the all-day dining room overlooking the leafy courtyard, also with exposed brickwork and wooden ceiling beams for a period but sophisticated look. Cello Cucina Italiana will open 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 their stay, guests will find large sculptures, paintings, and even jewelry, all created by artists from Puebla or elsewhere in Mexico.
Get to know Puebla
The Banyan Tree Puebla is located on the corner of the lively Heroes de 5 de Mayo Boulevard. Across the street is the heart of the city’s historic center. It is about 20 minutes walk from the Zocalo and the Catedral de Puebla. Along the route, visitors will pass the historic streets and many other interesting sights such as the Museo Amparo or the Museo Casa del Mendrugo.
Bar Los Lavaderos was built on what was once a central meeting place in Puebla in the 19th century. Ruins from this site rest behind protective glass in the bar. Photo credit: Meagan Drillinger
The hotel can also assist in arranging a variety of experiences so travelers can 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 the kitchen, guests can book museum tours, a visit to the Palafoxiana Library, or trips to San Andres Cholula and San Pedro Cholula.
• Related Topics: What advisors need to know about selling Mexico
After a day of sightseeing, it’s a welcome change to return to the hotel and check in for a relaxing spa treatment. A key selling point for the Banyan Tree brand is the Banyan Tree Spa. The Puebla experience continues the tradition at the Cobalto Spa, located up on the rooftop.
No matter what adventure you choose at Banyan Tree Puebla, the experience will be conducted 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 the Banyan Tree Puebla does such a wonderful job of incorporating that history into the modern luxury of the hotel experience.