A former water-bottling factory finds new life as La Purificadora hotel, bringing industrial-chic into the baroque heart of Puebla with an innovative use of indoor and outdoor space. Architect Ricardo Legorreta renovated the complex with sensitivity, retaining original details – peeling paint, weathered wood – and adding rich details including shiny black marble staircases, glass panels and couches around open coal fires in an inspiring study of repurposing an industrial building into a stylish destination.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine and 50 per cent off your fourth night (if it doesn't fall on a Friday or Saturday) and daily breakfast for two
Noon, although later check-out may be arranged on request, subject to availability.
Double rooms from £136.94 ($186), including tax at 19 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
At the hotel
Spa with steam room and Jacuzzi, gym, library, free WiFi throughout, valet parking (MXN$45 a day). In rooms: plasma TV, Bose sound system and organic honey bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The balcony-endowed Superior Bedrooms are the cosiest; the views of colonial Puebla are worth paying more for. P and Z have the most impressive outlooks. The Royal Suite at the top of the hotel has a long terrace leading down to a private heated pool, where you can bask with a bird's eye view of La Purificadora's stunning lobby.
Open to the elements, the slender rooftop pool has a glass wall, allowing margarita-supping bar guests to engage in a spot of subaquatic voyeurism. The square Jacuzzi nearby, thankfully, is opaque
The spa offers treatments from lymphatic drainage to firming facials, as well as more traditional massages and body wraps.
Puebla’s cobbled streets can be unforgiving on the heels, so pack some flats for city strolls. For drinking, dining and at La Purificadora, however, only Choos will do.
Despite the canteen-style timber tables, restaurant staff ensure seating still feels private – try to sit close to the reclaimed wooden pillars where you can see out into the open-air living area and the city skies beyond.
The Modern Mexican menu breathes new life into classic dishes like mole and ceviche.
Decorated in dark granite and onyx, the smart and sultry rooftop bar inspires Friday night queues as Puebla’s great and good come in search of the perfect cocktail. The signature concoction of mandarin, pineapple and Curaçao is certainly a contender.
The kitchen closes at 11p,m Monday to Thursday, midnight Thursday to Saturday, and 5pm on Sunday. The bar burns the midnight oil (and then some) until 2am.
Mexican meals and snacks are available 24 hours a day.
802 Callejón de la 10 Norte, Paseo San Francisco, Barrio el Alto
The tiny Puebla International Airport is a 20-minute drive from the hotel. It's served mostly by domestic flights, as well as some routes from the US. International visitors are more likely to arrive at Mexico City’s Bénito Juárez International Airport, which is around an hour and a half away and offers direct links with cities across Europe and the US. These include flights from London Heathrow with British Airways (www.ba.com) and from both Heathrow and London Gatwick with Mexicana (www.mexicana.com).
Puebla lies on Highway 150, which connects Mexico City with the south and east of the country. Car hire is available at Puebla and Mexico City airports, but driving on the heavily congested roads can be a little daunting. If you do decide to drive, parking is available at La Purificadora for 35 pesos (around US$3) a day.
Worth getting out of bed for
The hotel occasionally holds yoga or spinning lessons, enquire with staff for details. The hotel's downtown neighbourhood is lively and offers plenty to explore. See the ornate Puebla Cathedral, visit the Talavera Museum to learn about the origins of the colourful pottery or the vintage tomes in the Biblioteca Palafoxiana, and roam fragrant street markets.
Although it may seem a trifle perverse to dine on Spanish cuisine in a city that helped put Mexican on the map, La Conjura (+52 222 232 9693) has a bold, daily-changing menu that’s well worth sampling. The former bodega’s seafood is particularly tasty. Lower key, cantina-style La Guadalupana (+52 222 242 4886) is the place to come for Pueblan classics on the hoof. For Puebla’s signature dish, mole poblano, there’s no better spot in the city than Fonda la Mexicana (+52 222 232 6747). Thick, fruity and glossy, the sauce here is absolutely delicious.
Mexican boutique hotel La Purificadora, I’ve decided, is the architectural equivalent of a shot of tequila: momentarily overwhelming, but ultimately makes your weekend go with a bang. Our journey there is equally heady – we get lost within 50 metres of the car-rental office, go past our turn-off for Puebla, cut across five lanes of traffic at a set of lights and have a mini-domestic. I start to question whether Mr Smith and I are really ready to combine romance and adventure to this extent.
We eventually find the hotel. Built as a water-bottling factory in the 1880s, La Purificadora still exudes a distinctly 19th-century solidity – its exterior is all exposed brickwork and columns. But once we pass through reception, the hotel opens out into a vast cathedral of space, in the midst of which a black volcanic-stone staircase leads to the first floor. A hole in the side of the hotel frames a church. Water trickles down the staircase and collects in a pool, and two huge fire pits surrounded by ecclesiastical-purple cubist-style sofas dominate a lobby with rough granite walls and monolithic reclaimed-wood pillars. It’s a mighty clash between past and present.
When we step out of the lift on the third floor, I jump right back in again. Through a glass floor, I can see all the way down to the uneven stone cobbles of the lobby below. Inside our room, it’s all sexy dark wood floors and raw-stone walls, and there’s a vast inviting bed, a glass wardrobe and an onyx-walled shower big enough for two. We open the huge glass door to the balcony and I instinctively reach for Mr Smith like a damsel in distress: the balcony juts out from the side of the building with no visible support. Mr Smith, knowing I’m scared of heights, is clearly hoping my fear will prove to be an aphrodisiac.
When I finally pluck up the courage for further exploration, we decide to start at La Purificadora's rooftop bar. But, in January, it’s just too cold to hang around for long, no matter how warming the spirits on offer. We dip our fingers in the stunning glass-walled swimming pool, admire the glowing onyx pillars and head downstairs, rubbing our hands together.
Despite its smart monochrome decor, the hotel restaurant still feels informal and intimate. I start with squash blossoms stuffed with cheese in a tomato broth, while Mr Smith, ever the risk-taker, opts for thin slices of beef tongue with cactus and lime mayonnaise. We follow this up with regional speciality mole poblano and red snapper cooked in corn leaves. Like the building, the food is a rich mixture of old and new, a modern take on some of Mexico’s most classic dishes. Several glasses of local cabernet sauvignon later and we cannot eat another morsel. The guava crème brûlée will just have to wait. We spend the rest of our evening by the fire in the dramatic lobby, watching the city’s spires shimmer against the dark night sky.
The remainder of our weekend is divided between our divine bed, braving the cold to swim in the exhibitionist rooftop pool – you’re certainly aware of how much food you’re eating when you know that everyone on the terrace can see how you look underwater – and exploring Puebla. The old, colonial centre of town is beautiful. There are aspects of life here that seem to have changed little with the passing of time; the shoe-shiners and their businessmen clients, the row of shops selling candyfloss-like communion dresses, the stores crammed with religious icons.
Walking through the pretty artists’ quarter, I stop to have my fortune read by an old man with a cageful of sparrows. I politely ignore the birdseed he places on the fortune cards to entice little Lupita to divine what lies in store for me – even though this seems to have little effect. Finally, he coaxes the tiny bird to pick one out with her beak. I secrete it away for later. After lunch at a low-key restaurant, we admire the beautiful pre-hispanic art at the Amparo museum and peek into baroque churches. Dusk sees us join strolling families in the tree-filled central square, dodging the sellers holding hundreds of brightly coloured balloons in various animal shapes and watching this little, glittering corner of the world go by.
We wind up our weekend and regretfully say goodbye to the wonderful staff and glorious designer bedroom. I never did get used to the glass floors, but they did make the trip down to breakfast feel almost expeditionary. On the way home, feeling brave, we decide to skip the direct highway back from Puebla to Mexico City and take the winding Paso de Cortes, driving up, along a dirt road, until we pass between two skyline-dominating volcanoes. As we stop to admire the smouldering, snowcapped peak of Popocatapetl, said in local lore to be a warrior holding a burning torch for his lost love, I remember the fortune in my pocket. It tells me that a new sense of romance and adventure will soon enter my life. La Purificadora, whose architecture left me breathless, whose food fired up my tastebuds and whose city was so full of surprises, has given me more than enough of both. My fortune teller, it seems, was uncannily accurate. His little sparrows just don’t see very far into the future.