Mexico City is a big, confusing, scary, exciting place, full of distinct neighborhoods, good food and interesting people. But sometimes don’t you want to just get out of the city? Fortunately, Mexico City is surrounded by other really attractive places. Puebla and Queretaro are both mid-sized colonial cities 2-4 hours from Mexico City, depending on traffic and from where you leave.
Aside from a vibrant colonial city center with beautiful architecture, Puebla is also known for having great food. Chiles en Nogada, a pepper stuffed with ground meat and dried fruit, and topped with walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds, was created in Puebla and is in season in September. Year round you can enjoy many kinds of mole, a sauce made from a big mix of spices (even chocolate) and usually cooked with chicken.
Queretaro is northwest of Mexico City, about twice as far as Puebla and in the opposite direction. This too is a colonial city with lots of attractive architecture, museums and cultural events. The city center has many open squares and parks, making for great traffic-free walks.
Queretaro is capital of Queretaro state, which has some beautiful natural areas, including the Pena de Bernal, a huge rock that you can hike up for sweeping views of the countryside. Queretaro is also on the road west to more attractive places in central Mexico, including Guanajuato and Guadalajara.
Mexico gets a lot of fame for its beaches, but the colonial cities of central Mexico are well worth a visit as well.