Fashion-forward Mexicans used to motoring from Mexico City to Veracruz are giving Puebla, a 476-year-old church-studded city along the way, a second look. La Purificadora, a stylish new 26-room hotel by the design-savvy Grupo Habita, is the latest draw. The striking creation lies inside the stone walls of an 1884 water-bottling factory (la purificadora means "the purifier"). The soaring lobby features a 40-foot-wide stone staircase-cum-waterfall, papal-purple couches clustered around giant charcoal fires, and an 80-seat restaurant overseen by 31-year-old food wunderkind Enrique Olvera. Known for Pujol, his restaurant in Mexico City, and planning to helm the kitchen at Grupo Habita's next hotel in Monterrey (slated to open late this year), Olvera did months of research in Puebla's food markets while assembling a menu that includes nutty mole poblano, a Mexican staple that was allegedly first concocted by local nuns—he flavors his with dried peppers, chocolate, and garlic.
Grupo Habita has unveiled six buzzy properties since 2000, among them the sleek Deseo in Playa del Carmen and Mexico City's oh-so-chic Condesa DF, all with a fiesta-centric formula. During La Purificadora's baptismal weekend, stilettos clicked up vertigo-inducing glass stairs to dance on the roof terrace while party boys catapulted into the 100-foot glass-walled pool under the turrets of the neighboring 16th-century San Francisco church. The monks in residence probably didn't appreciate the ruckus, but it was clear that a reformation was nigh. Twenty-minute flights by helicopter shuttle can be arranged from Mexico City. From $145; lapurificadora.com.