Best things to do in Guadalajara
Find out more about those top places in Guadalajara
While visitors flock to Mexico’s sprawling capital city, the country’s second largest metropolis remains a hidden gem combining laid back siesta culture with the cutting-edge of art and gastronomy. The downtown area, centered around the golden spires of the city’s wonderful cathedral, has changed little since the colonial-era while Guadalajara is the home of numerous iconic Mexican traditions ranging from mariachi music to oversized sombreros and charreadas (rodeos). Despite its palpable history, Guadalajara is also Mexico’s capital of all things cool. The hipster Chapultepec district is packed with street art, chic galleries and artisanal coffee houses while fusion chefs are reinterpreting traditional Guadalajaran classics such as pozole, a pork and ground maize stew, and the artery clogging torta ahogada, a meat filled roll smothered in a deep red spicy salsa.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, Guadalajara’s Instituto Cultural de Cabañas is one of Mexico’s most fascinating attractions. Housed in a breathtaking building, which believe it or not is a former orphanage, are a series of modernist murals by the renowned artist José Clemente Orozco alongside a collection of other works. All 57 of the murals were painted in the late-1930s and their near-biblical images of fire, crumpled armor, blood and rallying armies were intended to be a warning against fascism. To see these unrivaled works of art tours leave throughout the day.
Capped with a series of iconic 19th century towers built following the originals collapsed in an earthquake, Guadalajara’s 16th century cathedral is as old as the city itself. The Gothic interior is somewhat gloomy but make sure to look out for the dazzling side altars bestowed to the cathedral by King Ferdinand VII of Spain who ruled in the early-19th century. Guided tours of this brooding building are available throughout the day.
Famed as the birthplace of mariachi music, the best place in Guadalajara to listen to this infectiously charming style of traditional music is at the aptly named Plaza de los Mariachis. During the day there is not much to see but by night it becomes a buzzing square packed with colorful bands, beer stalls and loudspeakers.
Just outside Guadalajara’s city limits is the UNESCO listed tequila producing region of Jalisco. Guided tours take you through the region’s rolling fields of agave, which is harvested, fermented and distilled to make one of the world’s favorite spirits. Of course, the tour concludes with a tasting of different tequila styles produced in the region.
Tours depart Guadalajara daily to the shores of Lake Chapala and the picture-perfect town of the same name. Boardwalks let you walk out over the water and get close to some of Mexico’s best bird life while the town itself is one of the country’s most beguiling. Make sure to soak up the area’s literary pedigree by visiting the former homes of D.H. Lawrence and Tennessee Williams.
Guadalajara is a mecca for food lovers and there is no better place to get to grips with the city’s vibrant gastronomy than at Tonalá Market. Open on Thursdays and Sundays, the labyrinthine market is gigantic and would take hours to explore alone. For the best experience, local food guides can take you to the best torta (sandwich) stalls and vendors selling refreshing michelada (beer and tomato juice).
The Basilica de Zapopan is one of Mexico’s main points of pilgrimage for devoted Catholics due to its petite but sacred statue of the Virgin Mary. The church itself is stunning with vaulted ceilings and more than its fair share of dazzling gold.