7 things to do in Guadalajara

Discover the cultural hub of Mexico


July 2016

0 min read

From visiting a world famous tequila distillery to feeling dwarfed by pre historic pyramids and sampling all the delicious local cuisine, here’s what to do when you’re in Guadalajara.


Guadalajara is the capital and largest city of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara, as well as the second most populated area after Mexico City.


Sophisticated and beautiful, Guadalajara is a cultural centre of Mexico, considered by most to be the home of mariachi music and host to a number of large-scale cultural events such as the Guadalajara International Film Festival, the Guadalajara International Book Fair, and globally renowned cultural events which draw international crowds and in 2005 it was named the American Capital of Culture. Guadalajara is also a sporting hub as it is home to the C.D. Guadalajara, one of the most popular football clubs in Mexico, its Arena Coliseo is one of the hottest spots for wrestling and in 2011 it hosted the Pan American Games.


The stunning architecture of the centre of town, its ancient ruins just outside, the agave rich landscape just outside the city as well as its sophisticated culinary and literary traditions make Guadalajara the perfect spot for Dolce&Gabbana’s latest Latin American opening: at the Palacio de Hierro.


Here are some interesting things to do while visiting Guadalajara.

Historic downtown architecture


The architecture in the historic downtown area of Guadalajara is as varied as it is beautiful. Special mention to the Metropolitan Cathedral, consecrated in 1616, which boasts a unique mix of Gothic, Baroque, Moorish and Neoclassical architecture styles. Also definitely worth a visit is the Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres (Rotunda of Illustrious Men), a circular stone structure of 17 columns which surrounds 98 urns containing the remains of those honoured. Last but by no means least is the UNIESCO World Heritage site, Istitudo Cultural de Cabañas, which was built at the beginning of the 19th century to provide care and shelter for the disadvantaged. This complex, which incorporates several unusual features designed specifically to meet the needs of its occupants, was unique for its time. In the early 20th century, the chapel was decorated with a stunning series of murals, now considered some of the masterpieces of Mexican art. They are the work of José Clemente Orozco, one of the greatest Mexican muralists of the period.



Los Guachimontones


Definitely worth a day trip out of town, the Guachimontones pyramids are about an hour west of Guadalajara. A major site of the Teuchitlan tradition, a complex society that existed from as early as 300 BCE until perhaps 900 CE, is dominated by circular stepped pyramids in the middle of circular building complexes. This site may have even older origins as the Aztecs erected a city on a hill called Huachimontón, just north of Guachimontones.

Festival of Mariachi and Charreria


Though Mariachi music originated in nearby Cocula, Jalisco, this musical genre is strongly associated with Guadalajara. Some of the most memorable Mariachi performances on an international level took place in Guadalajara and today the city hosts the Festival of Mariachi and Charreria. This year it takes place between the 26th August and the 4th September, and it’s a must do if you’re in the area at that time.



Discover the beauty of the Guadalajara Municipality


Just outside the city of Guadalajara lies the eponymous municipality, which boasts some lovely Mexican rural towns. Tlaquepaque, its name derives from Nahuatl and means “place above clay land”, is famous for its pottery, blown glass and mariachis. The central square is very pretty and during the annual San Pedro festivities, El Jardín is filled with stalls and street-sellers. On the day of San Pedro itself, towering firework-festooned structures known as the Castillo (“castle”) and Toro (“bull”) are set alight. Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, the name is interpreted from náhuatl as “Land in the Corner.” Is near the Guadalajara Airpost, but do not be fooled, this town is full of charm. Tonalá, on th other hand is one of the largest cities of the Municipality. It is a major handcrafts center for Jalisco, especially pottery, which can be bought at the Thursday and Sunday street markets. Other points of interest in the city are the beautiful chapel dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, and the Capilla de la Cruz Blanca, built by Franciscan monks in the16th Century. Zapopan city is best known as being the home of the Virgin of Zapopan, an image of the Virgin Mary which dates back to the 16th century. This image has been credited with a number of miracles.

Guadalajara Cuisine


The cuisine of Guadalajara is a mix of pre-Hispanic and Spanish influences, just like the rest of Mexico, but dishes have their own flavors and are made with local techniques. One of the main dishes of the area is birria: a goat or lamb stew cooked in a spicy sauce seasoned with chili peppers, ginger, cumin, black pepper, oregano and cloves. The traditional way of preparing birria is to pit roast the meat and spices wrapped in maguey leaves, and then serving it bowls with minced onion, limes and tortillas. Tortas ahogadas, literally “drowned sandwiches”, are also definitely worth a taste. The dish is based on an oblong “bolillo” bun filled with pork and other ingredients, which is then “drowned” in a spicy tomato sauce. Other dishes that are popular in Guadalajara include pozole, a soup prepared with hominy, chicken or pork and various condiments and pipián, which is a sauce prepared with peanuts, squash and sesame seed. Ah, and lets not forget tequila.

Stay in Guadalajara’s hip neighbourhood


Set amongst tree-lined streets with vintage 20th century houses, small cafes, restaurants, and art galleries Casa Fayette has become the new epicentre for the hip residents and visitors of Guadalajara. The hotel is built within an original house from the beginning of the 20th century, where the lobby, bar, restaurant, and pool & terrace flow towards the new building, high rise building where the thirty-seven rooms and suites and the spa are located. http://www.casafayette.com/



Tequila Express


It is virtually impossible to go to Mexico and ignore tequila, especially in the Guadalajara Municipality. Once here you must take a ride on a traditional passenger train to Jalisco, one of the only tequila-producing regions of Mexico to discover how the nectar is made. The train will pass along the dramatic agave strewn landscape and take you straight to one of the world famous tequila distilleries to discover how the drink is made and fermented. A truly inebriating experience! http://tequilaexpress.mx/