A town of well over a million people, charmingly unselfconscious Guadalajara has somehow, and rather without trying, become Mexico’s second city. While often neglected by travelers, the city’s charms are distributed equally and liberally throughout its distinct neighborhoods. The city’s Centro Histórico (Historic Center) is dotted with proud colonial relics that house museums, government offices, bars and hotels. More modern and spread out Chapultepec is sprinkled with fashionable restaurants, coffeehouses and nightclubs. Mellow suburbs Tlaquepaque (upscale) and Tonalá (grassroots) are a folk-art shopper’s dream destinations; and Zapopan has some interesting colonial sites, but is better known as Guadalajara’s Beverly Hills. Guadalajara residents are warm and eager to share the essence of their city.
Guadalajara’s many contributions to the Mexican lifestyle include tequila, mariachi music, the broad sombrero, charreadas (rodeos) and the Mexican Hat Dance, and these days it is also known for its outstanding food. From streetside taco and torta ahogada (chili-soaked pork sandwich) stands to neighborhood cafes to fine dining rooms in restored colonial mansions, you’re never far from a great meal in joyful Guadalajara.
A stroll through Guadalajara will give you an appreciation for the green spaces and public art in the city’s many parks and plazas. At the heart of Guadalajara is the cathedral. With its twin pointed towers and central dome, it is the most
recognizable landmark on the Guadalajara skyline. The Cathedral is surrounded on all four sides by plazas. Plaza Guadalajara faces the church. Its central fountain depicts two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree, the city’s coat of arms. To the south is the Plaza de Armas with its art nouveau bandstand and matching lampposts. The adjacent Government Palace has a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural in the interior main staircase, which was painted by Jose Clemente Orozco. To the north of the Cathedral is the Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres. This green space has a central circular monument with seventeen ribbed columns; the statues surrounding it represent Jalisco’s illustrious sons (and one daughter), people from Jalisco who have made notable contributions in arts, science and politics.
Behind the Cathedral is the large, Plaza de la Liberación, so named to commemorate Miguel Hidalgo’s abolishment of slavery. A statue of Miguel Hidalgo holding a broken chain commemorates the event. The Teatro Degollado is at the far east end of the plaza. Guadalajara’s Ballet Folclorico performs here in this beautiful neoclassical building dating to 1856. Walk around to the back of the
theater to see a fountain depicting the Guadalajara city founders. The Plaza Tapatio begins here and stretches over half a mile to the Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you stroll along you’ll pass picturesque arcades and promenades, bubbling fountains, charming restored colonial buildings and modern sculptures. Nearby, the Plaza de los Mariachis offers a space to have a drink and listen to the mariachis play, a fitting end to a full day of sightseeing in Mexico’s second city.
Whether you choose to explore the city by foot, double decker bus or calandria (horse-drawn carriage), you’ll find that Guadalajara’s numerous plazas, colonial architecture and modern conveniences make this a delightful city to visit.