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Guadalajara, Mexico's second largest city, offers travelers a wide range of traditional and contemporary experiences. Visitors travel to this cosmopolitan destination to experience a plethora of attractions including nearby magical towns such as Tequila, where the popular spirit is produced; explore colonial architecture; and visit museums and small towns with exquisite crafts and artwork.
At the intersection of tradition and technology, Guadalajara displays both 16th century roots and 21st century leadership in innovation. Admire significant colonial influences at Metropolitan Cathedral; Teatro Degollado, Mexico’s oldest opera house; and Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Arts, Music & Culture
Discover why Guadalajara is the traditional cultural center of Mexico. From the heart of this region, some of Mexico’s most iconic traditions originated. Visitors are captivated by mariachi music, wide-brimmed sombreros, rodeos, artisan makers and neogothic architecture — all surrounded by beautiful fields of blue agave to produce the world’s purest tequila. Guadalajara also has one of the strongest and most influential young cultural communities in Latin America.
Festivals & Events
Gourmands and international film aficionados alike gather in Guadalajara for festivals devoted to their crafts ... and that’s just in the month of March. Throughout the year, more festivals devoted to the celebration of tequila, jazz, and mariachi are among the city’s biggest and best. Check out our calendar below for ideas on what to see in Guadalajara year-round.
One of the best ways to experience a destination is through its food and Guadalajara is no exception, boasting cuisine that is synonymous with Mexican culture that cannot be found anywhere else.
Guadalajara is a destination with plenty of things to do and see for visitors of all interests. Shopping experiences include authentic handcrafted items to hot fashion trends. Scout out unique local specialities and folk art from tequila to sombreros, or luxuriate in a climate-controlled modern mall featuring international brands, designer boutiques, original artwork, and plenty of fashionable dining options. The city is bustling after the sun sets with many nightlife activities like live music, bars and sporting events.
From traditional Mexican pastimes like charrio and lucha libre to modern baseball and soccer, Guadalajara is the perfect place for all types of sports fans.
All of the tequila in the world is produced in this region. The fields of blue agave plants are so beautiful that they have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are many ways for visitors to explore the area and sample tequila.
Visit Guadalajara's best museums, malls, murals, markets and more. No visit is complete without a look at one of the several historic cultural sites and a tour inside a genuine tequila distillery. If time allows, be sure to include the ancient archeological site of the Guachimontones Pyramids, just one hour west of the city.
Guadalajara is the ideal base for enjoying authentic Mexican experiences. Among these are historic pueblo towns with artisan craft workshops in picturesque markets, lively plazas where the sound of mariachi bands reverberate from cafes and restaurants, abundant nature and birdlife at Mexico's largest freshwater lake and extensive fields of tequila-producing blue agave plants, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Guadalajara is a city of contrasts. The second-largest city in Mexico has undergone significant modernization in the past couple of decades and has attracted numerous multinational businesses, particularly in the high-tech industry, leading to Guadalajara's distinction as Mexico's Silicon Valley.
But Guadalajara remains true to its traditions, and at its heart, Guadalajara is still a conservative, very Mexican city. Its inhabitants, known as tapatios, often refer to Guadalajara as a large town. Guadalajara has the size (and pollution) of a large city but retains the flavor and community of its past.
Mariachi music, tequila, the sombrero and the Mexican hat dance were all born in Guadalajara, and the Mexican city has managed to keep these icons alive without turning them into cliches (or lifeless tourist attractions). Each week a traditional charreada (Mexican-style rodeo) takes place, carrying on the region's hacienda culture.
Visitors will find that Guadalajara is making an effort to preserve the beautiful colonial architecture of its historic center, much of which is arranged around the four main plazas of the original town. These public areas are great for people-watching and absorbing the culture of old Guadalajara. Artisan fairs and live musical performances are often held in or near these plazas.
Sights—The Catedral; Parque Mirador Independencia and its view of the canyon; Palacio de Gobierno to see Jose Clemente Orozco's legendary mural; Ballet Folclorico, the University of Guadalajara's respected traditional dance troupe.
Museums—Instituto Cultural de Cabanas for Jose Clemente Orozco's murals and his masterpiece, Man of Fire; Museo Regional de Guadalajara for a quick overview of anthropology and painting in the state of Jalisco; Wixarica Museo de Arte Huichol for background information about the yarn paintings and beadwork that represent Huichol culture; one of the ceramics museums in Tonala or Tlaquepaque.
Memorable Meals—Gourmet cocina alta Mexican cuisine at Cocina 88 or El Sacramonte; gourmet regional specialties and an agave education at La Tequila; an interesting fusion dinner with the Guadalajara creative class at neighboring I Latina or Anita Li.
Late Night—Salsa and various Latin dancing at Casino Veracruz; a true cantina experience at La Fuente.
Walks—Sunday's Via Recreativa, in which Avenida Juarez/Vallarta is closed to automobiles; Saturday walking tours originating at Plaza Guadalajara; a stroll from the Catedral through plazas and pedestrian zones to Instituto Cultural de Cabanas.
Especially for Kids—The Zoologico Guadalajara; Trompo Magico Museo Interactivo; Selva Magica amusement park.
The capital of the state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is located in the Atemajac Valley, on a highland plain that is 5,141 ft/1,567 m above sea level. The city is surrounded by hills and sierras, some of which are falling prey to housing projects. The metropolitan area comprises the neighboring municipalities of Zapopan, Tlaquepaque and Tonola.
To the northeast of the city, there is a huge canyon known as Barranca de Oblatos, with an impressive waterfall called Cascada Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls). A large forest, La Primavera, borders Zapopan to the west of the city. Much of the forest, which is home to natural hot springs and more than 200 animal and bird species, is protected natural land. Miguel Hidalgo International Airport lies beyond Tlaquepaque to the south. Past the airport, about 25 mi/40 km south of the city, is Lake Chapala. The communities surrounding the country's largest lake have become expat enclaves, drawing many U.S. and Canadian retirees to the temperate climate.
Although the area around Guadalajara saw an agrarian society blossom as early as 200 BC, it did not foster a pre-Columbian empire comparable to others in Mexico. Indigenous groups such as the Huichol and Chapalas were residents of the surrounding highland areas.
The region was brought under Spanish domination in 1532 through the bloody campaign of Nuno de Guzman, whose exploits were so brutal that he was recalled by Spanish authorities in 1538. A final site for the city of Guadalajara, which was named after Guzman's birthplace in Spain, was not chosen until 1542, after three previous sites were abandoned because of attacks and rebellions.
Guadalajara, which became the capital of Nueva Galicia (and later, the state of Jalisco), was an important agricultural and commercial center in the colonial period, trading wheat, cotton, wool and livestock, and developing important textile and leather industries. Its university was founded in 1792.
In 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo, a liberal priest and a leader in the independence movement, established a revolutionary government in Guadalajara, but his troops were defeated the following year. Rebellion and civil war marked the mid-19th century (War of the Reform) and early 20th century (Mexican Revolution), with Guadalajara the site of some fighting.
By the end of the 19th century, Guadalajara was becoming an economic powerhouse, known as the "Pearl of the West." This is reflected in the neighborhoods outside the city center, most notably along the Avenida Juarez-Vallarta, where the wealthy built elegant houses with a European flair, modeled on villas in France and Spain.
This prosperity and growth continued in the 20th century, when a variety of industries flourished. Industries settling there can count on a strong work force consisting of the 65% of the population that is younger than 25. The city also has the prestigious University of Guadalajara and many other schools that turn out prepared professionals.
Artist Jose Clemente Orozco lost his left hand in a firecracker accident as a child; you can see this in a statue of him in the Rotunda of Illustrious Men next to the cathedral.
Mexicans (and tapatios) claim the best-looking people are from Guadalajara, many of whom have pure Spanish, French or even German ancestry. It's not unusual to see a green-eyed man or natural blonde woman who was born there.
Guadalajara's Chivas soccer team is noteworthy in that it fields only Mexican players.
If you arrive at the Gothic Templo Expiatorio church on the hour, look up: Miniature statues of the 12 disciples exit small doors and re-enter other doors in rotation while carillon music plays.
Secret tunnels underneath the Catedral connect with passageways to other old buildings in the city's center. They are remnants from the days of colonization, war and religious persecution. Some houses downtown still have tunnel access.
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