What to see in Mexico
Tourist attractions Guadalajara
The capital of Jalisco State, Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city. Some say it’s the cultural centre of the country, proudly the birthplace of both Mariachi music and the characteristic wide-brimmed sombrero! But, you’ll also find a forward-looking city if you travel to Guadalajara. Museums, galleries and theatres abound, and the gastronomic scene is amongst the most exciting in Mexico. Juxtapose this with an enchanting historic centre, charming colonial-era architecture and atmospheric plazas and you’ve got an eternally interesting destination to explore.
A mainstay of the Mexico tour circuit, at the heart of Guadalajara, is the magnificent Guadalajara Cathedral, almost as old as the city itself. If you take a vacation to Guadalajara you’ll learn that the city was founded in the mid-16th-century by conquistadors as the capital of the Kingdom of Nueva Galicia in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The discovery of silver in the region resulted in the rapid growth of the city, and soon Guadalajara was second only to Mexico City in terms of wealth and importance.
Enjoying year-round warm temperatures, you can visit Guadalajara in any month, although June, July and August are known for their frequent rains. Furthermore, to make the most of this spring-like climate, Guadalajara is ideally situated between a number of lush forest parks and tree-covered canyons, making it the ideal launch pad for exploring the natural treasures of Jalisco State.
The city can be divided into 7 zones and more than 2,000 neighbourhoods. The Zona Centro is home to the oldest part of the city and the most characteristic architecture and sights, but depending on how long you’re visiting Guadalajara, it’s well worth exploring further afield to discover the cultural treasures of Zapopan or the folk arts of Tonalá.
Things to see in Guadalajara
A stroll through Guadalajara’s atmospheric historic centre is among the best ways to get a feel for this vibrant city. Here you’ll find Guadalajara Cathedral, an iconic landmark instantly recognisable by its colourful neo-Gothic towers, constructed following a devastating earthquake in the early 19th-century. Dating back to 1541, the cathedral was built on the site of the Templo de Santa Maria de Gracia. Today it is considered one of the best places to visit in Guadalajara and is an important place of pilgrimage for Roman Catholics. A beautiful example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, the interior contains a Gothic crypt and an impressive reliquary.
In the eastern part of the city, you’ll find the neighbourhood of Tonalá, famed for its artisan traditions of pottery and textiles. Every Thursday and Sunday, the Tonalá Market takes place, one of the best things to see in Guadalajara if you want to discover the finest folk arts and souvenirs in the state. It’ll take you a good couple of hours to wind your way through the seemingly endless array of workshops, stalls and food vendors, but it’s an unmissable chance to experience local life and admire the fine artisan traditions that flourish here in Guadalajara. Ceramics, wooden carvings, painted masks, candles and colourful textiles are just some of the most popular products to purchase at Tonalá Market.
Back in the heart of the city lies Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the best things to see in Guadalajara. One of the oldest and largest hospital complexes in the Americas, Hospicio Cabañas was founded in 1791. Today, rather than treating patients, the building is dedicated to showcasing the artworks of a variety of national and international artists. Most impressive are the monumental ceiling frescoes of José Clemente Orozco, including his famous ‘The Man of Fire’ allegory.
For a deep dive into traditional Mexican culture, a visit to the municipality of Tlaquepaque is one of the most unmissable things to do in Guadalajara. Just south of the city centre, this charming part of town is known for its mariachi music, pottery and colourful streets. Watching live mariachi bands play on the bandstand at El Parián or paying a visit to the Ceramics Museum are just a few of the things you can look forward to if you explore Tlaquepaque. Furthermore, this part of Guadalajara is well known for its tequila stores!