Guadalajara is the second largest metropolis in Mexico and is actually three cities merged into one. The result is a fascinating patchwork of neighborhoods, each with their own unique atmosphere and distinct charm.
Guadalajara will surprise you; modern shopping malls and nightclubs lie only a few blocks away from the historical downtown where you can see architecture and murals that date back to the colonial era. You can even escape the busy city life and relax in one of the parks or in the nearby Primavera forest.
Don't miss the International Mariachi Festival of Guadalajara if you are traveling during the first week of September. The city is considered the birthplace of this musical genre, and you will easily find restaurants with live music and bands playing in popular streets and squares throughout the city.
The Centro area is the oldest part of town. You will probably spend most of your time there, exploring the narrow streets and admiring architectural landmarks such as the Guadalajara Cathedral and the Palacio Municipal de Guadalajara.
Your trip to Guadalajara is the perfect opportunity to discover Mexican art. The Museo de las Artes and Museo de Arte de Zapopan have amazing paintings, and the Museo Pantaleón Panduro has an impressive collection of folk art.
Guadalajara is the birthplace of this traditional musical genre. Plan on visiting the city during the first week of September for the largest Mariachi music festival in Mexico.
Head to the Tonalá area on Thursdays or Sundays for a traditional street market. The Tianguis Cultura and the Mercado San Juan de Dios are also worth seeing. Street markets are the perfect place to shop for souvenirs, try street food, and people watch.
The small town of Tlaquepaque has merged with Guadalajara. Here you can shop for traditional art and pottery. Make sure you visit the Premio Nacional de la Cerámica if you are interested in pottery and the Parian, a large building with several restaurants and live music.
Guadalajara's most important building is at the heart of the city on Plaza de Armas, and the structure contains centuries of history. Marvel at the resilience of the time-worn building, a survivor or several major earthquakes, and let the serene decor of the interior wash over you - from stained glass windows to altarpieces. Surrounding this landmark are the Government Palace and the Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres monument, both puzzle pieces to the history of Jalisco's capital city.
This hospital complex is one of the oldest and most well-known in the Americas, designed in the 18th century to rival its European counterparts. Artists and architects of the highest order based the design on famous predecessors like Les Invalides in Paris, and touring the premises today still evokes that grandeur. Stunning murals by José Clemente Orozco steal the show, but everything from the preserved carvings of the facade to the towering chapel is worth taking in. These days the halls are used as exhibition spaces.
In the midst of a never ending city sprawl, this park is the ultimate oasis in Guadalajara. Perfect for walking, jogging, casual sports or just relaxing on the green fields, the area welcomes locals and tourists alike to enjoy a little down time. Cultural institutions also speckle the area, like the Paleontological Museum and the Experimental Theater of Jalisco. The most incredible stop, however, is the ever-blooming Orchid House.
A product of Mexico's theatrical movement of the 1800s, this grand neoclassical theater remains a highlight of Guadalajara. The grandiose and regal exterior is just a small taste of what one can expect from the extravagant interior. Impressive paintings line the golden halls, and the red velvet seats of the performance hall are as elegant as the space is vast. Check the schedule to catch a show for the full experience.
The most important zoo on this part of the continent, this park is the largest in Mexico and home to a diverse range of animals from all over the globe. From local species to rare creatures from the far reaches of the earth, exhibits introduce visitors to creatures they may never have seen before. Komodo dragons, white lions, giant tortoises, and more - this is the ultimate place to learn about the animal kingdom.
The climate of the state of Jalisco is humid and subtropical. Expect heavy rain if you travel during the summer. The best time to travel to Guadalajara is during the months of October and November. The Guadalajara International Book Fair is held in November and draws huge crowds.
The Guadalajara International Airport (GDL) is 10 miles south of the Centro area. You can follow the Guadalajara-Chapala Highway to get to the city or take a taxi for Mex$300. A lot of hotels offer free shuttles from the airport, but you can also take a bus for Mex$6.
Driving to Guadalajara is easy since there are many well-maintained highways that lead into town. Follow Carretera Federal 150 if you come from Tequila or another town located west of Guadalajara. You can also follow Carretera Federal 150 from La Barca or another eastern location. Guadalajara-Lagos de Moreno 205 connects Guadalajara with Aguascalientes and León.
There are several bus routes that will take you to Guadalajara. Taking the bus from León should only cost Mex$270, a bus from Colima should cost Mex$400 and traveling from Mexico City by bus should cost Mex$800. There is a Greyhound bus route to Guadalajara and a bus ticket from Los Angeles should only cost Mex$4,000.
You will find that most hotels are located just west of the Centro area. The Hilton Guadalajara and Hotel Riu Plaza Guadalajara are excellent options in that area. If you want to stay in the Centro itself, consider staying at the One Guadalajara Centro Histórico.
Centro Histórico - this is the most interesting part of the city for colonial architecture. This is where you will find the Catedral de Guadalajara as well as street murals painted by José Clemente Orozco.
Sector Libertad - this is another traditional neighborhood similar to the Centro. You are going to love the lively Plaza de los Mariachis and the Mercado San Juan de Dios, where you can try street food and shop for souvenirs.
Zapopan - this is the city just west of Guadalajara. This is a more modern urban area with plenty of malls, bars, and nightclubs in the downtown area. Make sure you take a stroll through the seafood market.
There are a lot of bus routes that will take you anywhere in the metropolis for only Mex$6. There are two subway lines you can ride for Mex$6. One goes from the north to the south of the city, and the other line goes from the Centro to the eastern suburbs. There is also a Mibici bike system that allows you to rent a bike for short periods of time.
Finding a taxi is not difficult. Taxis that use a meter have a starting price between Mex$5 and Mex$10. Expect to pay Mex$5 per mile during the day and Mex$10 per mile during the night.
You can rent a car for only Mex$200 to Mex$400 per day. Insurance will cost you another Mex$200 per day. There is an Alamo, Sixt, and Fox Rent A Car at the airport. Keep in mind that parking is not easy in the narrow streets of the Centro area.
Zapopan is the best place to shop for clothes, accessories, and jewelry. The Plaza Patria and Plaza Galerías are two of the main malls in Zapopan. In Guadalajara, you will find malls and smaller shops in the Sector Juárez, where you can shop for clothes and souvenirs. The Sector Libertad has an amazing street market, where you can find handmade crafts, traditional clothes, and souvenirs. Tlaquepaque offers a more traditional shopping experience with many shops that sell pottery and other types of crafts.
The street markets are the best place to shop for fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat. You will find a Walmart as you head towards Zapopan and lots of stores that belong to the Waldo's chain in the Centro area. Soriana is another popular grocery store chain in the area and you will find locations throughout the entire city. A gallon of milk should cost Mex$57, a load of bread Mex$20 and you will have to pay around Mex$54 for a pound of ground beef.
There are some traditional foods you need to try during your trip to Guadalajara, including tamales, fish tacos, pozole, and birria, a stew made with meat and chilies. El Sacromonte is one of the best places for affordable traditional Mexican fare and live music. Tacos Fish La Paz is an affordable eatery with delicious fried fish tacos. Try the lamb birria at Birrieria Las 9 Esquinas, and book a table at La Rinconada to enjoy the unique 19th-century setting, live mariachi band, and the traditional Mexican fare. A meal at an affordable restaurant should cost Mex$100, fast food should cost Mex$60 and you should expect to pay Mex$250 or more at an upscale restaurant.