Guadalajara City Guide

Guadalajara's Main Plaza
••• © Suzanne Barbezat

Mexico's second largest city is often called "the Pearl of the West" and is known as the birthplace of the Mariachi music. Nearby is tequila country. Guadalajara is a great spot to appreciate traditional Mexican culture, but it is also one of Mexico's most important industrial and business centers.

Location of Guadalajara:

Guadalajara is located in the state of Jalisco in the center of Mexico. It is 350 miles west of Mexico City.

If you would like to combine your visit to Guadalajara with some time on the beach, Puerto Vallarta is a good choice (a three and a half hours drive away).

Guadalajara's History:

The word Guadalajara comes from the Arab word "Wadi-al-Hajara", which means "Valley of stones". The city is named after the Spanish city of the same name, which was the hometown of conquistador Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán, who founded the Mexican city in 1531. The city was moved three times before finally settling at its present location in 1542 after the previous locations were found to be inhospitable. Guadalajara was named the capital of the state in 1560.

What to see and do:

Discover Guadalajara's most distinctive sights on this walking tour of Guadalajara.

Interesting places to visit include the Cabañas Cultural Institute, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has murals by Jose Clemente Orozco; the Government Palace, first occupied by the governors of New Galicia during the colonial period and later served as a residence for Miguel Hidalgo, who, from that very palace passed a law abolishing slavery in 1810.

Other must-see attractions include the Institute of Jalisco Handicrafts, the Museum of Huichol Indian Handicrafts and the Museum of Journalism and Graphic Arts.

Day trips from Guadalajara:

Take a ride on the Tequila Express, a train that leaves Guadalajara in the morning and returns in the evening, with visits to the town of Tequila and tequila producing plants.

Of course there's plenty of tequila to taste and mariachi music on the journey.

Shopping in Guadalajara:

Make sure to leave room in your suitcase for some handicrafts because there are some beautiful pieces you won't want to leave behind. Guadalajara is renowned for its glass-blowing workshops, its ceramics and leather-work. Tlaquepaque is a village in the area of Guadalajara that has an abundance of crafts studios and shops. You also should not miss the Mercado Libertad, Latin America's largest enclosed market.

Guadalajara's Nightlife:

  • La Maestranza Cantina
    A cantina/bar with a bullfighting museum that was founded in 1940. Restaurant service and live music.
    Maestranza 179, Centro Historico
  • El Mito
    Disco for the over 25 crowd playing 70s, 80s and 90s rock.
    Centro Magno mall, Av. Vallarta 2425, 2nd floor, Zona Minerva.
  • Tropigala
    The place to enjoy latin rhythms - salsa, merengue and cumbia.
    Iztacíhuatl 2011, Colonia Cd del Sol

Where to Stay in Guadalajara:

As one of Mexico's largest cities, there's plenty of choices for accommodations in Guadalajara. Here are a few options.

  • La Villa de Ensueno Boutique Hotel (get rates)
    Located in nearby Tlaquepaque, this boutique hotel has 20 rooms and suites, each one uniquely decorated in authentic Mexican style. With two heated swimming pools, a Jacuzzi, and a full bar, you'll find it a very relaxing place to stay after a day of ardent handicrafts shopping.
  • Hotel Morales (get rates)
    A historical hotel which once housed bullfighting celebrities and stars of the golden age of Mexican cinema such as Maria Felix, Pedro Infante, and Cantinflas. Classified as "Artistic Heritage and Architectonical Jewel of the city of Guadalajara," this hotel was remodeled in 2003. Located within walking distance of Guadalajara's main sights.
  • Hotel San Francisco Plaza (get rates)
    A Mexican Colonial style hotel located in the heart of Guadalajara, this hotel offers all the modern amenities (air-conditioning, Wi-fi, phone and cable TV in room) at accessible rates.

Getting There and Around:

Guadalajara's international airport is the Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport (Airport code GDL). Search for flights to Guadalajara.