Visit Guadalajara, Mexico's Second City

The birthplace of mariachi and tequila is also Mexico's "Silicon Valley"

Guadalajara
••• Guadalajara, Mexico's second city. Luis Davilla / Getty Images

Guadalajara is a vibrant and enchanting city. With a population of some four million people in the metropolitan zone, it's the second largest city in Mexico. While it's the cradle of mariachi music and Mexico's national sport, charrería, and is the heart of tequila country, it's also an industrial and technological hub, earning it the nickname "Mexico's Silicon Valley." 

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 of Jalisco in 1560.

What to see and do

You can discover many of Guadalajara's traditional architecture and lovely plazas on a 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 Mexico 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.

Get more ideas in this list of the Top 8 Things to Do in Guadalajara.

Day trips from Guadalajara:

A visit to tequila country is not to be missed. You can take a ride on the Tequila Express, a train that leaves Guadalajara in the morning and returns in the evening, with visits to the tequila producing area and distilleries.

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. 

Location

Guadalajara is located in the state of Jalisco in the center of Mexico, 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).

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.