Guadalajara is Mexico's second largest city, but its historical center can easily be explored on foot. This walking tour will guide you through Guadalajara's historical center visiting plazas, churches and monuments.
Guadalajara Plaza de Armas
Our walking tour of Guadalajara begins in the Plaza de Armas, located on Avenida 16 de septiembre between Morelos and Pedro Moreno streets. Sometimes referred to as the Plaza Mayor, this is the main square of Guadalajara's historical center. To commemorate the Centennial of Mexican Independence in 1910, the square was remodeled, and the lacy wrought-iron bandstand which dominates the plaza was brought from Europe. Built in Paris by the foundry D'art Du Val D'Osne, the bandstand was a gift to the city from President Porfirio Diaz.
The state band performs concerts here on Thursday and Sunday evenings at 6:30pm.
Guadalajara Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace)
The government palace, or Palacio de Gobierno, is located on the east side of the Plaza de Armas. This building dates from the second half of the 18th century, and was built to replace an adobe structure which had been in use since 1643. The baroque facade was completed in 1774, and the building was completed in 1790.
The Government Palace was first occupied by the governors of New Galicia during the colonial period and later served as a residence for Miguel Hidalgo, who, in 1810, passed a law abolishing slavery in Mexico from this very palace.
From February 14 to March 20, 1858, the building was the official seat of the Mexican federal government, when President Benito Juarez and his cabinet resided in Guadalajara during the Reform War.
State government offices now occupy the building. The government palace is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 8 pm. There is no admission fee, just nod at the guards at the door, and go on in so you can see the murals by Jose Clemente Orozco.
Orozco Murals in the Palacio de Gobierno
Famed muralist Jose Clemente Orozco painted Miguel Hidalgo, the father of Mexican Independence in the main staircase of Guadalajara's government palace in 1937. This mural shows Hidalgo brandishing a fiery torch at shadowy figures representing oppression and slavery.
Orozco painted another mural in this building, in the State Congress chamber on the second floor. Here you can see Hidalgo signing the decree to abolish slavery in Mexico, and below Benito Juarez is depicted signing the reform laws.
Guadalajara's Catedral Metropolitana is located at #10 Avenida Alcalde between Avenida Hidalgo and Avenida Morelos, directly north of the Plaza de Armas.
Construction of this cathedral was ordered by Philip of Spain and began in 1568 when Bishop Pedro de Ayala laid the first stone. The cathedral wasn't dedicated until 1618, however. The original towers were square; these were damaged by an earthquake in 1818, and later demolished. The current Neo-Gothic towers date from 1848 and are covered with yellow tiles from Sayula, a town located about 60 miles south of Guadalajara.
The cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of Mary. The interior has 9 altars and three chapels. The cathedral's Baroque decorations were removed between 1810 and 1820 and replaced with Neoclassical decoration which was preferred at the time. The current altarpieces date roughly from 1820 to 1835. A late 19th-century French organ, one of the largest in Mexico, is located in a loft above the main entrance.
Plaza Guadalajara, across from the main entrance to the cathedral, is at the head of what is known as the cruz de plazas or "cross of plazas," because the four squares which surround the cathedral form the shape of a cross when viewed from above.
The buildings that were previously on this site were torn down in the 1950s as part of a city remodeling project in which streets were widened and underground parking lotswere created.
The square was known as the Plaza de los Laureles until 1992 when its name was changed in honor of the 450th anniversary of the founding of Guadalajara. At the center of the square there is a circular fountain in the shape of an oyster with rose petals, alluding to the two nicknames of Guadalajara, "City of Roses" and "Pearl of the West," upon which rests the city's coat of arms (two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree).
The Municipal Palace is located to the north of Guadalajara Plaza, at 400 Avenida Hidalgo, and is open Monday to Friday from 8 am to 8 pm. Inside you can see a series of paintings by Gabriel Flores which depict the conquest and founding of Guadalajara, painted between 1962 and 1964.
Plaza de la Rotonda
To the north of the Cathedral, you will find the Plaza de la Rotonda. This is a shaded green space with the monument Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres, (Rotunda of the Illustrious People of Jalisco) honoring notable people from the state of Jalisco who distinguished themselves in arts, science, education, human rights, law, and politics. The monument was previously known as the Rotonda de Hombres Ilustres de Jalisco (Rotunda of Illustrious Men of Jalisco) until the only woman to be honored, Irene Obledo Garcia, a teacher and humanist, came to rest here in the year 2000.
The monument was built in 1951 by architect Vicente Mendiola, as an initiative of then Governor José Jesús González Gallo. Previously this had been the site of the Templo de la Soledad church. The monument consists of seventeen grooved columns supporting a stone ring on which is engraved the words "Jalisco a sus hijos esclarecidos" (roughly translated: "To Jalisco's distinguished sons"). In the center of the monument there are urns containing the cremated remains of those honored here.
There are twenty-four statues surrounding the plaza; the one pictured here is of Ignacio Vallarta, governor of the state of Jalisco from 1872 to 1876 (Puerto Vallarta was named for him). Some of the other people honored here are scientist Leonardo Oliva, poet Enrique González Martinez, composer Clemente Aguirre, architect Jacobo Gálvez, General Manuel M. Dieguez and painter José Clemente Orozco.
Plaza de la Liberacion
Behind the Cathedral lies the spacious Plaza de la Liberacion (Liberation Square), nicknamed La Plaza de Dos Copas (Two Cups Plaza) for its two fountains. Here you can admire a statue of Miguel Hidalgo breaking the chains of slavery, commemorating his decree of 1810 abolishing slavery in Mexico.
The Degollado theater is located at the far east end of the plaza. Construction began on this theater in 1856. Designed by architect Jacobo Galvez, this is a fine example of Neoclassical architecture. The portico has 16 Corinthian columns supporting the portico with a marble tympanum depicting Apollo and the nine muses, sculpted by Benito Castañeda. Inside, the vaulted ceiling contains a fresco depicting a scene from Dante's Divine Comedy painted by Jacobo Gálvez and Gerardo Suárez.
Originally called the Teatro Alarcon after the Mexican playwright Juan de Alarcon, upon the death of General Santos Degollado, governor of Jalisco, the theater's name was changed to honor him. The theater opened in 1866 with a performance of the opera Lucia di Lammermoor starring Angela Peralta. In 1966, in celebration of the theater's centenary, famed tenor Placido Domingo performed the same opera here.
The Plaza Tapatia stretches out over seven city blocks, extending from behind the Teatro Degollado to the Cabañas Cultural Institute. The plaza was inaugurated in 1982.
The state tourism office is located along this plaza, at Calle Morelos 102, in the section known as El Rincon del Diablo ("the Devil's Corner"), and is open from 9 am to 7:30 pm from Monday to Friday and 9 am to 1 pm on Saturdays.
There are many fountains and sculptures in the Tapatia Plaza. The one pictured here is by Victor Manuel Contreras and is called La Inmolación de Quetzalcoatl (The Immolation of Quetzalcoatl). The sculpture consists of five bronze pieces. The central one is 25 meters (82 feet) in height.
Also pictured in the photo is the Magno Centro Joyero, a shopping center specializing in jewelery.
Cabañas Cultural Institute
At the far east end of the Plaza Tapatia you'll find the Cabañas Cultural Institute. This 17th Century building was originally a charitable institution that served as an orphanage and shelter for the elderly, the infirm, and the destitute. There are over 50 murals painted by Mexican painter Jose Clemente Orozco inside the main chapel. The building is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and now functions as a museum and cultural center.
Read more about the Cabañas Cultural Institute.
Mercado Libertad (Liberty Market)
The Mercado Libertad (Liberty Market) is also called the Mercado de San Juan de Dios because of its location in the Barrio San Juan de Dios (San Juan de Dios neighborhood). To get there you must walk back towards the Quetzalcoatl Fountain and go down the steps located to the left.
Designed by architect Alejandro Zohn, the market was inaugurated on December 30, 1958. This is one of the largest traditional markets in Mexico, with three different levels, and over 2600 stalls. It is open from 6 am to 8 pm daily. In this market you will find a large selection of goods including handicrafts, clothes, shoes, flowers, produce, leather goods, traditional candies, electronics, household items, and food stalls.
San Juan de Dios Church
The Templo San Juan de Dios is located on the corner of Javier Mina and Independencia. You will find the church by walking along the perimeter of the market, and crossing at Avenida Javier Mina.
Guadalajara's first hospital was located on this site. The columns and arches on the north side are all that remain of the original structure. The present church was built between 1726 and 1750. The façade is in sober Baroque style, with sculptures of the Virgin of Sorrows, Saint Anthony and Saint John in the niches above the arched entrance. Inside, the main altar is dedicated to Saint John of God. The tabernacle and main altar are in white marble. The church's altarpieces are in neoclassical style with gold leaf.
Plaza de los Mariachis
The Plaza de los Mariachis is located at the intersection of Avenida Javier Mina and Calzada Independencia Sur, just south of the San Juan de Dios church.
The official name of this plaza is Plaza Pepe Guizar, after the composer of the song "Guadalajara," but it is popularly called the Plaza de los Mariachis. The plaza was remodeled in 2009. It is most active in the late afternoon and early evening, but the neighborhood is not very nice after dark, so for your nighttime entertainment you should choose another spot.
There are a number of restaurants here, where you can have some refreshment, listen to mariachi music and relax after enjoying your walking tour of Guadalajara.