Different from other cities in the country due to the lack of crammed streets and chaos, Guadalajara, Mexico, is indeed a very distinctive city. Unlike other majorly visited cities like Mexico City, Cancun, and Puerto Vallarta, Guadalajara is known as the pearl of the west. It is Mexico’s best-hidden gem. What it lacks in the ideal tourist infrastructure, however, it more than makes up for in fantastic things to see and the amazing food to eat.
Tourists know very little of this hidden treasure, but a worldwide local knows a good number of hidden historical, cultural, and natural charms amongst a laid back, food-focused, well-maintained traditional Mexican city.
Guadalajara, famously known as the most Mexican city in Mexico, is rich in history, delicious cuisines, and authentic traditions. This guide will direct you on how you can get the best experience out of visiting this beautiful place.
The Cit Center
Centro Historico, located in the heart of Guadalajara, preserves some of the original buildings of the city that house historical, cultural, and political monuments. Everything worth seeing in the historic center lies just off one of the four plazas. A couple of examples include the iconic double-spired cathedral and the Teatro Degollado, one of the most essential (and still working) theatres in all of Mexico. This is the ideal place to get a grasp of the city and begin your journey.
How to Get Around
Getting around the city can be a tedious endeavor. There is no train system or subway, and the buses are usually very crowded. The best way to navigate from the Guadalajara airport is by using an Uber, as they are clean and reasonably priced. Another option is to simply walk or bike from any of the central Guadalajara hotels.
Worldwide Local Tip: Every Sunday, from 8 am to 2 pm, many of the city’s most prominent streets are closed so that local cyclists, joggers, skaters, and pedestrians can enjoy what is known as La Via Recreactiva. Take this time to get active and enjoy exploring the city, soaking up the sunny Guadalajara weather.
The Best Guadalajara Shopping
For some shopping, head 20 minutes out of the city and visit Tlaquepaque. Best known for its art, there are many shops to buy beautiful souvenirs and craftworks. Start your trip, at the colorful Tlaquepaque sign, and explore the city by walking around the charming colonial streets.
To get the most of your day, combine the trip to Tlaquepaque with Tonala, and visit one of the biggest outdoor markets, open every Thursday and Sunday. Here you will get more varieties of goods, and the prices are very favorable.
You can also explore Mercado San Juan de Dios, the largest indoor market with over 2000 stalls. There you’ll find some affordable leather goods, plenty of fake designer clothes, as well as a food court full of traditional authentic Mexican dishes and places to eat that rival even the best Guadalajara restaurant.
Get a taste of Guadalajara local dishes like birria (a goat stew) and torta ahogada (a drowned pork/chicken sandwich covered in a tomato/chili sauce), famous for its hangover curing abilities.
Worldwide Local Tip: For the ultimate food experience, visit Karne Garibaldi, which holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest serving restaurant. Order their famous Carne en su Jugo, which basically translates to “meat in its own juice.”
Mariachi, Por Favor
Jalisco, the state where Guadalajara is the capital, is the birthplace of Mariachi music. Enjoy listening to a band play sweet melodies using their Violins, Mexican vihuela (five to six double stringed guitars), guitarrón (“big guitar”), and trumpets as you drink tequila. Tequila is another emblematic export of the region and is your passport to having the best time in Guadalajara. To see how it is processed and distilled, head out to Tequila, a small town just a few miles from Guadalajara’s city center.
Worldwide Local Tip: To get the full picture of how tequila is made, on your drive to the town of Tequila visit an agave field to learn how jimadors (traditional agave farmers) harvest the plant. You’ll see how the jimadors have to physically shave the plant to get the pineapple bit of it, from which the liquor is distilled.
Guadalajara After Dark
Guadalajara has a lively nightlife, the center of which is Avenida Chapultepec. Chapultepec is lined with cafes, bars, and restaurants, which makes it the perfect place to get a drink in the evening and hang out with the Tapatíos (as Guadalajara’s residents are known). Sit back with tequila and cheer for the Chivas de Guadalajara along with the locals.
Worldwide Local Tip: Tipping is important, in Guadalajara, as it is in any other part of Mexico. Many wait staff depends on tips for a living since they only get a low wage. Make sure to leave at least 10% or more for the waiters.
Enjoy Your Stay!
Never pass over on a deal for flights to Guadalajara. It is an often-overlooked destination, but exploring the city as worldwide local will quickly show you how surprising a place it truly is.