Guadalajara the state of Jalisco, is Mexico’s second largest city, but is often overlooked in favour of the metropolis of Mexico City. In fact, Guadalajara has much to offer. Indeed, not only was Guadalajara the birthplace of mariachi, but it brims with culture and history. As a matter of fact, you could spend a week in the city and still not see all the main attractions. Besides historical buildings and museums, it is home to some great restaurants and cafes, not to mention galleries and shops. Here we take a look at five must-do things to do in Guadalajara.
1) Visit Tlaquepaque
This lovely suburb of Guadalajara is home to a wealth of galleries, shops, bars and restaurants. Additionally, much of the area is pedestrianised, making it a pleasure to stroll in. Sculptures line the main thoroughfare of Avenue Independencia, which leads to the pretty main square. We spent a whole day in Tlaquepaque during the Day of the Dead festivities and it was the highlight of our visit to Guadalajara.
Known for its arty shops and galleries, Tlaquapaque is a great place to pick up some traditional Mexican folk art or perhaps something more hip. Indeed, even if you aren’t planning to make a purchase, it is fun to stroll through the upmarket galleries and check out the innovative artwork.
When you need a break from shopping, head to the plaza of El Parian. Here you can sit in a bar and refresh yourself with a margarita and a plate of nachos. It is also a perfect place to people watch. If you are there in the evenings, you can enjoy the sounds of mariachi bands who meander around the plaza playing tunes to the crowds.
Tlaquepaque is well known for its Day of the Dead festivities. Vibrant parades take place and colourful altars are on display. Additionally, children line up to have skulls painted on their faces. Having said that, although Day of the Dead is a great time to visit, Tlaquepaque is, in fact, fun all year round.
(Tlaquepaque is a short bus or taxi ride from Centro Historico in downtown Guadalajara)
2) Have a Night at the Wrestling
A trip to the wrestling makes for a fun night out in Guadalajara. Even if wrestling isn’t usually your thing, Lucha Libre is an integral part of Mexican culture. In fact, you shouldn’t pass up on a chance to go while you are in the country.
Luche Libre is held on Tuesdays and Sundays at The Arena Coliseo de Guadalajara. Tuesdays tend to be a little more raucous and Sundays attract families. When the luchadores are introduced the crowds go crazy. Ad they enter the ring in their colourful masks, the atmosphere is electric.
The crowd shout abuse at the bad guys and cheer on their heroes. Everyone laughs at the antics of the camp luchadore who sports a bright pink mohawk. Vendors wander through the crowds selling popcorn, beer and nachos. Both kids and adults wear the masks of their favourite luchadore.
Sit in the first few rows at your own risk – these guys don’t confine themselves to the ring. Sometimes a wrestler is thrown forcefully over the ropes and you never know where he might land!
(Lucha Libre takes place at the Arena Coliseo de Guadalajara on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Tickets can be purchased either from Ticketmaster or at the venue. Also, you can buy tickets at Estacion Central Bar where transport and a free beer is included)
3) Go Shopping in Tonala
Tonala is a village of artists and is a great place to spend a few hours. Silver, blown glass and pottery are specialities here and there are plenty of bargains to be had.
Tonala is a little more rough around the edges than nearby Tlaquepaque. Consequently, a visit there feels more like an authentic Mexican shopping experience. The workshops have stacks of products outside and the prices are much lower.
Life-size religious icons sit on the back of trucks that line the narrow streets. Tiny doorways lead to spacious workshops where you can witness ceramics being made before your eyes. The buildings are ramshackle and colorful and the streets buzz with life.
On Thursdays and Sundays, the streets transform themselves into a huge open air market. You won’t find any fine dining options in Tonala, but on the other hand, street food and small cantinas are numerous.
(Tonala is a short ride from Centro Historico in downtown Guadalajara by bus)
4) Check out the Instituto Cultural Cabanas and the Colunga Seats
Built as an orphanage in the early 19th century, the beautiful Instituto Cultural Cabanas consists of several rooms which are set around a main courtyard. Stunning murals by Orozco cover many of the walls and ceilings. Additionally, various temporary exhibitions are held in the surrounding rooms.
Instituto Cultural Cabanas is a peaceful retreat from the city streets and a lovely place to wander through and explore. There is a lovely courtyard café, where you can enjoy a refreshing drink and take in some interesting sculptures at the same time.
The building dominates Colonia Centro, a massive plaza, which becomes a hive of activity at weekends. Street performers entertain the crowds and stalls sell tasty Mexican treats. Passers-by sit on or simply admire the weird and wonderful bronze seat sculptures by Alejandro Colunga. The sculptures are great fun and provide perfect photo opportunities.
5) Explore Centro Historico
Centro Historico is an area with an array of museums, churches, plazas and ancient buildings. The spires of the cathedral rise above the streets and provide a landmark for those who get lost in the labyrinth of surrounding streets.
As a matter of fact, the area is an ideal place to simply wander. It’s worth dipping into the various buildings for a glimpse of what lies within. Indeed, the Government Palace is home to another striking mural by Orozco and the Regional Museum’s star attraction is a skeleton of a woolly mammoth. Furthermore, most of museums are either free or only cost a few pesos to enter.
Plazas are also abundant in the area. In fact, one of the joys of a visit to Guadalajara is to sit and enjoy the sights and sounds of this sophisticated and vibrant city.
(Check out the Guadalajara Tourist Website for the latest information with regard to COVID-19)
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