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In comparison to Mexico City, Guadalajara is wildly underrated as a principal tourist destination. Sure, some travelers pass through on their way to the Pacific coastline and hippy hotspot of Sayulita, but often it’s ignored without a second thought. However, Guadalajara arguably has just as much to offer as Mexico’s capital and even boasts experiences and cultural heritage you simply won’t find in Mexico City. With that in mind, here are all the reasons you should visit Guadalajara instead.
While Mexico City has some exceptional street food, regional cuisine and some truly delicious dishes available at every turn, Guadalajara wins hands down when it comes to dining. Cheesy tacos, the deceptively spicy hangover-busting torta ahogada (a sandwich bathed in spicy sauce, filled with deep fried pork and fresh onions), and the unmissable birria. Plus, Guadalajara’s crispy lonches (a sandwich that uses the regional birote bread) beat Mexico City’s soggy tortas any day!
Pulque, while it is something everyone should try once, is an acquired taste at best. Tequila, on the other hand, is a versatile spirit that can be mixed with coke to make a delicious charro negro, added to fizzy grapefruit juice for a refreshing paloma, or even just enjoyed straight (in sips not shots!). Guadalajara is also situated just a few hours from Tequila, meaning you can take your own day trip to the blue agave filled fields and see the tequila production process for yourself.
Mexico City is enough to make even the most relaxed person’s stress levels go through the roof. Guadalajara, as Mexico’s second biggest city, still offers that big city feel without the chaotic tendency Mexico City leans towards even on a good day, so you can really focus on enjoying your visit. Additionally, the public transport is far less stressful in Guadalajara. While the city only has two metro lines in comparison with Mexico City’s 12-line subterranean monster, most things around the center are accessible on foot. Even when you do need to take the metro, you won’t end up pinned against the window because of the overcrowding.
To visit or even live in Guadalajara will set you back far less than the capital counterpart. Beers are cheaper in bars, entry is generally free and the hostels and accommodation aren’t as expensive as some of the widely recommended options in Mexico City. If you needed to rent a decent apartment in Guadalajara, you’d be paying MXM$2000 a month maximum, whereas renting a flat for that price in the nice neighborhoods of Mexico City is but a dream for many residents and expats.
We’re not claiming that Guadalajara has more museums than Mexico City, mainly because that would be absurd, but the quality of them is fantastic. Whether you like modern art or history, you’ve got all your bases covered in Guadalajara, and we especially recommend a visit to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas. Plus, the cathedral in Guadalajara is far more iconic – Mexico City’s Catedral Metropolitana is beautiful, no doubt, but the pale-yellow twin spires of the Guadalajara cathedral are just far more emblematic of the region.
Guadalajara is smaller than Mexico City, so most of the great nightlife is around Avenida Chapultepec and the historic center – all areas theoretically in walking distance. Mexico City, however, is so spread out that if you fancy a night out in the center and you’re staying in the south, you need to factor in an hour or so to even get there. For some of the best bars in Guadalajara, check out this guide.
You read that right – Guadalajara is just four short hours from some of the best beaches and most popular tourist destinations in Mexico, Puerto Vallarta. While four hours may seem a long way if you’re from a smaller country, in sprawling Mexico that’s not bad at all! Mexico City’s closest beach, in contrast, is around a six-hour drive from the capital. If the beach isn’t your thing, though, Guadalajara’s outlying towns of Tonalá and Tlaquepaque are the perfect spots to wander the streets and pick up some artesanías.
As with the food and drink mentioned earlier, Guadalajara is the birthplace of some of the country’s most representative musical stylings, too, notably mariachi. While you can check out excellent mariachi music at Mexico City’s Plaza Garibaldi, why not just cut out the middleman? This brings us to the assertion that Guadalajara IS Mexico — think of everything you associate with Mexico; mariachi, tequila, sombreros and the Jarabe Tapatío. They all originated in Jalisco! So, if you want a mixture of tradition and big city living, you can’t go wrong with Guadalajara.
In summer, Mexico City is going through its rainy season (as is Guadalajara, to be fair), but the crowded city atmosphere means that when it’s hot in Mexico City, it’s also humid in Mexico City and if you’re traveling on the metro all day, it doesn’t make for a pleasant sensation. Meanwhile, Guadalajara (aforementioned rainy season aside) is far more temperate all year round, which is especially welcomed during the winter months.
OK, so hear us out with this one, as we’re just relating a time-old adage that’s associated with the state of Jalisco! Guadalajara is regularly regarded as the city with the most beautiful men and women in the country (although of course beauty is subjective), but if you are in the market for a trophy wife or husband, Guadalajara’s the place to be. We kid, we kid, and honestly, we must admit that in terms of friendliness, Mexico City and Guadalajara are at a tie score.