The historic center of Guadalajara is one of the city’s most concentrated areas of historical, architecturally impressive landmarks and definitely not one to be missed on any visit to the state of Jalisco. Once you’ve visited Tequila and bought pottery in Tlaquepaque, a visit to the historic center is the perfect way to replenish your energy by admiring the buildings and enjoying some lunch, before finishing the day with a visit to a bar.
Guadalajara Cathedral from Plaza de Armas | courtesy of Alison Crosland
The historic center of Guadalajara is replete with historic buildings, including the spectacular double-spired cathedral that dominates the skyline and is a must see when you visit this wonderful city. However, the center also boasts several more buildings that are worth a visit, including the neoclassical Teatro Degollado, a spectacular building that regularly hosts ballets and the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra. Tickets can be purchased online. Another one to watch out for is the highly recommended World Heritage Site, Instituto Cultural Cabañas which features several frescos by Orozco and a neoclassical design. Other excellent buildings to take a look at are the Palacio de Gobierno, on the edge of Plaza de Armas, and the Templo de Santa Teresa de Jesus.
After admiring the architectural beauty of the historic center, don’t forget to appreciate the distinct atmospheres of the four main plazas on which they are located. La Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres features busts of important figures from the state, so history buffs will love it. The tranquility and grassy spaces also make it ideal to relax and read a book, or admire the bafflingly high volume of cats that always seem to be wandering around. Plaza Guadalajara affords great views of the Cathedral but is usually busy and heavily populated by street vendors. Plaza de Armas has gorgeous wrought iron benches dotted around an impressive central bandstand. Finally, Plaza de la Liberación is perfect for strolling up and down, admiring the fountain, and maybe purchasing a rucksack or scarf from the makeshift stalls that line the central walkway.
An unmissable three-floor covered market in the heart of the historic center, San Juan de Dios is a Guadalajara institution and the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs. However, the sheer variety on offer in this market makes it one to visit for the experience alone. Spread across the various levels you’ll find a huge produce section with meats, cheeses and vegetables, as well as leather products, toys and handbags. Not enough? Clothes, electronics, DVDs, and a selection of food stalls are also to be found. Still not enough? They also sell pets, shoes, and sweets. Don’t pay too much, as many of the branded clothing is fake, but the traditional Mexican huaraches or leather goods are worth picking up here.
Those travelling with kids will understand the difficulties of finding things to amuse them, especially in a city’s historic center where the majority of the attractions are “boring” from a child’s perspective. Situations like this are where we recommend paying a visit to the Museo de Cera, which has a slightly outdated wax Justin Bieber as well as several Mexican celebrities including the internationally recognizable Frida Kahlo, followed by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Located right next door to one another on Plaza de la Liberación, admission is 110/90 pesos (about $6.50/$5 adult/child) to both places. Even if you don’t have kids, visiting these museums will give you a few hours of laughter, or at the very least, some excellent photo opportunities.
Avenida Chapultepec tends to take all the credit for the fantastic Guadalajara night life however, the historic center also boasts some excellent bars of its own, where you can enjoy a few beers or dance to your heart’s content. Those wanting a more traditional Mexican drinking experience should stop by La Mutualista, a cantina (Mexican pub) that is open Tue-Sat from 1pm onward. Order a drink and enjoy the free botanas. If you want to dance, head to El Sonidero, where cumbia rules the waves. A friendly local will surely be on hand to teach you. Finally, those wanting to try the traditional Mexican spirits should go to Chupitería La Favorita, a bar with awesome music and a wide range of shots.