Not as many visitors are as familiar with Guadalajara as they are with other destinations in Mexico, but this city has all the perks of an urban metropolis while still preserving traditional local charm. From knowing which neighborhood to visit or what spices to avoid, find out crucial tips about the so-called Tapatía Pearl.
1. Eat a ‘torta ahogada’, but be careful with the hot sauce
A taco might be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about Mexico, but if you’re going to Guadalajara, you can’t miss the chance to try a torta ahogada. This local delicacy is a pork sandwich ‘drowned’ in chili pepper sauce. The bread is the star of the dish, since it can’t be found in any other part of Mexico and has a signature salty flavor and crunchy exterior. However, we have to warn you: it’s spicy! Even if locals tell you that the sauce is mild, you may want to ask for the salsa on the side, or you could end up with tears in your eyes.
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2. Listen to some good mariachi
Guadalajara is the birthplace of mariachi, which is one of the most representative music genres of the country. This musical group consist of 3-12 people dressed in traditional charro outfits and wearing giant sombreros, which means that listening to a live mariachi band is as Mexican as it gets. You can find them at some local restaurants like Santo Coyote or even hire them by the hour in Plaza de los Mariachis and take them with you to a special event.
3. Public transportation: know before you go
Unlike Mexico City, moving around Guadalajara without a car can be challenging. Although the city has several bus providers and even two underground lines, information about the routes, times and destinations can be difficult to track down. Some buses have signs on the windshield that indicate their main stops, but most locals rely on general knowledge and word of mouth to navigate in the city. Additionally, Google Maps is not connected to the public transportation system, so the best way to find out how to get to a place is by asking tapatíos (Guadalajara’s residents) or visiting Rutas Guadalajara, a website that has information about some of the main bus routes in the city.
4. Avoid staying in the city center
Although Guadalajara’s downtown has a lot of historical charm, it’s not the best place to find accommodation. Most of the buildings are old, and so is their maintenance. Additionally, the area is far away from other popular sites of the city. It’s better – and especially safe – to find a place to stay in a residential area and take a day trip to the city center to explore its landmarks.
Colonia Americana is one of the best places to stay in Guadalajara, mainly because it’s the heart of the bohemian scene of the city. The area is surrounded by hipster cafés, restaurants and independent bookstores. It’s also a very walkable neighborhood, full of day and night entertainment options. Colonia Providencia is slightly fancier than Colonia Americana, but it has its fair share of culinary options, clubs and design shops, which makes it a great alternative to find accommodation. Also, there is Chapalita, which is a quiet, residential neighborhood that will allow you to experience the daily life of Guadalajara. Additionally, this area hosts a Sunday street market in the main roundabouts, where you’ll be able to see the work of some local artists and sample a wide variety of street food.
5. Visit the towns nearby
If you are already traveling to Guadalajara, then you should have a look at some of the surrounding towns. Tlaquepaque and Tonalá are great options if you like smaller cities with traditional flair. Here, you can find plenty of indigenous artisans and taste some local specialties like cazuelas (tequila cocktail with orange and grapefruit).
Likewise, you can take a day trip to Chapala, which is a Pueblo Mágico (‘magical town’) next to Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. This is the perfect spot to watch sunsets, eat freshly caught seafood and buy typical candy like chapalitas (soft caramel candy) and gallitos (hibiscus caramel).
And, if you are the outdoorsy type, then Mazamitla or Tapalpa are the perfect choices. Rent a cabin, light a fire or go on a hike through the woods and get to enjoy some of Jalisco’s countryside. Also, don’t forget to try the milk caramel, the preserved fruits and the quince cheese.
6. Bring an umbrella
Mexico tends to be portrayed either as a tropical paradise with white sand beaches or as a cactus-strewn desert. That’s why many people find it hard to believe that Guadalajara is a very rainy place. From June until October, the weather becomes unpredictable. It can be sunny in the morning and stormy at night, so it’s wise to dress in layers and keep your eye out for potential floods, which can be common.
7. Dare to try Tejuino
Even if you are not an adventurous eater, you should have a sip of Tejuino, Guadalajara’s most traditional drink. This fermented corn beverage is mixed with water and piloncillo (cane sugar) to create the perfect summer refreshment. Tejuino dates back to pre-Hispanic times when indigenous groups considered it to be a drink of the gods. Nowadays, it has lost a bit of its hallowed status, and you can easily find it at street markets and town squares, but it is still delicious. Although it’s consumed in other parts of the country, what makes tapatío tejuino here so unique is the fact that you can have it with a scoop of lime sorbet. Just add a pinch of salt and chili flakes to enjoy the full flavor of Guadalajara in a cup.
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