Places to go in Guadalajara
The Hospicos Cabañas was built at the beginning of the 19th century to provide care and shelter for the disadvantaged – orphans, seniors, the handicapped, and chronic invalids. This large complex which incorporates several unusual features designed specifically to meet the needs of its occupants was unique for its time. It is also notable for the harmonious relationship between the open and built spaces, the simplicity of its design, and its size. In the early 20th century, the chapel was decorated with a superb series of murals now considered some of the masterpieces of Mexican art. They are the work of Jose Clemente Orozco, one of the greatest Mexican muralists of the period.
Libertad or San Juan de Dios Mercado
Libertad Mercado, also known as San Juan De Dios Mercado, is one of the largest roofed markets in Mexico. Covering around 40,000 sq. meters, shoppers will find crafts of different materials like ceramic, silver, blown glass, leather, palm leaf crafts, etc. Among the articles sold there are: embroidered clothes, typical outfits, "jorongos", overcoats, blankets, sweaters, "guayaberas" leather coats, and bags. Visitors will also find arts & crafts from all around the country: Chinconcuac, Saltillo, Santa Clara del Cobre, Taxco, Paracho, etc. On the second floor, there are small restaurants with assorted Mexican "antojitos". There are approximately 2,800 stands in the market every day and it is open all year long.
Catedral de Guadalajara
Guadalajara's cathedral is the city's most beloved and conspicuous landmark with distinctive neo-Gothic towers built after an earthquake toppled the originals in the mid-19th century. Begun in 1588 and consecrated in 1618, the building is almost as old as the city itself. Time your visit right and you will see light filtering through the stained-glass renderings of The Last Supper and hear a working pipe organ rumble sweetly from the rafters.
The interior includes Gothic vaults, massive Tuscan-style gold-leaf pillars, and 11 richly decorated altars that were given to Guadalajara by King Fernando VII of Spain (1814-33). The glass case nearest the north entrance is an extremely popular reliquary, containing the hands and blood of martyred Santa Inocencia. In the sacristy, which an attendant can open for you on request, is La Asuncion de la Virgen, painted by Spanish artist Bartolome Murillo in 1650. Of course, architectural purists may find flaws. Much like the Palacio de Gobierno, the cathedral is a bit of a stylistic hodgepodge, including Churrigueresque, baroque, and neoclassical influences.
Basilica de Zapopan
Zapopan's pride and joy, the Basilica de Zapopan, built-in 1730, is home to Nuestra Senora de Zapopan, a petite statue of the Virgin visited by pilgrims year-round. During the Fiestas de Octubre, thousands of kneeling faithful from the Jalisco region crawl behind the statue as it is carried from the basilica to Guadalajara's central cathedral. The procession involves dancing and colorful traditional wear. The early evening is magical when local families throng the plaza outside and streams of pilgrims, nuns, and monks fill the pews.
Andaras is a shopping mall located in the Zapopan district of Guadalajara. This outdoor and indoor shopping center opened on November 19, 2008, and has been drawing local and visiting shoppers ever since. All the well-recognized international luxury and commercial brands, as well as independent retailers, are housed there. The mall regularly offers free outdoor concerts, dance performances, film screenings, and farmer's markets. Surrounding the shops are fine dining restaurants and high-end bars.
Construction on the noble neoclassical Teatro Degollado, home of the Guadalajara Philharmonic, was begun in 1856 and completed 30 years later. Over the Grecian columns on its front is a frieze depicting Apollo and the Nine Muses. The five-tiered interior is swathed in red velvet and 23 karat gold-leaf and crowned by a Gerardo Suarez mural based on the fourth canto of Dante's Divine Comedy.
Museo de las Artes
To scratch your modernist itch if you've overdosed on classic art, head three blocks west of Parque Revolucion to this museum housed in a French renaissance building that formerly served as the admin buildings for the University of Guadalajara. The highlight is the Paraninfo (auditorium), whose stage backdrop and dome feature large, powerful murals by Orozco. The rest of the space is given over to well-curated temporary exhibitions focusing on contemporary Mexican art.
Sights to See Outside the City
No visit to Guadalajara is complete without a look at one of the several historic cultural sites just outside of the city and a tour inside a genuine tequila distillery. If time allows, be sure to include the ancient archeological site of the Guachimontones Pyramids, just one hour west of the city.
Tourists travel to Guadalajara to experience the destination's attractions in the main city as well as its surrounding area. The town of Tequila, where the alcoholic spirit originated and is still produced today, is a major attraction for tourists. Lake Chapala, located just a short ride from Guadalajara, is Mexico's largest lake and provides visitors with a tranquil escape from the city.
Lake Chapala is Mexico's largest freshwater lake and is located a short one-hour drive from Guadalajara along the border between Jalisco and Michoacan states. The area offers visitors and residents alike a peaceful and quiet retreat from the hustle and bustle of Guadalajara. The lake is surrounded by mountains and the region is full of local charm.
The area is a paradise for bird watchers and nature lovers, as many migrating birds, including the white pelican, spend their winters on Lake Chapala. Visitors can hire a boat from the town of Mezcala de la Asuncio to venture to nearby small islands.
The tranquil atmosphere, temperate weather, and high quality of life have turned the area around Lake Chapala into an oasis for retirees. The town of Ajijic, located on the northern shore of Lake Chapala, has been drawing ex-pats from the United States and Canada since the 1950s. Today, the area around Lake Chapala has one of the highest concentrations of American citizens outside the United States. In Ajijic, Chapala and Jocotepec, English is commonly spoken and it's not unusual to find Mexican, American, and Canadian flags in restaurants and local homes.
In the area around the town of Tequila, greenish blue fields of agave stretch out mile after mile over the rugged, hilly terrain. All of the tequila in the world is produced in this region, which includes parts of the states of Guanajuato, Nayarit, Michoacan, and Tamaulipas. The fields of blue agave plants are so beautiful that they have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
When travelers visit Tequila they sightsee at the town's 18th-century church, The National Museum of Tequila, and generally tour a distillery or two where they learn about the tequila-making process and sample different varieties of the spirit. Another highlight is the Hacienda Herradura San Jose Refugio, the original tequila factory, which was built in 1870 and remained in production until 1963. Day and overnight tours of brand name and local tequila distilleries are available from Guadalajara.
Another option for exploring the tequila-producing region is aboard the Jose Cuervo Express tourist train or via the Sauza Tequilacopter. Both modes of transport bring visitors back and forth between Guadalajara and Tequila. The train includes a guided tour of the Jose Cuervo distillery, lunch at a Mexican hacienda, live mariachis, folk dancing, and of course, tequila. The Tequilacopter includes transportation from Guadalajara to Tequila on a helicopter (roundtrip available), a tour of the Sauza distillery, and tequila tasting. Packages for the train and helicopter tours vary by offers and price.