Guadalajara is buzzing with historic and cultural activities and is a great place to see the richness of Mexican culture. It is home to mariachi music and the land is famous for an abundance of blue agave, used to make hundreds of types of tequila.
Nearby towns Tlaquepaque and Tonalá are famous for their beautiful selections of pottery, textiles, glassware, silver jewelry and much more. With such a variety of things to find in and around the area, Guadalajara is a great place to explore the ideal aspects of Mexico. If you are interested in the abundance of cultural endeavors you can experience on day trips, check out some of the tourist attractions near Guadalajara.
Museums and Cultural Sites
Obviously the first place to start exploring any Mexican city is in the centro historico or downtown area. Guadalajara, just like most other cities, is no exception. Here you will find traditional buildings like the Palacio de Gobierno, and traditional churches and museums that are full of history.
Museo de la Cera
The Museo de la Cera (Wax Museum) exhibits more than 100 sculptures of famous artists, sports players and historical figures from around the world. Some interesting figures represented in this museum are: Vicente Fox, Vicente y Alejandro Fernández, Salma Hayek, Ana Gabriela Guevara, Juan Francisco Palencia, Cantinflas, Porfirio Díaz, Benito Juárez, Antonio Banderas, Brad Pitt, Gandhi and Yasser Arafat.
Museo Regional de Guadalajara
If you are more interested in regional history, check out the Museo Regional de Guadalajara. This museum offers a variety of archaeological and paleontological exhibits, including shaft-tombs and a mammoth skeleton. You will also find colonial paintings and artifacts of West Coast cultures in Mexico.
Although many travelers forget that churches are a great source of history and beauty, be sure not to miss the Templo Expiatorio. It is considered to be one of the most appealing landmarks in the whole city and dates back to the end of the 19th Century.
Instituto Cultural Cabañas
This is one of Guadalajara’s landmarks and also a World Heritage site where a variety of cultural performances are held. You will also find some eye opening murals painted by Jose Clemente Orozco, who is considered to be one of the great muralists in Latin America.
If you are looking for a unique experience, you will find Ballet Folklorico (Folkloric Dance) exhibited by the University of Guadalajara on Sunday mornings in the Degollado Theater. This is a great opportunity to see Mexico´s cultural traditions in movement and hear live music that accompanies each traditional dance.
Obviously this is a great place to take kids to see a variety of animal species and live shows. You can also enjoy a safari tour that takes you through a recreation of an African savannah while spotting more than 18 species of animals originating from Africa. Here you will also find an Australian villa containing koalas and kangaroos, in addition to the Amazon, an exhibit with a monkey jungle!
El Mercado San Juan de Dios
Also known as Mercado Libertad, this is one of the largest markets in Mexico with almost 3,000 stands. It is full of great treasures like handicrafts, shoes, clothes, CDs, movies and electronics, and much more! Here the selection is endless and the prices are rather cheap, especially with the help of a few bartering techniques.
It is divided into three thematic floors, which makes it easier to navigate. The first floor is meant to be fore handicrafts, sweets, and jewelry while you can find mostly food on the second floor. The third floor contains imported goods, electronics, CDs, movies, etc.
This is a nice, touristy market full of cultural events and an enormous variety of traditional items from Mexico. It is one of the main handicraft centers of the country and is internationally known for its ceramics, blown glass, wrought iron, high end furniture and household accessories.
Here you can also enjoy live mariachi music in the Tianguis Cultural while eating antojitos (typical foods) and sipping on tequila (yes, sipping… just a cultural hint, Mexicans tend to sip their straight shot of tequila or mix it with Sprite or Fresca, not guzzle it!).
This is one of the best places to buy handicrafts in metropolitan Guadalajara. Here you will find a variety of items ranging from blown glass, ceramics, jewelry, paper mache products and much more. It is not as touristy (or as expensive) as Tlaquepaque but the items you will find in this market are locally handmade and are high quality. As in many markets, you will also be entertained as you shop with street performances, and there is always a chance to stop for ice cream or snack to make time for more shopping!
La Gran Plaza Fashion Mall
If you are looking for department stores and a place dedicated exclusively to fashion, this is the place to go! La Gran Plaza contains a large variety of beauty products and name brand shoes and clothes. This three story mall is divided into sections as well, which helps make shopping less stressful if you are looking for something specific.
The first floor contains clothing stores and fast food, while the second floor contains more expensive items. On the third floor you will find a movie theater and a videogame palace.
This mall includes almost everything you ever wanted under one roof. It contains a movie theater with huge screens and one IMAX theater and has a place to play sports as well. You can also find an entertainment room and play miniature golf after you eat a delicious meal in an exquisite restaurant. You can also enjoy a variety of cultural events and art expositions or if you’re lucky, you might see a concert celebrating the annual anniversary. If these options aren’t enough to satisfy your shopping craze, see more on shopping in Guadalajara.
Food to Satisfy the Appetite
Alter sightseeing and shopping the whole day, you will most likely be looking for a great place to eat. Jalisco is known for a lot of typical foods like tortas ahogadas (literally, drowned sandwiches, due to the fact that they are drenched in a spicy sauce), pozole (a rich soup made with cooked corn kernels), and tamales. Below is a brief list of restaurants recommended by a native of Guadalajara:
Los Arcos: Here you will find a great variety of seafood
El Pargo: Another great place for seafood
Pipiolos: Here it is recommended that you try the roast meat and agua de horchata, a type of drink made from ground rice. Here you will also find savory guacamole, salsas and fruit in vinegar.
La Chata: Try some traditional Mexican dishes here.
La Trattoria: A great place to eat Italian food… Camarones a la diabla is a recommended dish if you like spicy food.
Hacienda Navarro: Here it is recommended that you try the arrachera, which is a type of meat cut and sounds delcious!
Santo Coyote: This is great food and the waiters prepare the salsa for you to taste and eat right out of the molcajete (the stone bowl they use to grind the chilies they use to make the salsa).
Photo Credits: 1 by Nathan Gibbs on Flickr, 2 by Kaoz Design on Flickr, 3 by Fagomx on Flickr, 4 by Carlows on Flickr