The Guadalajara lifestyle is known throughout the country as the most Mexican of all Mexico’s cities. It is not only the birthplace of mariachi music, tequila and the sombrero, but also has been a pioneer in the development of rodeos.
Just in case you did not know, mariachis are those musicians who play and sing traditional Mexican music at weddings, birthdays and restaurants. Tequila – made from the blue agave plant and a very successful export for the city – got its start in Guadalajara. The city is also the birthplace of the Mexican sombrero, which is essential to performing the famous Jarabe Tapatio, or Mexican hat dance.
Although Guadalajara is a more conservative and religious city than many in Mexico, it still is one of the biggest LGBT centers in the country. In June of each year, one of Latin America’s biggest gay pride parades is held in Guadalajara. It also is a city that likes to party. You should not have a problem finding your kind of nightclub, and many will let you have fun until the wee hours of the morning.
Guadalajara is also rich with colonial architecture. The Plaza de Liberacion in the centro historico district borders the main cathedral of Guadalajara, which began construction in in the late 1580s. The Regional Museum, Delgado Theatre and the Palacio del Gobiernio are all in the historic district. The most important colonial building in the Americas – the Cabanas Cultural Institute – is in front of the Plaza Tapatia.
In Centro, you can also see the Templo de la Merced, which was built in 1650; Santuario de Nuestra Senora del Carmen, which houses gold; and, Templo de Aranzazu, which was completed in 1752. All are lovely examples of Guadalajara’s past. You can also stroll through history in the Colonial Center in Centro, which has five main plazas: Plaza de las Armas, Plaza Tapatia, Plaza de Gobierno, Plaza de los Laureles and Palacio de la Justicia.
The city’s cultural roots are on display at one of the most anticipated annual festivals, the May Cultural Festival, which features live music, theatrical performances, art exhibits and games.
But things really get going in August with the Fiesta Internacional del Mariachi (International Mariachi Fair). Beginning the end of August and ending in early September, the festival is alive with mariachi bands and devoted fans from all over the world.
A few other events to consider later in the year are the Fiestas de Octubre (Octoberfest), which runs from the first Sunday of October to Halloween and includes street parades, parties, food, mariachi bands, and of course, tequila. Also in October is the Guadalajara Beer Festival, which features more than 40 international beers, including Guadalajara’s own, Minerva. It claims to be the largest beer festival in Latin America.
If you are a book lover, you can enjoy the Feria Internacional del Libro (International Book Fair) the last week of November and the first week of December. It is Latin America’s largest book fair.
Some of the best shopping in Guadalajara can be found in Tlaquepaque, several miles southeast of Centro. Many artists have their studios and galleries in this area, wedged between blocks of boutique shops offering an array of the handicrafts and fine goods Jalisco is known for. If you are hungry, there are well over 30 places to eat and you can also enjoy entertainment at the bandstand at the end of the mall. Many of Guadalajara’s famous mariachi bands play there.
You will also love the Mercado Libertad, or Mercado de San Juan de Dios. It is a 500,000 square foot space spread over three floors. Shops sell fresh produce, meats and clothing, among other things. On the second floor of the market, there are family-run eateries that offer authentic local food. A traditional dish from Guadalajara is the torta ahogadas, or drowned sandwiches. The dish is made with a dense roll stuffed with pork drowned in a spicy salsa. Another specialty of the state of Jalisco is birria, which is a spicy Mexican meat stew made with goat or lamb. The dish is slow-baked with traditional spices served with minced onions, cilantro and limes. For dessert, try the jericallas, which is a cross between flan and creme brulee.
If fine dining is an important part of your lifestyle, Guadalajara will not disappoint. The city offers a wide range of dining experiences, from small intimate dining spots to gourmet dining. It is not Mexico City, but you can dine very, very well in Guadalajara.
Guadalajara’s great year-round climate is perfect for sports lovers. If you like golf, there are numerous private and public courses throughout the area. For hiking, biking and other outdoor activities, the Bosque La Primavera (Spring Forest) nature reserve is just 12 miles west of Guadalajara.
If you are a soccer fan (futbol in Mexico), you will have two of the best teams in Mexico to cheer for when you attend games at Guadalajara’s Jalisco Stadium, the third largest in Mexico. Rivals Club Deportivo Guadalajara (Las Chivas) and Atlas Futbol Club (Los Zorros) compete in the Mexican Primera División.