Historic Guadalajara

Founded in 1542, Mexico’s second-largest city is steeped in history, much of it quite well-preserved. Whether you want to explore the city through the lens of art, architecture, or alcohol, Guadalajara is chock full of opportunities to travel back in time.

Av. Rubén Darío 1435, Providencia 3a. Secc, 44630 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
If you think beards and old-school barbershops are primarily a Brooklyn phenomenon, then you might be surprised by Barbierattoo, a modern-day barbería in Guadalajara that leans heavily on nostalgia. Head here when you want a trim or a shave with a straight-edge razor. There’s also tattooing services on offer if you’re looking for a more permanent transformation.
Calle Pino Suárez 78, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
La Fuente is a Mexican cantina out of a movie set. Founded in 1921, it’s Guadalajara’s oldest bar, located appropriately in the Centro Historico. There’s no sign on the door, nor a way to peek inside, but listen for the tinkle of piano keys and you’ll find your way into this time warp of a watering hole. Inside, old regulars share bar space or sticky wooden tables with hipster locals there for the cheap hooch (pretty much just tequila and beer) and simple food. An old-fashioned bicycle mounted above the bar is rumored to have belonged to a drunk customer who came in to use the restroom in the early 1950s and left without his wheels. It now serves as Casa La Fuente’s unofficial mascot, featuring prominently on the staff’s aprons.
Calle José Guadalupe Zuno Hernández 2083, Obrera, 44140 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Mexico’s most influential architect—and the only one to receive the Pritzker Prize—Luis Barragán was born and trained in Guadalajara and practiced in the city until he was 34. He then moved to Mexico City, where he achieved fame for his distinctive and colorful approach to modernism, noteworthy also for its emphasis on courtyards and gardens.

Little remains in Guadalajara of Barragán’s early work but one notable exception is the Casa Iteso Clavigero, which now serves as a cultural center for a Jesuit university. While the interiors have been redesigned into gallery spaces, the exteriors have been beautifully preserved. In 1929, when Barragán designed the house, he was still working in a largely regional style, though the house’s bright yellow walls and some ingenious details provide hints of the architectural masterpieces that he would create later in his career. It’s free to walk around the building (as well as enter it, though there are no permanent exhibits related to Barragán) and you can take photos of the exteriors (but none inside the building).
Calle Cabañas 8, Las Fresas, San Juan de Dios, 44360 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
This 19th-century complex, originally built as a hospital for the disadvantaged, is host to an impressive display of modern art, most notably a series of frescoes by famous Mexican muralist Jose Clemente Orozco. The collection includes one of his most well-known murals, El Hombre de Fuego, which earned its building the nickname “the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.” A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hospicio Cabañas is a perfect example of Guadalajara’s ability to embrace its history and its future, combining 1790s architecture, 1930s murals, and, finally, a space for rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.

Having functioned as an orphanage, an insane asylum, and a military barracks in the past, Hospicio Cabañas also has a spooky side. There are several ghost stories about the space, including a legend about a clock that stopped whenever a child died in the orphanage.
If you’ve been to Mexico City’s Plaza de Garibaldi, you may think you know what mariachi music is all about—dozens of different bands dressed in matching uniforms, hustling you for tips. In Guadalajara, however, there are plenty of calmer, more enjoyable ways to experience the tradition. In the heart of downtown, the Plaza de los Mariachis is a great—if slightly seedy—place to sit for a tequila, a bite to eat, and a late-night serenade. If you’re really into mariachi music, visit Guadalajara in August for the annual International Mariachi Festival.
1930 Montes Pirineos
While it’s certainly not for the faint of heart, attending a bull fight at the Plaza de Toros Nuevo Progreso is a time-honored Sunday activity for many folks in Guadalajara. From the traje de luces (the matador’s flamboyant, ultra-formal outfit) to the porrón (the kidney-shaped leather flask passed between spectators), the experience is steeped in tradition. Expect mariachi music that matches the drama of the fight; vendors selling beer, micheladas, peanuts, and popcorn from coolers hoisted on their shoulders; and, of course, the presentation of the bull’s ear to the victorious matador. If the idea of man versus beast is too intense for you, you can always just people-watch from your spot in the gradas (stands).
44600, Av. México 2074(1700, Santa Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
For more than twenty years, vendors peddling antiques and collectibles have set up shop along Guadalajara’s Avenida Mexico every Sunday morning as part of the Tianguis Trocadero De Antiguedades. If you have a good eye, you’re sure to spot some gems among the junk, from furniture and china to books, jewelry, and other memorabilia. Haggling over prices is commonplace.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Food + Drink
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Europe
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East