The Best Things to Do in Guadalajara

The birthplace of tequila, mariachi, and Mexican rodeo has something for everyone. A trip to the city is an exercise in contrasts—be sure to visit the historic center, artisan markets, and old neighborhoods to get a feel for Tapatio traditions, while also making time to experience Guadalajara’s burgeoning food, art, and cultural scenes.

67 Calle Federico Medrano
When in Guadalajara, be sure to visit the Arena Coliseo for Mexico’s own version of freestyle wrestling: lucha libre. Similar to WWE but even wilder, the sport provides hours of entertainment. Wrestlers wear dramatic outfits and masks, while rowdy fans jump out of their chairs to heckle the luchadores—and each other. Fights take place on Tuesdays and Sundays and tickets, which can be purchased through Ticketmaster or at the arena, cost around 60–150 pesos. If you’d rather someone else handle the details, go through Estacion Central (also known as Red Pub), which offers a drink-ticket-bus package for 175 persos per person.
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.
Calle 7 Colinas 1772, Independencia, 44379 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Mexico is home to two fiercely opposing football clubs: Chivas (the country’s most popular team) and Atlas (which has only won a single league title, in 1951). The fan rivalry, which divides Guadalajara along class and neighborhood lines, persists today—and, if you happen to be in town when the two teams face off, you’re all but guaranteed a lively match. Chivas plays in a shiny new stadium on the city’s outskirts, but games at Estadio Jalisco (Atlas’ home stadium, where Chivas used to play) offer a more fun, authentic experience.
Doctor R. Michel
Don’t remind the country’s rabid soccer fans, but Mexico’s official national sport is charreria, a Western-style riding and roping that’s best seen in Guadalajara. Visit in September, when the National Charro Championship draws competitors from all over the world, or simply head to one of the city’s lienzos (arenas) to take in some fancy rodeo skills. One of Guadalajara’s most popular charreria venues is Lienzo Charros de Jalisco, where men, women, and children compete for bragging rights while mariachis get the audience going with their lively music. Get your ticket and join people of all ages and backgrounds for an afternoon of impressive sportsmanship.
Av. Javier Mina S/N, San Juan de Dios, 44380 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
In operation since 1958, Mercado San Juan de Dios (also known as Mercado Libertad) is one of Mexico’s largest markets, with three floors and nearly 3,000 stands and stalls. Vendors sell everything from fresh fruits and vegetables to handicrafts and housewares. Even if you have no intention of buying a souvenir, a stroll through the market makes for a colorful, enjoyable experience.
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).
Doña Gabriela Pena Lozada 405, Hacienda San José del Refugio, 45380 Amatitán, Jal., Mexico
Visitors looking to tour Casa Herradura—the distillery that’s been making Tequila Herradura for more than 145 years—should hop aboard the new Tequila Herradura Express. The train leaves from Guadalajara and travels through Jalisco’s agave fields, stopping in Amatitán (the official birthplace of tequila) before arriving at Casa Herradura. Once at the distillery, guests enjoy tastings, lunch, and live music, then get back on the train, where they’re treated to bar service and entertainment all the way back to Guadalajara.
Av. Tonaltecas, Tonalá Centro, 45400 Tonalá, Jal., Mexico
Home to Mexico’s largest concentration of artisans, Tonalá—just 10 minutes from Tlaquepaque—is known for its pottery, hand-blown glassware, textiles, miniatures, and more. On Thursdays and Sundays, the town hosts an open-air market, or tianguis, in its main plaza—and has since Prehispanic times—during which visitors can shop stalls from more than 400 craftspeople. If you can’t make it on market day, you’ll miss the hustle and bustle but can still visit the stores and family-run workshops where the artisans produce their unique wares.
2207 Avenida de la Paz
A Madrid-based gallery that showcases some of Guadalajara’s best artists, Travesía Cuatro serves as a bridge between the European and Latin American art scenes. Perhaps more impressive than the work on display, however, is the gallery’s setting inside Casa Franco, a 1929 Mediterranean-style home designed by the father of Mexican modernist architecture, Luis Barragán. The landmarked space has the casual feel of a home—that just happens to have a fantastic art collection.
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