Its nickname is the "Pearl of Occident", pearl because
of its colonial style beauty and Occident because of its location
in the western part of the central plateau of Mexico.
The city has the same latitude as Hawaii and an altitude of 1550
m (5,091ft). It is perched on a plateau above the rich Valley
of Atimapac. Guadalajara, whose name comes
from the Spanish city close to Madrid, means, "flow of the
river under the rocks". Founded the 14th of February 1542
by the Conquistador Nuño
de Guzmán, it was designed as Capital of New Galicia
by a royal order. Its large avenues, splendid parks, places and
monuments are the witnesses of a historic past whose inhabitants
are proud of. Spend time in Guadalajara
to discover its wealth and enjoy its charm. Spring is eternal
there. The city has one of the best climates in North America
: clear, dry and mild, with an average temperature of 19.2 °C
(68°F) and a rainy season from June to October.
Its inhabitants proudly carry the nickname of Indian origin :
the Tapatios, « Three times dignified ».
The city preserved the colonial architecture downtown.
With about 4,096,000 inhabitants (metropolitan area), Guadalajara,
the second largest city in Mexico, is the birthplace
of many traditions : the mariachis, the charreada
(Mexican rodeo), the jarabe (hat with large brim) and
Guadalajara is, nowadays, an industrial modern city with a colonial
tradition. Its wealth authorized it to cleverly renovate numerous
historic monuments, which are mostly used as public buildings.
The many local industries are located in the periphery of the
city and downtown presents strictly controlled zones of circulation,
walking streets and many parks.
Even if the colonial plazas, the palaces, the mansions and the
baroque churches are mainly grouped downtown, you can find other
ones in other sectors of this busy city. The most beautiful walking
tour in Guadalajara, covering the historic and modern areas, starts
at the Cathedral and ends at the Hospicio Cabañas (converted
into the Cultural Institute). The construction of the church started
in 1571 and ended in 1618. It took so much time that you can observe
six different decorative styles in its architecture. Its famous
towers with yellow and blue tiles, built two centuries later after
an earthquake in 1818, are now the landmarks of the city.
Left picture : Cathedral of Guadalajara
Eleven neo-gothic altars, of German style, took the place of the
previous baroque altars. You will notice the tubular French organ
from the nineteenth century. The famous painting of Murillo, "The
Assumption of the Virgin", can be seen at the sacristy, as
well as the wonderful sculptures of the Christ and some liturgical
The Cathedral is surrounded by four nice places. The Plaza
de los Laureles (Indian Laurel trees) is located in front
of the big gate; the Plaza de Armas constitutes the historic center
of the city. The Rotonda de los Hombres Ilustres is north
of the cathedral in a small park with statues and busts of Jalisco
native famous sons. East of the rotunda, you can find the Museo
Regional, set in an ancient Spanish hotel, dating from the late
seventeenth century. It originally housed the seminary Saint-Joseph.
It was then converted into a boy’s college and has been
the museum of fine arts since 1918. It is called today the Museo
Regional (open 9 AM-5:45 PM, Tue-Sun, MXN$41, Liceo #60).
Among the main paintings of this museum are the works of Manuel
Cabrera, José de Ibarra, nicknamed the Mexican Murillo,
and José María Estrada. This museum displays also,
in many rooms organized around patios, archeological collections
and documents dating from the Independence.
Two blocks west from the cathedral, the Mercado Corona
is also very busy, with vendors of medicinal plants and natural
herbs. The streets all around are among the most pleasant in Guadalajara.
Many of them are planted with orange trees and bordered with bright
colored houses, adorned with wrought iron gates and patios with
bougainvilleas and jasmines.
On the north side of the Place of the laurels or Guadalajara
Place, stands the Palacio Municipal (open 9 AM-3 PM,
Mon-Fri), built mid twentieth century in the baroque style. Admire
the coat of arms of the city sculpted on the portico. On the stairways,
murals by Gabriel Flores, an Orozco’s student, picture the
foundation of the city.
The Plaza de Armas, the oldest in the city, is adorned
with Greek inspiration statues and embellished with a music kiosk
from the nineteenth century. This always much visited Art Nouveau
kiosk was made in France. Don’t miss the concert of traditional
music of the municipal orchestra on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays
at 6:30 PM.
The Palacio de Gobierno, (open daily 9 AM-8 PM), located
at the east of the Plaza de Armas, is a remarkable building whose
construction started in 1643. It was edified on the site of the
old palace destroyed by an earthquake. It displays, in the huge
stairwell, a mural (400 m2 or 4300 sq ft) by Orozco depicting
a portrait of Father Hidalgo. It houses, nowadays, the government
of the state of Jalisco.
picture : palace of government
By the side, the Museo de Cera presents about 120 different
personages made in wax (located avenue Morelos # 217, open daily
11 AM-8 PM, MXN$60).
There is a succession of plazas and walking areas behind the
Cathedral. The first one is the Plaza de la Liberación,
with a monument in the middle dedicated to the revolutionary Father
Hidalgo and two colonial fountains.
It was also called the Plaza de los Tres Poderes (place
of the three powers), because of its proximity with the Court
Hall, the Palace of Governor and the Legislative Palace. The Court
hall is part of the convent of Santa Maria de Gracia, with the
church of the same name by the side. It dates from 1661; it is
topped with an oval dome and has a neo-classical style inside.
The Teatro Degollado, a place of Mexican culture, occupies
the other side of the plaza. It is of classical style, very adorned.
Emperor Maximilian ordered it built in 1866. It is worth it to
have a look inside or to attend a representation of the Grupo
Folklórico, Sunday morning from 10 AM.
Inspired from the Theater of the Scala in Milan, it is built in
a neoclassical style with a strong Italian influence. The ceiling
of its concert room displays a very nice fresco depicting one
of the hymns of the Divine Comedy of Dante.
By the side, the church of San Augustin, one of the oldest churches
of the city built in 1573, has a very unusual sacristy.
Keep walking looking alternatively at colonial and modern constructions
as well as many fountains and monuments. Stop at Plaza Tapatia
where the splendid Hospicio Cabañas stands, called nowadays
Instituto Cultural Cabañas, (open 10:15 AM-5:30
PM, Tue-Sat and 10:15 AM-2:30 PM, Sun). Built as an orphanage
in 1805 by Manuel Tolsá, it is nowadays the Cultural Institute
Cabañas. The place is always lively, inside or outside.
This huge building contains more than twenty indoor patios linked
by corridors. The ceiling of the chapel displays the fresco Man
of fire, painted in 1938 by the famous “muralist”
José Clemente Orozco. Around these patios, there are show
rooms, classrooms, a theater and the famous Chapel Mayor (Capilla
Mayor), also called "Clementina" due to the 53 frescoes
Benches allow you to admire the frescoes of the ceiling.
above : Fresco by Orozco
The grand muralist José Orozco is one of the most famous
sons of the region. He was born in Zapotlán, small village
in the surroundings of Guadalajara. He spent the most part of
his learning time in this city. The house and workshop of the
artist were converted into a museum, the Museo Clemente Orozco.
It shows the house the way it was when the artist lived there
and it displays more than 80 artworks (it is located avenue Aurelio
Aceves # 27, open 10 AM-4 PM, Mon-Fri, free admission).
The year 2008 is dedicated to the painter Clemente Orozco (declaration
of the President Calderón in January 2008).
If you had only one place to visit in Guadalajara, pick without
any doubt the Instituto Cultural Cabañas, the
most impressing monument of the city. Built to shelter the orphans
of the city, this wonderful neoclassical building was inscribed
on the World Heritage List by the UNESCO in 1997 :
Right picture : Instituto Cultural
South of the Plaza Tapatia, is the Mercado Libertad.
It is a modern three stories building called also Mercado
de San Juan de Dios. It is said to be the biggest municipal
market in the country, and it is probably true if you look at
the huge size of each department. On the first floor, there is
a huge hall with only leather articles and the space of the second
floor is shared by small restaurants. There are a total of about
1000 stalls !
Mariachi Sol de Mexico
A walking bridge links
the market to the church San Juan de Dios.
Just behind the church, on Plaza de los Mariachis,
bands of mariachis, dressed
with the traditional embroidered costume of the charros,
sing their serenades, at the request of the people, sitting
on the terraces. The sunset starts the beginning of the
festivities on this place, very lively and busy by night.
It is worth the trip for the predominant friendly atmosphere.
There are several museums downtown : the Casa Museo Lopez
Portillo (Liceo 177 and San Felipe, just north of the Regional
Museum; open10 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sat and 10 AM-5 PM. Sun, free admission)
is a mansion from the nineteen century with furniture of the family
of a previous President. Much European style furniture from the
eighteenth-twentieth century is on display there.
Zona Minerva or Zona Rosa, located west of the
city, there is the Museo de las Artes, located at avenue
Juarez # 975, in the campus. It displays permanent and temporary
collections of Contemporary Art (open 10 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sat and
noon-6 PM, Sun; free admission). Just behind it, the Temple Expiatorio
is supposed to be an exact copy of the cathedral of Orvieto in
Built in 1920, the University of Guadalajara contains splendid
murals by Orozco that illustrate a text of Dante. One shows diabolic
creatures leading credulous people to Hell. It is a brilliant
and abrasive work showing how the painter flayed the social order.
picture : temple Expiatorio
A little further north, the Museum of the City of Guadalajara,
(open 10 AM-4 PM, Tue-Fri, 10 AM-5:30 PM, Sat and 10 AM-2:30 PM,
Sun, MXN$ 6), located at Calle Independencia # 684, has
nice rooms around a patio displaying crafts and documents about
the development of the city from the Pre-Hispanic time to the
Downtown possesses several churches with character : the church
of Santa Monica (Santa Monica # 250 and San Felipe) is
considered the most beautiful church of the city. A double portico,
adorned with Solomonic columns, embellishes the baroque facade.
The sculptures of the windows are exquisite. Three blocks west
stands the church of San Felipe Neri, imposing baroque church
with a noteworthy carved gate and topped with well-proportioned
tower bell and dome. Charming mansions from the nineteenth century,
with nice flowered patios, surround the church.
Six blocks south from the Plaza de Armas, on Plaza
San Francisco, stand two wonderful religious buildings :
The Templo San Francisco (16 de Septiembre # 289 and
Prisciliano Sanchez) and the small Chapel of Nuestra Señora
de Aranzazú. They are the only vestiges of a Franciscan
monastery founded in the sixteenth century but rebuilt in the
seventeenth century. Note the typically Mexican motif of the eagle
perched on a fig tree. It is the only church in Jalisco
to possess churrigueresque altars lavishly and finely worked with
A little further south, via the Calzada Independencia,
the huge Parque Agua Azul contains an aviary and an orchid
house with a collection of butterflies. It is a pleasant place
to avoid the noises of the city.
At the north of the park, the Casa de las Artesanías
of Jalisco is an excellent address
to discover the crafts produced in Jalisco.
Close by, the Lienzo Charro de Jalisco is a popular spot
for families on Sunday noon to enjoy the most "tapatio"
(from Guadalajara) tradition, the picturesque charreada
The Mexican rodeo
or charrería is the opportunity to colorful
shows that are truly sport events. The horse rider, dressed
with the costume of the "charros", needs to demonstrate
its skills by catching a bull or a horse with a lasso and
ending with the "paseo de la muerte", meaning
he has to switch mounts.
The "festival del Mariachi y la Charrería"
of Guadalajara (every year at the end of august) attests
of the importance of this sport, even if the media gives
it less publicity than soccer.