Welcome to this comprehensive guide to Guadalajara, the second-largest city in Mexico. This city boasts a population of 5,420,000 people. It is a unique place to visit.
Where is Guadalajara?
As the capital of Jalisco, Guadalajara is renowned as a hub for culture. It is a large metropolitan area that includes several smaller cities within it. It is also the home of mariachi music and is just an hour away from the town of Tequila, the birthplace of distilled spirit made from blue agave.
People native to Guadalajara are known as tapatíos or tapatías, a word derived from the ancient indigenous language of Nahuatl. But this city is not only home to tapatíos. Thousands of foreigners also live here, enjoying the food, culture, weather, and more.
A cool fact about Guadalajara is that people in Mexico call it the Silicon Valley of Mexico. That’s right; this big city has become a hub for technology, innovation, and a thriving young workforce.
Living in Guadalajara can be considered a best-kept secret as it might not be the first destination people consider when coming to Mexico.
Weather in Guadalajara
This city is known for its temperate climate practically year-round. It sits at 5,137 feet above sea level (1,566 meters). The city has cool nights, with temperatures as low as 40 F (4 C) in the colder months of December and January. Daytime highs in the cooler months are around 75 F (24 C). The hottest months are April and May, with highs often reaching 90 F (32 C).
In June, the rains begin, and they don’t stop until September or October. These months see almost daily torrential rain storms and the occasional hail storm. The fall season is often regarded as the best time to visit, as the rains stop and the temperatures are moderate.
The weather here is so temperate that it is known to be some of the best weather in the world. The high altitude setting also offers a beautiful mountain landscape and a lot of nearby nature to explore.
Popular Neighborhoods In Guadalajara
- Colonia Americana
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You will find historical buildings, museums, and artisans galore in this neighborhood. However, many locals regard it as having less security than other areas in Guadalajara. And we recommend always being aware and watching your belongings. Pickpocketing and cellphone thieves are common here.
In the city center, or “zona centro,” you will find the historical Catedral de Guadalajara, several plazas, and shopping centers.
Centro is also home to the historical Mercado Libertad en San Juan de Dios, which is said to be the largest indoor market in all of Latin America. It is three floors and has seemingly endless vendors.
This area has incomparable architectural beauty, a rich history, delicious food, countless merchants, and a lot to see and do.
Considered one of the best places to stay in the city, Colonia Americana is the center of the bohemian scene.
Time Out Magazine recently named this the coolest neighborhood in the world due to its cuisine options, nightlife, and artistic community. It is home to Avenida Chapultepec, or “Chapu” as locals call it, a popular street lined with restaurants, bars, and many artisan vendors on Saturdays. It sure is a trendy place to be! It is also a hub for cafés and young working professionals.
Open to the public, the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento is a beautiful historic church.
The area is generally very walkable, although many advise avoiding walking around at night as it can be less safe.
Technically this is considered a city, but it is part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. Tlaquepaque is a colorful place filled with restaurants, artisanal goods, crafts, and live music.
El Parián is a popular market located in a neighborhood of Tlaquepaque, commonly known as Barrio de Santa Maria. Here you will find various restaurants, bars, and live music. It has a longstanding history with mariachi music and is considered a favorite place in the city to catch live mariachi music.
Cantu Azulejos y Ceramica, a decades-long standing ceramic and tile store, is another known Tlaquepaue attraction.
Nightlife is lively in Tlaquepaque. You can check out one of the local bars to grab a beer, tequila, or pulque—a fermented drink made from the agave plant.
To the west of the city is Zapopan, another city within the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area.
You can find many more greenspace and hiking trails as the city backs onto the Bosque de la Primavera, an extensive forest. Another popular green space to check out is the Parque Metropolitano de Guadalajara, an extensive public park with trails, soccer nets, and more.
Perhaps most notably, Zapopan is home to the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Zapopan, one of the most visited churches in Mexico. This place of worship is home to a tiny little corn statue of the Virgin, believed to help perform miracles. Every year on October 12, the statue returns from her pilgrimage across Jalisco in one of Mexico’s biggest fiestas, drawing in millions of people.
Tonala is another city located within the greater metropolitan area. It feels more like a village and less touristy than Tlaquepaque but offers a ton of artisan crafts, including remarkable pottery and other handmade rare finds.
Thursdays and Saturdays are popular days for visiting Tonalá as the artisans set up markets to sell their goods.
Traditional Guadalajara Food
- Torta ahogada, a mouth-watering sandwich soaked in spicy tomato sauce
- Carne en su jugo, a delicious meat-filled broth
- Birria, a popular braised meat dish served in various presentations
- Pitaya, a unique cactus-fruit found throughout western Mexico
- Pozole en estilo Jalisco, a red pozole
Study In Guadalajara
With twenty different universities and even more colleges, Guadalajara attracts students from Mexico and internationally. The most popular and oldest school is The University of Guadalajara.
Students make up the diverse and vibrant population of the city, bringing young foreigners and innovative minds.
Getting Around Guadalajara
To arrive by plane, fly into Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Guadalajara International Airport. To get into the city, take a bus to the Central Camionera Vieja, the old bus station, or take an airport taxi.
It is common to see many younger locals riding their bicycles around the city. There are bike lanes to make cycling safer, and even a public bicycle share program called MiBici.
An extensive public transit system includes buses and the Sistema de Tren Eléctrico Urbano, a subway system commonly called the “metro.” The metro has three lines that connect the center to the outer extremities of the city. However, the public transit system can be difficult to navigate without experience or a high level of Spanish.
There are a lot of cars around, like in most other major cities. And this, of course, means there is also a lot of traffic. So if you are considering driving, it is always important to consider your safety when driving in Mexico as an expat.
The Uber app works in this city and is quite popular and affordable. Another app that is similar and just as popular is called Didi. Taxis are also available but can be slightly more expensive and not considered as safe as other alternatives.
Things To Do in Guadalajara
Check Out Live Music (Mariachi!)
This metropolitan area attracts talented musicians from all over Mexico and the rest of the world. You can hear jazz, rock, bolero, flamenco, son jarocho, ska, and more. All around the city, you can find music venues with great acts. If you are into live local music, you can check out Centro Cultural Breton in el centro, Foro Independencia, or C3. In Tlaquepaque, there is La Mata Tinta, a favorite locale serving food and drinks that showcases a variety of traditional and modern Mexican music.
Time spent in this particular Mexican city would not be complete without the experience of mariachi music. Mariachi is a historical genre of Mexican music that has a culture in itself. It is said to have been born here (and in the surrounding area) and is a cherished part of Jalisco culture. It is common to see mariachi groups playing at any important Mexican celebration like a wedding, funeral, or quinceanera. You can see ensembles as big as a dozen people or more!
Go to your first Mexican rodeo- Aka Charreria
Charrería is a traditional national sport in Mexico. It goes beyond a regular Rodeo, incorporating horseback riding with other types of rodeo. Here you will see various equestrian activities, such as riding bareback on a wild mare, bull riding, and reining.
You can check out one of the many lienzos charros, the arenas where charrería occurs. Campo Charro Jalisco is one arena easily accessible within the city. However, Lienzo Charro Nito Aceves and Arena VFG are located just outside the city and would likely require a car.
Visit a museum
Guadalajara has many museums, including:
- Museo Regional de Guadalajara
- Museo de Sitio del Palacio de Gobierno
- Museo de Cera
- Museo de las Artes Populares de Jalisco
- Museo Cabañas or Hospicio Cabañas is a museum located a city block away from the Mercado Libertad. Originally a hospital and orphanage, this museum has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Check out historic architecture.
Guadalajara is known for its iconic and historical architecture. You can explore countless churches, plazas, museums, castles, galleries, and theaters that date back centuries. Many of these are in the historical city center (el centro).
If you love unique architecture, you can check out some lesser-known sites, including Cabildo Eclesiástico, Casa Orozco, Teatro Degollado, Casa Típica Barrio del Santuario, Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres, and Iglesia La Luz Del Mundo.
Visit La Primavera Forest
La Primavera Forest is a must-visit for all you nature lovers!
Guadalajara, like many other cities in Mexico, is a concrete jungle. As a result, it can sometimes be hard to find green spaces, which is why Boque la Primavera is so special.
Bosque La Primavera is an ancient forest formed through volcanic activity and is named a protected zone. If you love getting to know new local animals and plants, this is the place to explore. It is said to be the home of 742 species of flora, 49 species of reptiles, 200 species of birds, and 59 species of mammals.
Take a day trip to a Pueblo Mágico like Tequila or Ajijic.
An hour south of the city is Lake Chapala-Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. Ajijic is a pueblo mágico or “magic town” known for its art, music, culture, and spirituality. Tapatíos love to take weekend day trips to enjoy the malecón, Ajijic’s lakefront boardwalk, indulge in cold micheladas (beer served with clamato or salsa) and take in breathtaking sunset lake views.
If you love tequila, you need to visit the town of Tequila and learn this liquor is made from the maguey plants in Jalisco. This magic town is also an hour’s drive from the city. Sipping tequila is a favorite in Guadalajara and all around Jalisco. And you read that right—sipping. Tequila has become known as an often regretted party shot, but its use is historically revered as sacred by Aztec culture and continues to be a drink that people sip with respect and intention.
You can tour one of Tequila’s many tequila production and processing plants and learn how to sip tequila properly. Several tours are available from Guadalajara, or you can rent a car.
Watch A Luchadores Match
Mexican wrestling, or Luchas Libre, is a spectacle in Guadalajara that you won’t want to miss if you’re a wrestling fan. Lucha libre contains less of the dramatics that you would find in regular wrestling and much more exciting action and athleticism.
You can catch La Lucha Libre in el centro at the Arena Coliseo. You can go on your own, find a tour to bring you there, and include drinks at the bar. This can even be a lot of fun for people not interested in wrestling, as it will surely be a memory you won’t forget!
Visit La Barranca de Huentitán
Barranca De Huentitán is a beautiful 16-mile canyon carved out by the Rio Grande de Santiago. It is another closeby option for nature lovers to explore. This area is located just outside the city in the northeast and has amazing views, waterfalls, hot springs, and hiking trails. It transforms into a vibrant green landscape with lush tropical vegetation in the rainy season.
Moving to Guadalajara
Living here is much more affordable than in major cities like Mexico City. As a result, it has become an attractive place to live for many digital nomads and other young professionals.
If you’re thinking of moving to Guadalajara, you may want to consider a private Guadalajara relocation tour. Our private tours are a great way to get the insider scoop on the city and have all your questions answered before moving to Guadalajara!