Guadalajara Cathedral viewed from north side of Plaza de Guadalajara

Guadalajara is the capital of the central state of Jalisco in Mexico, and the second-largest city in the country, with about a million and a half citizens (known as "Tapatíos"). It is considered a colonial city, though much of its architecture dates from the independence period. Although it has a far more relaxed feel than Mexico City, the city center can still seem a bit stuffy and dusty, especially during rush hour when the sun is out. All in all, however, it is a lovely city and contains many nice areas for walking, not just in the center.


Guadalajara is Mexico's second largest city, and one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. This growth has been driven in part by the booming electronics industry in the industrial outskirts of the city. Other important and growing industries are pharmaceuticals, food processing, and fashion.


Guadalajara proper is divided into four districts corresponding approximately to the northwest, northeast, southwest, and southeast quarters of the city. At the center of everything is the main area of interest to tourists, the Centro Histórico, or the historic downtown. Most of your time will probably be spent here. It is filled with colonial-era buildings and, famously, also boasts several important mural paintings by Jalisco-born José Clemente Orozco, one of Mexico's most important artists.

Outside the Centro Histórico are:

Streets of Guadalajara

Still further from central Guadalajara are several suburbs (municipios) that are cities in their own right. Several of these are also of interest to visitors, including:

Conveniently, the 275-diagonal bus route runs from Tlaquepaque through the Centro to Zapopan, providing convenient access to all of these outer districts.


The co-founders of Guadalajara were Doña Beatriz de Hernández and Governor Cristobal de Oñate. In the Plaza de los Fundadores there is a monument in honor of both of them.

Guadalajara, and Jalisco in general, were the epicenter of the Cristero Wars (1926-1929)—a rebellion by Catholic guerrillas against the secularizing reforms of President Plutarco Calles. One of the first armed conflicts of the rebellion took place in Guadalajara in the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe on August 3, 1926, where a group of several hundred Cristeros engaged in a shootout with federal troops. Guadalajara itself was attacked (unsuccessfully) by the Cristero armies in March of 1929.

In the 1950s, Avenida Juárez was widened to create today's arterial road of Juárez-Vallarta which you see today. A famous part of that work was the moving of the central telephone exchange without the disruption of service. Pictures of this feat of engineering can be seen in the City Museum (Museo de la Ciudad).

In April 1992, Sector Reforma was rocked by a huge explosion of gasoline, when a gasoline pipeline leaked into the sewers over a period of days until the fumes finally detonated. Some 200 Tapatíos were killed and several thousand injured. The explosion affected mostly the working-class and industrial areas on the south side of the city.

In May 1993, Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo of Guadalajara was killed at the Guadalajara airport. Though at the time the murder was thought to have been some sort of politically motivated assassination, subsequent investigations favor the theory that the cardinal was caught by mistake in drug-related violence, his motorcade having been mistaken for that of a drug lord. Cardinal Ocampo is buried beneath the high altar of the Catedral de Guadalajara, probably because it was first suspected that the motives for his murder were political, rather than accidental.

Get in

By plane

Airport terminal at GDL

By bus

By car

Get around

Calle de Morelos

The Centro (downtown) is best accessible by walking. Most attractions lie within an area of about 1km long by 350 meters wide. For longer trips, or to get in and out of the Centro, use the bus, subway or a taxi. There are also horse-drawn carriages (calandrias), which are more expensive and touristy.

By bus

There is an android app called Rutas GDL that contains almost all the bus routes for the city, but is not 100% accurate as of November 2014. Also there is a web site with bus routes throughout Mexico, but it is less accurate and harder to use.

Dozens of bus routes provide transportation around the city. As of February 2011, regular buses cost $6; there are also luxury buses (Turquesa, Tour and Cardenal) for $11. Look on the front window of the bus to determine its destination, and ask the driver if you're uncertain. You can also try to purchase a route map (the Guia Roja Red Vial Ciudad de Guadalajara is one option, or ask at any magazine stand or one of the tourism kiosks downtown for a book with bus routes), although as of early 2008 they are no longer being published and are therefore almost impossible to find. This means planning your route ahead—or asking the locals, provided you know some Spanish. Riding the bus also provides a good chance to see different parts of the city and get your bearings. Note that bus drivers will give you change within limits, though after even a day in Guadalajara you might find more 10-peso pieces in your pocket than you can dispose of.

The Pre-Tren

It can be hard to spot bus stops in Guadalajara; in theory there should be a signpost with a blue sign and a picture of bus as well as triangular markings on the road with the word parada (bus stop). However, these aren't always there; sometimes the markings have worn away. Look around and see where there's a crowd of people waiting; sometimes there are even seats. If not, the buses might stop at the corner or in front of traffic lights. If they drive past you, keep looking at them and try to see where they stop.

If you know a bit of Spanish, most municipal bus routes can be seen at the web site of Sistecozome, the Metropolitan Area Mass Transit System (Sistema de Transporte Colectivo de la Zona Metropolitana). Alternatively, try Busca Tu Ruta (Search for Your Route).

Map of the Tren Ligero system

One particularly useful method for getting back and forth between the Centro Histórico and the Zona Rosa/Minerva area is the Guadalajara Trolley Bus (Trolebús de Guadalajara). Westbound trolleys travel along Avenida Vallarta; eastbound trolleys along Avenida Hidalgo. Just look overhead for the pair of electrical power cables. In the Centro Histórico you can catch the Trolebús on Avenida Hidalgo up to the east side of the Plaza de la Liberación, where it makes the turn to head up to Calzada Independencia and back west.

There is also an open-top double-decker tourist bus (TuriBus) that leaves from the Rotunda and will take you past all the main sites in Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque and Zapopan. Riders can get on and off the bus at will all day long, for a flat rate.

By taxi

Taxis are another option if you don't want to try to figure out the buses. You can either agree on a price with the cab driver or ask him to turn the meter on. Using the latter option, there is a risk that the driver won't the take the shortest possible route if he thinks you don't know it yourself. The meter will normally be a better price than the price the hotel will tell you to pay if they call you a cab. As always, be sure to ask the fare before you get in. Cabs cost more at night or when they have to cross the outer ring (Anillo Periférico) of the city. Daytime fares within the city are rarely more than $50, and should never exceed 100. At night, the prices are doubled. As a rule of thumb, during the daytime the fare is about $3-4/km and at night about $8-9, but if the driver is using a meter, there's also a starting price of around $5-10.

Fares to and from the airport are set at $260. If arriving at the Guadalajara airport, a taxi monopoly provides the service from the airport. Pre-purchase your taxi ride at the booths outside of the arrival halls. You can take a normal taxi to the airport, though.

By subway

There is a small light-rail subway system (the Tren Ligero) that can be useful for travelers who happen to be headed where the trains go. There are two lines that meet at the western edge of the Centro Histórico. One runs north-to-south beneath Avenida Federalismo to the edges of the city in both directions. The other runs west-to-east through the Centro Histórico to the eastern suburbs. Fares cost $6. The subway closes at 11pm.

A new bus service named Pre-Tren ("Pre-Train") extends from the main subway station (Juárez) through the Zona Rosa to the west Anillo Periférico at a 50% discounted fare for subway card users. Pre-Trenes provide a good service with new, air-conditioned, red-colored units. The service is better than the smaller buses (camiones).

By car

You may also rent a car from Airport, most major car rental companies such Avis, National Car Rental, Hertz and Eropcar have booths at the baggage claim area. There are also some local car rentals such Veico Car Rental located just outside the airport, they also have good cars and often lower prices.


Centro Histórico and nearby

Cabañas in the nighttime
This statue of Miguel de Hidalgo is located in the Plaza de la Liberación.
  • Plaza Guadalajara (West of the cathedral, between Av. Hidalgo and Calle de Morelos, Zona Centro). Located directly in front of the cathedral, Plaza Guadalajara contains a circular fountain and an outdoor restaurant. Under the fountain there is an underground commercial center which offers all kinds of goods for sale including fruit, beverages and even jewelry.
  • Plaza de Armas (South of the cathedral, between Calle de Morelos and Calle Pedro Moreno, Zona Centro). Plaza de Armas offers one of the best views of the cathedral, as well as the Government Palace. It features a French ironwork bandstand that was purchased by former Mexican president Porfirio Díaz in 1885, and four statues on the corners of the place symbolizing the four seasons. The bandstand serves as the performing arena for marching bands, but due to its recent use for all kinds of political protests, it's guarded by the police 24/7.
  • Plaza de la Liberación (East of the cathedral, between Av. Hidalgo and Calle de Morelos, Zona Centro). This plaza features two large cup-shaped fountains and a gigantic sculpture of Miguel Hidalgo, the man who signed the Mexican Declaration of Independence in the current Governor's Office. It also serves as an atrium for the oldest surviving theater in the city, the Teatro Degollado, and it's the usual spot for massive free concerts.
  • Rotunda of Illustrious Jaliscans (Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres) (North of the cathedral, between Av. Hidalgo and Calle Independencia, Zona Centro). This lovely circular monument of fluted columns is a mausoleum containing the ashes of 98 important men and women born in Jalisco. The bright and busy atmosphere of the park around it contrasts with the serious aspect of the Rotunda itself. On the southern side (across the street from the cathedral) is the bus stop for the previously mentioned TuriBus.
Colomos Forest

Minerva, Chapultepec, Zapopan and west of the Centro Histórico

Huentitán and east of the Centro Histórico

Plaza Tapatia
  • Guadalajara Zoo (Zoológico Guadalajara), Paseo del Zoológico 600, Huentitán el Alto,  +52 33 3674 4488. W-Su 10:00-18:00 when school is in session, daily 10:00-18:00 during summer break and on holiday weekends. The modern Guadalajara Zoo is located adjacent to the Barranca de Huentitán-Oblatos. It's worth visiting not only for its view of the canyon, but also for its collection of animals, its safari ride and its panoramic train. Other highlights include a reptile house, a nocturnal environment exhibit and a tropical forest simulated environment. $63, children 3-11 $32, SkyZoo $36, special packages available for access to panoramic train, safari and/or aquarium.
  • Independencia Overlook Park (Parque Mirador Independencia). This lovely park is located at the northern terminus of Calzada Independencia adjacent to the Barranca de Huentitán-Oblatos, with beautiful views of the canyon. Pretty gardens and benches are peppered around the park, allowing visitors to sit and enjoy the different views the park has to offer. This is also the starting point for many of the hiking trails that traverse the canyon.



Guadalajara's sports culture is one of the most vibrant in Mexico, with a well-developed infrastructure of stadiums and facilities, achievements under its belt such as its successful turn as the host of the 2011 Pan-American Games, world-class athletes such as professional golfer Lorena Ochoa calling the city home, and big plans for the future. Guadalajara is also home to many Ballet schools surrounding the metropolitan area.


Of course, one would be remiss in talking about Guadalajara sports without mentioning the three professional football (futbol, i.e. what Americans call soccer) teams based there: Estudiantes, Atlas, and of course, Chivas. Chivas, more properly known as Club Deportivo Guadalajara, is, according to FIFA, the most popular football team in Mexico. Chivas has won 11 first-division titles and holds the longest-ever season-opening winning streak: 8 back-to-back wins. Chivas is also the only football team in Mexico with exclusively Mexican players, whereas other teams have players of varying nationalities. The team colors are red, white, and blue, signifying "Fraternity, Union, and Sports". The new stadium, Estadio Omnilife, with a capacity of 49,850, was inaugurated on July 30, 2010.

Jalisco Stadium


Holidays and events

Spring and summer




The Universidad de Guadalajara, often referred to simply as "U de G", is the most important institution of higher learning in western Mexico, and the second most important in the country after Mexico City's mammoth UNAM. The University also serves as a center of cultural activity enjoyed by residents and visitors alike, such as the Ballet Folclórico and the Cineforo Universidad.

Guadalajara offers many language schools for the fast growing need for learning Spanish.


The shopping scene in Guadalajara is centered around two opposing faces of Latin American culture: traditional open-air markets (tianguis) and the modern shopping plazas and malls that, more and more, are sprouting up around the outskirts of town. The latter can be found in particular proliferation southwest of the Centro Histórico in Sector Juárez, as well as in suburban municipios such as Zapopan.

A refreshing exception to this rule is the historic downtown district of Tlaquepaque, southeast of Guadalajara proper. This area is characterized by a lively collection of shops centered on the pedestrian-only streets, Calle Independencia and Avenida Juárez. Emphasized in these charming shops are arts and handicrafts of all kinds: one-of-a-kind handmade furniture, textiles, jewelry, paintings, sculptures, glassware, home decor, and even chocolate.


These temporary open-air street markets or bazaars are a Mexican tradition dating back to the Aztec days, and are a great way to get up close and personal with local culture at its most real—and score some bargains in the process. Some of the biggest tianguis in Guadalajara include:

Malls and shopping centers


Food vendors in Guadalajara seem to like to rip off foreign tourists. For example, when trying to get some tacos or a burger or something from a street food vendor, the vendor will tell you not to worry about the price, and when it's time to pay you will get an inflated bill. Be sure to ask for the price before you order. If the vendor tells you not to worry about the price, say "necesito saber" (I need to know). Of course, do this with a smile and you will not be ripped off.

Local specialties

Birria, tortas ahogadas, and chilaquiles are some of the most traditional Tapatío dishes. The food court in the Mercado Libertad is a good place to sample the variety of local specialties.


In addition to traditional Mexican specialties, Tapatíos seem to be especially fond of Italian food—a considerable number of restaurants of that type can be found around Guadalajara. If you miss American fast food, worry not: in addition to the restaurants listed here, Guadalajara has 14 McDonald's outlets.

Centro Histórico and nearby

Chapultepec, Minerva, Zapopan, and west of the Centro Histórico



Guadalajara has a vibrant nightlife that's spread out all over the city, from the touristy places in the Centro Histórico (Plaza de la Liberación is a good place to start your search) to the college bars in Zapopan. However, perhaps the most active bar district in Guadalajara is centered along Avenida Chapultepec between Hidalgo and Niños Héroes, about 2km west of the Centro Histórico. This is the place where GDL's hipster crowd makes the scene, with bar after bar lining the sides of the streets. Many of these places double as popular live music acts.

A good suggestion is to search out a bar with a large collection of tequilas and taste a great blanca, reposada and añejo. Real tequila is nothing like the junk you've had in the USA. If you ask for a traditional tequila from Los Altos, you will almost certainly get something good. Los Altos is the region northeast of Guadalajara where the best tequila in the world is made, bringing up images of tradition, patriotism and individualism.

Centro Histórico and around the Universidad de Guadalajara

Chapultepec, Zona Rosa and Minerva



There are many inexpensive hotels available in the city center, especially around the old bus station (Central Camionera Vieja). If you plan to spend much time downtown, don't get a hotel farther away—it's much more convenient to be within walking distance of your daytime activities than to navigate the bus system back to a less central location (e.g. the Minerva area), and walking long distances through the streets of Guadalajara late at night is not a terribly good idea.

Centro Histórico and around



Minerva, Chapultepec, Zapopan and west of the Centro Histórico




Tlaquepaque and east of the Centro Histórico


Stay safe

Guadalajara is known as one of the safest cities in Mexico. Nonetheless, as in any large city, the usual precautions should be taken. Crimes against tourists and foreign students are quite infrequent and mostly take the form of purse-snatching. Criminals usually work in teams and target travelers in outdoor restaurants, bars and other bus places. Should anyone spill something on you, be alert to your surroundings and step away—accidental spills are a common method of distracting their marks.

Never carry illegal substances with you; Mexican police are very strict regarding these cases.

Emergency numbers

In an emergency, it's also a good idea to get in contact with the embassy or consulate of your country of origin.



Go next

Routes through Guadalajara

Tepic Tequila  W  E  Sahuayo Zamora de Hidalgo

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