Best Things To Do in Guadalajara
You could fill a visit to Guadalajara simply by visiting its countless plazas, which are shadowed by grand architecture and peppered with colorful vendors hawking their wares. But along with touring historic buildings, such as the Guadalajara Cathedral and the Instituto Cultural de Cabanas, visitors can take a picturesque walk through the Parque Agua Azul or embark on a safari through the expansive Guadalajara Zoo. Perusing the goods at the enormous San Juan de Dios Market is another must-do.
Updated May 2, 2017
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The Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres, or Rotunda of the Illustrious Jaliscans, is a circle of 17 Doric columns and a monument to the region's favorite writers and revolutionaries. In fact, bronze statues of teacher Irene Robledo García, artist José Clemente Orozco and 20-some others ring the rotunda. Some of their ashes are even tucked into the monument.
Recent travelers said the rotunda is a great place to get a quick dive into the history of Guadalajara. Many also suggest viewing the monument at night when it's lit by multi-colored lights
- #2View all Photos#2 in GuadalajaraChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDRead More
The Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento is a Gothic church that first opened its doors in 1897. It's defined by large stone pillars and equally enormous stained-glass windows. If you're passing by at 9 a.m., noon and 6 p.m., you'll witness 12 apostles process out through a door in the clock tower – just like clockwork.
Recent visitors called this church "an amazing piece of art" and a must-see. Others recommend planning your visit on weekend afternoons when the plaza around the church fills with vendors selling delicious foods, such as strawberry and pineapple tamales.
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Guadalajara's cathedral is one of the region's most iconic landmarks. Begun in 1558 and finally completed in 1618, it didn't get its signature neo-Gothic towers until the 19th century after an earthquake damaged the structure. Aside from its fusion of architectural styles, some of the treasures housed inside include richly adorned vaults, one of the largest organs in Mexico and stained-glass windows imported from France.
Travelers highly recommend stopping by the ornate cathedral (especially at night when it's illuminated), and some suggest visiting in November and December when street fairs fill the cathedral surrounds. Some reviewers even said the church's elaborate interiors rival Europe's most famous houses of worship.
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The Instituto Cultural de Cabanas is an architectural gem – done up in neoclassical style – that has earned the coveted UNESCO World Heritage site designation. The massive complex, which used to shelter orphans, the elderly and individuals with disabilities, houses everything from several resplendent courtyards to modernist murals by famed artist José Clemente Orozco, as well as works by a handful of other Mexican artists.
Recent travelers can't say enough positive things about the Instituto Cultural de Cabanas, praising its architecture, exhibits and Orozco frescoes. One reviewer suggests taking the time to read the descriptive placards beside the artworks since they were written by Mexican poet and diplomat Octavio Paz.
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Tapatíos (Guadalajara natives) like to say that their San Juan de Dios Market – also called Mercado Libertad – is the world's largest indoor market, but whether that's true or not, the Mercado's modern building is filled with traditional treasures that are worth a perusal. Handfuls of stalls hawk everything from Paracho guitars to leather goods to scrumptious foods like gorditas and candy.
Many visitors said this sprawling market is like a maze, adding that it's easy to get overwhelmed and even lost in its overflowing stalls. For many, it wasn't the market's goods that drew them to visit; it was the building itself. Many described the market's interior and the promenades surrounding it as visually arresting, while others cited this attraction as the best place to find affordable local food. For some of the market's best eats, travelers suggest visiting the stalls with the longest lines, which tend to be the most popular with locals.
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The Guadalajara Zoo contains the usual suspects – rhinos, giraffes, monkeys and more – but what's unique is that many of the enclosures don't have barriers separating the visitors and the more than 4,000 animals that call the zoo home. This means that giraffes can eat right from visitors' hands and that monkeys can climb all over patrons. The zoo also boasts an aquarium, an area devoted to Australian animals and a herpetarium, among other attractions. What's more, travelers can board a safari truck to see the zoo's collection of African animals or hop on its chair lift, which gives you a bird's-eye view of the zoo's flora and fauna.
Recent travelers said that to really see this enormous zoo (which spans several hundreds of acres), you'll need more than one day. Additionally, many were impressed by the immaculate landscaping and the animals, which looked happy and cared for.
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This park's green space is consistently enjoyed by kids on the playgrounds, families watching performances at the outdoor concert stage called la concha (the shell) and recreational footballers playing pick-up games. There's also an aviary and a butterfly enclosure, jogging trails, as well as a separate greenhouse for orchids.
One recent visitor described the Parque Agua Azul as the "lungs of the city," since it allows visitors to take in deep breaths of fresh air amidst the park's fountains, flowers and trees. However, a few travelers said that they felt the park attracted pickpockets; some also lamented the park's dirty appearance.
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The travel, tour and tastings are all included on the Tequila Express, a train that transports visitors from Guadalajara through the rolling landscape of agave fields to the Casa Herradura Distillery in the nearby city of Tequila. The family-owned enterprise also offers mariachi entertainment and a buffet lunch.
Recent visitors described their experience as "well-organized" and the tour guides as "fantastic," though one traveler recommended asking about English-speaking guides if you know little Spanish. Another tip: Double-check your booking. Several travelers cautioned that a similar but less popular tequila train tour is offered by Jose Cuervo.
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