In 2009, Google added streetview to their maps of Guadalajara, so I’ve added the occasional link (marked as “SV”). The links show images from 2009 but you can slide the date range to see more up-to-date pics.
Looking for things to do in Guadalajara?
We´re at the end of a fairly long stream of visitors and little by little you hone your tour guide skillz. The following is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of my favourite things to do in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico – la Perla Tapatía… on a relatively small budget
1 : Wander round the historic centre and go to San Juan de Dios
Guadalajara has a stunning downtown area (SV). There’s a series of 7 plazas that make up the centre situated around the iconic Cathedral with a range of museums (from the sublime, Orozco’s murals in the Instituto Cultural Las Cabañas, the Government Palace, or the Regional Museum to the ridiculous, the Wax Museum, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not), and tons of statues, monuments and sculptures so there’s plenty to photograph. Go on a weekday and there’s lots of people, but Saturday and Sunday is when it comes into its own with everyone and their grandparents strolling and hanging out feeding pigeons, buying balloons and snacks and, strangely, having their shoes polished.
For me the highlight has to be the Mercado Libertad or San Juan de Dios (SV), a gigantic 3 level market that caters to if not all needs, then a good few. You could spend hours there and not see everything. There’s sections for local handicrafts, fruit, meat, veg, DVDs, computer programs, bags, sugar cane drinks, shoes, cowboy boots, guitars, sombreros, stereos, car alarms, watches, battery replacement… and the list goes on but half the fun is stumbling into a new section and seeing something you didn’t know you needed and haggling for it. Going in without a clear idea of what you’re after is probably your best bet.
One word of warning; If you are of a nervous disposition or vegetarian or both, and find yourself in the butchers section on the ground floor, immediately do a 180 degree turn and walk away fast. Or alternatively grab your camera and start snapping pictures of meters of tripe, pigs heads and cows’ feet… Also, I’ve never got sick of anything in the (delicious) food section but I think the trick is to wash your hands before eating…
2. Lucha Libre
Has to be seen to be believed, or disbelieved, really. You go in as cynical as you like expecting the usual pantomime theatrics and little by little you get caught up in the spectacle. Yes. Masked men really are grappling for the crowd’s pleasure. Yes, the audience are shouting well honed insults at one another and then suddenly at you and your mates. Yes, the people serving you at the bar really are 8 years old. It’s addictive, fun and really worth a visit. There are traditionally two sides: rudos (rude/bad boys) vs. tecnicos (the goodies), though it’s often hard to tell them apart. You’ll see about 5 fights starting with the lesser know luchadores then progressing to the headliners where you will believe that 15 stone men can fly.
The Coliseo is in Calle Medrano (SV), just off La Calzada de Independencia. Look for people in masks heading towards it. It all happens on Tuesdays from around 8pm to 11ish and Sundays 5:30 to 8ish. On Tuesdays a large percentage of the fun is from the “audience participation” as class divides become apparent and at 10.45 or so the people in the more expensive seats round on the people in the cheap seats and chant “Your going to miss your bus…” and worse. It goes both ways though…
Buy your own luchador mask outside and re-enact the evening’s events with your friends later, or just have your photo taken with the El Santo and Blue Demon Hollywood-style stars in the pavement. On Tuesdays, have a swift pint before and after in El Rincon de la Doña in Calle Heroes (closed) 🙁 ), nearby, or if you´re feeling brave, any of the bargain basement cantinas opposite the coliseo´s main entrance.
I´m relatively new to this, but it´s a relaxing and less morally ambiguous alternative to seeing a bull fight. You won´t find Charros in Spain, this is very much a Mexican thing. Look at the number of words that come from the Spanish to realise how long this has been going on- lazo-lasso, Rancho-ranch, Rodeo-rodeo (rounding up of cattle), lariat-lariat, and, er… Vaqueros- buckaroos… Basically a group of Mexican cowboys, charros, take it in turns to perform feats of bravery/skill with bulls and horses. Nothing gets killed if all goes to plan. I´m all for this kind of sport as it´s the kind of thing you can see arising organically as bored macho cowboys found games to play until it gradually became institutionalised. “Oi reckon I can fell ee bull with me lasso from over ere on me orse.” “Ave at im then” “Noice one!” type thing.
It´s on every Sunday at midday for a couple of hours just behind the Parque Agua Azul (SV). You may like to bring a cushion to sit on the hard stone steps. Arrive a little early for a seat in the shade. Order a bucket of ice and mini beer bottles and enjoy the show and for extra points, buy a football rattle (una matraca, I think) from San Juan de Dios and bring it along to join in with the crowds if a charro deserves it.
4. Upscale but affordable Restaurants: La Matera / El Sacromonte / La I Latina
As with any modern metropolis, there are new restaurants opening / closing every week in Guadalajara. And depending on your tastes you may well disagree with my current top 3 faves. I’m still into the meat I’m afraid… the main dish in most of these places will set you back between 12 and 18 bucks. Then there’s the appetisers, wines, desserts, espressos… So, La Matera, on Avenida Mexico 2891 (SV), between Lopez Mateos and the Galeria de Calzado, is a fantastic place. Nice ambience, truly INCREDIBLE cuts of meat cooked to perfection, friendly waiters, ample parking and a well rounded wine list. A matera is the gourd thing you drink mate (tea often made with coca leaves) out of in Argentina for the record. Order the Caña de Lomo for 2 if there’s 3 of you, or for 3 if there’s more of you and you’ll not be disappointed. Reservations are recommended, but there’s plenty of tables and a waiting area where they’ll bring you drinks while you wait. Also recommended its sister restaurant in Terranova 1227 (SV), Savora, a smaller, cosier place with cheaper food and a more limited menu but equally world class. Next up, el Sacromonte in Calle Moreno 1338 (SV) , a few blocks down towards the centre from Av.Chapultepec. This place specialises in high end regional Mexican food but with major twists. If you can name 75% the ingredients in whatever you’ve just ordered you’re doing well. There’s always seasonal fruits and veg carved into the best possible presentation and the surroundings are nice too with fruit trees and local crafts everywhere. Recommendation for here is the Robalo or Sea Bass, though you can’t go wrong and the waiters’ve been there long enough to know the dishes inside out should you have questions. Nice little cantina next to it too, for the record. And also opposite there’s a modernish bar called E who have for some reason expropriated the angled E Enron logo. La I Latina (SV) is still achingly hip despite having been around for a good few years now. Find it in Calle Inglaterra by the railway off of Lopez Mateos. Reservations aren’t a bad idea for this unlikely fusion of Thai and Mexican food. Again, there’s little chance of error with the menu, I’ve yet to try anything less than sublime. There’s often live music if you go at the weekend and eat at a normal Mexican time (9:30pm + ). If it’s the afternoon and you fancy a large exotic meal you could do a LOT worse than try Anita Li (I Latina backwards) next door. I recommend the shrimp tacos with thinly sliced jicama instead of tortillas… I’m now officially hungry…
(a few more 2014 restaurant recs, Pig’s Pearls is fantastic, gourmet burgers… craft beers…)
5. Cantina Tour: Los Famosos Equipales, La Cava, La Fuente, Los Molachos, La Mutualista
Cantinas are traditional Mexican bars, originally for men only but now open to all and sundry. There’s usually free botanas (Mexican tapas), colourful characters, a jukebox packed with Mariachi/ ranchera music (and one Beatles album, I think it’s the law), and football on the telly. From the map below, join the dots and feel free to stop at any others you see along the way. The map is intented as a guide only, as I’m not 100% sure of the locations… It’ll only be one or two blocks out though at the most… click the icon on the top right of the map to biggify. Check out this list from El Ocio (click here for Google Translation) ( An events listing magazine free with El Milenio newspaper on Fridays ) for a few more. Most cantinas close around midnight, if you cross the calzada de independencia you’ll find plenty that open later, but probably best go with someone local as that side of town can get a tad treacherous after dark…
The only must try drink is from Los Famosos Equipales (SV), it’s called Nalgas Alegres (Happy Buttocks) and I’ll never quite remember what it contains. It’s a sweet, red coloured cocktail that packs a punch and is okay for men to drink. Hierbabuena (bucket’o’mojito)’s also a good bet, particularly in Bar Martin & La Iberia. Also look out for el hombre de los toques eléctricos, itinerant bloke with a home-made electrocution device.
6. El Baratillo and other ‘Tianguis’
Every Sunday in the Oblatos barrio there’s a huge street market. It goes on from 10am to 2h30ish and sells everything under the sun. You can barely walk from one end of it to the other in the time it takes to open and close. Clothes, CDs, TVs, stolen goods, fruit, tacos, animals and engine parts are the first 8 things that spring to mind when I think of it, But there’s more. So much much more… You can taxi it there or take the surprisingly efficient metro and get off at Belisario Dominguez. Watch your pockets and practice your haggling.
Other street markets (tianguis) of note:
Almost every barrio has a tianguis of some sort each week- mine’s every Thursday morning in El Zapote– try a Quesadilla from the lovely folks in ‘El Roger’… Ask your hosts about your local one and skip breakfast and eat there.
El Tianguis Cultural: Hippy/ Emo/ Hipster market for all your Che-Guevara-themed needs. You’ll smell the patchouli from several blocks away. Have a swift hierbabuena in Bar Martin before/ after. If you like your death metal sung en español, hang around for the free concerts from 2ish onwards.
Paseo Chapultepec – From 6pm ish till late has all manner Huitchol bead art, cultural bookshops, chess tournaments, art, mini-concerts and is surrounded by restaurants and purveyors of booze aplenty. Nice place to start a Saturday evening. All along the length of Avenida Chapultepec. Check the website for upcoming gigs and add around 2 hours to whatever time they say said gig starts at.
Mercado de Santa Tere: Mainly clothes and groceries, but is pretty sprawling with plenty of good food along the way. Very traditional setting.
Tianguis de Antiguedades: Antique flea market at the bottom of Avenida Mexico. A bit pricey, but very interesting. Makes for a nice contrast with nextdoor’s Santa Tere market. For nearby tacos al pastor? Tacos Fonseca over the road.
7. Tacos / street food
Don’t miss a chance to eat some of the best and cheapest food in all of Mexico. Find any stall with lots of people there, scrutinise the hand-written menu signs, wisely decide against tacos made of words for body parts you recognise (ojos, lengua, cabeza, etc) and order up something. Tacos al pastor are my faves, like mini donner kebabs (pork), bistek (steak) and chorizo (pork sausage) and go crazy with the cilantro (coriander), onion and salsas. You can eat until you’re bursting for about 3 quid, (or 5 american bucks). Including a soft drink to put out the fire of the salsa you thought wasn’t hot. My favourite tacos stands: ‘Ta Corte, Americas y Reforma (SV), Most of San Juan de Dios and the one outside the Lucha Libre. But as I said, just make sure there’s a queue…
Raul, who writes one of my favourite Guadalajara restaurant/ food blogs, now offers Guadalajara street food tours. I’ve never actually done one, but the descriptions look spot on, and he knows his stuff. He even has a 60 point scorecard for comparing the respective merits of tortas ahogadas.
So there you go. Thanks for reading and if you have any other suggestions, comment away below 🙂
And here’s another article of mine on Moving to Mexico
Spanish speakers / hispanohablantes! Chequen http://conoceguadalajara.com/ pa lo más actual