A perfect month in Guadalajara, Mexico

For us, life in Guadalajara centered in and around the main square, Plaza de la Liberación. While most expatriates and foreigners choose to locate themselves in the more touristy areas of Zona Chapultepec or Tlaquepaque, we chose to live in the historic district, and never regretted the decision for a moment. From our charming refurbished apartment in a historic building, we had easy access to everything we needed.

An exhibit of sidewalk art made from trash, this one different colored bottle caps

Plaza de la Liberación became a frequent destination for work, as we parked ourselves with laptops at the Starbucks; for entertainment, as we joined in on many of the frequent concerts and festivals; and for culture, as we even attended a couple of shows at the Teatro Degollado. The square became our happy place, and is one of the things we now miss most about the city.

One of the first sites we saw in Plaza de la Liberación

Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city, and is actually made up of three distinctly different metros, Zapopán (which, admittedly, we never made it to), Tlaquepaque, and Guadalajara.

Jay and Lea in Paris

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When we decided we would spend a month in Guadalajara, we were looking for a change from the hustle and bustle of touristy Puerto Vallarta, and the city was an easy five hour, first-class bus ride away. We weren’t disappointed. Guadalajara’s history, colonial architecture, outstanding food, excellent value and distinct lack of American and Canadian tourists captured our hearts.

The iconic Guadalajara Cathedral building from our Hop On, Hop Off bus

We never suffered for things to do. The city is teeming with museums, including the renowned Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage site, built at the beginning of the 19th century to provide care and shelter for the disadvantaged. Now days, the site houses the Instituto Cultural Canañas which oversees work by José Clemente Orozco and collections of paintings, graphics, photographs and sculptures by artists from Jalisco, Mexico and abroad.

Hospicio Cabañas

On the edge of Plaza de la Liberación, is the Teatro Degollado, a neoclassical beauty which first opened in 1866. We just had to take in a couple of performances there, the highlight of which was Kill Carmen.

Teatro Degollado

Waiting for Kill Carmen to start

At the other end of the spectrum, Guadalajara is a great place to experience Lucha Libre, or Mexican wrestling, which can only be described as a hoot.

Lucha Libre

We went as part of a tour operated by the Red Pub, which includes transportation aboard a double decker bus (beer included) and entrance to the show. Honestly, the most fun part of the whole evening is joining in on the audience participation and interaction between the wrestlers and fans.

And then there’s the food. Oh, the food in Guadalajara. Though not exactly healthy, it’s hard to argue with the flavors, the heat, the colors and the value.

Bubbling Molcajete – yum!

Two can feast on a couple ginormous plates of food with beers or margaritas and barely top USD $10. If you are lucky enough to visit, be sure to try the pozole, the molcajete and the chilaquiles. A sure bet is La Chata, which has been operating for over seventy years. There’s always a line, but it is well worth the wait!

Jay (back, left) falling asleep on his feet while in line for La Chata

And finally, you can’t miss Tlaquepaque. We only spent a couple of afternoons there, but were drawn in by the trendy shops, art galleries and El Parian, a cluster of restaurants circled around a central bandstand where you can watch nonstop mariachi music (mariachi got its start in Guadalajara).  

El Parian, Tlaquepaque

I hope someday we’ll have the opportunity to return to Guadalajara, as it’s been one of the highlights of our trek so far. As they say, “¡Nos encanta Guadalajara!”

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