Guadalajara is Mexico’s second biggest city, and in many respects can be considered the quintessential Mexican destination. This is the birthplace of mariachi music and tequila, but also one of the country’s industrial and business centers, sometimes referred to as Mexico’s Silicon Valley. Unlike many colonial cities that maintain their original town plan, in the 1950s Guadalajara underwent a major project that changed the face of the city. Older buildings were razed to allow for wide avenues with new constructions, underground parking lots and shopping centers. Fortunately, the most beautiful older buildings were left intact.
A stroll through Guadalajara will give you an appreciation for the green spaces and public art in the city’s many parks and plazas. At the heart of Guadalajara is the cathedral. With its twin pointed towers and central dome, it is the most recognizable landmark on the Guadalajara skyline. The Cathedral is surrounded on all four sides by plazas. Plaza Guadalajara faces the church. Its central fountain depicts two lions with their paws resting on the trunk of a tree, the city’s coat of arms. To the south is the Plaza de Armas with its art nouveau bandstand and matching lampposts. The adjacent Government Palace has a lovely baroque facade and a spectacular mural in the interior main staircase, which was painted by Jose Clemente Orozco. To the north of the Cathedral is the Rotondo de los Jaliscienses Ilustres. This green space has a central circular monument with seventeen ribbed columns; the statues surrounding it represent Jalisco’s illustrious sons (and one daughter), people from Jalisco who have made notable contributions in arts, science and politics.
Behind the Cathedral is the large Plaza de la Liberacion, so named to commemorate Miguel Hidalgo’s abolishment of slavery. A statue of Miguel Hidalgo holding a broken chain commemorates the event. The Teatro Degollado is at the far east end of the plaza. Guadalajara’s Ballet Folclorico performs here in this beautiful neoclassical building dating to 1856. Walk around to the back of the theater to see a fountain depicting the Guadalajara city founders. The Plaza Tapatio begins here and stretches over half a mile to the Hospicio Cabanas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. As you stroll along you’ll pass picturesque arcades and promenades, bubbling fountains, charming restored colonial buildings and modern sculptures. Nearby, the Plaza de los Mariachis offers a space to have a drink and listen to the mariachis play, a fitting end to a full day of sightseeing in Mexico’s second city.
Whether you choose to explore the city by foot, double decker bus or calandria (horse-drawn carriage), you’ll find that Guadalajara’s numerous plazas, colonial architecture and modern conveniences make this a delightful city to visit.