Guadalajara is the capital and largest city in the Mexican state of Jalisco. With a population of over 1.3 million people, it is Mexico’s second largest city behind Mexico City. Guadalajara is known for its history, culture, cuisine, and architecture. Here is an overview of some of the top things that Guadalajara is famous for.
One of the most famous things that Guadalajara is known for is tequila. The city is located in the heart of Mexico’s main tequila producing region. Many of the major tequila brands like Jose Cuervo and Sauza are based in Guadalajara or just outside the city limits. Guadalajara hosts the annual Feria Nacional del Tequila (National Tequila Fair) every year in November which attracts producers from all over Mexico. The city is filled with tequila tasting rooms, distillery tours, and tequila-centric bars and restaurants.
Mariachi Music and Culture
Guadalajara is considered the birthplace of mariachi music and is an epicenter for mariachi culture. The traditional mariachi bands with guitars, violins, trumpet, and vocals originated in small towns around Guadalajara in the 19th century before spreading across Mexico. Today, Guadalajara has mariachi schools, plazas filled with mariachi musicians, and mariachi festivals celebrated annually in the city. Many famous mariachi singers and groups have come out of Guadalajara over the years. The city honors its mariachi culture with a Mariachi Walk of Fame where famous performers are immortalized with stars.
Mexican Vaquero Culture
Guadalajara has a long tradition of Mexican cowboys known as vaqueros. The surrounding state of Jalisco is cattle country, so Guadalajara developed as a center of the vaquero lifestyle including cattle ranching, rodeos, horseback riding, and cowboy attire. The classic charro suit worn by mariachis originated as vaquero horse riding outfits around Guadalajara. The city celebrates this history with bullfighting rings, charreadas (Mexican rodeos), and horse parades. The annual Expo Ganadera livestock and agriculture expo displays Guadalajara’s vaquero culture.
Architecture and Historic Buildings
Guadalajara has a wealth of colonial architecture and historic buildings dating back to the 16th century. The historic center of Guadalajara has over 600 blocks with centuries-old architecture featuring plazas, fountains, ornamental buildings, and churches. Notable buildings include the Guadalajara Cathedral which dates back to the 1500s, Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres honoring notable Jalisco natives, the ornate Teatro Degollado theater, and institutional buildings like the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace). Guadalajara also has many ornate buildings in neoclassical, neo-Gothic, and Art Nouveau styles.
A famous food that originated in Jalisco and Guadalajara is pozole. Pozole is a pre-Columbian hominy and meat stew that was traditionally eaten on Thursdays in Guadalajara. It is made from hominy (dried corn kernels) cooked with meats like pork, chicken, beef and seasoned chiles, garlic, onions, oregano, and garnishes. Locals in Guadalajara take pride in their family pozole recipes that have been passed down for generations. The city has many popular pozole restaurants and eating pozole is a dining tradition.
Another iconic food of Guadalajara is birria. Birria is a spicy meat stew traditionally made with goat meat, but also made with beef or pork today. The meat is cooked in a chili-infused broth until tender and served with corn tortillas. Birria originates from Jalisco and is quintessentially Guadalajara. The city has many beloved birrerias (birria restaurants) that have secret family birria recipes. Birria’s popularity has now spread beyond Jalisco but locals take pride in Guadalajara style birria.
Charrería is a traditional Mexican sport that developed around cattle ranching culture and is closely tied to Guadalajara and Jalisco. Referred to sometimes as “Mexican rodeo,” charrería involves roping, horsemanship, cattle herding, bull riding and other cowboy skills. Guadalajara has many charro associations and hosts competitive charrería events in large bullrings. Charrería requires traditional Mexican charro clothing and skilled horsemanship. It is a culturally significant sport that originated around Guadalajara as a ranching necessity and competitive pastime.
Plazas and Markets
Guadalajara has many lively plazas and markets which are central gathering places and economic centers. The Plaza de Armas and Plaza Guadalajara are popular tree-filled plazas surrounded by historic buildings, restaurants, and churches. The Mercado San Juan de Dios and Mercado Libertad are traditional markets selling food, crafts, spices, tools, leather goods, and more. The Sunday Tianguis markets spill into the streets with hundreds of vendors. These markets and plazas bustle with culture and commerce and give Guadalajara its distinctive energy.
Calle Ocho, or Eighth Street, is one of the most famous and historic streets in Guadalajara’s city center. It is a pedestrian-only street known for its architecture, culture, restaurants, markets, and nightlife. Calle Ocho has ornate colonial-era buildings housing boutiques, galleries, hotels and cafe. It hosts festivals like the chef-focused Calle Ocho Festival. At night, Calle Ocho becomes a hotspot for bars, clubs, music venues, and street food stands. Calle Ocho encapsulates Guadalajara’s liveliness and charm in one pedestrian thoroughfare.
The neighborhood of Tlaquepaque, on the outskirts of Guadalajara, is famous for its shops, galleries, restaurants and Parián market. Once its own small town, now part of the metro area, Tlaquepaque is known as the “Artisan Paradise of Jalisco” for its artisan goods. Shoppers flock to Tlaquepaque to browse unique pottery, glassware, jewelry, furniture, and crafts. It is also known for lively plazas, colonial architecture, galleries, and upscale bars and restaurants. Tlaquepaque still retains a quaint small town feel while offering high-end shopping and dining just outside the city center.
Instituto Cultural Cabañas
Guadalajara is home to the Institute Cultural Cabañas, one of Mexico’s most architecturally significant buildings. It was designed by famous Mexican architect Luis Barragán and built in the 1930s. The dramatic structure seamlessly combines stark modern and neoclassical design. It houses an art museum and Murals Under the Dome, a collection of José Clemente Orozco murals. The unique, angular Cabañas complex with its mix of art and architecture draws visitors from around the world and is an iconic Guadalajara landmark.
International Film Festival
Every year Guadalajara hosts the Festival Internacional de Cine en Guadalajara, or Guadalajara International Film Festival. Since 1986, this week-long festival has screenings of international films, hosts prestigious guests, and serves as Mexico’s most important film event. It is considered the “Mexican Oscars” and helped launch the Mexican film industry (“Mexploitation”). For movie buffs, the star-studded Guadalajara Film Fest is a can’t-miss event and cements the city’s reputation as Mexico’s cultural capital.
Canyon of Colomos
Located just outside Guadalajara’s city center is the Paisaje Colomos natural protected area known as the Canyon of Colomos. This sprawling park features hiking trails, lookout points, and forests along the arroyo river canyon. It offers walking, mountain biking, ziplines, restaurants, nurseries, sports fields and museums. For locals, the canyon provides a recreational green space with fresh air and natural scenery right in the metro area. It provides outdoor activities and a family-friendly day trip destination.
Guachimontones Archaeological Site
One unique archaeological site near Guadalajara draws visitors interested in history and architecture. Guachimontones was an ancient circular stepped pyramid complex built around 200 CE in the surrounding region of Teuchitlán. It was discovered in 1970 and reflects a previously unknown ancient civilization in western Mexico. Visitors can explore the circular stepped pyramids, buildings, and tunnels excavated at this mystifying site. Guachimontones offers insights into forgotten peoples and cultures who once called Jalisco home.
Glass making and blown glass arts are another tradition in Guadalajara and the greater Jalisco region. It is believed Spanish conquistadors established some of the first glass-making factories in western Mexico which used the abundant silica sand deposits. Today, many small towns around Guadalajara like Tonalá are known for their glass making artisans who create decorative glassware, glasses, jugs, figurines and more. Shops across Guadalajara sell locally made glass works of art, keeping alive Jalisco’s centuries-old industry.
Las Nueve Esquinas
The intersection of Las Nueve Esquinas, or Nine Corners, is one of Guadalajara’s most famous meeting points. Located in the heart of the city’s historic center, it is the junction of five streets: Avenida Juárez, Avenida 16 de Septiembre, Calle Leandro Valle, Calle Morelos, and Calle Gonzalez Gallo. The ornate Art Deco style El Parián market building completed in 1886 sits in the center of the hectic five-way intersection. For locals, Nueve Esquinas is the center of commerce and transportation for the downtown area.
Ambience and Festivals
Besides specific sites and landmarks, Guadalajara is also famous for its general ambience, energy and festivals calendar. The city is known for its laidback charm, temperate spring-like climate, thriving public spaces, and friendly hospitality. There are also an abundance of culture, music, and food festivals nearly every month which fill the plazas and streets. Some of the most popular festivals include the International Book Fair, Guadalajara Film Festival, Expo Tequila, and International Mariachi Festival.
Guadalajara is a shopping haven, especially for Mexican handcrafts and folk art. The city has large traditional markets, boutique shops, neighborhood tianguis markets, and high-end malls. Some popular items to buy include ceramics from Tlaquepaque, blown glass, textiles, papier mâché art called “cartonería”, leather huarache sandals, jewelry, and traditional clothing. Guadalajara also has hip fashion designers producing cutting edge and affordable fashion. Shopping here is a cultural experience and each neighborhood offers different specialties.
One of the top things for families to do in Guadalajara is visit the Guadalajara Zoo. This 60-acre zoo located across from the Canyon of Colomos was opened in 1980. It houses over 220 species of animals from around the world including elephants, tigers, lions, rhinos, zebras, bears, and giant pandas. The zoo has many interactive exhibits and endangered species breeding programs. Families can view wildlife, ride the train, visit the petting farm, take pony rides and more at this expansive zoo.
Calzada Independencia is a long avenue that connects downtown Guadalajara to one of its wealthiest suburbs, Zapopan. This boulevard is famous for being an entertainment and dining hub, filled with restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and cultural spaces. It is lively on weekends when families and friends come to dine al fresco along the tree-lined avenue. At night, the energy shifts to bars, clubs, music venues, galleries that are strung along Calzada Independencia. This boulevard pulses with constant entertainment.
Chivas Soccer Club
The city’s beloved soccer club is Chivas, officially Club Deportivo Guadalajara. Founded in 1906, it is the largest soccer club and has the most fans in Mexico. Home games are played in Estadio Akron stadium which seats over 46,000 roaring fans. Soccer is a huge part of local culture with kids aspiring to play for Chivas. Games, especially derby matches against rival teams like Atlas, are major events. Chivas is the only Mexican team to exclusively field Mexican players which contributes to its immense national following.
On the south side of Guadalajara’s Plaza de la Liberación is the imposing Teatro Degollado. This domed neoclassical theater was built in the mid-1800s during Mexico’s Porfiriato period. It was designed by architect Jacobo Galvez in a European style with Italian Carrera marble and French artists contributed paintings and sculptures. Past performers have included Enrico Caruso and Anna Pavlova. The iconic circular white marble structure is still used for concerts and shows ranging from opera to Mexican pop stars. It is both a historic landmark and still a functioning theater.
Local Artists and Handicrafts
Local artists and artisans are another source of Guadalajara pride. The city is a hotbed for Mexican creativity in works that highlight folk themes. Talavera ceramicists create fine Puebla-style pottery, sold in markets across the city. Glass makers demonstrate their skills in the Artisan Glass Factory. Wood workers bring Mexican mythology and nature to life in hand carved “laca” decorations. Sweet “cajeta” caramel is crafted from goat milk at dulce shops. Artisan bakers sell designer breads and “pan de Dulce” pastries. Guadalajara’s local handicrafts add creative flair.
Universities and Academia
Guadalajara is considered Mexico’s “Capital of Learning” and is home to prestigious universities, academies and colleges. The Universidad de Guadalajara, established in 1791, is the second oldest university in Mexico and one of the largest universities in Latin America. The city has science, technology and research centers like the FUMEC science museum. Other top schools include ITESO (Universidad Jesuita de Guadalajara), CULAGOS Universidad, and medical schools turning Guadalajara into a college town and hub for education.
Guadalajara Book Fair
Every November, Guadalajara hosts La Feria Internacional del Libro de Guadalajara, known as the Guadalajara International Book Fair. Started in 1987, it gathers together over 800 exhibitors and 500,000 visitors each year. Writers, publishers, booksellers and readers from around the world descend on Guadalajara for book launches, signings, conferences, workshops and cultural events. It is the largest book fair in the Spanish-speaking world and a landmark cultural event for the city of Guadalajara and beyond.
From iconic dishes like pozole and birria to sweet baked goods and tequila, Guadalajara is famous for its local cuisine. Some foods like tortas ahogadas (drowned sandwiches) originated in Jalisco. The city’s cooking culture combines pre-Hispanic corn dishes, meats, chilies and spices with European influences. Locals take pride in traditional recipes, markets, family-run restaurants, and street foods that define tapatío (from Guadalajara) cuisine. For foodies, Guadalajara is an underrated gem offering regional Mexican flavors.
For a combination of history, culture, cuisine, nightlife and pioneer spirit, Guadalajara stands out as a top Mexican destination. Visitors will find colonial landmarks, charming public spaces, famous markets and museums, delicious local foods, unique shopping, and an infectious energy. Mariachi music, tequila, football, and Innovation blend with traditional vaquero culture for a multi-faceted experience. There are historic neighborhoods to explore, festivals happening year-round, and an affordable cosmopolitan vibe. Whether tasting tequila, taking in mariachis, or shopping for crafts, Guadalajara leaves a unique impression.