The homeland of tequila, mariachi music and the charro (Mexican cowboy), Guadalajara, the capital of the state of Jalisco, is widely considered the "most Mexican" of cities. The country's second-largest metropolis is a mix of historic and modern architecture. Stroll the labyrinthine hospital grounds of the 19th-century Hospicio Cabañas, or lose yourself among fans cheering on Las Chivas soccer team at the Estadio Movistar. While cultural treasures abound in the historic center, Guadalajara is also a major financial hub, reflected in the bustling, contemporary Zona Minerva.
Things to Do
Ride a horse-drawn calandria through the city's Centro Histórico for the best view of the cathedral's twin steeples towering over the broad, surrounding plazas. The Palacio del Gobierno's main attraction is the colossal mural by José Clemente Orozco, which passionately depicts Father Miguel Hidalgo and the Mexican Revolution. One of the best people-watching opportunities is along the Paseo Teopizintle in upscale Zapopan. On weekend evenings, families stroll here in their finest, past sidewalk shops and restaurants.
Search for authentic handmade leather sandals and guitars at the sprawling, open-air Mercado Libertad, scented with a mix of leather and chile wafting from the market's food stalls. The artist villages of Tlaquepaque and Tonalá, just outside Guadalajara, are the best handicraft sources. The onsite factory shops offer a glimpse of the artists at work creating chunky silver bracelets, colorful glassware and gleaming copper.
Nightlife and Entertainment
The Teatro Degollado has a performance calendar that blends world-class opera, ballet and symphony events with September's annual International Mariachi Festival. To experience a nightly fiesta, go to the colorful La Feria restaurant and bar, whose evening entertainment features joyful mariachi bands comprised of violins, guitars and trumpets. For even more of the region's festive troubadour music, performed by bands wearing silver-studded charro outfits, head to the Plaza de los Mariachis. You'll pay a small fee for a serenade.
Restaurants and Dining
Hearty local specialties, torta ahogada sandwich drowned in chile de árbol sauce and birria (spicy stew with goat or lamb), are plentiful in food stalls of the Mercado Libertad and restaurants of Las Nueve Esquinas. Casa Bariachi's menu features juicy steaks, and waiters sing with mariachi bands. Artful takes on Mexican cuisine are served at El Sacromonte, where the decor is as intricate as la corona de la reina Isabel -- a crown of shrimp drizzled with lobster sauce.