Guadalajara has two great qualities that appeal to many travelers: a strong Mexican identity, and a big city with big-city pleasures. People who are fond of Mexico and enjoy exploring a different urban scene will love it. One of my favorite things about the city is the ease with which you can move around. Taxis are reasonably priced and numerous; you rarely have to wait more than a minute or two to find one. It takes the fuss out of navigating a big city on your own, and obviates the need to figure out bus routes. Just grab a cab and go.
Guadalajara is a lively town with friendly locals, great food, and lots of options for entertainment. And much of what you'll find here is so very Mexican. Guadalajara is the center of mariachi culture, and, being in the tequila-producing region of Mexico, it's the center of tequila culture as well. The other things that one comes to Mexico to see are present too -- colonial architecture, native craft cultures, and shopping galore. Guadalajara really has it all.
It is the second-largest city in the country, with about five million inhabitants. Its altitude (1,590m/5,200 ft.) lends it a mild climate for most of the year. It's a mildly conservative, very Catholic city, quite distinct from Mexico City. And the pace of life here is more relaxed. It's often called the biggest small town in Mexico.
While in Guadalajara, you will undoubtedly come across the word tapatío (or tapatía). In colonial times, people from the area customarily traded goods in threes, called tapatíos. From this practice, the locals came to be called Tapatíos as well; now tapatío has come to mean any person, thing, or style that comes from Guadalajara.
Public Security & Travel
In the summer of 2010, Mexican soldiers and police cornered one of Mexico's major drug figures, Ignacio Coronel, in a residential zone of Zapopan, a suburb of Guadalajara. He died in the ensuing shootout. This seemed to raise tensions in the city, and in the following month there were some shootings and attacks on the police. Then, on February 2, 2011, the police arrested two leaders of a local gang called La Resistencia. The following day, members of this gang retaliated by coordinating seven attacks in different parts of the city in a 2-hour span. The attackers used grenades, firearms, and incendiary devices, killing two people and wounding several others. A couple attacks were loosely targeted, but mostly this was a show of force meant to create mayhem in the city. A couple of weeks later there was a grenade attack on a local nightclub that killed six people. These attacks have again raised tensions in Guadalajara, but they're probably isolated, and things will return to normal. Still, before you travel to the city, check the news for more developments, and the U.S. Department of State travel page (www.travel.state.gov) to find out if there are any specific travel warnings for the city.
The State of Jalisco Tourist Information Office is at Calle Morelos 102 (tel. 33/3668-1600, or -1601; http://visita.jalisco.gob.mx) in the Plaza Tapatía, at Paseo Degollado and Paraje del Rincón del Diablo. It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to 7pm, and Saturday 10am to 2pm. You can get maps, a monthly calendar of cultural events, and good information. Of the city tourist information booths, one is in Plaza Liberación (directly behind the cathedral), and another is in Plaza Guadalajara (directly in front of the cathedral). These are open daily from 9am to 1pm and 3 to 7pm. Ask at either of these about free weekend walking tours.
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