By: Vanessa Sanchez |

 As Mexico’s second largest city, Guadalajara’s magic is in its cocktail of preserved history and artistic innovation. Often noted as the cultural hub of Mexico, majestic Guadalajara and its offerings are just a three-hour flight from Tijuana. For easy and inexpensive travel between Tijuana and Guadalajara, use the first binational airport terminal, Cross Border Xpress, located in San Diego. The Cross Border Xpress offers an airport terminal that takes passengers directly from San Diego to the Tijuana airport with ease.

After using your passport to cross the Cross Border Xpress bridge and completing the three-hour flight from Tijuana, it is a short cab ride from the airport to the historic center. Be warned, though: Mexican cab drivers channel their inner Formula 1 racecar drivers with each fare.

The beauty of Guadalajara is unrivaled. You walk down cobblestone streets lined with towering gothic buildings and taco shops with lines wrapped around the block. It is quite literally a European city in the center of Mexico with Spanish, French and indigenous influences visible in the architecture, food and culture.

 The historic center of Guadalajara is reminiscent of a European city with its plazas, shops and masses of people walking the streets. There are soccer tournaments on one side of the plaza, teachers protesting on behalf of various causes or movements on the other side and students taking turns reading “Frankenstein” into a microphone.

Frozen in time, there are shoeshiners lining the plazas and men at desks with typewriters helping citizens fill in their government paperwork. A Starbucks across the street will quickly bring you back to the 21st century. There really is no way to capture the time portal Guadalajara is in, but it is a magical trip for anyone eager to see the beauty in a city torn between its past and its present.

 A few of the must–see sights include the Instituto Cultural Cabanas in the nearby town of Tlaquepaque

Founded as an orphanage in 1791, the Instituto Cultural Cabanas now houses one of the most culturally significant murals painted by popular Mexican artist Jose Clemente Orozco.

Only $4 for admission–less than a McDonalds Happy Meal–, provides you access to connecting rooms filled with Mexican art. This all leads to one of the most sacred pieces of Mexican art: El Hombre de Fuego by Orozco.

 This isn’t just any mural or graffiti splattered on walls Orozco painted the entire hall from bottom to dome ceiling Mexico’s history and its revolution. You can lie back on a bench and try to determine the most minute details in this intricate mural, while listening to an animated guide proudly explain the history of the mural, or just sit there and realize you are surrounded by art in its truest form.

Another must–see in Guadalajara is the nearby municipality of Tlaquepaque.

Proudly the home of the Mariachi, Tlaquepaque is home to boutique shops with artisan crafts, hidden restaurants boasting authentic Mexican food and, best of all, tequila shops.

Guadalajara is the birthplace of the mighty tequila that can bring you to or to your knees with a punch Muhammad Ali. The tequila shops have bottles from floor to ceiling, free tastings and knowledgeable sales clerks ready to sell you a lifetime supply of 100 percent pure tequila.

 It’s highly suggested you down a few tortas before walking into the shop and buy more than one bottle if you expect any of it to make it back home. Yes, the tequila is that delicious and no customer leaves disappointed. Or sober.

Guadalajara really does have it all: history, culture, food and booze. It can be a romantic couple’s getaway, a family destination or a party trip. Mexico’s second largest city boasts a Mexican-European atmosphere with low prices and high culture and it’s a cocktail not to be missed.


  1. This article barely touches the history and beauty of Guadalajara. One correction I might note is the Instituto Cultural Cabanas is actually in the Historic District of Centro Guadalajara and NOT Tlalquepaque and directly north of the magnificent Metropolitan Cathedral and a beautiful pedestrian plaza. Don’t overlook either the largest Latin American street market…Mercado San Juan de Dios (a/k/a Mercado Libertad)…just a short walk away from the Instituto. Go an hour south of Guadalajara and you are on the shore of Mexico’s largest inland lake…Lake Chapala… and according to National Geographic, the second best climate in the world.

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