what to do in guadalajara

Watching Mariachis play live in Guadalajara is a must. (Photo: Alamy)

Tips + Trends

5 Very Mexican Experiences to Enjoy in Guadalajara

Guadalajara is one of Mexico’s largest cities. A colonial center that captivates visitors with its impressive architecture and beautiful plazas, it is also a cultural hub, with many things seen as quintessentially Mexican hailing from there or more widely from the state of Jalisco to which it is the capital.

A trip to Guadalajara allows you to immerse yourself in Mexican experiences, like listening to Mariachi music or sipping on aged tequila. Here are our tips on five very Mexican things that you can enjoy while in the city.

1. Mariachi Music

Think Guadalajara and it won’t be long until Mariachis come to mind. Mariachi music developed from a mixture of several different musical influences, both foreign and indigenous, but the mariachi sound is said to have first come from the town of Cocula in Jalisco, located about one and a half hours from Guadalajara.

Seeing Mariachis play live is something that you will want to make time for while visiting Jalisco’s capital city. Head to La Plaza de los Mariachis, grab yourself a drink, maybe a tequila-based Margarita, and invite some Mariachis to come and play for your table.

You’ll be surprised how quickly you learn the words to Cielito Lindo, El Mariachi Loco and, of course, Jalisco’s favorite, Guadalajara.

2. Tequila

Probably Mexico’s most famous spirit—with mezcal now hot on its tail—Tequila hails from the blue agaves of Jalisco and more specifically from a town suitably named Tequila, just outside of Guadalajara.

Whether or not you are a fan of the tipple, you will likely get a new-found appreciation for it when trying some of the best blends in the city.

what to do in guadalajara
Visit the jimadores and blenders on your trip to Tequila. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you have time, a trip to Tequila to visit the jimadores and blenders is definitely worth it. However, there are also some great places to sample tequila in Guadalajara itself.

El Gallo Altanero is our top pick, they specialize in independent label tequilas and the staff can guide you in grasping the intricacies of this often-misunderstood spirit.

3. Folkloric Dance

The national dance of Mexico, known as the Jarabe Tapatío, hails directly from Guadalajara. Sometimes known as the Mexican Hat Dance, the dance is essentially a courtship ritual played out between two dancers.

The women wear colorful, multilayered dresses and the men look much like mariachis, in studded trousers and a large sombrero.

To see this and other local folkloric dances and to enjoy the variety of colorful, traditional outfits and wonderful music head to the Teatro Degollado to see performances by the talented dancers from the University of Guadalajara.

Performances generally take place every Sunday, but do check the timetable to ensure you don’t miss out.

4. Traditional Mexican Dishes

There are several iconic Mexican dishes that are native to Guadalajara. Have you ever wondered what a pork sandwich bathed in a red chile sauce would taste like? Well, look no further than the famous torta ahogada or ‘drowned sandwich’.

To try one, head to Tortas Ahogadas El Príncipe Heredero, where they have been using the same, very popular, recipe for over fifty years.

what to do in guadalajara
The famous torta ahogada hails from Guadalajara. (Photo: Getty Images)

Also on your list of foods to try in uadalajara should be birria (a spicy goat meat stew), and red pozole (a soup made with hominy and meat), as well as hibiscus flower candies made in nearby Chapala, which you can buy at the vibrant Mercado San Juan de Dios.

5. Charrería

Charrería, similar to rodeo events in the US, is Mexico’s national sport and is a chance for skilled charros to show off their wrangling and riding skills.

Declared part of Mexico’s Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO in 2016, the history of the charrería dates as far back as the arrival of the Spanish, becoming popularized just after the Mexican Revolution.

what to do in guadalajara
The Escaramuzas ride side-saddle, often wearing elaborate dresses. (Photo: Getty Images)

The charreadas, as the events are known, are held regularly in Guadalajara and are a great way to get in the local spirit. Visitors often particularly enjoy watching the Escaramuzas, the female charros who were only added to the event in the early nineties.

The Escaramuzas ride side-saddle, often wearing elaborate dresses, and perform highly technical choreographed moves.

A great place to check out a charreada is Campo Charro Jalisco, just a ten-minute drive from the city center.