18 Best Sights in Guadalajara, Mexico

Instituto Cultural Cabañas

Fodor's choice

Financed by Bishop Juan Ruiz de Cabañas and constructed by Spanish architect-sculptor Manuel Tolsá, this neoclassical-style cultural center, also known as Hospicio Cabañas, was originally opened in 1810 as a shelter for widows, orphans, and the elderly. The Instituto's 106 rooms and 23 flower-filled patios now house art exhibitions. The main chapel displays murals by José Clemente Orozco, including The Man of Fire, his masterpiece. In all, there are 57 murals by Orozco, plus many of his smaller paintings, cartoons, and drawings. Kids can marvel at the murals, some which appear as optical illusions, and investigate the labyrinthine compound. The center was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Museo del Premio Nacional de la Cerámica Pantaleon Panduro

Fodor's choice

The museum is named after Pantaleon Panduro, who's considered the father of modern ceramics in Jalisco. On display are prizewinning pieces from the museum's annual ceramics competition, held every June. It's possibly the best representation of modern Mexican pottery under a single roof. You can request an English-speaking guide.

Calle Prisciliano Sánchez 191, 45500, Mexico
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Basílica de Zapopan

This vast church with an ornate plateresque facade and Mudejar (Moorish) tile dome was consecrated in 1730. It's home to the Virgin (or Our Lady) of Zapopan: a 10-inch-high, corn-paste statue venerated as a source of many miracles. Every October 12 more than a million people crowd the streets around the basilica, where the Virgin is returned after a five-month tour of Jalisco's parish churches. It's an all-night fiesta capped by an early-morning procession.

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Av. Hidalgo at Calle Mariano Matamoros, 45100, Mexico
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Catedral de Guadalajara

Begun in 1561 and consecrated in 1618, this downtown focal point is an intriguing mélange of baroque, Gothic, and other styles. Its emblematic twin towers replaced the originals, felled by the earthquake of 1818. Ten of the silver-and-gold altars were gifts from King Fernando VII in thanks for Guadalajara's financial support of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. Some of the world's most magnificent retablos (altarpieces) adorn the walls; above the sacristy (often closed to the public) is Bartolomé Esteban Murillo's priceless 17th-century painting The Assumption of the Virgin. In a loft above the main entrance is a magnificent 19th-century French organ.

Av. 16 de Septiembre, between Av. Hidalgo and Calle Morelos, 44100, Mexico
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El Tepalo Waterfall


The waterfall is a 40-minute walk from Ajijijc and only visible during the rainy season, but the trek is definitely worth it if you want to spend some time in nature without people around you.

Guachimontones Ruins

For decades, residents in this sleepy village of sugarcane farmers had a name for the funny-looking mounds in the hills above town, but they never considered the Guachimontones to be more than a convenient source of rocks for local construction projects. Then in the early 1970s an American archaeologist asserted that the mounds were the remnants of a long-vanished, 2,000-year-old community. It took Phil Weigand nearly three decades to convince authorities in Mexico City that he wasn't crazy. Before he was allowed to start excavating and restoring this monumental site in the late 1990s, plenty more houses and roads were produced with Guachimonton rock—and countless tombs were looted of priceless art.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is most distinctive for its sophisticated concentric architecture—a circular pyramid surrounded by a ring of flat ground, surrounded by a series of smaller platforms arranged in a circle. The "Teuchitlán Tradition," as the concentric circle structures are called, is unique in world architecture. While little is known about the ancient settlement, Weigand believes the formations suggest the existence of a pre-Hispanic state in the region, whereas it was previously held that only socially disorganized nomads inhabited the area at the time. Similar ruins are spread throughout the foothills of the extinct Tequila Volcano, but this is the biggest site yet detected.

A large visitor center and museum was built in 2009.

Carretera Estatal 604, Mexico

José Cuervo Distillery

Opened in 1795, the José Cuervo Distillery is the world's oldest tequila distillery. Every day, 150 tons of agave hearts are processed into 80,000 liters of tequila here. Tours are given daily every hour from 10 to 4; the tours at noon and 3 are in English, but English speakers can often be accommodated at other times. The basic tour, which includes one margarita cocktail, costs $8. It's $12 for tours with a few additional tastings as well as an educational catalog, or $20 if you want to add special reserve tequilas to your tasting. Tours including round-trip transportation can be arranged through the major hotels and travel agencies in Guadalajara. This is a good deal, including several tequila tastings, a complimentary margarita, and time for lunch for about $22. Call at least a day in advance to make arrangements.

Make sure to ask the guide for coupons for an additional margarita, as well as discounts at an area restaurant and in the gift shop.

Lake Chapala


Ajijic is also set along Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest freshwater lake. Boat tours will show you other points of view of the lake. Take some time to enjoy the peace and quiet, as this is what Tapatíos (Guadalajara citizens) come here for.

Museo de Arte de Zapopan

Better known by its initials, MAZ, the large and modern Art Museum of Zapopan is Guadalajara's top contemporary art gallery. The museum regularly holds expositions of distinguished Latin American painters, photographers, and sculptors, as well as occasional international shows.

Andador 20 de Noviembre 166, at Calle 28 de Enero, 45100, Mexico
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Museo de las Artes

The University of Guadalajara's contemporary art museum is in this exquisite early-20th-century building. The permanent collection includes several murals by Orozco. Revolving exhibits have contemporary works from Latin America, Europe, and the United States.

Av. Juárez 975, 44100, Mexico
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Museo de los Abuelos

The Museo de los Abuelos, or Sauza Museum, has memorabilia from the Sauza family, a tequila-making dynasty second only to the Cuervos. The museum is open daily 10–3. Admission costs about 50¢; for this low price they offer tours in English as well as Spanish, depending on the needs of the crowd.

Museo Huichol Wixarica de Zapopan

The Huichol Indians of northern Jalisco and the neighboring states of Zacatecas and Nayarit are famed for their fierce independence and exquisite beadwork and yarn "paintings." This small museum has rather hokey mannequins wearing the intricately embroidered clothing of both men and women. Bilingual placards explain the Huichol religion and world view. The gift shop sells a small inventory of beaded items, prayer arrows, and god's eyes.

Calle Eva Briseño 152, 45110, Mexico
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Museo Regional de Guadalajara

Constructed as a seminary and public library in 1701, this has been the Guadalajara Regional Museum's home since 1918. First-floor galleries contain artifacts tracing western Mexico's history from prehistoric times through the Spanish conquest. Five 19th-century carriages, including one used by General Porfirio Díaz, are on the second-floor balcony. There's an impressive collection of European and Mexican paintings.

Calle Liceo 60, 44100, Mexico
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Museo Regional de la Cerámica

The frequently changing exhibits at the Regional Museum of Ceramics are in the many rooms surrounding a central courtyard. Track the evolution of ceramic wares in the Atemajac Valley during the 20th century. The presentation isn't always strong, but the Spanish-language displays discuss six common processes used by local artisans, including barro bruñido, which involves polishing large urns with smoothed chunks of pyrite. 

Palacio de Gobierno

The adobe structure of 1643 was replaced with this churrigueresque and neoclassical stone structure in the 18th century. Within are Jalisco's state offices and two of José Clemente Orozco's most passionate murals, both worth the visit alone. One just past the entrance depicts a gigantic Father Miguel Hidalgo looming amid figures representing oppression and slavery. Upstairs, the other mural (look for a door marked "Congreso") portrays Hidalgo, Juárez, and other Reform-era figures.

Av. Corona 31, 44100, Mexico
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Plaza de Armas

Centro Histórico Zapopan

The State Band of Jalisco and the Municipal Band sometimes play at the bandstand on Tuesday around 6:30 pm.

Teatro Degollado

Inaugurated in 1866, this magnificent theater was modeled after Milan's La Scala. The refurbished theater preserves its traditional red-and-gold color scheme, and its balconies ascend to a multitier dome adorned with Gerardo Suárez's depiction of Dante's Divine Comedy. The theater is home to the Jalisco Philharmonic.

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Av. Degollado between Av. Hidalgo and Calle Morelos, 44100, Mexico
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Templo Expiatorio

The striking neo-Gothic Church of Atonement is Guadalajara's most breathtaking church. Modeled after Italy's Orvieto Cathedral, it has phenomenal stained-glass windows—observe the rose window above the choir and pipe organ.

Calle Díaz de León 930, 44100, Mexico
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