Guadalajara Itinerary

The four primary municipalities of metropolitan Guadalajara are Guadalajara, Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, and Tonalá. Aside from Zapopan, areas of interest to visitors can be navigated on foot in a few hours, though each deserves at least half a day. Zapopan requires more time since it's a sprawling suburb with lots of shopping. Due west of Guadalajara's Centro Histórico, Zona Minerva is the place to go for great restaurants and after-dark action. Plan on a third day if you want to visit outlying areas like Lake Chapala and Teuchitlán.

On the morning of Day 1, visit historic Guadalajara, checking out the cathedral and other landmarks on the plazas. Mercado Libertad (aka Mercado San Juan de Dios) is several long blocks east of Plaza Fundadores; you can walk or take the subway two blocks south of the cathedral on Avenida Juárez. If it's Sunday, see a charrería (rodeo); otherwise head to Zapopan to see the basilica, the Huichol Museum, and the Art Museum of Zapopan, and spend 15 minutes at la presidencia municipal (city hall) to admire the mural inside. Check out the market, two blocks west at Calles Eva Briseño and Hidalgo, before grabbing a snack on Paseo Teopinztle, two blocks south. For dinner, dine in downtown Guadalajara or the Zona Minerva.

Spend the second day shopping and visiting churches and museums in the old towns of Tonalá and the more compact, walkable Tlaquepaque. If you're here on Thursday or Sunday, don't miss the Tonalá crafts market. El Parián in Tlaquepaque is a great place to enjoy a mariachi serenade and refreshments. Have lunch or dinner in one of Tlaquepaque's charming restaurants. If you don't want to shop, consider spending an afternoon listening to mariachi music, seeing a charrería, or visiting the gardens at Parque Azul.

If you have three days, you'll have time to visit Tequila or Lake Chapala and admire the relatively dry hills and valleys, noting the fields of blue agave that are Tequila's reason for being. Tequila is en route to San Blas and Puerto Vallarta. Lake Chapala and the towns on the shore work well as a day excursion, especially if you have a car.

Logistics and Tips

You need at least three hours for the Centro Histórico, longer if you really want to enjoy the sculptures and street scene. Mornings are the least crowded time of day, although the light is particularly beautiful in the afternoon, when the jugglers, street musicians, and other informal entertainers emerge. Take advantage of free walking tours in the historical district. Accompanied by mariachis or other musicians, the two-hour tours meet most evenings around dusk in front of city hall. Show up at about 7 pm (an hour earlier during winter) to register.

Beware of heavy traffic and topes (speed bumps). Traffic circles are common at busy intersections.

Tonalá's crafts market and Mercado Libertad are the region's top marketplaces. El Trocadero is a weekly antiques market at the north end of Avenida Chapultepec. Feel free to drive a hard bargain at all three.

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