Guadalajara, Mexico is the second largest city in the country but has somehow managed to retain its charm and elegance. It has been called the “City of Roses” and is known as the birthplace of Mariachis, Tequila, and the Mexican Hat Dance. The city is extremely pleasant to walk because of the numerous plazas, fountains, and parks.
Visitors spend much of their time in the pedestrian-zone of nine blocks (the Plaza Tapatia) which extends from the Cathedral to the Instituto Cultural Cabanas. Most of the main attractions in town are located near this area.
The Cathedral dominates one side of the Plaza de Armas, a lovely square whose bandstand is the scene of frequent evening concerts. Its twin towers with yellow-tiled roofs are distinctive and the altarpieces inside are striking. On another side of the square is the Palacio de Gobierno, which boasts murals by one of Mexico’s foremost muralists, Jose Clemente Orozco.
To the east is the elegant Teatro Degollada, which is patterned after Milan’s La Scala. At the eastern end of the pedestrian area is a former orphanage, the Hospicio Cabanas which has been transformed into a cultural arts center. It is now known as the Instituto Cultural Cabanas and is notable not only for it exhibitions, performances, and as a school for the performing arts, but also for the building itself. It is a Neo-Classic gem of fine architecture and attractive courtyards and also contains additional murals by Orozco.
Two of Guadalajara’s suburbs are worthy of mention because they are significant arts and crafts producers. Tlaquepaque and Tonala have factories and numerous shops to explore.
Those interested in tequila, the distinctly Mexican liquor, may want to travel about 55 kilometers (35 miles) northwest of Guadalajara to the town of Tequila, to visit a distillery and see first-hand how the agave plant is transformed into this ancient (produced since the 10th century) liquor.