There’s no doubt that the historic center of Guadalajara (Centro Histórico) is one of the most captivating and important parts of the city. It’s the perfect opportunity to visit the city’s historical landmarks, gaze at the drop-dead gorgeous hodgepodge of colonial, neoclassical and baroque styles of architecture, and get a first hand impression of the city. Founded in 1542, Guadalajara boasts a historic center with more than four centuries of history combined with the more recent additions of monuments, parks, and squares. This Centro area attract locals and visitors in droves. It’s beautiful and the perfect place to take a walking tour, earmark attractions for return at a later time, and learn interesting tidbits about Mexican history.
The best way to get a feel of this city, or any city, is on foot. Here is a self-guided walking map that will hit the gems of centro histórico and make great use of 2-3 hours. Get started at Plaza Liberación (Liberation Square).
1. Liberation Plaza
This popular square is located between the Guadalajara Cathedral on one end and the Degollado Theater on the other. Here you will find a statue of Miguel Hidalgo – a Spanish Catholic priest and revolutionary leader that is also hailed as the father of Mexican independence. Additionally, you’ll find the giant letters of the city’s name (found in cities all throughout Mexico) to capture the perfect photo for #instagram.
2. Rotunda of Illustrious Jaliscienses
This gorgeous, green space is a monument to the distinguished and illustrious men and women of Jalisco. The contributions of artists, engineers, educators, architects, and anthropologists (to name a few) are immortalized in statues of their likeness around the park and on plaques within the pillars of the rotunda.
3. Plaza Guadalajara
Guadalajara’s historic center has no short of plazas! This one sits right in front of the Guadalajara Cathedral with a beautiful fountain at the center which makes for the most picturesque scene that locals and foreigners both take advantage of. The plaza is surrounded by businesses, restaurants, cafes, and local snacks.
4. Guadalajara Cathedral
This breathtaking neo-gothic cathedral dominates the skyline of the city and is almost as old as the city itself. Explore within and take in the gold-leaf pillars, altars made of marble and silver, and the heavenly stained glass windows. An interesting tidbit about the Guadalajara Cathedral is that it houses a crypt of three archbishops. Additionally, near the west entrance of the cathedral lies the mummified body of Santa Innocencia – a young girl from the 1700s who was murdered by her father for converting to Catholicism, or so legend tells it.
5. Plaza de Armas
Once a meeting place of arms, Plaza de Armas is another welcoming square in Guadalajara’s historic center. Plaza de Armas sits with a scandalous gazebo from the French in the middle. This gift from the French was adorned with naked women, who were later partially covered at the insistence of the residents. Surrounding this square are the Government Palace, One Guadalajara Hotel, and the Guadalajara Cathedral
6. Degollado Theater
The Degollado Theater one of the oldest, functioning theaters in all of Mexico that brings diverse cultural performances to life in the city. The interior design of the theater gives a nod to the Divine Comedy while the exterior style was constructed based on neoclassical architecture. It’s a beauty!
7. Statue of Beatriz Hernandez & Plaza Fundadores
Beatriz Hernandez is one of the founding people of the land where Guadalajara stands today. Her family and about 70 other families had been expelled from various parts of the country searching for a place to settle. When they landed in ‘Guadalajara’ she put her foot down and famously stated, “People, here we stay. The king is my rooster and here we stay by hook or by crook.” Most images around the city depict her with a rooster. A few steps over is the Plaza Fundadores/Founders Plaza which depicts Beatriz Hernandez (with a rooster) along with the other founders of the city.
8. Secretary of Tourism of the State of Jalisco
The current Secretary of Tourism building was once believed to be a torture site during the Spanish Inquisition. In an attempt to ‘wash the sins’ away of the past, it was turned into a convent. Legend tells the story of a nun who witnessed satanic acts of masked people which subsequently gave the alley at the corner of this building the name ‘Pasaje del Rincon del Diablo’ (The devil’s corner).
9. Plaza Tapatia
Plaza Tapatia actually sprawls all the way from Teatro Degollado to Museo Cabañas! You’ll pass through a long strip of restaurants, stores and shops on your way to the massive monument that marks the center of this esplanade. The huge bronze sculpture is known as “Immolation of Quetzalcoatl.” Local vendors line a partial section of the plaza with cool and interesting cultural keepsakes to shop.
10. San Juan De Dios/Mercado Libertad
It’s been said that you can find anything here! San Juan De Dios, also known as Mercado Libertad, is the largest indoor market in Latin America. It’s a beautiful maze of regional food, clothing, fresh produce, electronics, souvenirs, leather goods, live animals and lots more. It’s also the only place in Guadalajara where you can find the infamous ‘Torta Loca’ – Crazy Sandwich.
11. Museo Cabañas
Museo Cabañas has a long and interesting history. It went from being a shelter for children and the elderly, to military barracks during the War of Independence, to a hospital, back to being occupied by troops during the Mexican Revolution, and finally to the museum it is today. It is home to 57 murals of Jalisco native, José Clemente Orozco – the most famous of which is ‘The Man on Fire.’
Save this walking tour for your trip to La Perla! It’s a sure fire way to get your bearings of the most beautiful and important part of the city. If you’d prefer a guide, CaminaGDL is a great tour company that offers free walking tours of the historic center everyday at 10:30am. Just look for the yellow umbrella in front of Degollado Theater.