What a pleasant surprise Guadalajara, Mexico was! Being the second largest city in Mexico with about a 1.5 million inhabitants, our expectations were low and we made a point of staying in the Centro Historico which proved to be the right decision for us. We loved being able to step outside our hotel and go wandering amongst the history and architecture this bustling city had on offer.
Standing in the Plaza de la Liberación and looking at the back of the Guadalajara Cathedral I could have easily been transported to any European city plaza or square complete with pigeons. The Cathedral is a mix of Gothic, Neoclassical and Palladian styles. Construction commenced in the 1560’s and was completed around 1610….imagine something taking 50 years to build in these days?
The inside of the Cathedral was bathed in cream and gold complete with a majestic altar and vaulted ceilings.
We also visited the Palacio de Gobierno which houses the offices of the State Government, it’s free but you just need to sign in on the front desk before entering. This place, or should I say Palace, took us by surprise with its two impressive socialist realist murals by local artist José Clemente Orozco (1883–1949). The larger of the two is a 1937 mural of Miguel Hidalgo on the ceiling above the main staircase. Hidalgo brandishes a torch in one fist while the masses struggle at his feet against the twin burdens of communism and fascism.
The other Orozco mural in the ex-Congreso (former Congress Hall) upstairs and depicts Hidalgo, Benito Juárez and other historical luminaries. On the ground floor there’s an impressive museum about the history of Jalisco.
We met a character of sorts here whilst we were wandering around the halls of the Palace. He asked us where we were from and we responded Australia. He proceeded to tell us a little fable about how the white settlers interpreted the name Kangaroo when spoken by the local aborigines. Not entirely a true tale but entertaining nonetheless.
The Neoclassical Teatro Degollado is home of the Guadalajara Philharmonic. Over the columns on its front is a frieze depicting Apollo and the Nine Muses. I’m not sure about the camouflage that adorns this beautiful piece of architecture, I can only imagine that it is a modern addition.
On Thursdays and Sundays the central Historico area transforms into Street Markets and you can purchase just about anything you like from Tacos to Michelada (beer and tomato juice). The Plaza de Armas complete with Art Nouveau Gazebo in the middle often has free Music Concerts on the Sunday. Here you can find numerous street performers from Mexican / Texas cowgirls ready to lasso and hog tie you to youth banging (certainly not what I would call drumming as they lacked any kind of finesse) on upended plastic buckets. If that’s not your style then park yourself in one of the numerous restaurants surrounding the square and enjoy some people watching in this crazy and cosmopolitan city.
One last Cathedral we visited on our final day in Guadalajara was the Expiatorio Templo, a short taxi ride away from the Centro Historico where we were surprised to find the main spire at the rear of the church completely lined with stained glass windows, all different and completely mesmerising.
We made a point of viewing the spire from the outside before we left and I can honestly say that it looks pretty bleh from the outside, hiding the beauty that lies waiting on the within.
We really enjoyed Guadalajara, history and architecture are more our thing and this bustling city delivered in spades.
Here’s a great resource I have since found on Guadalajara that might come in handy if you’re planning to visit.