Guadalajara, Mexico: Top attractions

Guadalajara’s Historic Center covers an area of several miles and is riddled with old churches, museums, boutiques and plazas. The dominant structure in the center is the large twin towered Cathedral. Construction of the church began in 1558 and was finished in 1618, making it about the same age as the city itself. The cathedral features massive gold leaf pillars, Gothic vaults and several well decorated altars. The architecture is a mix of churrigueresque baroque and neoclassicism styles with some added reconstruction in 1848, after the towers were destroyed in an earthquake.

The cathedral is surrounded by public squares from all sides. In front of it is the Plaza de la Liberacion, surrounded by government buildings, like Teatro Degollado. To the west lies Plaza Guadalajara and Palacio Municipal, from where one hour guided tours by tram depart, which covers all major objectives in the Historic Center. Plaza de Armas to the south hosts evening concerts five days of the week and is home to Palacio de Gobierno. The baroque style government building has a great collection of Jose Clemente Orozco murals on display.

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Museo Regional de Guadalajara has a wonderful collection of archeological and paleontological artifacts, including a fully reconstructed wooly mammoth skeleton. Highlights also include a collection of pre-Hispanic ceramics dating from 600 BC. In addition, the museum has an entire level dedicated to colonial times, together with a revolutionary wing. Horse drawn carriages await passengers, in front of the museum, for a downtown ride.

Many other interesting museums are scattered throughout the center. Casa Museo Lopez Portillo is a 19th century residence, with furnishing typical for a high class family, while Museo Casa Clemente Orozco contains personal and professional artifacts from the life of renowned artist, as well as some of his works. A very curious museum located south of Plaza de la Liberacion is Ripley’s Museo de la Cera, where over 120 life-like wax figures are exposed.

To the east of Plaza de la Liberacion, beyond Plaza Tapatia, stands another architectural gem, namely the Instituto Cultural de Cabañas. The institute houses a huge collection of murals by José Clemente Orozco, as well as other works, including some by Mexico's current art scene.

About 20 blocks from the city center is Agua Azul Park. This green oasis is a nice place to relax and retreat from the urban chaos. The park has plenty of benches, jogging trails and an Orchid House.

Outside the Historic Center, the Basílica de Zapopan is home to a petite statue of the Virgin Mary, known as Nuestra Señora de Zapopan, visited by pilgrims year-round.