Don’t worry if you’ve never heard of Guadalajara! Mexico’s second biggest city probably isn’t as widely known by international tourists as say Mexico City or Cancun (and the beaches) but it was an awesome city for us to start our Mexican adventure. Forget about Mexican cities as being unsafe – the parts of Guadalajara we visited were remarkably clean and friendly, very easy to get around on foot and absolutely jam packed with cafe, bars and restaurants! We rate this as one of the most livable cities we’ve visited in the last year! A big call maybe but read on…
After our last post (Lima: A Foodie Haven) I should probably cover off a few good things to see and do in Guadalajara before I go on more about food!
We started with a few hours walking around the historical centre. Whilst the area around Plaza de Armas was mostly under reconstruction we enjoyed the contrast of the grand old buildings around the Cathedral de Guadalajara and the surrounding street art. Whilst this wasn’t our favourite part of Guatalajara it was definitely worth checking out.
A little out of town (about 30 minutes or less in an Uber) is the touristy area of Tlaquepaque. The area is filled with shops selling handmade souvenirs housed in beautiful and colourful buildings. Again, it was a nice area to spend a few hours. Tlaquepaque is apparently where mariarchi music originated, unfortunately (and much to Jen’s disappointment) we didn’t get to see any mariachi bands whilst there but have read that El Patio bar and restaurant is a popular spot.
We also checked out the Museu de la Arts in the university area. The building was grand but only had a very small collection of art on display, some of which was a little too dark for our taste. During our visit there was a special exhibition with one half designed to trigger saddness and the other to trigger happiness.
We couldn’t come to Mexico and not visit the wrestling so we decided to do it straight away and went to see the Lucha Libre. It is possible to book tickets online but we went with Red Pub Estación Central a British themed pub that includes a free beer and transfer to and from the venue on an old red double decker bus for basically the same price as normal tickets ($10). We expected the bus to be a bit tacky and packed with tourists but were surprised that most people were Spanish speakers and many were locals! The wrestling itself is not to be taken seriously – the crowd all shout (joking only) abuse at each other; food and beer vendors appear every few moments to make sure you are well hydrated (the popcorn made us thirsty, Corona helped hydrate); and we were treated to five or six “fights” over a couple of hours period. We enjoyed the whole experience a lot, much more than we expected.
While we tried to explore different parts of the city our favourite areas were all within 15 minutes in every direction of where we stayed between Obrera and America. There is a famous, busy street Avenue Chapultepec that is jam packed with what I would call American style restaurants selling burgers, wings and cheap beers. These weren’t to our taste but luckily within 10 minutes of each direction and hidden among the side streets there were little boutiques, restaurants, bars and cafes – for us these were the real gems of Guadalajara!
There just weren’t enough hours in the day to try all of the places we wanted to eat at and drink at in Guadalajara but we gave it our best shot! Some select highlights:
- Delicious pork belly lonches and refreshing vermouth and tonic cocktails at Cafè P’al Real. The service was notably very attentive (almost too good!). A tad above others in price – $35 for lunch including four cocktails.
- Continuing the recent trend of being bad backpackers we found an awesome wine bar Romea (that reminded us a lot of Sager and Wilde back in London) where we had an excellent bottle of Mexican merlot. We saved some cash by limiting dinner to meats, cheese and wine – a balanced diet.
- Far less fancy but equally recommended is the carne en su jugo (meat in its own juices) at Kamilos 333 restaurant. The speciality is a massive, very juicy and meaty dish. The meat comes with a side of tortillas, add a big spoon of guacamole and some spicy salsa and you have a perfect dish. This is a must try for all meat eaters. The food is best washed down with some micheladas and then walked off. Although tasty, it was a pretty heavy meal.
- There were plenty of great coffee options – our favourite was Taller de Espresso (Workshop Espresso), a simple roadside roaster with three tables and awesome coffee. We also liked Caligari Cafe and El Terrible Juan Cafe, both had very good coffee in funky styled cafes.
Taller de cafe, a simple cafe but great coffee.
When deciding where to stay in Guadalajara we opted for an Airbnb so we could have a little space and have some healthy breakfasts. We were super pleased with our choice to stay in a beautiful old house (mansion really) in an area that I suspect had a fair bit of “old money” as there were heaps of beautiful old buildings around. We fell in love with the area within minutes of checking-in when we stumbled on a neighbourhood artisenal craft and food market about five steps from the house. Jen purchased more in that market than in the past 10 months travelling.
The house had three rooms for rent along with a shared kitchen and roof terrace. Our room also had its own bathroom. Overall the place was stylish, charming and exceptionally comfy. We felt like royalty every time we returned. At about $35 a night this was exceptional value.
Next up: after an awesome start to our time in Mexico we head hop on bus to the colonial city of Guanajuato.