The Colonial Architecture of Downtown Guadalajara

Guadalajara Plaza de Armas

A Walking tour of downtown Guadalajara is the perfect way to start your stay in the Perla Tapatía

Guadalajara was founded in the 16th century as part of Nueva Galicia, an autonomous kingdom of the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The city center is a treasure of Spanish colonial architecture including baroque, neoclassical, renaissance styles. No trip to Jalisco is complete with out taking a walking tour of downtown Guadalajara to get an idea of what the city was like in centuries past. This is my recommendation for getting to know the historic core of the this colonial gem.

Downtown Guadalajara has been redeveloped several times to make it pedestrian friendly. In the 1960’s several large building were taken down to create four plazas surrounding the main cathedral. Seen from the air the plazas make the sign of the cross with the cathedral at the center. The plazas and pededtrian only streets make walking in downtown Guadalajara very enjoyable.

Starting in the Plaza de las Nueve Esquinas the walking tour heads north along Av. Cristóbal Colón to the Jardín Aránzazu which is right next to the Jardín de San Francisco. Continuing north on Av. Cristóbal Colón (street turns into a pedestrian walkway) you will pass the Biblioteca Iberoamericana on the way to the Plaza Guadalajara which is surrounded by the Catedral de Guadalajara, the Palacio Municipal de Guadalajara and the Rotonda de los Jalisciences Ilustres.

Head east towards the Catedral de Guadalajara and the Rotonda de los Jalisciences Ilustres.  Behind the cathedral is the Plaza de la Liberación and the Palacio del Gobierno de Jalisco. As you continue east to the Teatro Degollado, the Templo de San Agustín, the City coat of arms, the Plaza Tapatía finally arriving at the Hospicio Cabañas. After you finish touring the Hospicio Cabañas the Mercado San Juan de Dios is right next door and would be a great place to grab a bite to eat or a fresh squeezed juice.

Plaza de las nueve esquinas

Plaza de las Nueve Esquinas
Plaza de las Nueve Esquinas

The Plaza de las Nueve Esquinas is a perfect place to have breakfast and start a walking tour of downtown Guadalajara. Around the plaza there are a dozen traditional restaurants serving birria, Guadalajara’s classic goat soup. During the months of April and May the Plaza de las Nueve Esquinas is filled with pitaya vendors selling the treasured cactus fruit. Most of the architecture in the Nueve Esquinas is post-colonial having been built during the late 19th and early 20th century government of Porfirio Díaz.

Jardín de San Francisco de Asís

Templo de San Francisco de Asís, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Templo de San Francisco de Asís, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

The first buildings of the monastery date back to 1550 and were a simple collection adobe structures and surrounding vegetable gardens. Over the centuries the original building were replaced and replaced again. The current structure is in a baroque style with some neo-classical arches in the surrounding gardens.

Templo de Nuestra Señora de Aránsazu

Templo Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Templo Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

The temple was built in the middle of the 18th century as a complementary chapel to the San Francisco convent and compound.  The Templo de Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu has the only original golden baroque altar pieces in Guadalajara.

Biblioteca Iberoamericana octavio paz

Biblioteca Iberoamericana Octavio Paz, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Biblioteca Iberoamericana Octavio Paz

Dating back to the late 16th century, the Biblioteca Iberoamericana Octavio Paz was originally built as a church for the Jesuit college of Santo Tomás. In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from New Spain and the building was left in disrepair and passed from one government office to another. Shortly after Independence the entrance was updated to include the neo-classic columns and arches. During the early 1900’s the building was used by the revolutionary army and later sacked. In 1985 the building was taken over by the University of Guadalajara, restored and turned into the library that it is today.

 Templo de Santa Monica

Templo de Santa Monica, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Templo de Santa Monica

The Templo de Santa Monica is a few blocks off of the walking tour but it deserves a mention because it is the best example of baroque architecture in Guadalajara. Originally commissioned by the Jesuit priest Feliciano Pimentel in the year 1720, it was completed in 1743. The temple was expropriated by the government during the war of the reform but later returned to the archdiocese when a local philanthropist purchased it at auction. The carved stone pillars of the entrance are absolutely breathtaking.

Templo de Santa Monica, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Templo de Santa Monica

Calle Reforma 409, Zona Centro, Guadalajara

Palacio Municipal de Guadalajara

Palacio del Gobierno, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Palacio del Gobierno, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

The Palacio del Gobierno is a relatively young building compared to the neighbors in downtown Guadalajara. The building was constructed between 1948 and 1952 after being passed back and forth between the church and the state. The Gabriel Flores murals depicting the foundation of Guadalajara are particularly vivid.

Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral

Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral
Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral

Catedral de la Asunción de María Santísima or more commonly known as the Catedral de Guadalajara is emblematic of the State of Jalisco. The Neo-gothic bell towers easily identify the cathedral from every other church in Mexico. The first church was built in 1541 was made of adobe and had a thatched roof which quickly burnt down. The king of Spain commissioned a new cathedral which was finished in 1618. Earthquakes have plagued the building over the centuries and collapsed the original bell towers and dome in 1818. The bell towers were replaced however adding a Neo-gothic style to the existing Spanish-Renaissance facade. If there is one church that you visit in Guadalajara it has to the this one.

Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres

Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres, Guadalajara
Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres

A beautiful tribute to the men who made Jalisco what it is today. You will see plenty of streets and schools named after them but it is nice to see who these people were and what they did for their community. The Rodonda of the Jaliscienses Ilustres is also the Downtown Guadalajara stop for the Tapatio Tour bus. The Tapatio Tour gives great tours of Guadalajara, Zapopan and Tlaquepaque where you can get on and off at different points of interest.

Plaza de la liberación

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The Plaza de la Liberación stretches from the Guadalajara Cathedral on the west to the Teatro Degollado on the east. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla is the priest who in 1810 gave the Grito de Dolores call for Mexican independence from Spain. After declaring independenceHidalgo and his peasant army won a number of small battles before before facing a well trained Spanish troops outside of Mexico City. Retreating to Guadalajara, Hidalgo made one of the first declarations abolishing slavery in the Americas. The Plaza de la Liberación commemorates that famous declaration here in Guadalajara on December 6th, 1810.

Throughout much of the year there is an artisans market in the plaza that is worth taking a look at. Vendors come from all over Jalisco to sell traditional art and food. The hand woven sombreros from Yahualica are particularly fine work. There is ample parking in an underground structure directly below the plaza.

Plaza de Armas

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Probably the most enjoyable plaza in Downtown Guadalajara to people watch and enjoy the afternoon. The view of the cathedral around dusk is magical as all of the lights turn on and sun starts to set. The area next to the plaza is currently undergoing a little construction for the new line of the metro but it will be back and better than ever shortly.

Palacio del Gobierno de Jalisco

Jose Clemente Orozco Mural in the Palacio del Gobierno de Jalisco
Palacio del Gobierno de Jalisco

Home to a small museum about the city of Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco the real treasures in the palacio are the Jose Clemente Orozco murals. Orozco brings Hidalgo to life and the memory of that declaration abolishing slavery here in Guadalajara. The second Orozco mural is in the old state legislaive chambers and again depicts Hidalgo along with Benito Juarez and the fight to reform the government. This building was the national palace for a month in 1858 while Benito Juarez was exiled from Mexico City during the war of the reform.

Teatro Degollado

Guadalajara's most beautiful theater, the Teatro Degollado
Guadalajara’s most beautiful theater, the Teatro Degollado

Home to the philharmonic orchestra of Jalisco, The Teatro Degollado is easily the best venue to watch some live music in this part of Mexico. The theater is small but the detail is breathtaking and the sound is spectacular. There are regular exhibitions of folkloric dance put on by the University of Guadalajara and many visiting musicians. Check out the upcoming events by clicking this link. I think that seeing a show at the Degollado Theater is just about the best date night you can imagine.

Templo de San Agustín

Templo de San Agustín, Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Templo de San Agustín, Guadalajara, Jalisco

Located directly in front of the Degollado Theater the Templo de San Agustín was built in the 17th century. The church underwent some reconstruction in the 19th century after an earthquake caused some damage. The facade is classic baroque with some Neo-classic attributes.

Guadalajara Coat of Arms

Guadalajara Coat of Arms
Guadalajara Coat of Arms

Guadalajara was granted their coat of arms from King Charles V of Spain and Germany in the year. 1539. The coat of arms depicts two lions holding up a pine tree and represents a fighting spirit and perseverance.

La Sala de los Magos

La Sala de los Magos, Alejandro Colunga
La Sala de los Magos, Alejandro Colunga

There is a collection of brass sculptures by the renowned local artist Alejandro Colunga in front of the Hospicio Cabañas. This is one of the most photographed areas of downtown for the surreal of these pieces. Alejandro Calunga has similiar works on the boardwalk in downtown Puerto Vallarta. Click here to see more about Alejandro Colunga.

Hospicio Cabañas

Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara, Jalisco
Hospicio Cabañas

Hospicio Cabañas is the crown jewel of downtown Guadalajara. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997, the building is one of the oldest and largest hospitals in the Americas. The building broke ground in the late 18th century with the purpose of providing shelter for those in need. It was part hospital, part orphanage, and part almshouse.

From 1936 to 1939 Jose Clemente Orozco painted his masterpieces in the Hospicio Cabañas. A series of 40 monumental frescoes telling the story of the founding of Mexico and Guadalajara. Man on fire depicts the great muralists of 20th century Mexico. These murals are a must see and I highly recommend the English language tour. The guides are superb.

Jose Clemente Orozco, Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara
Jose Clemente Orozco, Hospicio Cabañas, Guadalajara

Downtown Guadalajara’s biggest market: Mercado San Juan de Dios

After all of that walking you are going to need a rest and probably something to eat. Mercado Libertad, more commonly known as San Juan de Dios is right next door. Grab a juice or something to eat from any number of food vendors in the market. I make it a point to look for the food stalls with the biggest crowd. they usually have the best food.

Mercado San Juan de Dios, Guadalajara
Mercado San Juan de Dios, Guadalajara
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