Tlaquepaque, Jalisco is one of Mexico’s premium tourist destinations because of a culture of artisanry, hospitality, and old-world charm. Many people consider Tlaquepaque to be a wonderful side trip from Guadalajara, but Tlaquepaque itself is a world-class destination and designated Pueblo Mágico by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism. The last group of friends that I showed around the Guadalajara Metro Region preferred Downtown Tlaquepaque to Downtown Guadalajara. This guide will help you find all the best things to do in Tlaquepaque: the best shopping, restaurants, and hotels. Strap in, buckle up, and let’s head to Tlaquepaque Jalisco.
Why You Should Visit Tlaquepaque Jalisco
Hanging out in Tlaquepaque is one of the coolest things to do in the Guadalajara Metro Region for travelers and locals alike. The shopping in Tlaquepaque is absolutely spectacular. This is one of the premier artisan communities in a country known for folk art. You will find exquisite examples of regional folk art not just from the State of Jalisco but from across Mexico. There are high-end galleries, flea markets, and everything in between.
Much of the hospitality industry in Tlaquepaque is housed in old historic mansions that are decorated by local artists. The Parián is a 19th-century food court with many different restaurants and bars situated around a bandstand with Mariachi and folkloric dance shows. Tlaquepaque used to be the country and there are lots of ‘campestre’ or country-style restaurants preparing exotic meats like goat and lamb. There are both elegant and humble options serving wonderful food.
Just strolling the cobblestone pedestrian streets and eating corn on the cob in the plaza while listening to music is a quintessential Mexican activity. Sunday is family day. Hanging out in the plaza in Tlaquepaque while talking and eating a street food snack is one of Mexico’s best experiences.
The Geography of Tlaquepaque and a Note About Safety
Tlaquepaque, Jalisco is a rather large municipality located on the east side of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region with its own city government and identity. Downtown Tlaquepaque is less than 5 miles from Downtown Guadalajara and is easily accessible for a day trip or just for breakfast.
Touristic Downtown Tlaquepaque is a very small part of the entire municipality. There are both safe and unsafe parts of Tlaquepaque. Downtown Tlaquepaque is safe. El Cerro del Cuatro is not safe. Make sure you know where you are going when traveling at night. It is easy to make a mistake following the GPS and make a wrong turn into a very sketchy area. Try to always park your vehicle in private, secure, off-street parking lots. You can not leave anything in a vehicle when it is parked on the street and expect it to be there when you get back. A piece of luggage in a rental car is like a magnet for thieves.
A Brief History of Tlaquepaque
The name Tlaquepaque (pronounced tla-kay-pa-kay) comes from the Nahuatl word, tlalipac, or place above knolls of clay. There are a couple more interpretations but they all involve clay because the original inhabitants made ornaments and utensils out of clay, going back long before the Spanish arrived.
In 1530 the Spanish arrived to find a federation of Totonaco communities allied under the rule of Queen Cihualpilli Tzapotzinco of Tonalá. The third founding of Guadalajara was short-lived because of resistance from the original inhabitants. In 1542 the Spanish relocated Guadalajara to its current location on the west side of the San Juan River (today the Calzada de la Independencia) at a more defensible position.
Once the Spanish dominated the region, they changed the name to San Pedro Tlaquepaque. In the 19th century, not long after the independence from Spain, the San Pedro part was removed. In 2010 the community voted to return to the full name San Pedro Tlaquepaque which is where it stands today. However, nobody calls it San Pedro Tlaquepaque. That’s just a formality. It is and always will be just Tlaquepaque.
In 2018 Tlaquepaque was designated a Pueblos Mágico by the Secretary of Tourism but everybody in Jalisco already knew how special the town is.
Artesans and shopping in Tlaquepaque Jalisco
One of the nicknames for Tlaquepaque is the Villa Alfarera or the potters’ village. There is a long and rich tradition of crafting fine ceramics that dates back to before the Spanish arrived. The name should be artisans’ village because ceramics are just the beginning. There are carpenters, glass blowers, leather workers, sculptors, jewelry makers, and many more skilled tradesmen plying their crafts in these parts.
Downtown Tlaquepaque is lined with mostly galleries and boutiques. The workshops have been pushed to the industrial outskirts of the area where the rents are cheaper.
The shopping in Downtown Tlaquepaque is exceptional. Not only can you find the best and finest selection of fine folk art from Jalisco but many boutiques sell regional styles of crafts from across Mexico. There are examples of black clay from Oaxaca and Talavera from Puebla, embroidered goods from Chiapas in addition to the local style of earthenware. Obviously, the best deals will be on the pieces produced locally. For example, the Talavera from the State of Puebla is either low quality or exorbitantly expensive, or both.
Things to do in Tlaquepaque Jalisco
The first thing that visitors like to do in Tlaquepaque is walk the streets of Calle Independencia and Calle Juarez in Downtown Tlaquepaque. Public art decorates the pedestrian-friendly streets. There are dozens of boutiques, galleries, museums, street vendors, and restaurants to take in. I recommend looking at the menus of a few different restaurants before deciding where to eat.
Calle Independencia is a pedestrian street with many high-end galleries and restaurants. The section of the street next to the Jardin Hidalgo is often decorated with ‘papel picado’ or umbrellas; strung between the old buildings, they create a very Instagram-friendly backdrop. The big ‘Tlaquepaque’ letters are on Calle Independencia in a little plaza next to Avenida Niños Heroes.
Calle Juarez does allow cars but it was built with wide sidewalks and well-defined pedestrian crosswalks. There are more retail boutiques and restaurants. The interesting parts of both Calle Independencia and Calle Jarez are from the Parian to Avenida Niños Heroes.
Learn about Ceramics in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco
Tlaquepaque, Jalisco is one of the best places in Mexico to learn about Mexican ceramics. From traditional to modern, there is a long history of making very fine pieces.
Before buying any ceramics, I recommend cruising the Ceramics Museum. Housed in a 19th-century mansion, the museum features a fine collection of works from distinguished artisans going back hundreds of years. The traditional pottery has a very unique style that you will be able to distinguish from other regional styles after visiting the museum.
Not exactly located in the tourist part of town but they are a famous ceramics house that works with artists from around the world to realize their own artwork in ceramic form. They have one of the largest kilns in the country and have an impressive portfolio of large murals and pieces across the globe. You have to follow them on Instagram to understand Guadalajara’s relationship with modern and traditional styles.
If you have eaten at any of the restaurants on my ‘best restaurant list‘ it is likely that you have eaten off of earthenware from Ceramica Avalos. They make beautiful modern plates, bowls, and other vessels for food and drink. Rather than selling individual pieces, they sell custom-made sets. I absolutely love the espresso cups that I use with the Moka Pot coffee maker.
Before you go to Cantú make sure to walk by the tile mural reproduction on Calle Juarez of Diego Rivera’s ‘Dream on a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda Central.’ It will give you an appreciation of the talented painters and tile makers. Cantú has a lot of smaller pieces. This is the easiest place to buy a small tile souvenir of some sort. The other top ceramics shops do mostly custom orders while Cantú has a large retail boutique.
Rodo Padilla’s La Casa de la Bicicleta Gallery
Rodo Padilla’s gorditos, or chubby people, are some of the most iconic pieces of public art in Tlaquepaque. The guitar player on a bench in front of his shop is a classic spot to get a photo. He has a couple more pieces along Calle Independencia that you will love finding and knowing who the artist is.
Sergio Bustamante Gallery
Sergio Bustamonte is one of the biggest names in modern art in the State of Jalisco. You will see public art at the zoo, in the plaza, in Puerto Vallarta, and hidden around town like little treasures. He has a very identifiable style that once you see you will easily recognize. If you have the money, these are really special, high-quality pieces. People will recognize a Sergio Bustamonte neckless or bracelet.
Parian de Tlaquepaque
The Parián de Tlaquepaque is a 19th-century drinking hall that has evolved into a large collection of restaurants and bars with entertainment. The building takes up one city block and there is a large bandstand in the center with mariachi and folkloric dance shows performed every day. There is usually a negotiable cover charge to sit up close to the performers. I really enjoy drinking in the old cantinas but have just gotten average food at the restaurants that I have visited (though I haven’t hit every restaurant in the food court yet). The restaurants on Calle Independencia and Calle Juarez are my favorites.
The Jardin Hidalgo is the large plaza in downtown Tlaquepaque. It is bordered by two fine churches, by the Mercado Benito Juarez, and it is kitty-corner to the Parián. There are always street vendors selling foods and oftentimes there is an outdoor flea market selling all sorts of folk art and clothing.
There is usually good food to be found outside of popular churches in Mexico. The Jardin Hidalgo has two beautiful temples that make the perfect backdrop for selfies.
El Refugio Cultural Center
The Refugio Cultural Center is an old charity hospital that was taken over by the government in the 1980s and converted into a museum and public space. Given that it was a hospital with a psychiatric ward, there are plenty of Ghost stories to be told. Before the pandemic, there were nighttime ghost story tours and a lot of exhibitions of local artists. There is a national ceramics competition that is held every year in conjunction with the Pantaléon Panduro Museum.
Mercado Benito Juarez
This is your standard Mexican market with three distinct sections. The bottom floor has some tasty cheap eats that you will find in a traditional Mexican market. The ground floor is a grocery market with fruits, vegetables, dairy, and meat vendors. The third floor was the parking lot but has been turned into a flea market. This is the most affordable place to buy inexpensive souvenirs like pottery and carved wooden pieces. I found the prices to be much more reasonable than the boutiques outside. The quality runs from cheap to middle of the road. If you want the best quality, it would be best to look in a gallery or boutique.
Events in Tlaquepaque Jalisco
Noches de Ronda
Every other Friday night there is a street party in Downtown Tlaquepaque called Noches de Ronda. There is a carnival-like atmosphere because the bands bring circus performers in costumes and on stilts. You can expect lots of street food, a fair amount of alcohol, and a good time.
Ranching is a very important industry in this part of Mexico and the farm animal festival is a big deal. It is an industry trade show but also a touristic event with rodeos, bullfights, and lots of food. Ranchers know how to eat well and have a good time so the food will be rustic excellence. The atmosphere during the day is family-friendly but at night can turn heavy as copious amounts of tequila are consumed to banda music.
The Expo Ganadera is usually held around the same time as the Fiestas de Octubre. During the pandemic, it has been restricted to people working in the ranching industries. I am still waiting to hear if the 2021 edition will be open to the general public.
Day of the Dead in Tlaquepaque Jalisco
In the month leading up to the Day of the Dead, you will see a lot of Mexican marigold flowers and altars built for our deceased loved ones. There are parades and lots of public art exhibitions to explore. In 2020 the public celebrations were canceled due to the pandemic but we hope that in 2021 there will be some form of public celebrations.
Feria de Tlaquepaque
The San Pedro Tlaquepaque Fair is your typical country fair. This one celebrates Saint Peter, Tlaquepaque’s patron saint. There are sketchy rides, drunken carnies, and good times to be had by all.
Restaurants and Where to Eat in Tlaquepaque Jalisco
Going to Tlaquepaque is a favorite Sunday activity for the folks who live in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region. The restaurants are massive and several of them seat more than 500 people.
Birrieria Chololo is a major Guadalajara institution. There are a couple of locations but the original is located in the Las Juntas neighborhood of Tlaquepaque. The family has a rags to riches story of selling birria out of a street cart before they could purchase their first brick-and-mortar restaurant. Las Juntas isn´t in Downtown Tlaquepaque but over by the train tracks near the junction of Calzada Lázaro Cárdenas and the freeway to Chapala and the airport.
This is one of the best tatemada birrias that you will taste in Jalisco. Tatemada means that it is cooked twice. First, it is braised for a long time at a low temperature. Then, right before it is served, it is broiled to crispen the outer layer. Chololo serves their birria dry with traditional birria broth in a separate bowl.
If you are not familiar with goat meat there is no better place to become a birria lover than at Chololo. This is one of Guadalajara´s favorite places to spend a Sunday eating and drinking.
Restaurante Casa Luna
Casa Luna is one of the most beautiful restaurants that I know of. They are highlighting local artisans with their design and regional gastronomy with their menu. There is a stellar list of distilled agave spirits from small producers and a very modern cocktail program. This is one of my go-to places for chile en nogada during the season. The service is educated and the food is good.
El Abajeño Tlaquepaque
El Abajeño is a huge restaurant that can handle large groups. The dining area is one large covered, outdoor garden. Tapatíos love spending Sundays drinking tequila, eating roasted meats, and listening to mariachi music. Abajeños is perfect for all three. The food is good, the service can be a little slow when it is busy but the prices are fair. I always order the lamb and think that you should too!
Real San Pedro
Real San Pedro is a high-end restaurant, offering what some might say are exotic food dishes such as alligator, wild boar, and goat meat dishes. The decoration is elegant with stone everywhere and lots of plants. There is a nice breakfast buffet on Sunday mornings.
Streetfood in the plaza
Don’t forget to save room for corn on the cob or a prepared cup of corn ‘esquite’ in the plaza. There are some of the best you will find. Go easy on the chile de árbol because it is REALLY spicy. I like the ones that are mixed with chayote, potato, broccoli, and cauliflower.
Hotels in Tlaquepaque Jalisco
How to Get from Guadalajara to Tlaquepaque
Uber and Taxi
Taking an Uber or a taxi to Tlaquepaque is the easiest way to get there when there is no traffic. It takes about 20 minutes to get to Tlaquepaque from Guadalajara and a little bit longer from Zapopan. With traffic, it can take up to an hour or more depending on where you start.
From Chapalita an Uber should cost about $125 pesos without much traffic. From Downtown Guadalajara, an Uber to Tlaquepaque should cost about $100 pesos.
Metro Light Rail
If you are near a metro stop and don’t mind a little walk, Line 3 of the Guadalajara is new and awesome. This is the first of the Guadalajara Metro System that runs through the tourist areas of Downtown Zapopan, Downtown Guadalajara, and Downtown Tlaquepaque all the way out to the Central Nueva long-distance bus terminal. It costs about US0.50 to ride and is in excellent condition because it is new.
The Downtown Tlaquepaque metro stop is about ten blocks or just over a kilometer from the Parian and the heart of Downtown Tlaquepaque. If you are going to take the metro you will do some walking.
Make sure you look at the map before getting in the car. I have driven out there a hundred times but I still get lost. You need to plan ahead and know which route you are going to take. Try to avoid rush hour because the streets are narrow and get saturated easily.
Use off-street parking lots. If you have to park on the street make sure that you do not leave anything in the car. I would not park an expensive BMW on the street overnight. You are risking the loss of expensive pieces.
Tapatío Tour Bus
There is a hop-on,/hop-off tour bus called the Tapatío Tour that serves Tlaquepaque. There are three main routes through Guadalajara, Zapopan, and Tlaquepaque that leave from the Rotonda de los Jaliciences Ilustres, in the shadow of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral.
The Tapatío Tour bus stop in Tlaquepaque is on Calle Juarez in front of the Plaza de las Artesanias.
Tours cost $150 pesos per person and $100 pesos for kids, seniors, and students.
The coolest way to get to Tlaquepaque is by bicycle. On Sundays, large swaths of the city are closed to vehicle traffic so that pedestrians, bicycles, and more may use the roads as a park. The Vía Recreactiva runs all the way from south Zapopan through Downtown Guadalajara all the way to Tlaquepaque. It is a marvelous way to see the city if you can ride 10 to 20 miles. There are city bike rental stations where you can rent a bike in Zapopan and return it to the numerous bike stands throughout the metro region.
If you are in Western Mexico it would be worthwhile to stop by Tlaquepaque, Jalisco for a visit. I hear about a lot of people driving up from Puerto Vallarta to look for home furnishing and decorative pieces for their winter homes. While I never go with the purpose of shopping, I always leave with something cool. You will not regret making time for Tlaquepaque.