Guadalajara is a very large place with a number of distinct definitions. The Guadalajara Metropolitan Rone (ZMG Zona Metropolitana de Guadalajara) is comprised of 10 municipalities that have grown into the thrid largest metropolitan area in the country. Within those municipalities, there are hundreds of individual neighborhoods or colonias as they are locally known. This guide can be considered an introduction to the neighborhoods of Guadalajara and the metropolitan region.
There are around 5 million people who live in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region. Guadalajara is also a municipality with its own local government and mayor. Lastly, Downtown Guadalajara, el Centro Histórico, is a neighborhood that was founded in the 16th century.
The difference between metropolitan region, municipality, and neighborhood will be important later on when we talk about Zapopan. In the ex-pat groups, there is often confusion between the municipality of Zapopan which is a huge area, and the Downtown Zapopan neighborhood. It helps to be aware of the differences when looking for a place to stay or a place to live in Guadalajara.
Where is Guadalajara?
Guadalajara is located in the center of Jalisco state. It is west of Mexico City, east of Puerto Vallarta, and south of Arizona, Sonora, and Sinaloa. At 5,000 feet above sea level, the metropolitan region connects the highlands with the lowlands of Jalisco. There is a lot of culture in these parts and many native Tapatios (natives of Guadalajara) have close family ties to the countryside.
Map of Guadalajara
The Top Neighborhoods of Guadalajara to Visit
This list is based on nothing more than personal preference.
- Downtown Centro Histórico
- Downtown Tlaquepaque
- Colonia Americana
- Santa Teresita
- Tequila (45 minutes from Guadalajara)
The Top Neighborhoods of Guadalajara to Live
Again, these are personal preferences. I have lived in or am considering moving to most of these neighborhoods. I added Analco to the list because of someone in the expat groups whom I respect and who makes awesome contributions to the community.
- Arcos Vallarta
- La Estancia
Municipalities of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Zone
The goal of this article is to talk about my favorite neighborhoods in each of the municipalities that I know. Honestly, I don’t know Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, El Salto, or Juanacatlán.
The five contiguous municipalities that most travelers will visit are Zapopan, Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque, Tlajomulco, and Tonalá. You can think about this like Phoenix, Arizona. Phoenix has Scottsdale, Chandler, and Tempe among many more. New York City on the other hand has one mayor for all five boroughs.
It is important to remember that Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, and Tlajomulco have their own culture. For most of their history, they were separated by open space and travel was much more difficult than it is today.
The city of Guadalajara was important in the 16th century when the Pope in Italy moved the dioceses there and the King of Spain moved his representative there, the royal Audiencia. Becoming the capital of a wealthy autonomous kingdom of New Spain, Nueva Reino de Galicia, meant there was a major cathedral and a growing population.
Guadalajara has some of the most incredible architecture I have ever seen. There are really distinct architectural styles that were representative of many different periods of time going back hundreds of years. Retro takes on a whole new meaning.
Zapopan is located on the northwest side of the metro region. It is one of the wealthiest municipalities in Mexico. There is a basilica with a famous apparition of the Virgin Mary that draws millions of pilgrims every year.
The neighborhood around the basilica is historic but the neighborhood next to the Autonomous University of Guadalajara is about as modern and luxurious as it gets. There are also a few unsafe sections of Zapopan, especially near the canal that floods.
Tlaquepaque is the eastern and a little bit of the southern part of the metro region enclosed in the periférico (freeway that circles the metro region).
Historically, it was an Indian village and grew into one of the most important centers for folk art in all of Mexico. It is a large municipality with both safe and unsafe neighborhoods.
Tlajomulco is where the airport is located on the highway to Chapala. The suburbs in the southern part of the city are where many people are looking for affordable housing. Big malls, tech campuses, and housing developments are popping up quickly.
Historically, there was a chain of Franciscan missions in the Tlajomulco region. It is very country out this way and you can find some excellent food. A lot of Tlajomulco has a reputation for security problems. The neighborhoods of Tlajomulco on the west side of Avenida Lopez Mateos are some of the wealthiest in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Region.
Tonalá, like Tlajomulco, is outside of the Periférico and is considered far away. It is a cheap place to live but transportation into the city can be brutal. There are great markets and the furniture industry is very popular. The Calle del Taco is a pretty enjoyable place to eat some excellent street food. There are both safe and unsafe parts of Tonalá. It is a big municipality as well.
The 20 most expensive neighborhoods in Guadalajara by sale price
I got this list off of TikTok from a real estate agent who said all the data was pulled from the Instituto de Información Estadística y Geográfica de Jalisco. It is hard to call these neighborhoods because they are mostly gated communities and not open to the public. Whether they are gated or not you can expect a high level of security. I was surprised not to see Providencia, Ciudad del Sol nor Chapalita on the list.
- Los Frailes
- Puerta Aqua
- Las Lomas Golf Habitat
- Alcazar Poniente
- Bosque de Los Lagos
- Colinas de la Abadia
- Real San Bernardo
- San Bernardo
- Los Pinos
- Reserva Real
- Alcazar Oriente
- Rancho Contento
- Colinas de San Javier
- Santa Isabel
- Lomas del Bosque
- Vistas del Sol
- Ecológica El Seattle
The Main Streets of Guadalajara
When I first moved to Guadalajara the traffic was intimidating without knowing my way around the principal streets of Guadalajara. I would wait until nighttime and then just cruise to learn my way around the neighborhoods of Guadalajara. This was back in 2009 before Google Maps was any good for directions. I had paper maps taped to the wall to study the city, learn the city, and the different routes I could take to get to school.
The Macrolibremiento is the new bypass road to avoid the Guadalajara traffic if someone is just passing through and does not want to get stuck in the city traffic. It runs from Zapotlanejo to Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos and ends near Tequila at El Arenal.
Periférico is a freeway that circles the contiguous metropolitan region of Guadalajara, Zapopan, and Tlaquepaque. Outside of Periférico is the suburbs. Getting in and out of the city can be difficult with traffic. It isn’t as bad but I like to think about Periférico and Avenida Lopez Mateo’s Sur like the 101/405 interchange in LA. It’s a nightmare at rush hour.
La Calzada de la Independencia is a thoroughfare running north to south through the Guadalajara municipality. Going back to the Spanish era the Calzada split the city between the rich Spanish part and the poor Indian part. ‘La Calzada para allá’ is a classist local idiom referring to the underdeveloped east side of town.
Lopez Mateos Sur is a major north-to-south thoroughfare that turns into the freeway at the Periférico leading to Tlajomulco and later Colima.
Avenida Vallarta heads northwest out of town towards…you got it…to Puerto Vallarta in a roundabout sort of way. It turns into the 15 freeway and goes all the way up to the United States at Nogales, Arizona.
Avenida Lopez Mateos and Avenida Vallarta meet in the iconic Glorieta Minerva traffic circle. Heading east from the Glorieta Minerva was the historic road to Mexico City commemorated with large arches.
Chapultepec is the main drag in the Colonia Americana bar district. A small park separates the northbound from the southbound lanes where a cultural flea market operates several nights a week.
Avenida Patria is like a little Periférico circling a smaller ring of the metro region but with stoplights.
There are so many important streets in Guadalajara but those are absolutely necessary for first-time travelers to get a lay of the land.
Most expensive neighborhoods in Guadalajara by rental price
Again, I got this list off of TikTok from a real estate agent who said all the data was pulled from the Instituto de Información Estadística y Geográfica de Jalisco. There are not a lot of rentals in many of these high-end neighborhoods.
- Villa Verona
- Las Cumbres
- Santa Isabel
- Loma real
- Club de Golf Santa Anita
- Puerta Las Lomas
- Puerta de Hierro
- Puerta Plata
- Colinas de San Javier
- El Palomar
The Neighborhoods of Zapopan
Zapopan has both wealthy neighborhoods and not-so-wealthy neighborhoods. Some of the important landmarks are the Basilica de Zapopan, Bosque Colomos Park (technically Guadalajara but a buffer between the two urban areas), The Autonomous University of Guadalajara, and The Plaza Andares mall.
The Basilica de Zapopan was started in 1689 but wasn’t dedicated until 1866. There are lovely pedestrian malls, cobblestone streets, and old buildings. Many old buildings along the pedestrian streets have restaurants that spill into the street and a lively, carnival-like atmosphere. The Zapopan Art Museum is excellent.
Columbus Day sees a huge parade escorting the image of the Virgin of Zapopan from the Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral to the Basilica. It is a cross between indigenous peoples’ day with native dance troupes followed by a Catholic parade. Over a million people attend the events.
Seattle and Maestros
That is pronounced Say-At-Lay and not the same way the people in Washington State say it.
Directly across Avenida Americas from Downtown Zapopan, just past the metro station is one of the most beautiful streets in Guadalajara. Avenida Aurelio Ortega has a treelined walking trail down the middle with huge speed bumps at the pedestrian crossings. It is a place where many of the neighbors come out to walk in the morning. There are excellent coffee shops and restaurants along the way.
The Seattle neighborhood, to the south of Avenida Aurelio Ortega, has cobblestone streets and big mature trees. There are mostly huge estates with 12-foot tall walls. There are some beautifully restored mansions and some deteriorating as well.
Puerta de Hierro
This whole area around the Autonomous University of Guadalajara was developed in the last 30 years by the Leaño Family who is some of Mexico’s top visionaries. They founded the university, built Plaza Andares (one of the most popular malls in western Mexico), and zoned an area for skyscrapers. It is a very pretty skyline.
Puerto de Hierro has high-security gated communities, an ultra-modern hospital, lots of high-end restaurants, luxury offices, and even a Ferrari dealership.
Colinas de San Javier
Partly in Zapopan and partly in Guadalajara, Colinas de San Javier is the old money part of town. There are spectacular homes hidden behind high walls and winding, hilly streets. The neighborhood is adjacent to Puerto de Hierro but Tucked in between Colomos Park and Avenida Patria.
This is another area that straddles both Guadalajara and Zapopan. When someone says Chapalita they could be referring to Chapalita proper as well as Chapalita Sur, Oriente, Ciudad de Los Niños, Prados Tepeyac, Tepeyac Casino or Ciudad del Sol. They all come together around Avenida Tepeyac and make up one really nice community.
Chapalita has a great traffic circle with a huge park on Avenida Guadalupe and a Sunday art market. The restaurants are excellent. There are a couple of classy bars like El Maltez and Cru Wine Bar. The tacos and coffee shops are good. You have to read my full article on Chapalita to get the whole idea.
Make sure to walk Calle Juan Diego and eat tacos dorados with pork belly at Clement’s.
La Estancia is a great middle-class neighborhood nestled between the Metropolitan Park Complex and the Galerías Mall/Costco development. As long as you have a car, this is probably one of the best places to live in Guadalajara in terms of price/quality balance.
Probably the most affordable and rough neighborhood in Zapopan Municipality because of the river and flood danger. Most of the year the river is dry but to see it full and rushing is an impressive and ominous sight.
The Neighborhoods of Zapopan in the Suburbs
Valle Real, Jardín Real, and the Tec de Monterrey campus are off of Avenida Aviación (named so because of the military airbase nearby) where it meets Avenida Santa Margarita/Ramón Corona. The area is mostly gated communities that are growing exponentially.
The Solares development is one of the largest gated communities I have ever seen with many separate sections that get close to Avenida Vallarta. The new Instituto Ciencias high school campus is between Solares and the Avenida Vallarta Technology park.
It wasn’t that long ago that this area was all small-scale agriculture. There are probably a few old men still growing heirloom varietal corn the same way it was done a hundred years ago. The only difference is that now that property is worth a few million pesos per acre.
I started school at the Tec de Monterrey in 2009. It is hard to recognize the area today it has grown so much.
I only just found out that Buganvillas is part of Zapopan. Many people confuse Bugambilias with Tlajomulco which is on the other side of Avenida Lopez Mateos. They are both outside of the Periférico circle and the traffic is crazy as the road goes from six lanes to two lanes at Periférico.
Buganvillas is one of the older suburbs outside of the Periférico. The houses are classy, usually have a little land, and are significantly cheaper than the housing inside of the Periférico.
As the name would imply, there are plenty of bougainvillea trees.
The Neighborhoods of Guadalajara
Guadalajara is the reason everything else is here. It was founded on February 14th, 1542. What is today Downtown Guadalajara was actually the fourth settlement of Guadalajara. This time there was better access to water and a defendable position.
Being appointed the capital of the province completely changed Guadalajara’s growth and trajectory.
It is unlikely that you will ever get tired of visiting downtown Guadalajara. There is more culture and history than most of us will learn in a lifetime. There are museums, churches, theaters, cantinas, hotels, markets, and much, much more.
Downtown Guadalajara has the largest concentration of historic buildings in this part of Mexico. Many of those buildings still operate as government offices. There aren’t a lot of residences in the heart of downtown and businesses tend to close before dark. I feel very safe walking around downtown during the day but I don’t enjoy walking around anywhere except the principal avenues after dark.
This is kind of a blanket term for an area much larger than the original neighborhood. The colonias, Americana, Lafayette, Moderna, and West End grew up as the rich, 20th-century western expansion of Downtown Guadalajara.
Today the Colonia Americana is home to popular restaurant and bar scenes. The architectural heritage is impressive representing a plethora of architectural styles mostly from the 20th century. Many local businesses really take advantage of hip design to craft picture-friendly spaces for Instagram appeal. I hate to call it hipster but it is. There are bicycles, specialty coffee, craft beer, and tattoos everywhere.
I love Providencia but I have never actually lived there. My experience with Providencia is work-related which is different. This was developed as a wealthy suburb in the 1950s and 1960s. It is centrally located next to Colomos park, Avenida Americas (the road to Downtown Zapopan), and the Guadalajara Country Club.
The neighborhood is surrounded by parks and is famous for tree-lined avenues. Pablo Neruda is downright spectacular because of the mature trees and proximity to restaurants and bars.
Much like the Colonia Americana, Providencia was built with a lot of architectural style but later in the century.
A note of caution about Providencia. It was and is a wealthy neighborhood with a vibrant bar scene. There is a problem with crime. Cars parked in the street get broken into and people get held up on dark lonely streets late at night. Working in Providencia I have seen the security footage of all sorts of petty crimes. Don’t be overconfident.
Santa Teresita aka Santa Tere
I think this is ground zero of the gentrification debate in Guadalajara. Not long ago Santa Tere was considered a dangerous, barrio bravo, blue-collar neighborhood next to downtown. It is one of the most walkable places on the planet with an incredible concentration of small, family-run businesses known for excellent quality. The guy who sharpens knives with a lazar, a tire repair guy, a seamstress, a frame maker, a basket shop, tons of clothing stores, a weekly outdoor flea market, and food are all just a couple blocks away from each other.
There aren’t old mansions like there are in the neighboring Colonia Americana or The Centro Histórico. The Catholic church is very nice but pales in comparison with the churches downtown and in the Colonia Americana.
The food and market in Santa Tere are exceptional. I am going to make a whole video on eating in Santa Tere but it will take months to eat at all the places that make Santa Tere special. From Xokol to birria and tacos de tripa, there are some of the best examples of quintessential Guadalajara cuisine.
What makes Santa Tere so cool is what is going to change it in the end. Boyle Heights, Barrio Logan, the Mission District are all too hip to stay the same.
Mercado de Abastos
More than just a market, El Central de Abastos is a neighborhood. It is an industrial neighborhood and an important one at that. There are trucks coming and going at all hours. This is the best place to grocery shop in Guadalajara, eat breakfast, visit the SAT, pay your car registration at the Recaudadora, and where several of my mechanics are located. It isn’t the easiest place to navigate but a little inside knowledge goes a long way.
During the day Mercado de Abastos is one of the safest places in Guadalajara. The warehouse owners trade massive amounts of cash for product, have panic rooms, and invisible private security. The joke is that criminals go into the market to rob a truck but never make it back out of the market again.
Jardines del Bosque
Before he developed Los Jardines del Pedregal in Mexico City, Jalisco native Luis Barragán developed Jardines del Bosque in a modernist style. While it may not be his most famous work, the parks are very liveable, it is centrally located, and has some good food. The train tracks run right by Jardines del Bosque so light sleepers might not do well with the nighttime train noise.
Colonia del Fresno
The area next to Jardines del Bosque between Calzada Lazaro Cardenas and the train tracks. It has a reputation for gang activity and some really good food. When I first landed in Guadalajara I stayed at the Hotel Expo Abastos in Colonia del Fresno for a month while I found a long-term rental. Looking back, I don’t know what I was thinking except it was cheap and the food was amazing. You don’t want to be walking around after dark over here with an expensive cell phone and credit cards in your pocket.
Bosques de la Victoria
Next to Jardines del Bosque and Mercado de Abastos is Bosques de la Victoria. This is another great, centrally located, upper-middle-class, and blue-collar neighborhood. There are big houses and many Abastos business owners like the proximity to their warehouses.
Cruz del Sur
This is the other side of Abastos where Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, and Guadalajara meet. La Penca is a famous late-night alcohol vendor. On Friday and Saturday nights they sell booze until 4 am which is way later than most convenience stores
One of the oldest and most traditional neighborhoods in Guadalajara. It is famous for a 17th-century church and a market that specializes in corn. Many of the street vendors who sell corn on the cob and esquites buy their corn wholesale from the Analco market
This neighborhood grew up adjacent to Downtown Guadalajara but across the Calzada and the San Juan River. It was a precursor to the San Juan de Dios neighborhood.
Today, Analco is an artist’s enclave. There is an active LGBTQ+ community and a lot of marginalized people because it is inexpensive. The government is trying to repopulate many of the old abandoned adobe buildings. If you are looking for an authentic Mexican experience in a beautiful, artistic community you should check out Casa Analco on Airbnb.
Not exactly on the tourist track and dangerous after dark. There is a red light district that tourists should avoid. There are also some great tacos de tripa.
This is kind of a hidden gem of Guadalajara. It is a small neighborhood in between Colonia Vallarta, Avenida Mexico, and Colonia Providencia. There is a medical center and lots of doctors’ offices. I like this area a lot especially the houses across Avenida Mexico in Colonia Vallarta. Get coffee at Matraz Coffee Roasters.
Arcos Vallarta, Vallarta, Vallarta Poniente, and Vallarta Norte
The neighborhoods around the Glorieta Minerva and Avenida Vallarta are all called Vallarta something or other. I lived in the Glorieta Minerva during grad school and loved it. It is a very high traffic area because of the intersection of three principal thoroughfares but the architecture is nice and there are secret back streets that cut around the worst of the congestion. Being able to drive in a major traffic circle at rush hour is a skill.
What I like the most about Arcos Vallarta is that there are monuments and nice architecture without the nonsense that the bar district attracts. It isn’t as cool as the Colonia Americana but it is right next door and you can go walking or on a bike in minutes. I would skate from the Minerva down Avenida Vallarta, under the arches every Saturday on the Via Recreactive.
There is always a lot going on in this neighborhood of Guadalajara but Sundays are special.
I am kind of embarrassed that I don’t know more about Tlaquepaque because there is so much culture out that way. It is a massive municipality and I have spent time in Downtown Tlaquepaque, a couple of neighborhoods right off downtown, and the Juntas. A friend from the restaurant I used to work at would take me to classic cantinas late at night in the Parian. We would drink caguamas on the curb out in front of my friend’s house and thought it was hilarious that when Google Maps launched in Tlaquepaque he was photographed sitting on the curb in front of his house with a caguama in hand and his face blurred out.
Downtown Tlaquepaque is one of the coolest neighborhoods in Mexico and extremely safe. There are more galleries than workshops anymore but the surrounding neighborhoods are still filled with world-class artisan workshops. There are cobblestone streets and lots of restored mansions with high-end restaurants. It isn’t that hard to imagine but not too long ago this was a different urban center from Guadalajara. Tlaquepaque was the country and there was empty space between Guadalajara and Tonala. Today it is impossible to tell where one municipality ends and another begins.
El Cerro del Cuatro is incredibly dangerous for people who are not from there, Mexican or international. There is a steady stream of jokes and memes coming out of social media about.
While Tlajomulco may be part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan region it is a world apart. It is almost surreal how different the west side of Avenida Lopez Mateos is from the east side of the road. There are several of the most expensive neighborhoods in the metro region on the west side and some of the worst horror stories on the east. It wasn’t long ago that this was the country. There are still large parcels of land that have not been turned into housing developments yet.
I used to take my son out this way to speech therapy. It is another world. The traffic is insane at rush hour and Google Maps will send you down back streets and dirt roads to avoid the traffic. Honestly, don’t listen to Google Maps. Stay on the main roads. Dirt roads and the rainy season are a treacherous combination.
Tlajomulco is growing like crazy. There are two new high-end malls and a bunch of really big strip malls like the Gourmeteria and La Rioja. I am always surprised at the number of established restaurants that are opening in the southern part of the city.
The memes about Tlajomulco are hilarous. There is a fleet of three-wheeled mototaxis that operate in a gray area of the law. They were protesting their semi-illegal status recently and shut down traffic on Avenida Lopez Mateos going into Guadalajara. Some people refer to Tlajomulco as Tlajomulco de la India because of the Indian-built three-wheelers. They aren’t cheap either. Because they don’t use taxi meters they end up costing more than an official taxi and way more than an Uber. While they look super cool they are actually quite dangerous and not worth the trouble.
Oh yeah, the airport is also in Tlajomulco but on the other end of the municipality on the freeway to Lake Chapala.
A list of poor neighborhoods of Guadalajara that are often mocked on social media for insecurity
When you Google these neighborhoods there are lots of newspaper articles talking about crime
- Santa Fe
- Cerro del Cuatro
- Colonia Jalisco
Some Final Thoughts on the Neighborhoods of Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a great town. It is a big town. It is actually one of the largest metropolitan areas in all of Mexico but the individual neighborhoods of Guadalajara make it feel like it is a lot smaller. I hope you have gotten something out of this article. There are a whole bunch of articles on the internet about the best three or four neighbhorhoods in Guadalajara. I wanted to go into a little more detail. And this is just version one. I hope to get some feedback from the local expat group about somemore neighborhoods of Guadalajara that I should include.
That is all for tonight. Thanks for reading.