Guadalajara is one of the coolest cities in Latin America that is somewhat misunderstood. There is a lot of misinformation on the internet about some of the details and a black hole when it comes to some of the most interesting characters in this story.
Right off the bat, everyone says that Guadalajara is known for tequila, mariachi, and charrería but that is kind of shallow at this point. We are going to dive into professional sports, film, history, architecture, culinary arts, technology, and a whole lot more.
Considering that Guadalajara will host World Cup soccer games in the upcoming 2026 tournament I wanted to share a little bit of the love that I feel for Guadalajara and the state of Jalisco.
I have lived in the capital of the state of Jalisco since 2009 and think that it is one of the best places in Mexico to raise a family. It is a region with a rich history and a modern economy.
What Is Guadalajara Known For?
Let’s start with what Guadalajara is not. Guadalajara is not the second-largest city in Mexico. The capital of Jalisco was the second-largest metropolitan region in Mexico for a long time but the population of Monterrey surpassed the population of Guadalajara in 2020.
People often say that Guadalajara is the second most important city in Mexico because it used to be the second-largest city but also because of its contributions to Mexican culture and the national identity.
And the list keeps growing.
Guadalajara has close to 500 years of history but the more recent recognitions are pretty interesting as well. Things are changing but Guadalajara keeps getting better with age. The next couple of decades are looking up and I suspect that Guadalajara will be known to more people across the globe.
The 2026 World Cup is going to give Guadalajara a lot of attention and I think people are going to like what they see.
Guadalajara is the most important city in Western Mexico. It is the western limit of the Bajío Region of Mexico. There is important Native, Spanish, and Mexican history in the surrounding area.
Historically, Guadalajara is known to have some of the best weather in Mexico. The elevation sits at 1,500 meters or 5,000 feet making it much cooler than the coast during the summer. However, in the last few years, the weather has deviated from historical averages quite a bit. 2023 was hotter than any year in recent memory and the rains did not get going until mid-July which is a month late. The rainy season was very short and the heat intense.
In 2022, the rainy season lasted until December and was uncharacteristically long.
I still really like the weather in the Atemajac Valley but more and more conservationists are sounding the alarm about monoculture agave farming and the wildfires in the Primavera Forest.
One of the most important food trends to go global over the last few years is birria which originates and thrives in Guadalajara. The recipes for birria have been evolving over the last 500 years but Guadalajara is known to have the best birria in Mexico.
Birria can be made with any protein but goat meat is traditionally used in Guadalajara. The history of the dish goes back to the Spanish conquest and introduction of non-native species in the 16th century.
The Spanish didn’t value goat meat and the word birria actually had a negative context in that time. It is amazing how the Native Mexican cooks can take something that nobody else values and make delicious food out of it. Add some chiles and spices, and cook it for a long time at a low temperature and something magical happens.
Looking for birria in Los Angeles and San Diego will yield tons of restaurants referencing Guadalajara-style and Jalisco-style birria.
Another dish that instantly says Guadalajara is the torta ahogada. It isn’t as common to see tortas ahogadas outside of the Guadalajara because the sourdough “birote” isn’t really made in other places.
The hard, almost crispy crust of the wannabe baguette needs to be drowned in a spicy tomato sauce to soften up.
The locals in Guadalajara have a peculiar way of eating the torta ahogada out of a plastic bag like it was a smoothie in liquid form.
There are dozens more traditional foods from Jalisco and Guadalajara but birria and the torta ahogada are the two most recognizable.
Don’t let anyone tell you that Aguascalientes has better birria than Guadalajara.
Guadalajara is an old city that is known for its great architecture. In the mid-16th century, the Pope and the King of Spain got together and said they were going to move the capital of Nueva Galicia to Guadalajara. This would require a new Cathedral and the Guadalajara Cathedral was commissioned in 1561. The large church, a minor basilica, was consecrated in 1716.
Many skilled artisans would relocate to Guadalajara to help build the great cathedrals of Mexico. Many of them stayed to open businesses related to their trades. The historic center of Guadalajara has been putting up and tearing down buildings for centuries. There are unique architectural styles that have evolved over the years.
At the very end of the 19th century, President Porfirio Diaz commissioned Italian architect and civil engineer Adamo Boari to build the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento.
The Expiatorio is considered to be one of the finest examples of Italian-style neo-gothic architecture in the New World. Boari would go on to design the Palacio de Bellas Artes and the Palacio de Correos in Mexico City.
The Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral is the most recognizable landmark from the Spanish era. In the 20th century, Luis Barragán built some of the most famous modern houses that helped to earn him a Pritzker Architecture Prize.
He is the only Mexican to have received the prestigious award. In the architecture world, Barragan helped shine a light on the unique regional style that Guadalajara is known for.
Every year, architectural enthusiasts flock to Guadalajara to tour not just the Barragan houses but the breadth of architectural heritage on display.
Walking tours of Guadalajara are really enjoyable because of the architecture.
In 2023, Time Out Magazine named the Colonia Americana the coolest neighborhood in the world which has a lot to do with the cool architecture. It is something that leaves a striking impression.
José Clemente Orozco was one of Mexico’s big three muralists in the 20th century. Diego Rivera became more famous over the years because of the tumultuous relationship with his even more famous wife, Frida Kahlo. Within the art world, however, the works of José Clemente Orozco evoke a more visceral reaction.
The great murals by José Clemente Orozco can be found in the United States and Mexico City but his masterpiece is in Guadalajara. The Hospicio Cabañas is a UNESCO World Heritage site in good part due to the murals. Today the building is a museum but when they were built in the 1930s it was still a working orphanage.
The murals are stunning and invite discussion almost a hundred years later.
Orozco lived in Guadalajara for a number of years and there are more murals in the Palacio de Gobierno and the University of Guadalajara museum but the Hospicio Cabañas is what the artist is known for and the first mural you have to see.
Feria International del Libro Guadalajara
Guadalajara is home to the largest Spanish-language book fair in the world, the largest book fair in number of visitors, and the second largest in editorial representation after the Frankfurt Book Fair.
The cool thing about the Guadalajara International Book Fair is that while it is a professional event for agents, distributors, and authors, there are tons of activities for the readers. It is still an intimate event that allows fans to meet their favorite authors.
The Book Fair is the most important event at the Expo Convention Center but there are big trade shows all year long. Lots of people know Guadalajara because they have been attending a convention for years. The ExpoModa fashion show, Campus Party youth programming competition, furniture trade shows, bridal events, baby events, and all sorts of conventions choose Guadalajara because the attendees enjoy the location.
The Guadalajara Metropolitan Area is one of the most important centers of folk art in all of Mexico. There are both small and large studios creating popular art for sale.
Some of the finest ceramics in Mexico are made in local factories. People work with just about any materials you can imagine from glass to leather, wood, bronze, and sheet metal.
Sergio Bustamante and Rodo Padilla are two of the biggest names in sculpting that you will find across Mexico.
Medical Schools and Medical Tourism
Guadalajara is famous for excellent medical schools and students from across Latin America choose to study here.
The neighborhood around the Autonomous University of Guadalajara is full of medical students from Mexico, the United States, and other parts of Latin America dressed in their scrubs and studying at coffee shops.
The medical schools in Guadalajara are so well regarded that many students go on to study specializations in the United States and Europe.
It is very common for patients from the United States to travel to Guadalajara for treatment because of the cost. Patients from other parts of Mexico travel to Guadalajara for treatment because of the modern hospitals and supply of good doctors.
The city of Guadalajara is known as the Silicon Valley of Mexico because of the large number of multinational tech firms. Guadalajara is in the same time zone as the United States and more technology professionals speak fluent English and write clean Java in Guadalajara than they do in Mexico City.
It is easier to get a visa to work in Mexico than it is to get a visa to work in the United States. In the last ten years, there has been a growing number of tech executives immigrating from India to Mexico to help the industry mature.
The number of graduates in computer science is still small compared to the United States or China but it is growing year after year.
The governor of Jalisco, Enrique Alfaro has spent a good amount of time in California developing ties with executives in both Silicon Valley and Hollywood.
Guillermo del Toro is one of the most important directors in Hollywood right now. He is originally from Guadalajara and helping young entertainment industry professionals get exposure in Hollywood.
The Guadalajara International Film Festival is the most important festival in Latin America for the distribution of Spanish-language motion pictures. It is a forum for the instruction, formation, and exchange of ideas between professionals and critics as well as the commercialization of completed projects.
The state-level government has been working hard to position Jalisco as a destination for making movies. Netflix isn’t the only production house to be taking advantage of the favorable conditions. I’m sure you will be seeing more of Guadalajara on the big screen in the future.
The official national sport of Mexico is charrería or folkloric rodeo. Equestrian culture is strong in Jalisco and Guadalajara is a host of many large horseback riding competitions.
Checo Perez has been on a tear in Formula 1 recently. After a big win, Guadalajara set up an exhibition where he drove his race car around the monuments on Avenida Vallarta.
Saul “Canelo” Alverez has made a name for himself in the boxing world over the last few years. In Guadalajara, Alverez is an absolute legend in and out of the ring. He has a habit of showing up at taco stands late at night to eat and paying for everyone’s tacos.
The Charros de Jalisco baseball team has won the Pacific League tournament several times now and has gone on to represent Mexico in the Caribbean Series of Baseball.
Club Deportivo Guadalajara, more commonly known as Chivas, is the most popular soccer team in Mexico. Chivas Stadium was selected as one of the locations for the 2026 North American World Cup.
Mariachi music is not exclusively from Guadalajara but more of a Jalisco tradition. However, the biggest mariachi festival in the world is still held in Guadalajara.
Mariachi bands from across the globe travel to Guadalajara each year to compete and perform.
The festival combines both mariachi music and charrería folkloric rodeo into one big event.
I saved the best for last. Tequila is by far the most famous thing that this part of Mexico is known for.
The town of Tequila is less than an hour from Guadalajara but the regulatory body, the Consejo Regulador de Tequila, is located in Guadalajara. Plus, people around here love Tequila. There are plenty of cantinas and cocktail bars that specialize in the spirit.
The agave fields in the Tequila Valley are a UNESCO World Heritage Site for a reason. There is a lot of history and culture out this way.
Final Thoughts On What Guadalajara Is Known For
The first thing that everyone is going to tell you is that Guadalajara is known for tequila, mariachi, and charrería. While that is true, it sells Guadalajara short.
There are lots of things that Guadalajara is known for in smaller circles.
I suspect that if you show someone in Tijuana the Farmacia Guadalajara logo with the image of the cathedral, they will be able to tell you where it comes from.
Talk to a boxing fan and they will instantly know where Saul Alvarez is from.
Guadalajara has some really big recognitions but there are dozens of smaller, niche recognitions that only people within the community will know about.
Come check out Guadalajara for yourself. I think you will like it a lot.