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For much of the 20th century, the image of Mexico popularized abroad through film, music, art and literature was, more accurately, a portrayal of Jalisco state and especially its capital, Guadalajara. Mariachi and tequila both originated here as did some of Mexico’s most famous singers and actors. The writer Juan Rulfo, whose 1955 novel, “Pedro Páramo,” still stands as the central monument of modern Mexican literature, grew up in Jalisco and vividly depicted its arid, sun-blasted landscapes in his writing, while the architect Luis Barragán, who moved from Guadalajara to Mexico City in the 1930s, carried with him an appreciation for his home state’s cloisters, haciendas and humble country buildings, which he translated in his own work as austere, inscrutable volumes of stucco. “Jalisco,” as a popular saying goes, “is Mexico.”
The third largest metropolitan area in Mexico, with some five million people, Guadalajara moves at a slower pace than the nation’s capital. An ideal weekend here might well be spent in the timeworn cantinas in the busy Centro Histórico and design shops like Occidente, located on the ground floor of the Foro Arquitectura (Architecture Forum) in the tree-lined Colonia Americana neighborhood. Perfect taquerías and raucous seafood joints seem to crop up on every corner — everyone has their personal favorite — and even a comparatively high-concept restaurant like Xokol, run by the chefs Xrysw Ruelas and Oscar Segundo, serves its mostly corn-based dishes with a refreshing dose of playfulness. Countless family workshops, where tradespeople use simple machinery to manipulate tin plate, brick and stone, are found in the city’s central neighborhoods, while master artisans, like the ceramist Angel Santos, maintain and advance the traditions of craft villages like Tonalá and Tlaquepaque, now absorbed into Guadalajara’s ever-expanding periphery. For the local artists, architects and designers who have increasingly chosen to stay here, as well as their counterparts from elsewhere in Mexico and abroad who have begun to settle in the city alongside them, Guadalajara is an unusually inviting and collaborative place to make things.
Alma Saladin, who was born in Paris and moved to Mexico in 2017, co-owns the gallery Guadalajara90210 with her partners, Marco Rountree and Alberto López Corcuera, offering cultural programs dedicated to contemporary and site-specific art in both Mexico City and Guadalajara.
Xrysw Ruelas is a co-founder and chef, with her partner Oscar Segundo, of Guadalajara’s Xokol restaurant.
Isaac Hernández, a Guadalajara native, was a principal dancer at the English National Ballet, based in London, for seven years, until returning to the San Francisco Ballet in 2022.
Renata Franco is a co-founder, along with her sister Julia, of the clothing label Julia y Renata and the Guadalajara design shop Albergue Transitorio.
“TheDemetriawas really the first hotel to focus on Guadalajara’s modern architectural heritage when it opened in 2011. It’s so harmonious with the houses on either side, one by Pedro Castellanos, an important contemporary of Luis Barragán, and the other an early Barragán (it now houses the gallery Travesía Cuatro). The Demetria fomented so much of what’s happened since in the neighborhood — the galleries, the artist studios, the restaurants — and Julia and I have our shop there, so it’s really special to us.” Avenida de la Paz 2219, Lafayette; rooms from about $210 a night — Renata Franco
“Whenever I come back to Guadalajara, I stay at the Casa Habita. It’s one of those hotels that doesn’t feel like a hotel. The whole atmosphere of the place — the lobby, the restaurant — reminds me of being at a friend’s house. Even if I’m not staying there, I’ll go there just to have lunch. It’s become part of my routine.” Lerdo de Tejada 2308, Lafayette; rooms from about $130 a night — Isaac Hernández
“Casa Mucha is a beautiful space. You come in off the street and, on the ground floor, there’s a cafe called Rin Tin Tin and a little craft and design store. The roof has this seating area and sculpture from an artist in Mexico City whose partner is from Guadalajara. And it has these very nice touches throughout. The founder has great taste — it’s all very somber and elegant but also really warm.” Juan Manuel 1168, Santa Teresita; rooms from about $115 a night — Alma Saladin
Eat and Drink
“Lately, I’ve been going a lot to Siete y Medio de Paco for seafood. It’s a bit farther from the center, but everything — especially the scallops, the shrimp and the chicharrón de pescado, made by frying pieces of fish — is always so fresh and delicious. I Latina was the first place in Guadalajara I know of to talk about and distribute natural wines. The restaurant has been around for 25 years and, thanks to the owners, it’s been at the forefront of the city’s culinary scene.” Siete y Medio de Paco, Calle Industria 1099, San Juan Bosco; I Latina, Avenida Inglaterra 3128, Vallarta Poniente — R.F.
“My whole family has been going to Menuderia Las Condenadas in Zapopan since I was a kid. We’re 11 brothers and sisters and the owners have watched us all grow up, have watched my whole career, and they take so much pride in all of us. And the best thing is that the menudo — a classic tripe soup often served for breakfast — is the same now as it’s always been.” Javier Mina 371, Zapopan — I.H.
“One of the best places for something traditional is Birriería David in the back of the Mercado Alcalde in the Centro Histórico. The meat, which is goat rather than beef, is cooked in a spice rub and finished in an oven, so it comes out really golden and crispy and a bit less fatty than other birria. I have family in [the neighboring state of] Michoacán, and I remember when I was a kid the market there served it that way.” Calle Joaquín Angulo 188E, Centro Barranquitas — Xrysw Ruelas
“There’s a spot near our gallery for carne en su jugo [beef in its own juices], which is a really emblematic dish from Jalisco, and of course there are versions of it served everywhere and everyone has their favorite, but this one we love. It’s calledLas Originales Carnes en Su Jugo, and when you order the dish, it comes with guacamole and these delicious, super creamy beans, which really makes it.” Calle José María Vigil 1551, Villaseñor — A.S.
“José Noé Suro is the person who’s done the most to facilitate all this movement around the city’s art scene, and his ceramics studio, Cerámica Suro — it’s somewhere between a factory and an artisanal workshop — is a space where artists come from all over the world to produce work. You can make an appointment for a tour.” Calle 5 1006, Colón Industrial — R.F.
“Tlaquepaque, which is a craft town that’s technically separate from the city but has been absorbed into its outskirts, is one of my favorite places. The main street is lined with craft shops, but I especially love the studio of the artist Rodo Padillaand the way he represents these emblematic characters from Mexican life. They’re very playful. The first time I visited the workshop, I bought a statue of a vendor on a bicycle selling birds. It’s almost a meter high, and I brought it with me all the way back to London.” — I.H.
“The Mercado San Juan de Dios is incredible. It’s the architecture, of course, but also you can find everything there. There’s a place there that sells really good tejuino [a sweet cold beverage made from lightly fermented masa] that’s been there almost as long as the market itself, and then you can buy a molcajete [a traditional stone mortar and pestle] or leather boots and huaraches. It’s like a mall but from the barrio.” — X.R.
“I love the books at Impronta, which is this tiny local editorial house that still prints with letterpress machines. It has a lovely patio with a little cafe, and upstairs is a fantastic project space that always has nice exhibitions.” Calle Penitenciaría 414, Colonia Americana — A.S.
“Chamula Hecho a Mano has some of the nicest crafts in the city. The owners are careful and conscientious about what they select and very respectful of the artisans — they go to their studios, build relationships, sometimes design pieces in collaboration with them. They have a diverse selection of things, like clay bananas made by the local artisan Iván López and wonderful earthenware vases in a style called barro canelo made by Pablo Pajarito in Tonalá.” Manuel M. Dieguez 13, Ladrón de Guevara — R.F.
“Throughout his life, my father wore a pair of boots from Los Potrillos in the center of Guadalajara, and when we were kids we would go with him into the city to visit the shop. We had family friends who had a ranch outside the city — equestrian culture is a huge thing in Jalisco — so we would wear our boots whenever we went out into the country. As a kid, I used to wear a sheepskin jacket from there, too. My mom recently sent it to me, and now my son wears it. These things are made to last.” C. José María Morelos 51, Zona Centro — I.H.
“Mezonte is a tiny, low-key tasting room that has the best selection [of agave spirits] in the city, but it’s also a larger organization that focuses on responsible sourcing and that’s closely involved with the dissemination of knowledge about, and conservation of, Mexican distillates. One of my favorites is the raicilla made in Cabo Corrientes in western Jalisco by a producer called Hildegardo Joya, or ‘Japo.’” Calle Argentina 299, Colonia Americana — X.R.
“The essential thing is theHospicio Cabañas Museum. First of all, there are the [José Clemente] Orozco murals — the way they interact with the building, it’s just so amazing. But I also love that the museum has a contemporary program connected to what’s happening now and strong cultural programming in the working-class neighborhoods nearby. Even just walking around inside, you can get lost and suddenly come out onto a perfect patio with a fountain. It’s cool and quiet and so Guadalajara.” Calle Cabañas 8, Plaza Tapatía, Centro — A.S.
“You’ll find parks like Los Colomos Forest in most major cities in the world. When I was young, I’d go there to run or ride horses. When you step inside, the city just disappears.” — I.H.
“The Belén Cemetery, near the northern limit of the Centro Histórico, is such a beautiful place. It was first developed in the 19th century, and today it’s practically a museum, with all the amazing tombs inside. You can go during the day, but they also do these night tours now that are great and kind of creepy.” Calle Belén 684, El Retiro — X.R.
“In February, during pre-MACO [the weeklong lead-up to Mexico City’s annual art fair Zona MACO], you get to visit the studios of artists like Jose Dávila, Eduardo Sarabia, Jorge Méndez Blake. It’s such a great opportunity to meet the people who bring the city so much of its creative energy.” — R.F.
“The best way to visit the city is to pay attention to a few specific architects — Alejandro Zohn or Fernando González Gortázar, for example — and follow their work around town. MoMo Guadalajara has a digital map on its website to guide you.” — A.S.
These interviews have been edited and condensed.