Guadalajara, México was our entry point into México from Colombia. While we enjoy exploring natural ecological sites and small towns more than cities during our travels, it is inevitable that we find ourselves in big cities from time to time. Guadalajara, in the Mexican state of Jalisco is hugely diverse, very modern and clearly growing at a rapid pace. The city and its people have a strong sense of both traditional and modern culture with influences from all corners of the globe. Guadalajara is the ‘cool’ city of México where art, fashion, music, film and more all take centre stage as well as a huge importance on the electronics and information technology sector which has led to the city being nicknamed México’s ‘Silicon Valley’. After México City, it is the second most populous metropolitan area in México, which means there is always plenty of cheap and fun things to do in Guadalajara.
Things To Do Guadalajara on a Budget:
However, Guadalajara can be an expensive city (just look at their gargantuan shopping malls decked out with the most luxurious brands in the world for an idea of the amount of wealth in the city). Nevertheless, it is possible to still enjoy the city on a backpackers budget. So to help, we’ve put together a list of our favourite things we did in Guadalajara that won’t cost you an arm and a leg:
Going to an authentic lucha libre (free wrestling) show in México has been one of the highlights of our travels and the most fun night we have had in México so far. Witness the ridiculous antics and drama created by these bulky men in masks and tights, and join the audience as they shout abuse at the ‘wrestlers’ and receive even more insults back. The audience often ignores the actual fights, and choose instead to throw abuse across the room to the audience members opposite them. If you’re a woman, be prepared to have the whole audience sing funny, light-hearted chants at you as you walk past…usually asking you to spin around for them, or, naturally…’show us your tits’ all in the name of fun and a good laugh! If you are prepared to take everything light-heartedly, it will be a fantastic night of theatrics and all-round ridiculousness…often in the form of a midget in a leotard kicking the s#$@ out of a 200 pound man dressed as a chicken. Beers, food and souvenir lucha libre masks are on sale around the stadium from what looks like 9-year-old boys and 70-year-old men. Unfortunately no cameras are allowed inside but we managed to take this hilarious video on our phone.
Prices are pretty cheap ranging from $27.50 ($2 USD/€1.60) to $154.00 MX ($12 USD/€9.50) depending on how close you want to be to the action. The ticket includes about 5 fights in total.
Important note: Do not walk to the stadium or around the surrounding areas alone or even in a group. Get a taxi and spend as little time as possible outside. The stadium is located in a very dangerous area of the city and our taxi driver was adamant about us not walking around the area. The area is full of strung-out drug addicts lying almost unconscious across the street. We thought we were in the wrong area until we turned the corner and seen the stadium with the huge crowds outside.
Tlaquepaque is a city in itself, although it has been swallowed by the growing swell of Guadalajara, which now makes it part of the greater Guadalajara metropolitan area. It is a beautiful area, full of traditional arts, music and crafts and makes a great day trip from the centre of Guadalajara. Walk the café and restaurant lined streets, listen to mariachi bands play in the plaza or explore the multitude of local craft shops selling a variety of handmade crafts.
Get Serenaded By A Mariachi Band
Guadalajara is the home of mariachi music, with Tlaquepaque as mentioned above being the most famous place to experience it. There’s few experiences in México that can top having a full band of maybe ten or more men in traditional mariachi clothes sing, play violins, trumpets and guitars, all in your honour, often replacing names in songs with yours. They will play as many songs as you like and even do requests…I got “Cant Take My Eyes Off You” by Frankie Valli among many other Spanish songs I couldn’t understand! Traditionally, guys in México will hire a mariachi band for the girl he likes and have them sing outside her bedroom window or in her house. Aww!
You negotiate the price with the band before they perform but consider how many members are in the band and that they have to split it between them…be generous and give them a good tip, it’s worth it!
Explore the Historic Downtown
The Historic Downtown of Guadalajara is beautiful and typical of many Latin American city centres, full of Cathedrals, museums, palaces and government buildings. Guadalajara gets extremely hot and humid during the day so make sure to bring plenty of water and go into the shade regularly.
The Hospicio Cabañas, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was once an orphanage and is now the Instituto Cultural Cabañas (Cabañas Cultural Institute) is also worth a visit, especially for the ceiling murals by José Clemente Orozco, a famous Mexican artist of the area.
Eat Traditional Méxican Street Food
As Guadalajara was our gateway into México, we sampled our first authentic Méxican food here. Tacos, burritos, quesadillas, shrimp cocktails and more, with lots of tequila to wash it down! On one of our first days sampling street tacos in México I ended up eating both tongue and intestine tacos…yum! You can tell a lot of the meat in some of the tacos is of poor quality so I prefer to eat fish or shrimp tacos. However, most of the time the street tacos are delicious, safe to eat and of course spicy…beware those innocent looking sauces; they can burn your tongue off if you’re not expecting it!
One of the best places we ate during our time in Guadalajara, mostly for the sheer novelty of it, was at a car wash…yes, a car wash. The Fabulous Las Papas & Tacos; a car wash by day, restaurant by night. We were recommended this place by local Tapatío’s (Guadalajara locals) so we thought we would try it out seeing as it was so close to where we were staying. However, we arrived too early and it was still a car wash…so we got to watch the transformation as the staff started hauling out portable kitchens, tables, chairs, a massive sign for outside and even a bouncy castle for kids and a concierge type desk to greet customers. By the time they were finished, the place was (almost) unrecognizable and big crowds had already gathered. Every night it gets huge crowds and the food doesn’t disappoint, especially their famous reincarnations of the potato.
Got any suggestions for other fun and cheap things to do in Guadalajara? Leave them in the comments below!