It may seem redundant to describe Guadalajara as the most Mexican of Mexico's cities, but the characterization contains a large degree of truth. After all, some of the country's most cherished traditions originated here—the staccato-stepping jarabe, or Mexican hat dance, the fancy horsemanship of charros (rodeo riders) and the soulful music of the mariachis. There's even a word to describe something that is quintessentially Guadalajaran: tapatío.
This is Mexico's second largest metropolis and a hustling, sprawling business center. General Electric, Hitachi, IBM and other major technology companies all have facilities in Guadalajara, a leading producer of software and electronics. And perhaps it is this explosive modern-day growth that drives the city's painstaking preservation of a history that spans nearly 5 centuries. Nowhere is Guadalajara's past more evident than in its historic center, where four separate plazas forming the shape of a cross surround the Cathedral, a building notable not only for is size but for its twin yellow and blue-tiled towers. For travelers, among the city’s best things to do is to stroll past the monuments and burbling fountains along cobblestoned, seven-block-long Plaza Tapatía; buy some ice cream from a street vendor and then relax on a shady bench and watch the city go by.
For more local flavor, immerse yourself in the Liberty Market (Mercado Libertad), a shopping destination with three floors and innumerable rows of vendor stalls selling everything from inexpensive electronics to animal parts to decorated candy skulls. Performances of a spectacular nature take place at the Degollado Theater on Sundays, when the city's celebrated Ballet Folklórico presents shows that are a feast of music, dance and vibrantly colorful costumes.
Also unmistakably Mexican are the charreadas, traditional events similar to an American rodeo but with greater emphasis on specialized equestrian competitions and ceremonial trappings. Another popular spectator sport is bullfighting, which flaunts an inherent brutality that may not appeal to many; the dramatic ritual is, however, alive and well at the Plaza de Toros Nuevo Progreso October through March.
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1,552 meters (5,091 feet)
Dial 911 (emergency services) and ask to be connected to an English-speaking operator if you need immediate assistance.
Hospital México-Americano, Calle Colomos #2110, (33) 3648-3333 or 01 (800) 462-2238 (toll-free long distance within Mexico), and the Red Cross (Cruz Roja), (33) 3614-1269, 911 (ambulance assistance) or 01 (800) 667-4767 (toll-free long distance within Mexico), both provide 24-hour emergency service. Major hotels and the U.S. Consulate should have information regarding doctors who are on 24-hour call.
English-language newspapers, including the weekly Guadalajara Reporter, are available at newsstands and the Hotel Fenix, downtown at avenidas Corona and López Cotilla. The monthly Lake Chapala Reporter has information about the communities around Lake Chapala.
Sandi Bookstore, Av. Tepeyac #718 in the Chapalita neighborhood west of downtown, has English-language newspapers and books. The Sanborns restaurant chain has several area locations and also offers books, newspapers and magazines in English; the downtown branch is at avenidas Juárez and 16 de Septiembre, a block south of Plaza de Armas.
A tourist information booth is inside the southern doorway of the Government Palace (Palacio de Gobierno), facing Plaza de Armas; it is open Mon.-Fri. 9-3 and 6-8 p.m., Sat. 9-1.
A number of casas de cambio (currency exchange houses) are located downtown along Avenida López Cotilla between calles Corona and Degollado, about 3 blocks south of the cathedral. Most of them post their rates, and they normally don't have the lines that banks often have. Dollars can be exchanged at branches of Banamex banks Mon.-Sat. 9-1. A centrally located downtown Banamex branch is on Paseo Degollado, 3 blocks east of the Degollado Theater. ATMs are the quickest and most convenient way to get cash; withdrawals are in pesos.
The rules in Guadalajara are the same as those in any big city. At night, avoid urban neighborhoods that are away from the downtown core or other tourist areas; dark side streets in particular can be dangerous. If going out for the evening or taking a side trip during the day, it's a good idea to hire a taxi driver affiliated with your hotel. Keep an eye on personal items at all times, especially in the crowded shopping districts, and avoid wearing jewelry or carrying large sums of money. Women are not welcome in cantina bars and other bastions of heavy drinking and machismo attitudes.