POP 1.5 MILLION
Mexico’s second largest metropolis is actually a confederation of three cities – Zapopan, Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara proper – each with its own airs and idiosyncrasies. Together they form a culturally compelling whole, a blended cocktail not unlike one of the locally concocted margaritas – sharp, potent and remarkably well-balanced.
If you’re intimidated by the size and intensity of Mexico City, Guadalajara delivers a less frenetic alternative. Many of the clichéd images recognized as Mexican have roots here: mariachi music, wide-brimmed sombreros, the Mexican hat dance and charreadas (rodeos). But, Guadalajara is as much a vanguard of the new Mexico as it is a guardian of the old. Chapultepec hipsters drive the cultural life forward, fusion chefs have sharpened the edges of an already legendary culinary scene (famed for its tender stews and ‘drowned’ sandwiches), while foresighted local planners are doing their damnedest to tackle the traf- fic and congestion (a bike-sharing scheme is the latest wild card).
Guadalajara’s most comprehensive museum tells the story of the city and the region from prehistory to the revolution. The ground floor houses a natural history collection whose unwitting star is a mightily impressive woolly mammoth skeleton. Other crowd-pleasers include displays about indigenous life and a superb collection of pre-Hispanic ceramics.