Guadalajara (pop 1.5 million), the second largest city in Mexico, looks and feels like a bigger version of East LA. It’s dirty, tacky, doesn’t feel safe, and doesn’t have many street food options and vendors in general. Pics:
I don’t recommend visiting it. It’s ghetto but not ghetto enough — think Detroit (worth visiting for its spectacular ruins) — to be worth visiting. Guadalajara is just a boring mess of a city –cars parked inside its main cathedral, crappy graffiti, faded, gaudy architecture intermixed with dingy architecture, and tedious neighborhoods. Ramen — popular and ubiquitous — there was good though, better than what I’ve had in Seattle, except at Muto Izakaya in Lynnwood, my favorite.
This ramen place played J-pop from the 1980s, that was cool.
Guanajuato is amazing, it’s the first city I’ve fallen in love with. I’m moving there in five years, part-time to start.
Flew into Guadalajara, rented a car and drove to Guanajuato, with stops at Lagos de Moreno (charming city of 160,000 founded in 16th century) and San Juan de los Lagos (nothing special, it just has the second most visited pilgrimage site, an image of the Virgin Mary — known for its miracles — in a basilica). It’s a three hour drive without stops, we took eight hours with stops.
Guanajuato municipality, located in the center of Mexico, has a population of 200,000, and Guanajuato city proper has a population of 70,000. It’s more vibrant than NYC, more romantic than Paris, is safer and cleaner than both, and is known as the most beautiful city in Mexico. It was once a prominent and wealthy mining town, which is why it has an unusually high number of iconic architecture for a city of its size. Check these out:
Despite my comparisons of Guanajuato to NYC and Paris, it has a small town feel. The roosters start at the crack of dawn, followed by the gradually growing chorus of barking dogs. At 7:30am, the main cathedral bells ring, time to wake up. Stepping out of the hotel at 8am, I saw a few heading to work with donkeys in tow and parents taking their kids to school. Yet there’s enough population density so that like Mexico City (and unlike the sprawl that’s Guadalajara), street food is everywhere from 8am to midnight.
The quality of restaurants is high, from cheap eats to fine dining. In addition to Mexican, I had French, Italian, Cuban, and I saw Argentinian and American cuisines. Photos!
Typical fine dining would run $60 for two, 1/3 of what it’d cost in Seattle. Street food, 50 cents for a taco, $1 for a 16 oz cup of fruit (locals pay less than that). No difference in quality and I prefer the experience in Guanajuato because there are doggies in restaurants there!
Guanajuato also has lots of museums and art galleries for a city of its size, including one that houses Mexico’s Declaration of Independence; Diego Rivera’s house that’s been turned into a museum; one dedicated to Don Quixote; a mummy museum that has the smallest mummy in the world.
I went early March, and the weather was 45 degrees low, 80 degrees high, low humidity. Which is how it is for 9 months out of the year. There’s a three month monsoon season from May-July, when temperatures are 50 degrees low, 85 degrees high.
Guanajuato is magical. Small-town feel, big city amenities, , not overrun with tourists, and great shopping. There are lots of jewelry and leather artisans if you want something customized. Local designers for clothing. I didn’t see any trinket stores. And the tourists and expats there come from around the world — I heard Japanese, Chinese, French, and Italian — instead of mostly the US and Canada (like San Miguel, an American suburb in the middle of Mexico), giving Guanajuato a cosmopolitan feel.
Let me know if you want to visit, I’ll tell you where I stayed, a place I highly recommend and is the best hotel I’ve ever stayed in, Casa Del Rey. It has an outdoor pool heated to 90 degrees, awesome views, ideal location (not too loud, close to everything), an outdoor elevator, posh rooms, and everything works. Be careful because most of the hotels in Guanajuato, from reviews I’ve read, look cool because they’re in old buildings (one is a castle) but don’t work well. Like faulty plumbing, rooms with no windows.
Oh, forgot to mention, there are tunnels everywhere! Check these out:
Street art is everywhere too, even in residential neighborhoods.
In summary, Guanajuato is safe, clean, and manicured. It has shopping that’s rarely found in the US, delicious and affordable cuisine, lively, fun, and family friendly nightlife, spectacular city-scape, and a plethora of arts. including international festivals that attracts artists from around the world. I highly recommend it, check it out!