I stayed a month in Guadalajara. It is a nice, liveable city. There was more traffic than I’d been expecting (I’m not sure why I was expecting less traffic, since it is the second largest city in Mexico), but aside from that the place was very pleasant.
It is one of the ‘eternal Spring’ cities, where the temperature stays at a comfortable 24 degrees year round. However it does (apparently) get very rainy in the summer months. Whilst I was there there was no rain, but the first week had exceptionally low nighttime temperatures.
It is a good place for digital nomads/ location independent workers; there are fast internet speeds and a rapidly growing tech industry on the outskirts of the city.
I found an Airbnb for my stay. The apartment was about equal distance from both the historic centre and the bars and restaurants of Chapultepec. It worked out well for me. It gave me the freedom to spend the days as I pleased without the discipline of staying in a hotel and feeling as if I needed to be out all the time ‘doing things’. Instead I spent a lot of time relaxing or catching up with my computer stuff, as well as exploring the city; in a month there is time for both.
The Historic Centre
You can easily walk around the historical centre in a day, or even half a day. It is less than 2 or 3 kilometres to walk through the main squares and see the Cathedral, Casa de cabanas, take a photo stood next to the obligatory sign, etc., etc.
This area is full of bars, cafes and restaurants. There is an excellent evening market; on weekends it gets particularly lively with music and other entertainment. Other than that, the best time to visit the area is on a Sunday morning when they stop the traffic and the area is full of people dancing and playing sports (post on how to enjoy a Sunday in Guadalajara here).
There is a hop on/off bus tour, which leaves the main street opposite the cathedral. It is a good way to get your bearings a little, but to be honest it spent so long stuck in traffic that I got a bit fed up with it. However I needed to rest my feet for a while after a day spent walking around both the historic centre and Chapultepec (tip: if possible it is best to do them on separate days), and this was a good way to do that.
Since I was staying in my own apartment, I tended to cater for myself a lot. Normally I would grab breakfast at home, buy a lunch whilst I was out and about and then just have a snack or something small at home for dinner.
The markets are good for cheap lunches. Mercado Corona is a food market close to the shops and the central plazas. I often went here for a cheap and quick lunch, although it does get very busy.
The popular local dish is tortas ahogadas, which is basically a meat sandwich soaked in gravy. I didn’t have one. People say that I’m not very adventurous with food, and they’re probably right, however I don’t subscribe to the ‘don’t knock it until you’ve tried it’ mantra; sometimes you know you won’t like something. One thing I really don’t like is soggy bread (or actually soggy anything). I prefer to go for something I know I’m likely to enjoy and not feel I have to try everything on offer ‘because it’s there’.
Another popular dish is pozole, a soup with meat and cabbage, which is very filling and a good way to warm up if you’re feeling a bit cold (this I did try).
Mexico is not renown for a lot of healthy food. I know I always moan about the lack of healthy food when I’m travelling, making me seem like some kind of health-food nut (which clearly to anyone who knows me, I’m not). However I do get tired of travelling with just the endless supply of sandwiches, chocolate and crisps/chips on offer.
I often ate at the places off of Chapultepec/Libertad. They are more expensive by Mexican standards but the food was consistently good.
There are enough shops and malls that you can buy pretty much anything you need. If you enjoy shopping shopping (as opposed to necessary shopping) there are a lot of street markets (Chapultepec night market was my favourite, with lots of music and entertainment thrown in so that even if you don’t want to buy things it is still a fun place to visit).
There is also a huge market close to the Plaza Mariachi; known locally as San Juan (although Libertad is its real name if you’re looking for it on a map) it sells just about everything there with low prices. It gets busy there, so you need to be prepared for that. You need to keep a tight grip of your bag too.
Guadalajara is known as one of the safest cities in Mexico. Having said that, I got my bag snatched on my second day there. I was walking along in my own little world having a little fantasy in my head and totally not concentrating on where I was, when a guy on a bicycle appeared out of nowhere and wrenched my bag off of me. My bag contained nothing: some tissues, a notebook, my eyeliner and my collection of till receipts and coloured pens. However in the skirmish I fell hard into the road and my iPhone went tumbling out of my pocket and onto the tarmac. I wrapped her in my scarf and took her to the iPhone doctor the next day, but she was declared beyond repair. The irony; the thief got nothing yet I still lost my phone.
Bag snatching, along with pick-pocketing, is a constant annoyance in the city.