The most iconic buildings and places in Guadalajara include charming plazas and grand neoclassical buildings that stand proud in the Mexican city’s historic centre. From ornate cathedrals housing ancient relics to UNESCO-listed heritage complexes and gothic churches with towering spires making up Guadalajara’s skyline, these great places are simply unmissable.

    Some of Guadalajara’s iconic landmarks are spots where you can soak up authentic Mexican culture, such as the sights and sounds of performing mariachi bands. While most spots are out in the open, some are slightly hidden in plain sight. Read on and discover all the famous landmarks below.

    1

    Guadalajara Cathedral

    The unmissable icon of downtown Guadalajara

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    Guadalajara Cathedral is the iconic landmark of the city, overlooking the main plaza in downtown Guadalajara. It’s also known simply as Metropolitan Cathedral and by its longer name, The Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady.

    The 4-century-old minor basilica is the Roman Catholic cathedral of the Archdiocese of Guadalajara. Most striking is its Spanish Renaissance architecture, with its neo-gothic belltowers pointing up into the sky and stained-glass windows imported from France. The cathedral makes for even more iconic pictures when it’s illuminated after sunset.

    Location: Av. Fray Antonio Alcalde 10, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +52 33 3613 7168

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    2

    Hospicio Cabañas

    One of the largest hospital complexes in the Americas

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    Hospicio Cabañas is a large 18th-century hospital complex in Guadalajara. Referred to by locals as Instituto Cultural de Cabanas, it is one of the city’s most iconic cultural centres. The complex dates back to 1791 – the oldest of its kind – and occupies 2.34 hectares. Once home to an orphanage and an almshouse, it’s now a hub for arts and culture.

    The eye-catching landmark has magnificent neoclassical architecture and a series of contemporary sculptures. In the late 1930s, famed Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco adorned the chapel with 57 intricate frescoes. The highlight of his work is El Hombre de Fuego (The Man of Fire), which you can see in the chapel’s dome.

    Location: C. Cabañas 8, Las Fresas, 44360 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +52 33 3668 1645

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    3

    Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan

    One of Guadalajara’s architectural jewels

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    The Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan is an iconic church complex in the heart of Zapopan, only a 20-minute drive from downtown Guadalajara. The sanctuary was built by Franciscan friars in the 17th century. It houses the abbey of Our Lady of Expectation of Zapopan and the compact Huichol Museum (Museo Huichol Wixarica de Zapopan).

    You can check out the impressive Doric and Corinthian altarpieces, bronze pope statues in the church's atrium, and a collection of artworks – a must-see is the oil painting of the church’s patron, Juan Cruz Ruiz de Cabañas y Crespo. Learn about the art of the indigenous Huichol people at the museum beside the basilica.

    Location: Calle Eva Briseño 152, Zapopan, 44250 Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico

    Phone: +52 333 633 0141

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    4

    Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento

    Among the greatest neo-Gothic churches in Mexico

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    Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento or the Expiatory Church of the Blessed Sacrament is one of the finest examples of neo-Gothic architecture in Mexico. The church dates back to 1897 but its construction was only completed far later in 1972.

    This majestic landmark overlooks the plaza of Parque Expiatoro, with massive, carved stone pillars and large stained-glass windows crafted by French artists. Many of the church’s features involved different craftsmen, such as its clock and carillon that was imported from Germany. Check out the campanile, where mini statues of the 12 apostles rotate with the melodies every time the clock strikes 9 am, noon and 6 pm.

    Location: C. Manuel López Cotilla 935, Col Americana, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Phone: +52 333 825 3410

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    photo by Luisalvaz (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    5

    Glorieta La Minerva

    The Roman goddess at the roundabout

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    Glorieta La Minerva, also known simply as La Minerva or the Statue of Minerva, is a Guadalajara landmark that was commissioned back in the 1950s. The Roman goddess of wisdom and warfare is depicted wearing a helmet, holding a spear in one hand and a shield in the other, in a tall heroic stance guarding the city.

    The bronze statue stands on a pedestal at the centre of the 2nd largest fountain in Guadalajara, after Fuentes Danzantes near Plaza Tapatía. And since the fountain itself is at the roundabout where 6 main streets meet, it’s often referred to as the ‘Minerva Roundabout’ as a whole.

    Location: Av. Ignacio L. Vallarta, Vallarta, 44690 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

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    6

    Plaza de la Liberación

    A lively square in Guadalajara’s historic district

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    Plaza de la Liberación is a central urban square at the heart of Zona Centro, Guadalajara’s historic district. The plaza lies just to the east of the Guadalajara Cathedral. It’s the largest among the 4 vast plazas and gardens surrounding the majestic landmark. It’s snug between the cathedral and the Teatro Degollado performing arts theatre.

    The plaza features small fountains at both ends. The towering spires of the cathedral as well as the majestic façade of the theatre serve as backdrops to photos. You’ll also find the statue of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest and leading figure of the Mexican War of Independence – hence the plaza’s name.

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

    7

    Plaza Tapatía

    A monumental Guadalajara square

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    Plaza Tapatía is one of Guadalajara’s grand urban spaces, best known for its fountain and striking bronze monument. The contemporary sculpture, La Inmolación de Quetzalcoatl (the Immolation of Quetzalcóatl) is the artwork of Mexican abstract sculptor Victor Manuel Contreras.

    Inaugurated in 1982, the sculpture features twisted, flame-like shapes rising from the water and into the sky. Quetzalcóatl, according to Aztec legend, is the feathered-serpent deity who went to hell to bring fire back to the sun, eventually illuminating the entire city in the end. The main ‘flame’ is 25 metres tall, with smaller flames at the 4 cardinal points. The popular square is surrounded by various shops, restaurants, and cafes with seating to take in the view.

    Location: Calz Independencia Sur, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 7 pm

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    photo by Adrián Cerón (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    8

    Plaza de las Americas

    The main plaza in Zapopan

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    Plaza de las Americas is the main square of the 17th-century church and abbey complex of Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan. It’s a great spot to take in the view of the majestic basilica. The plaza also often gears up for festivities and calendar events, such as a skating rink and Christmas lights over the end-of-year holidays.

    On any given day, you can find various vendors selling Mexican street food and souvenirs throughout the plaza. It also treats families with kids to some fun with its open spaces and fountains. Besides photos with the basilica in the background, you’ll hardly miss taking a snap of the Zapopan sign in the plaza.

    Location: Calle Eva Briseño, Zapopan, 45100 Zapopan, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 10 pm

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    9

    Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres

    A monumental tribute to Jalisco’s historical figures

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    Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres is a landmark in the historical centre of Guadalajara. It’s in the form of a grand, neoclassical rotunda upheld by 17 fluted columns. You can find it in the middle of a lush urban park just north of the Guadalajara Cathedral. The landmark flanks the avenues of Fray Antonio Alcalde and Miguel Hidalgo, as well as the Liceo and Independencia streets.

    Designed by notable Mexican architect Vicente Mendiola, Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres serves as a tribute to various historical figures hailing from the state of Jalisco. There’s a cauldron at its centre, along with 33 statues of notable figures throughout the surrounding leafy gardens. The sculptures from past Mexican presidents to authors and artists.

    Location: Av. Fray Antonio Alcalde 108, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

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    10

    Flag Square

    A landmark on Guadalajara’s city limits with fun for families

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    Flag Square or Plaza de La Bandera is a traffic circle to the northeast of downtown Guadalajara, with an iconic stone eagle and flagpole monument. The stone eagle, which resembles the Mexican coat of arms, was installed back in 1943.

    The circle once served as a city boundary but now features an adjacent leafy park with an esplanade, Plaza de La Bandera – a great place for a stroll or play around the fountains. For even more fun and games, you can cross the road north to another section of the park to Juegos Mecanicos De Plaza De La Bandera. This is a dedicated space with playgrounds and kid-friendly rides, including a merry-go-round.

    Location: Calz. del Ejército, Obrera, 44420 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

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    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveller

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