Guadalajara (GDL) is Mexico’s 2nd largest city. If you have been to Puebla or Guanajato or Mexico City or San Miguel de Allende, I caution you to taper your expectations down. GDL is visibly run down. Unlike those other cities where things are in good or great repair, GDL, it appears lacks the funds to keep things in fine shape. From the first ride from the airport, you get a sense of the industrial ambiance of the city, graffiti is mercilessly sprawled everywhere except in the very center of the city around the Cathedral - presumably, because of the large presence of police there. Step a few blocks from this core part of the center and as you travel via a less than stellar Tapito Tours double decker bus, you cannot help but, notice the patched up work on buildings, trash, unkept gardens. No consistency as you may be used to in the other places I mentioned.
The best way to tour in and around GDL is through the Tapito Tour buses as that is the only cost effective option. For a city of this size, it is unusual that there is no competition for them. They offer 4 routes, one bus takes you to Zapopan, another does the GDL city route, another take you to Tlaquepaque and the fourth one, takes you from Tlaquepaque to Tonala. For $MX 140-160 (160 when tourists abound), you can ride all four routes within 6 hours without exiting the bus. Sadly, no multi-day discount passes. Seriously, Hop On/Hop Off needs to come to town unless they are the ones that own Tapitio Tours!
GDL City - instead of the bus tour, get a map from the Tourist Info - sorry, available only in Spanish! But, you can still easily manage. Walk the center of the city - 2 days of six hour trips of 1 day of eight hours if you have abnormal energy. See my www.instagram.com/ArtByPino to see sights I recommend.
Tonala - Remember, you have to catch the bus from Tlaquepaque - given the bus schedule and what I needed to cover, I did not go the ceramic museum which is renowned. On Sundays and Thursday, thousands of vendors converge in Tonala and sell everything for lower prices - everything that you might buy from elsewhere in GDL. So, good spot to go shopping if you have a long list.
Tlaquepaque - A delightful place to visit, high-end artisan shops, and, I mean high—end. Clearly, their Customers are the upper class of the Mexican society and foreigners. I found their prices intimidating and instead bought a couple of things from street side artisans who make their crafts in front of you. Independencia Avenue is the one you want to walk down. Lots of great food and drinks and entertainment. Safe. Surrounding, fine places to eat, coffee, the works.
Zapopan - Basilica is the main draw there. The art museum across looks nice but, given the ridiculous bus schedule of Tapito Tours - 15 minute break or wait 2 hours and 50 minutes for the next bus - I opted to skip the museum.
All in all, I would still recommend visiting GDL and surrounding areas - separate post coming up in a few days on that - just so that you can get an experience of some of the finest buildings, museums and, art. People - as in the rest of Mexico - are a charm, warm, friendly. The legend about Guadalajara women being the most beautiful in Mexico failed to live up to its reputation. But, then again, as a learned wise person stated, beauty is in the eye of the beholder...