by Terence Baker | December 01, 2006



Mexican marvels:
Guadalajara has fine
examples of
colonial architecture.

Guadalajara, a city with 4.8 million inhabitants, ranks as Mexico’s second-largest. Founded in 1542, the city is welcoming all year, although mid-June through October is the rainy season. Also note that Oct.12 marks the celebration of the Virgin of Zapopan, a religious festival that attracts up to one million pilgrims, making hotel rooms scarce.


Guadalajara 2020 is an ambitious urban renewal project that started in 2000 and is expected to be finished in -- no surprise -- 2020. Neighborhoods are being cleaned up, colonial buildings repaired, and roads improved and redesigned to allow traffic to flow and give pedestrians more car-free zones in which to relax.

For convention center action, the Expo Guadalajara, Centro de Exposiciones features approximately 350,000 square feet of exhibit space. A 70,000-square-foot auxiliary hall was opened in 2002, and in mid-2008 another expansion will add 140,000 square feet of space.

The city will host the Pan American Games in 2011.


Guadalajara’s major meeting hotels include the 409-room Pres-idente Inter-Continental, 390-room Fiesta Americana, 357-room Vista Plaza del Sol, 356-room Hilton, 294-room Crowne Plaza, 220-room Holiday Inn Select, 205-room Camino Real, 205-room Hotel Fenix and the 158-room Fiesta Inn.

The newest addition to the city is the 163-room Camino Real Expo Guadalajara, which opened in November next to the convention center. The property has three meeting rooms, a business center and a vivid (beige and pink) exterior.

Other properties opened at the center this fall include the 159-room Hotel Ibis and the 145-room City Express.

A boutique choice is the Villa Ganz, which has nine rooms in a beautifully restored 1930s villa four blocks from lively Avenida Chapultepec.


The city’s colonial venues add charm to any event. The Casa-Museo Lopez Portillo, an 18th-century estate that belonged to a prominent local family, has space for 80 people, while the Ex Convento del Carmen, a former Carmelite convent built in the early 17th century and now an art gallery, can host up to 300 people. Patios and good acoustics add to the value.

Memorable places to visit, but with no gathering space of their own, include the Casa Tipica Barrio del Santuario, a mansion considered one of Mexico’s finest examples of 16th-century architecture, and the Mercado Libertad, one of Latin America’s largest enclosed markets, with some 1,000 stalls.

Have your group serenaded by an authentic Mariachi band. These colorful bands originated in Guadalajara, and one can be hired through the city’s CVB (

Good places to relax or explore include the Glorieta Chapalita and Plaza de los Laureles squares, the latter famed for its Indian laurel trees.


One enjoyable suburb worth visiting is Tlaquepaque, home to artisans working in many disciplines, most notably pottery, while a little farther afield is Tequila -- birthplace of the famous beverage -- which this year was placed on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. To get there from Guadalajara, take the Tequila Express Train, which also travels to the tequila-producing town of Amatitan. Groups can charter their own train cars.