Tlaquepaque Jalisco: Home of Mariachi and Handicrafts

Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tuh – laa – kay – paa – kee) is a Jaliscan city that is best known for its handicrafts, pottery, and ceramics, along with its contribution to Mariachi culture. The city, officially known as San Pedro Tlaquepaque, is 10km south of the Jalisco state capital of Guadalajara.

When you look at Tlaquepaque on the map, it looks like just another suburb of Guadalajara. However, it is its own individual city and it’s a sprawling one at that. Urban expansion over the decades makes it hard to note where Guadalajara ends and where Tlaquepaque begins. 

Things to see and do in Tlaquepaque

Tlaquepaque is filled with beautiful churches
Tlaquepaque is filled with beautiful churches

Tlaquepaque’s main attractions are centered around El Parian Square and Jardin Hidalgo. You only need half a day here, but the city is a worthy addition to any Guadalajara itinerary.

Today, around 575,942 people call Tlaquepaque home. The city was recognized as a Mexican magic town (pueblo magico) back in 2018.

These are unique settlements that have been recognized by the Mexican tourism board as offering a particularly interesting culture, local gastronomy, or history. Generally speaking, when you see that a town/city has been designated as a pueblo magico, you know that it is a worthwhile place to visit. This is certainly true of Tlaquepaque.  

Watch the mariachi perform at El Parian Square

Catch a mariachi performance in Tlaquepaque
Catch a mariachi performance in Tlaquepaque

The raison d’être that a lot of people decide to travel to Tlaquepaque is for an opportunity to see the mariachi perform at El Parian square. This little square, encircled by bars and restaurants, was constructed in 1878 and mariachi bands have performed on the bandstand at its center since 1927.

The precise origins of mariachi music are unknown, but it is believed to have originated in this part of west-central Mexico in the 1700s. When bands started performing at El Parian in the 1920s, the music wasn´t really accepted and it was quite a controversial move by the organizers.

It was thanks to regular performances here that mariachi music eventually became popular and known around the world. For decades, mariachi bands at El Parian have delighted locals and tourists alike.

If you want to see the bands perform, it is best to stop by late afternoon (at least after 4 pm) or in the evening. It is a little quiet here during the day so if you are hoping for a lunchtime snack and some live mariachi, you will be disappointed.

It is also worth noting that the historical importance of the square paired with the live music has turned El Parian into a bit of a tourist trap. Do beware that many of the restaurants here will often refuse to let you sit at a table where you can see the mariachi unless you purchase multiple tequila cazuelas – in a place where the prices are heavily inflated and a couple of drinks can wind up costing over $100 USD.

There are also a couple of benches scattered around the plaza where you will see Mexican locals sitting, although they fill up quickly. These make a good alternative place to watch the performances. You can always tip the mariachi separately. 

Sample a torta ahogada 

There are several lovely restaurants scattered throughout the historic center of Tlaquepaque. However, if you want a quick bite, there is one snack that stands out from the crowd: the torta ahogada! 

This is a sandwich made from pork carnitas served on a crusty bread roll with onions and then slathered in tomatoey- salsa. You are usually served with a selection of hot sauces and lime for added flavor.

Like many great dishes, it was invented by accident in Guadalajara in the 1900s when a street food vendor was preparing a sandwich for a customer and accidentally dropped the entire thing in the sauce! The customer loved it, and the trend of the salsa-drenched sandwich soon caught on.

Today, you can find it sold at various mercados and fast food restaurants around Guadalajara,Tlaquepaque and wider Jalisco. Look out for a little red and white store opposite El Parian named “Tortas Ahogadas las Famosas” ( Calle Progreso 16, Centro).

The experience of dining here is far more authentic than dining at one of the touristic eateries in El Parian. The service is simple, yet friendly and you will mostly see locals stopping by here to grab a quick sandwich on their lunch break. Torta ahogadas are not as messy to eat as you may imagine, and it is customary to eat them with a spoon. 

Visit the churches of Tlaquepaque

Two gorgeous centuries-old catholic churches sit across from each other close to Jardin Hidalgo. They are Our Lady of Solitude Sanctuary and the Parroquia San Pedro Apóstol. 

The latter is particularly unique in design. An Indian hospital was built here between 1580 and 1600, prior to the existence of the church. 

Within it, was a small chapel with the image of the Virgen de la Soledad. Sadly, the hospital gradually fell into disrepair and after an earthquake destroyed it in the 1700s, construction on the current church began.

The Parroquia San Pedro Apóstol would take more than 150 years to build due to funding issues. It was eventually completed in 1813 and dedicated to the patron saint of Tlaquepaque.

Sadly, it incurred a lot of damage through the centuries due to various clashes and flights in the area. Today, the building is a mixture of Baroque, Roman, and Byzantine styles.

The interiors of the two churches are just as impressive as their exteriors. You are free to enter and take photos inside. 

Stroll through Jardin Hidalgo 

The Jardin Hidalgo is a small landscaped square in the beating heart of old town Tlaquepaque. There is a small bandstand in its center, along with a bust of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, after whom the square is named.

The square, filled with quirky sculptures and contemporary art pieces, is a popular rendezvous point among locals who come here to catch up over coffee or walk their dogs. You will often find that little handicraft or flea markets are hosted here and there are always a plethora of street vendors selling a variety of snacks and drinks.

One local treat, in particular, to look out for is the pastel-pink drink known as “Tuba”. It is sweet and fruity and usually packed full of pieces of fruit and candy. 

Shop for handicrafts 

Calle Independencia is one of the oldest streets in Tlaquepaque, and the city’s main promenade today. It is lined with art galleries, upscale restaurants, and artisanal stores.

The street is believed to date back to the 18th century, at which time it was known as the “Royal Street”, perhaps on account of all of the noble families that owned grand mansions and summer homes here. Today it is fully pedestrianized.

You will be greeted with many weird and wonderful sculptures that make for great photo opportunities as you make your way along its length. Tlaquepaque is known for its glass-blowing, its ceramics, and its azulejo tiles.

There are all manner of wonderful stores on Calle Independencia to suit every budget. Some sell your typical Mexican souvenirs and knick-knacks, but others sell truly gorgeous home decor items and dinnerware sets.

You could easily while away 2-3 hours browsing the stores here. Better yet, none of the vendors are pushy. 

Visit the local museums and art galleries  

There are a couple of museums in Tlaquepaque that are well worth visiting if you are interested in learning more about the local culture. The Museo Regional de la Ceramica (Calle Independencia 237, Centro) is housed inside a beautiful grand old house.

It contains a collection of handicrafts made by artists from the local area and explains the process of making them. The view is to preserve and promote the Tlaquepaque handicrafts industry.

Equally interesting is the Pantaléon Panduro Museum of the National Ceramics Contest (C. Prisciliano Sánchez 191). The museum shows the different styles of ceramic art and pottery from across the country – from Oaxaca to Jalisco and everywhere in between.

If you are interested in art, you may enjoy meandering through the Sergio Bustamante Gallery (Independencia Eje 238, Centro). The gallery is free to enter and has a lovely leafy garden at its rear.

Sergio Bustamante is a Mexican Artist from Culiacan, Sinaloa whose colorful, modern sculptures have gained acclaim around the world. If you want to buy art pieces for your home, the price tags range between $2,000 and $4,000 a piece on average. There are also little trinkets available for sale in the store that makes nice gifts for loved ones back at home. 

Check the local events schedule 

Throughout the year, there are all manner of traditions and festivities celebrated at Tlaquepaque. Since the city is widely considered as being the birthplace of mariachi, there are often mariachi festivals and concerts where bands perform with the Jalisco philharmonic orchestra.

On Dia de Los Muertos (November 2nd), families head to the local cemeteries to decorate the graves of loved ones lost and to create alters of offerings. A parade of catrinas passes through the city and Tlaquepaque can be a nice place to experience the occasion if you want to join in the festivities somewhere a little more low-key than Oaxaca or Mexico City

Getting to Tlaquepaque

It is relatively easy to get to Tlaquepaque from Guadalajara as the two cities are so close to each other. The journey should only take 10-15 minutes by road, depending on where in Guadalajara you are starting out from. 

Take an Uber

Arguably the easiest and most comfortable way to make the journey is to take an Uber. Ubers are generally safer than street taxis in Guadalajara and wider Jalisco and you will find plenty of reputable drivers.

The prices to and from Tlaquepaque may fluctuate depending on the demand and the traffic at the time you order the car. You can generally expect to pay between 90-150 pesos ($4.50 – $7.50) each way.  

Take the bus 

Buses from Guadalajara to Tlaquepaque depart every 45 minutes from the Central Viaje bus station (C. Los Ángeles 218, Las Conchas).

This bus station is in a part of town that is slightly rough around the edges. So, you may prefer to take a cab here from your hotel, and you certainly shouldn’t consider walking here at night.

The bus between Guadalajara and Lake Chapala departs every 45 minutes and stops at Tlaquepaque. Tlaquepaque is the only stop before the lake, so it is easy to know when you need to disembark. 

Where to stay in Tlaquepaque

There are several reputable hotels in Tlaquepaque to suit every budget. This area may be a little touristy, but it’s bursting with life, which means that you have plenty of excellent restaurants and cantinas right on your doorstep. A number of reputable options are detailed below for your consideration: 

Final Thoughts 

Have you traveled to Tlaquepaque? Did you find it as fun to visit as it is to say? 

If you are planning a trip to Mexico for the first time, you may also enjoy reading these tips to know about Mexico before you go. Safe travels! Buen Viaje! xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer based in Merida, Mexico and the Editor-in-Chief of Mexico Travel Secrets. She has produced written content for several high-profile publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, the Huffington Post, Rough Guides, and Matador Network.