Things to do in gay Guadalajara

Located roughly between Mexico City and the Pacific Ocean, Guadalajara has long been heralded as one of the gayest cities in Mexico, if not the whole of Latin America. The huge shift in social norms over the last decade – including the nationwide legalisation of same-sex marriage in 2010 – certainly hasn’t passed the capital of Jalisco state by, and while gay Guadalajara can still be described as centring around Calle Prisciliano Sánchez, a new batch of LGBTQ+ venues are steadily spreading their rainbow wings right across the ‘San Francisco of Mexico’.

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Despite the efforts of the country’s old guard politicians, all the best hotels in Guadalajara are utterly unphased by the idea of same-sex couples sharing a room. Many of the most welcoming are also located just a few minutes from the city’s historic centre and the 30-plus bars and clubs that is sometimes called the gay village. While the area is considered a little rough around the edges by some, nothing could be further from the truth at the four-star Villa Ganz Boutique Hotel. Nestled within beautiful gardens, the restored twentieth-century mansion has an informal elegance of glazed terracotta floor tiles, carefully curated antiques, and open fires that quickly makes each of the ten rooms a home away from home. The airy high-ceilinged spaces of the similarly-sized and rated Casa Alebrijes Hotel are dedicated entirely to LGBT+ guests, and while the adobe structure is an older one than Villa Ganz, modernist interior touches manage to mingle effortlessly with the original courtyard garden and balcony spaces.

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Photo: Erik Lucatero

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Guadalajara’s historic centre has more than enough attractions to hold your attention

Guadalajara’s historic centre has more than enough attractions to hold your attention for a few hours, with a quartet of atmospheric plazas and an array of impressive colonial-era sights, not least the Hospicio Cabaña, one of the oldest (and most stylish) of hospitals in the Americas, dating back to the late eighteenth century. A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, the dramatic interiors are now home to the Instituto Cultural Cabanas, housing hundreds of artworks by contemporary Mexican artists including José Clemente Orozco (whose frescoes adorn the ceilings) and works by French conceptual artist Daniel Buren in the series of interior courtyards. Away from the Centro histórico, on Guadalajara’s north-western city limits sits the Los Colomos forest park. Popular with the city’s joggers, who take advantage of its winding paths, the park also features a geographically disorientating Japanese garden, complete with bridges and tranquil pond.

Centro Histórico | Photo: Roman Lopez

In the opposite direction, to the south-east of Guadalajara, you’ll find Tlaquepaque, a once separate town known for its mariachi bands, colourful artisan pottery works, and historic cobbled streets. Many are awash with vivacity and interest, not least the likes of the Andador Indepencia shopping avenue and the atmospheric El Parian arcaded square. If you’re in need of pampering back in Guadalajara, make a beeline for Dolce Spa Medico, which offers massage treatments, facials, and even laser hair removal in professional yet chilled surrounds.

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Spend even the shortest amount of time in Guadalajara and you’ll discover how important the cuisine is to the city’s culture, with apparently endless offerings that range from the humblest of street-side taco stalls to the plusher environs of upscale restaurants. Positioned somewhere in between the two is café Rompicapo, dishing up a mouth-watering array of Mexican classics with a modern touch, alongside wood-fired pizzas and word on all the hottest things to do in town from the all-female (gay and straight) staff. Elsewhere, Santo Coyote serves up New Mexican-Crillio (Creole) cuisine amid an air of tall palms and totemic carvings, music and dance. An extra element comes from sauces completed at the table, providing the ultimate freshness and perfect accompaniment to the homemade pumpkin blossom bread, tortilla soup, or lobster with black beans that adorn the menu. I-Latina, meanwhile, is as trendy as they come. A former disused warehouse, it has grown largely through word of mouth. Its classy wine bar style interior, walls hanging with a bohemian collection of artworks, and a menu including tropical tacos and black cod, perfectly blends innovation with tradition.

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Photo: Christian Lambert

If the gay village appears a little subdued by day, that’s because it really hits the right notes come nightfall, when the smart crowd drift from the likes of I-Latina to Babel, one of the highlights of Guadalajara nightlife. It’s spread across three floors pretty much dedicated to electronic dance music, with live DJ sets that thud with hardcore techno and burst with more mainstream electro-pop as the resident go-go dancers and drag queens ensure everyone has the time of their lives. Incongruously located within a mansion, California Bar is one of the coolest gay bars Guadalajara has to offer. Slightly tamer perhaps than Babel, it’s particularly popular on weekends, when the beats run from house to reggae, while the choice of drinks from behind the bar are equally expansive any day of the week. Should you find yourself slightly further out than the Centro histórico, check out Envy Trendy or Angel’s Club, two more popular nightspots but in the Zona Rosa area that’s centred around Chepultepec Avenue.

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