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The Mexican state of Jalisco is steeped in history — including its founding role in well-known Mexican traditions such as mariachi music and tequila — but its capital city, Guadalajara, is luring an increasing number of travelers with a decidedly 21st-century focus on luxury, culture and cuisine.
Located about 350 miles west of Mexico City, Guadalajara was founded in 1542 and today is Mexico’s second-largest metropolis. It’s been a must-see destination for lovers of history and architecture for years, with a city center graced by a beautiful 16th-century cathedral and a stately 19th-century theater. But upscale travelers are also paying attention to the city’s modern luxuries — including a growing number of stylish hotels, restaurants and shopping venues.
The streets in and around the Colonia Americana district are a hot spot for both locals and vacationers looking to indulge. Several of the most fashionable hotels here involve sizeable extensions of noteworthy 20th-century homes that once belonged to the city’s upper class. Among the top hotel choices is Hotel Demetria, which exudes the cool ambiance of an art gallery within a sleek, concrete-and-glass tower that’s located between two historical homes, designed by architects Pedro Castellanos and Luis Barragan. Also attracting a lot of press are the hip Casa Fayette, a member of Design Hotels, and the elegant Villa Ganz, which is set in a 1930s mansion.
Travelers looking to get away from big-city life should consider the 15-room Hacienda Lomajim, located on a scenic hilltop in the nearby municipality of Zapopan. Don’t be fooled by the bumpy ride through the grounds upon arrival; this hotel is a quiet place to relax, with antique furnishings (although the property is only about 20 years old), open-air dining and picturesque views of the surrounding hills and valleys. The Jacuzzi Volado, an open-air Jacuzzi perched on the side of a cliff, is simply breathtaking, complete with table and chairs for al fresco private dining and lounging. A new spa, slated to open in 2017, will provide more options for relaxation at Hacienda Lomajim. Another recommended choice in this category is Hacienda El Carmen Hotel & Spa, located in the municipality of Ahualulco de Mercado, not far from the town of Tequila and the Guachimontones archaeological site.
Guadalajara’s historic downtown hasn’t been a hub for luxury hotels in decades, but for travelers looking to pamper themselves while staying close to some of the city’s biggest attractions, NH Collection Guadalajara Centro Historico, which opened in 2016, has guestrooms with terraces that offer lovely views of the cathedral and government palace. The rooftop restaurant offers equally postcard-worthy vistas.
A must-do for first-time visitors to Guadalajara is a trip to Tequila, the 16th-century town that gained fame as the birthplace of the eponymous spirit. And, in recent months, it has become easier to sell the destination to upscale clients, thanks to new transportation and accommodation options. The most luxurious way to travel to Tequila is via the Sauza Tequila Copter, a helicopter service that shuttles visitors from the Guadalajara airport to the town, where they take a guided tour of the Sauza tequila distillery.
Another option is the Jose Cuervo Express, a train operated by Mundo Cuervo that departs from the Ferromex station in Guadalajara and offers margaritas, tequila and empanadas during the roundtrip journey.
Tequila’s most luxurious hotel — Hotel Solar de las Animas — opened in 2015. This 93-room Relais & Chateaux property has handsomely appointed guestrooms and a lovely restaurant that makes for the perfect stop after a day of tequila tasting.
Where to Go Shopping in GuadalajaraMexico’s second-largest city is a rewarding place for shopaholics, thanks to its rich tradition of arts and crafts, as well as its more modern dedication to fine art and upscale design. One of Guadalajara’s most popular neighborhoods for shopping is Tlaquepaque, where pedestrian walkways are dotted with craft shops, clothing stores and galleries. Also worthwhile for visitors looking for regional artwork is Tonala, a municipality known for its artisan workshops that sell handmade furniture, glassware and ceramics. For the best deals, visit Tonala’s street market on Thursdays or Sundays.
For an international luxury shopping fix, head to the municipality of Zapopan to spend a few hours wandering through Andares, an indoor-outdoor shopping complex that stocks many international luxury brands and also hosts free outdoor concerts, film screenings and dance performances. Hyatt Regency Andares Guadalajara, which will be located within the complex and is slated to open in late 2016, will make it even easier for people to access the brand-name goods.
Even the gift shops at some popular tourist attractions can be surprisingly good sources of interesting, upscale finds. At Hospicio Cabanas — a UNESCO World Heritage Site that in the 19th century served as a home to orphans and people with disabilities and chronic illnesses — the small shop is filled with everything from books and home decor to attractive jewelry, clothing and accessories.
For a locally authentic — albeit not upscale — shopping experience, the best place to head is Mercado Libertad (Liberty Market), also called San Juan de Dios. Tourism officials describe this sprawling enclosed market as one of the largest in Mexico, with some 2,800 stands lining the narrow walkways.
Bargaining for the lowest price is the norm here, where a seemingly endless variety of items await, including clothing, shoes, blown glass and silver.