Portland’s sister city: Guadalajara, Mexico

Visit the home of mariachi music, where food and architecture create a magical experience.

Templo Expiatorio is illuminated against a sunset sky in Guadalajara.

The Templo Expiatorio is often considered the greatest Neo-Gothic style church in Mexico.

Photo by Abraham

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Bienvenidos a Guadalajara, which has been Portland’s “ciudad hermana” since 1983.

The cultural corazón of Mexico is known as the home of mariachi music and large-scale events like the Guadalajara International Film Festival. You can fly there directly from Portland International Airport fairly affordably, so join us as we subject ourselves to extreme wanderlust and head south of the border to explore.

Electric carriages roll down a street surrounded by colonial buildings

See the sights from an electric carriage. | Photo via Visit Guadalajara

Key facts

The city was named after Guadalajara, Spain, which in turn has roots in an Arabic word meaning “valley of stones.” Its nicknames include “Pearl of the West” and familiarly, “The City of Roses.” Locals are called “Tapatíos,” from the Nahuatl word “tapatiotl,” which was a monetary unit used in pre-colonial times.

Past and future meet here; 16th-century architecture is prevalent throughout the region, yet investment in local software + IT companies has earned it the reputation of Mexico’s Silicon Valley.

You’ll find Guadalajara’s signature tortas ahogadas on nearly every street corner, made with birote-style bread, stuffed with meat, seafood, or cheese, and slathered in spicy tomato sauce — just make sure you have enough napkins.

A sunset behind a two towered basilica and water fountains.

Metropolitan Guadalajara includes the cities Zapopan + Tonalá. | Photo via @tytux

Main attractions

The Mercado San Juan de Dios is Latin America’s largest indoor market, containing multiple levels and 3,000+ stalls selling anything imaginable, from clothing to electronics and even magic elixirs.

Hospicio Cabañas was constructed at the beginning of the 19th century as a shelter for disadvantaged residents, and the sprawling complex is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Gaze up in wonder at the chapel’s grandiose murals painted by José Clemente Orozco.

Similar to Forest Park, Bosque Colomos is a sweeping urban green space that features a Japanese garden, as well as a dedicated “Jardín Portland” with rose bushes, an amphitheater modeled on Pioneer Courthouse Square, and a water feature replica of Multnomah Falls.

Day trips

Guadalajara is also the capital city of Jalisco, and the gateway to the rest of the state.

Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest freshwater lake, is located just an hour drive south of the city and offers provincial charm, mountain views + bird watching (keep an eye out for white pelicans). Boat rides to small islands often launch from the town of Mezcala de la Asunción.

A giant tequila barrel shaped hotel room.

Matices Hotel de Barricas | Photo via Visita Guadalajara

Tours to nearby Tequila are also extremely popular; tourists can take a train to visit the blue agave fields and more than 150 distilleries where the eponymous spirit is produced. Salud!

Other sister cities

If you enjoy learning about Portland’s sister cities, check out our story about another — Ulsan, South Korea.

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