"Tonalá, Mexico" Tonalá by cindi5775

Tonalá Travel Guide: 4 reviews and 12 photos

Tonalá, Mexico: A Shopper's Paradise

Some friends asked if we'd like to accompany them for a visit to the handicraft shops in Tlaquepaque and Tonalá, suburbs of Guadalajara. Since we had only ridden past the towns on the bus, we jumped at the opportunity to see if they were as charming as we'd heard.

Wednesday afternoon, after checking into our hotel, we made our way to Tonalá's main plaza, Plaza de Cihualpilli. It is pleasant area with several shady benches, a gazebo, an indoor market, and a statue of Queen Cihualpilli, who led her people in a fierce, but ultimately lost, battle against the Spanish conquistador Nuño de Guzmán and his men. The Queen had encouraged her people to make various handicrafts including exquisite gold jewelry. The manufacture of wonderful arts and crafts continues to this day.

Every block in the center of town has numerous shops selling a mind-boggling array of products. Some are showrooms with workshops in the back where customers can watch the artisans at work. Some shops are no more than the front room of a family's home. It seems every family makes one type of handicraft or another. Some families have been making the same crafts for generations.

There were few people out and about on Wednesday afternoon. Most appeared to be doing normal household shopping. Often, we were the only browsers in the shop, something we like very much. That way, we can see everything without feeling rushed.

We saw shops that sold just glass…drinking glasses, pitchers, decorative items…in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Another shop sold interesting paintings and artwork that looked Native American by several artists from Chihuahua.

One shop sold papier-mâché animals…giraffes, lions, tigers, camels, birds, and more…that looked like pottery. Another sold pottery decorated in the intricate petalillo (little petal) style. There were shops that sold paintings, decorative tin items, clothing, embroidery, wax figures, wooden furniture, ceramics of all shapes and sizes, all manner of items made out of stone, chandeliers, sculptures made out of oxidized metals, and so much more I couldn't take it all in. My favorites items were the Huichol yarn paintings and beadwork items.

Thursday was a different story. After seeing what the Thursday market was all about, we were glad we looked in the shops on Wednesday.

The Thursday (and Sunday) market is an unbelievable sight. It is over two miles of one booth after another snaking up and down many of the streets in the town's center. A number of streets are closed to vehicle traffic during the market.

It is part flea market and park artisan market. You can find just about every handicraft made in Mexico. We saw pottery and guitars from Michoacán, embroidered dresses and blouses as well as the famous black pottery from Oaxaca, quartz lamps from Puebla, papier-mâché clowns from Guanajuato, metal sculptures, and more. Of course, we saw the same array of items we've seen in every Mexican market we've visited…plastic toys, cheap CD's and DVD's, t-shirts, serapes, sombreros, and souvenirs. Interspersed among the handicraft booths were kiosks selling the most delicious-smelling foods…tacos, pozole, carnitas, tortas, and enchiladas. Shopping is hard work, after all and frequent refueling is necessary!

There is much to see and do in Tonalá, especially if you come to town in time for the Thursday or Sunday tianguis. In addition to shopping, there are several museums and churches that are worth the time to see.

We found the town to be quite quaint and charming. We look forward to visiting again soon to see all we missed the first time.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Small town, lots of handicraft shops, massive Thursday/Sunday handicraft market
  • Cons:Few people speak English
  • In a nutshell:A charming town where you can shop until you drop!
  • Last visit to Tonalá: Sep 2007
  • Intro Updated Nov 1, 2008
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Comments (1)

  • Mar 18, 2009 at 1:02 PM

    I had a great experience at Hotel Hacienda Del Sol the y spoke inglish, very helpfull, just installed new air conditioning system, they are making alot of changes since I was there las year

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