Being the second largest city in Mexico, we had wrongly assumed things to do in Guadalajara, would be similar to Mexico City. Which would have been completely fine with us because we adore Mexico’s capital. But it’s not the case, Guadalajara has totally got it’s own things going on.
The name Guadalajara comes from an Arab word, Wadi-al-Hajara which means the ‘Valley of Stones’. The city was named after the hometown of the Spanish conquerer who founded it in 1531. It was moved 3 times before finally settling in it’s current spot in 1542.
One of the first things you’ll notice, despite it being a big city, is that it has a much more relaxed vibe. The people here, Tapatios, have a strong sense of individualism and cultural identity. It’s the birthplace of Mariachi and Tequila, and was heavily involved in the Revolution.
Best Things To Do In Guadalajara Mexico
Over the last 150 years it has transformed from a working class trading city to a creative hub. Having recently been dubbed ‘Mexico’s Silicon Valley’, due to the amount of innovation and originative businesses making waves in Guadalajara these days.
While we were based there we explored as much of the city as we could, and are pretty confident that we’ve rounded up the very best things to do in Guadalajara for you. From where to stay in Guadalajara and the best bars to drink in. To the top Guadalajara attractions, we’ve laid it all out in this super helpful Guadalajara travel guide.
Address: Av Alcalde 10, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
We’re not at all religious, but when it comes to the best things to do in Guadalajara there’s no denying that the Guadalajara Cathedral is up there. It’s incredible architecture has been rebuilt numerous times in its lifetime after being damaged by fires and earthquakes. Making it a mishmash of different gothic and renaissance styles.
It’s free to venture inside and be amazed by the interior.
Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco
Address: Av Ramón Corona 31, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Visiting this incredible building, housing the state’s government offices, is definitely one of the best things to do in Guadalajara. Inside are some seriously impressive socialist realist murals by the local artist José Clemente Orozco. The building is open to the public free of charge but is closed on a weekend.
As you walk up the main staircase you’ll be greeted by an imposing figure of the revered Miguel Hidalgo, one of the leaders of the revolution. The base of the mural depicts a fight and the struggle against communism and fascism. It’s seriously impressive and something no photo can do justice.
If you are interested in learning more about Mexican post-revolution muralism and its artists this half day tour is an excellent option.
Rotunda of the Illustrious Jaliscans
Address: Av. Miguel Hidalgo s/n, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Located in the heart of Centro Historico, Rotunda of the Illustrious Jaliscans is a landmark of the city. A grand circular pillared monument is flanked by bronze statues of the most important artists, architects and philosophers in the state of Jalisco history.
There’s no doubts about why visiting this beautiful series of structures is one of the best things to do in Guadalajara.
San Juan de Dios
Address: San Juan de Dios, 44360 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Mexico loves a market and we saw some pretty big ones in our time in the country, but never any as big as this. Seriously, it’s so big it has two names (Libertad or San Juan de Dios) and it took us over half an hour to find our way out! The place has everything you could ever possibly want or need.
Laid out over 3 floors and separated into sections of everything from dried herbs, to footwear, to Mexican wrestling masks. Even if you’re not buying, put a few hours aside on your what to do in Guadalajara list for San Juan de Dios. You simply have to experience this place.
The Best Guadalajara Attractions
Centro Historico Plazas
Located around the central landmark of Guadalajara Cathedral there are four plazas, each equally beautiful and yet uniquely different from each other. These places to visit in Guadalajara are a must.
Plaza de Armas was partly under construction while we were there but still had lots of benches in sunny spots with gorgeous views of the golden shimmering Guadalajara Cathedral.
Round the corner, Plaza Guadalajara is busy with city workers taking their breaks under the shelter of the many beautiful trees or by the magnificent fountain.
Plaza de la Liberación has the grandest view of the Cathedral, fronted by the historically important statue of Miguel Hidalgo.
Leading on from that is Plaza Tapatia, lined with local craft stalls and buzzing with life. There’s some serious Guadalajara sightseeing to be had around here.
Instituto Cultural Cabañas
Address: Calle Cabañas 8, Las Fresas, 44360 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
Right at the end of Plaza Tapatia is the impressive World Heritage Site of Instituto Cultural Cabañas, or Hospicio Cabañas as it is also known. The beautiful building was originally built as an orphanage and housed up to 500 children. Now it holds 57 modernist murals from the local artist, José Clemente Orozco.
The Man of Fire (El Hombre del Fuego) is seriously impressive and has to be on your list of what to do in Guadalajara. The entrance fee to Hospicio Cabañas is $70MXN (£2.80GBP/$3.70USD) and there are free tours (plus a tip) in both Spanish and English.
The guides are excellent and will point out the political importance and quite literally the different perspectives of the works. Instituto Cultural Cabañas is closed on Mondays.
Templo Expiatorio and Plaza Expiatorio
Address: Calle Manuel López Cotilla 935, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
We actually stumbled upon this place by accident whilst on our way to somewhere else, but wow are we glad we did. The church is a stunning building and the plaza outside is a great spot to enjoy sitting and chatting over an iced Horchata or a few tacos for a while.
It’s free to enter Templo Expiatorio and well worth stopping by on your way past between Centro Historico and Chapultepec.
A busy road split down the middle by a walkway, this is where the action in the Chapultepec neighbourhood is happening. On weekends a busy artisanal market lines the pedestrianised centre and there are numerous funky bars up and down the street.
If you are not staying in this neighborhood, head over this way in the late afternoon and hang out for the evening as one of the fun things to do in Guadalajara at night.
Guadalajara Craft Beer Scene
Guadalajara has some awesome craft beer bars going on and we think we tried out the best places in the city. For full details on things to do in Guadalajara at night, you can check out our Mexican craft beer scene guide.
There’s some really different, interesting beers at affordable prices and you can get taster trays in most bars. If you find anymore good ones let us know!
Alternatively if you prefer a more organised affair you can book yourself onto a Guadalajara pub crawl tour.
What To Do In Guadalajara Mexico
Bosque Colomos Park
Nestled in the heart of the Zapotan neighbourhood are the gorgeous and dramatically landscaped gardens of Bosque Colomos Park. The walkways are lined with sculptures and it’s a perfect spot for exercising or just chilling out away from the noise and bustle of the city centre.
There’s a really pretty Japanese garden donated by Kyoto and lots of picturesque picnic areas. It’s not far from the historic center of Guadalajara so as one of the top places to visit in Guadalajara, a trip here doesn’t have to take the whole day. You can just visit for a peaceful morning.
However, be warned it is a vast expanse of forest so if you bring comfortable shoes you’ll likely get sucked into the lush green surroundings and want to spend as long as possible here. There is also horse riding on offer if your legs get tired.
Just over an hours journey from the city, is Mexico’s largest freshwater lake. A huge glistening body of water sheltered between dramatic mountains, this part of Jalisco state is seriously beautiful. There are two towns that are popular places to visit in Guadalajara, each only a 15 minute journey apart.
Your first stop from downtown Guadalajara to Lake Chapala should be to have a wander along the beautiful shore.
Next, on your itinerary of the best things to do in Guadalajara, make your way over to cobbled and colourful street art adorned streets of Ajijic. Long since a hangout for artists and creatives, the town has a very bohemian feel about it and there are beautiful handcrafts on offer.
If you can time your trip for a Wednesday, there’s an awesome market. There’s plenty of restaurants around the central plaza and the malecon. Visiting Lake Chapula is one of the most popular things to do in Guadalajara.
Visiting the Pueblo Magico of Tequila is a one of the fun things to do in Guadalajara and makes for a perfect day trip. Besides getting to taste the world famous Mexican alcoholic beverage at its source, the town is just really pretty. There’s lots of with charming colonial buildings and it has all things tequila flavoured – including tequila ice cream!
The are two options to get to Tequila from Guadalajara, by bus or train.
The bus from Guadalajara to Tequila takes around 90 minutes and will cost you $160MXN (£6.40GBP/$8.50USD) for a return ticket, leaving from Antigua Central Camionera every half hour. There are a few tequila factories to choose from for a visit. The most internationally well known one being that of José Cuervo. The tours here are on the more expensive side at $385MXN (£15.35GBP /$20.65USD).
Other recommended tequila factories are Orendain Factory or Tequila Arette Factory which offer tours for around $150MXN (£6.00GBP/$8USD). Each will talk you through the history and production of Tequila, with generous tasters. The last bus leaves Tequila at around 8pm so don’t miss it in your tequila haze!
Or if you prefer to have your day trip organised for you, this full day Tequila tour including a visit La Rojena, the Jose Cuervo distillery and tequila tasting is a great option.
There are two Tequila train experiences, one run by Jose Cuervo and the other by Herradura. Both journeys include plenty of tequila, live mariachi bands and beautiful scenery through seas of blue agave (the plant from which Tequila is made).
The Herradura train package includes lunch in the price. Whereas the Jose Cuervo one doesn’t and you need to choose either the journey there or the back to Guadalajara by bus. But you do get to visit the town of Tequila, whereas with Herradura, you just go to the distillery and back.
Both only run on a Saturday so time your visit right if having a Tequila train experience is on your itinerary of things to do in Guadalajara.
Do You Speak Spanish?
It may come a surprise given the size of the place, that many people in Mexico City don’t speak English. Even at some of the major tourist attractions, unless there’s an English speaking guide for hire, it’s rare. And as for taxi drivers and market stall holders, forget it.
You can of course usually get by, but since we started learning Spanish we found that it has hugely enhanced our travel experiences. Not to mention enabled us to travel around Spanish speaking countries more confidently.
Which is why we’d like to recommend this Travel Spanish Confidence course we took recently. It enabled us move beyond a basic level to being able to communicate effectively in Spanish.
If you don’t know a word of Spanish however, this won’t be for you yet. Better to get started with Duolingo or some basic language classes first.
More Places To Visit In Guadalajara Mexico
La Barranca de Huentitan
Also known as La Barranca de Oblatos, a visit here is a favourite of Guadalajara activities. Once the scene of many battles between the invading Spaniards and native Americans, it is a huge canyon with spectacular scenery. If you like hiking this will definitely be one of your best things to do in Guadalajara.
Many routes are paved but are steep so be prepared, also take a swimsuit because there are some thermal baths to soak in. The easiest way to get to this day trip from Guadalajara is to take an uber to the trailhead.
Looking for more things to do in Guadalajara Mexico? Despite being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this archaeological site near the town of Teuchitlán isn’t as grand as some of the other pre-hispanic ruins in Mexico.
But it makes up for what it lacks in grandeur with its unusualness. Said to date back to Aztec times, circular stepped pyramids covered in grass almost look like tiered cakes rising out of the ground.
To get there on a day trip from Guadalajara, you have three options. You can grab an Uber for the 45 minute journey out there. Take a bus to the nearest town of Teuchitlan and either get your hike on for a mile or so from there or take a taxi from there.
Or if you prefer, you can visit Guachimontones on an organised day tour.
The entrance cost is $40MXN (£1.50GBP/$2.00USD). And the onsite museum at Guachimontones is closed on Mondays.
The cobbled streets and beautiful coloured mansions in this Guadalajara neighbourhood are quite simply gorgeous. Despite being less than 10km from downtown Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque has a distinctly different feel to it.
Cute handcraft artisan shops lining the Calle Independencia make this one of the best places to visit in Guadalajara if you fancy doing some shopping.
There’s a also a Tequila shop selling the the biggest range of commercially available Tequila anywhere in the world. Seriously. It’s in the Guinness Book of World Records!
The pretty plaza, Jardin Hidalgo, dotted with colonial churches also has a vibrant market on weekends. Be sure to take a drink or two in El Parián. A garden complex circled by dozens of cantinas with Mariachi bands alternating between tables.
If you like Tequila, you have to try a Cazuela Guadalajara or Guadalajara punch. Another one of the fun things to do in Guadalajara at night. Or any time of the day for that matter!
To get there simply take a bus from downtown Guadalajara. There are numerous ones that go to or through Tlaquepaque from around Av. 16 de Septiembre, just check with the driver before you get on.
The journey is about 30 minutes and will cost around $7MXN (£0.28GBP/$0.37USD). Or you can take an Uber. But half of the fun is going by bus when you are hitting up this recommendation for what to do in Guadalajara.
Things To Know Before You Visit Guadalajara
How To Get To Guadalajara
Guadalajara is the capital city of the central Mexican state of Jalisco and it’s very easy to get to and from via its large international airport, Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla (GDL). There are numerous daily domestic and US flights.
Uber is operating in Guadalajara and from the airport into downtown Guadalajara it cost us $136MXN (£5.50GBP/$7.30USD) for the 30 minute journey.
Prices for a regular taxi were upwards of $300MXN (£12GBP/$16USD). If you choose this option, unless you are capable of negotiating well in Spanish, get a prepaid ticket from inside the airport.
You can also take a bus from the back of the ground transportation terminal with is 10 minutes walk from terminal 1 or 15 minutes walk from terminal 2. The buses swing by terminal 1 but are often already standing room only.
The cost of the express bus (Chapala Line Bus marked ‘Central Vieja’) is $12MXN (£0.50GBP/$0.65USD) and the cost of the less direct bus (marked ‘El Centro’) is $6MXN (£0.25GBP/$0.30USD). Depending on where you are staying, your hotel may also provide a shuttle bus.
How To Get Around Guadalajara
Despite the size of Guadalajara the central area is very easy to around in by walking. So for the most part we would recommend getting around the city on your own two feet. If you’re going further afield at night, Ubers are safe and inexpensive.
While looking for things to do in Guadalajara at night, we took one from one side of the city to the other one night and it cost us just $30MXN (£1.20GBP/$1.60USD).
The buses are cheap and a fun way to travel around whilst doing your Guadalajara sightseeing. And you’ll find places to visit in Guadalajara that you wouldn’t otherwise see. However do be aware that finding out which bus leaves from where can be quite difficult.
Most of them stop around Av. 16 de Septiembre and go to multiple locations of varying routes so our best advice is just head there and ask someone. The drivers will give change (within reason) and also tell you where to get off if you ask for their help. You are going to obviously need to know some Spanish for this.
On Sundays the city centre is closed to cars and public transport, making way for bicycles and walking only. It makes a huge difference to the usually busy traffic whizzing by and is a great day for Guadalajara sightseeing.
There are rental bike stations all over the city that you can rent by the day to explore Guadalajara attractions on two wheels.
Where To Stay in Guadalajara
In our opinion the best areas to stay in when you visit Guadalajara are Centro Historico or Chapultepec. The architecture in Centro Historico is stunning and you’ll be surrounded by many Guadalajara attractions.
Chapultepec neighbourhood, about a 20 minute walk from Centro Historico is the cool part of town with all the best bars and trendy markets. We stayed here and loved it.
It’s the best part of town if you are keen on things to do in Guadalajara at night.
You can also stay in Zapopan or Tlaquepaque. But they are a little further out and better options for where to stay in Guadalajara if you have your own transport.
Best Guadalajara Restaurants
A staple food of the state of Jalisco is birria de chivo (steamed goat). And whether it’s in the form of a soup or scooped up in a taco, it is one of THE things to do in Guadalajara when it comes to food.
Another must try regional dish is tortas ahogadas. Stuffed with pork and pickled onions and drenched in a delicious tomatoey chilli sauce, the name literally means ‘drowned sandwich’. They are part of Guadalajara’s heritage and a point of pride for the city.
These are our favourite places to visit in Guadalajara when it comes to eating & drinking.
Tortas Ahogadas El Guerito
Address: Calz Independencia Sur 258, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
An inexpensive, clean, but no frills place close to Guadalajara Cathedral this is one of the best places to try Tortas Ahogadas. They serve ice cold beers or as they say in Mexico ‘chelas bien muerta’. Which roughly translates as ‘beers as cold as death’ – which you may very well need depending on the strength of chill sauce you choose!
Address: Calle Mexicaltzingo 1938, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
This bar is one of the must places to visit in Guadalajara. As the staff’s t-shirts say, ‘always copied, never bettered’. It’s a chain but we haven’t seen it in anywhere else in Mexico other than Guadalajara. Anyway the best thing about it is that everything on the menu, including drinks and food, are $18MXN – yes that’s right £0.70GBP/$1.00USD.
Prepare yourself for a good time.
El Puestro Ambulante
Address: Juan Manuel #1562, Santa Teresita, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
This was by far our favourite bar in Guadalajara and it’s definitely in our worldwide top ten too. When it comes to the best things to do in Guadalajara at night, this is where its at. The master brewer Abraham will run you through his delicious crafts and you can try a taster menu for $100MXN (£4.00GBP/$5.30USD).
El Puestro Ambulante is closed on Mondays.
Lacer Laboratoria Cervecero
Address: Chapultepec 20, 44600 Guadalajara, Jalisco
Much like a permanent craft beer festival, this indoor beer market has numerous bars serving different beers from different breweries. We paid $60MXN (£2.40GBP, $3.25USD) for a 16oz drink. Trust us, you’ll be spoilt for choice here.
Birrieria las Nueve Esquinas
Address: Calle Galeana 388, Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jal., Mexico
We nearly cried when we visited this restaurant. We had been told by so many people that it had the best ‘birria’ in town and they had ran out! Nevertheless they have a pretty extensive menu and the food we had was delicious. Let us know if you get to try their famous birria.
Libertad or San Juan de Dios Market
Address: San Juan de Dios, 44360 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
If you’re looking for the real deal homecooked food in Guadalajara, this is where it’s at. As we mentioned above, it’s huge and there’s just a crazy amount of resturants in this market. Seriously you’d have to spend a whole year and then some in the city to eat at them all. Best things to do in Guadalajara, TICK!
An alternative option for foodies, especially if you are short on time, is to join a Guadalajara food tour and learn about local history and culture as you taste your way through the city.
The hottest time of year to visit Guadalajara is April to June, peaking in May with temperatures averaging around 89°F/32°C. The coldest time is November to February, with January being the coldest and average daily temperatures of 77°F/25°C. February to May in Guadalajara is pretty rainless. Rainy season runs from June to October time, with July being the wettest month.
We were in Guadalajara during October and although it was really warm and sunny during the day it became quite cool on an evening and you needed a jacket.
Guadalajara Travel Insurance
As with any trip abroad, make sure you have a good quality travel insurance in place. Our go to travel insurance provider is World Nomads. They have a no bullshit approach to policy wording & are perfect for adventurous travellers like us. Get a no obligation quote here:
Looking for where to go after Guadalajara on your Mexico backpacking trip? Depending which direction you are heading in, Puerto Vallarta, Mazunte Oaxaca, Mexico City or even The Copper Canyon are all excellent choices.
This post was originally published in December 2017 but has since been completely revamped to provide you with the most up to date and accurate information.
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