Being the second largest city in Mexico, we had wrongly assumed Guadalajara was going to be much like the Mexico City. Which would have been completely fine with us because we adore Mexico’s capital, but it’s not, it’s completely different. It is a much younger city and has it’s own much more relaxed, individual vibe going on.
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.
Best Things To Do In Guadalajara
1. Get on the Craft Beer Scene
Guadalajara has some awesome craft beer bars going on and we think we tried out the best places in the city, check out our Mexican craft beer scene guide. Seriously 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!
2. Nip inside the Cathedral
We’re by no means religious, but when it comes to what to do in Guadalajara there’s no escaping that Guadalajara’s Cathedral has some incredible architecture. It has been rebuilt numerous times in its lifetime after being damaged by fires and earthquakes, making it a mishmash of different styles. It’s free to venture inside and be amazed by the interior.
3. Visit Palacio de Gobierno
Visiting this incredible building housing the state's government offices, is definitely one of the best things to do in Guadalajara. It’s open to the public free of charge and inside are some seriously impressive socialist realist murals by the local artist José Clemente Orozco.
As you walk up the main staircase you’ll be greeted by an imposing figure of the revered Miguel Hidalgo battling while people struggle against communism and fascism at the base of the mural. It’s seriously impressive and something no photo can do justice.
4. Wander Around Rotunda of the Illustrious Jaliscans
A landmark of the city, there’s no doubts about why visiting this beautiful series of structures is one of the best things to do in Guadalajara. Located in the heart of Centro Historico, a grand circular pillared monument is flanked by bronze statues the most important artists, architects and philosophers in the state of Jaliscos history.
5. Get Lost in Libertad or San Juan de Dios
Mexico loves a market and we’ve seen 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 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, you simply have to experience this place.
6. Explore The Plazas
Located around the central landmark of the Cathedral there are four plazas which you should take in when you visit Guadalajara, each equally beautiful and uniquely different from each other. 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 Cathedral.
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 a magnificent statue of Miguel Hidalgo. Leading on from that is Plaza Tapatia, lined with local craft stalls and buzzing with life.
7. Go to Cultural de Cabanas
Right at the end of Plaza Tapatia is the enchanting world UNESCO Heritage Site of Cultural de Cabanas. Originally built as an orphanage housing up to 500 children, inside the beautiful building are 57 of José Clemente Orozco’s modernist murals.
The entrance fee is $70MXN (£2.80GBP/$3.70USD) and free tours (plus a tip) in both Spanish and English will point out the political importance and quite literally the different perspectives of the works. This place simply has to be on your list of what to do in Guadalajara.
8. Take in Templo Expiatorio and Plaza Expiatorio
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 and well worth stopping by on your way past between Centro Historico and Chapultepec.
9. Walk down Avenida 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.
Day Trips From Guadalajara
10. Colomos Park
Nestled in the heart of the Zapotan neighbourhood are the gorgeous and dramatically landscaped gardens of Parque Colomos. 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 downtown 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.
11. Lake Chapula
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 to visit, each only a 15 minute journey apart. We’d recommend first hopping on a bus from downtown Guadalajara to Chapala and having a wander along the beautiful shore.
Next make your way over to cobbled and colorful street art adorned streets of Ajijic. Long since a hangout for artists and creatives, the town has a very bohemian feel about it and 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.
The Pueblo Magico of Tequila makes for a perfect day trip from Guadalajara. Besides getting to taste the world famous Mexican alcoholic beverage at its source, the town is just really pretty with charming colonial buildings and 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, obviously 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). For many, taking a tequila tour is top of list when it comes to Guadalajara attractions.
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, plus generous tasters. The last bus leaves Tequila at around 8pm so don’t miss it in your tequila haze!
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). Both are around the same price (£75-90GBP/$102-123USD) but beside visiting different distilleries, are also slightly different.
The Herradura train package includes lunch in the price, whereas the Jose Cuervo one doesn’t and the journey back to Guadalajara is 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 this is on your itinerary of things to do in Guadalajara.
13. La Barranca de Huentitan
Also known as La Barranca de Oblatos, this natural Guadalajara attraction, which was once the scene of many battles between the invading Spaniards and native Americans, is a huge canyon with spectacular scenery. If you like hiking this is the place to come for a day trip from 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 there is to take an uber to the trailhead.
Despite being UNESCO designated, this archaeological site near the town of Teuchitlán isn’t as grand as some of the 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 can either grab an Uber for the 45 minute journey out there or take a bus to the nearest town of Teuchitlan and then either get your hike on for a mile or so from there or take a taxi. The entrance cost is $40MXN (£1.50GBP/$2.00USD), and the onsite museum 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 the place to come 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, we’d recommend getting a Cazuela Guadalajara or Guadalajara punch.
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.
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. 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. 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 taking in some Guadalajara sights that you wouldn’t otherwise see, but 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 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.
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 to explore. There are rental bike stations all over the city that you can rent by the day to explore the city 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.
You can also stay in Zapopan or Tlaquepaque but they are a little further out and better for if you have your own transport.
Best Guadalajara Restaurants
A staple 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, you simply have to try it while in Guadalajara. Another must try regional dish is tortas ahogadas, which means drowned (in a delicious tomatoey chilli sauce) sandwich.
These are our favourite places to eat and drink in Guadalajara.
Tortas Ahogadas Cesar
The clue is in the name, head here for a delicious ‘soggy chilli’ and pork sandwich. It’s an inexpensive, clean, but no frills place in the Chapultepec neighbourhood. They serve ice cold beers or as they say in Mexico ‘chelas bien muerta’.
This bar is the must visit in Guadalajara and as the staff’s t-shirts say, ‘always copied, never bettered’. It’s a chain but we haven’t seen it in anywhere other than Guadalajara. Anyway the best thing about it is that everything on the menu, drinks and food, is $18MXN - yes that’s right £0.70GBP/$1.00USD. Prepare yourself for a good time.
El Puestro Ambulante
This was by far our favourite bar in Guadalajara, and it’s definitely in our worldwide top ten too. The master brewer Abraham will run you through his delicious crafts and you can try a taster menu for $100MXN (£4.00GBP/$5.30USD).
Lacer Laboratoria Cervecero
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
We nearly cried when we visited this restaurant because we had been told by so many people that it had the best ‘birria’ in town but they had ran out! Nevertheless they have a pretty extensive menu and the food we had was delicious.
Libertad or San Juan de Dios Market
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.
Weather in Guadalajara
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.
If you’re heading to this awesome city soon, let us know if you found this guide useful and if you have anything to add to the best things to do in Guadalajara? We’d love to know what you thought of it.