Heading to Guadalajara? Here’s our comprehensive list of things to do in Guadalajara that’ll take you under the skin of the city!
Guadalajara is vibrant, loud and massive – but this bustling metropolis is also jam-packed with historical landmarks, cultural museums, and oh-so-many charming enclaves tucked in its outskirts. As Mexico’s third largest city, Guadalajara sure packs a punch in terms of what it offers.
Guadalajara holds the title of Mexico’s cultural epicenter, widely recognized as the birthplace of mariachi music and the stage for numerous prestigious cultural gatherings. Plus, it’s just a hop, skip, and jump away from artsy lakeside towns, fairytale cobblestone villages and even colonial-era tequila distilleries that are waiting to be explored!
Here, we’ve compiled a super-detailed Guadalajara travel guide for first-time visitors, including things to do in Guadalajara, day trip ideas, and the best places to eat and sleep.
Table of Contents
- Things to Do in Guadalajara
- 1. Start at Plaza de Armas
- 2. Admire the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara
- 3. Do a Free Walking Tour
- 4. Pay Respect to Famous People from Jaliscos
- 5. Head inside the Palacio de Gobierno
- 6. Visit the Instituto Cultural Cabanas
- 7. Visit the Museum of Arts
- 8. Admire the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento
- 9. Try Torta Ahogada
- 10. Have Dinner at La Madalena
- 11. Catch Sunset from a Rooftop Bar
- 12. Get Lost in Mercado Libertad
- 13. Enjoy Live Music at Plaza de los Mariachis
- 14. Watch a Lucha Libre Show
- 15. Be a Mexican Cowboy for a Day
- 16. Go Underground at the Puente de las Damas
- 17. Watch a Show at Teatro Degollado
- 18. See Art Sculptures All Over Guadalajara
- 19. Hit the Bars on Avenida Chapultepec
- 20. Take a Sunday Morning Bike Ride on Via RecreActiva
- Things to Do around Guadalajara
- 21. Explore Colorful and Vibrant Tlaquepaque
- 22. Wander around Historical Zapopan
- 23. Shop in Tonalá’s Artisan Markets
- 24. Take a Leisurely Walk in Bosque Los Colomos
- 25. Drink in the Views at Parque Mirador
- 26. Take a Day Trip to Tequila
- 27. Hop on the Jose Cuervo Express Train
- 28. Stay in a Tequila Barrel
- 29. Take a Day Trip to the Guachimontones Ruins
- 30. Take a Day Trip to Lake Chapala
- Guadalajara Travel Guide
- Best Time to Visit Guadalajara
- Is it Safe to Visit Guadalajara?
- How to Get Around Guadalajara
- Where to Stay in Guadalajara
- Where to Eat in Guadalajara
- Further Reading on Guadalajara
How to Get to Guadalajara
The Guadalajara International Airport (GDL) is just 16km from the city center. Flying into Guadalajara from the US is really affordable. You can fly from New York to Guadalajara direct for as little as $200 return. Flights from Los Angeles to Guadalajara are even cheaper, at $150 return.
It’s easy to get to Guadalajara from most major cities in Mexico. There are regular services from Mexico City, Monterrey, and Tijuana. You can fly from Mexico City to Guadalajara for just $50 return, and from Tijuana to Guadalajara for around $80 return.
Things to Do in Guadalajara
1. Start at Plaza de Armas
Plaza de Armas, the main square in the historic center of Guadalajara, holds a special place in the city’s history and culture. Its beginnings can be traced back to the founding of Guadalajara in 1542. Right in the heart of the historic center, the square is flanked by historic buildings, including the Palacio de Gobierno and Catedral de Guadalajara.
The architecture of Plaza de Armas is characterized by its colonial-era features, with arched walkways, decorative ironwork, and lush greenery. The cathedral’s twin spires dominate the square’s skyline, creating a picturesque and inviting atmosphere.
Plaza de Armas hosts various cultural events and celebrations of Mexican holidays like Independence Day and Day of the Dead. During these times, the square comes alive with colorful displays, altars, and celebrations.
2. Admire the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara
Dominating the main square is the Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara, distinguished by the pyramidal twin spires that soar above the skyline. These spires are instantly recognizable and offer a breathtaking view from various points within the historic center.
Construction of the cathedral commenced in the 16th century, marked by the laying of the foundation stone in 1561. It took nearly five decades to complete the original structure, which was consecrated in 1618. Over the years, the cathedral has undergone several restorations and renovations to preserve its historical and structural integrity.
The façade is adorned with intricate Baroque ornamentation, while the interior boasts Gothic vaults and altars, creating a striking visual contrast. Inside the cathedral, notable features include a splendid main altarpiece dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, richly adorned with intricate designs and gold leaf accents. The cathedral also houses a beautifully carved wooden choir and an 18th-century pipe organ, considered one of Mexico’s oldest and finest.
3. Do a Free Walking Tour
As in many major cities in Mexico, I highly recommend doing a free walking tour in Guadalajara to get your bearings. Joining a guided tour gives you an excellent overview of the city and shows you the places you might want to revisit later in your trip. The experienced guide, not only talks about the city’s history but also shares with you the best spots for sampling authentic Mexican cuisine.
The meeting point for the free walking tour is the gazebo at Plaza de Armas and it begins at 10 am and typically lasts around 2 hours, conducted in small groups of about 6 participants, allowing ample opportunity for interaction with the guide.
For those seeking a more personalized experience, there is also a private walking tour in Guadalajara. This option includes hotel pick-up and offers a chance to avoid larger tourist group.
4. Pay Respect to Famous People from Jaliscos
Right next to the Cathedral stands the Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres, a historically meaningful monument dedicated to distinguished people from the state of Jalisco who have made substantial contributions to Mexican society. Miguel Hidalgo for instance is honored for his role in initiating the Mexican War of Independence. José Clemente Orozco, a prominent painter and muralist from Guadalajara is also paid tribute to for his contribution to Mexican art and culture.
The Rotonda’s architectural design features a circular layout, with a central circular platform bordered by a series of grand, Doric-style columns. These columns create an open-air gallery where statues and plaques are displayed, serving as a dignified and visible way to commemorate the individuals it represents.
Within the Rotonda, you can find bronze statues and busts of notable figures from Jalisco, such as artists, writers, politicians, scientists, and others who have made significant and lasting contributions to the state and the nation. These statues stand as lasting tributes to their achievements and their role in shaping the identity of Jalisco and Mexico as a whole.
5. Head inside the Palacio de Gobierno
Also overlooking the main square, the Palacio de Gobierno is an impressive and historically significant building that serves as the seat of the government of the state of Jalisco. It’s open to the public on weekdays 9am to 5pm. The building was completed in the latter half of the 18th century, showcasing a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture. Its design reflects the Baroque and Neoclassical styles, featuring ornate facades, arched walkways, and a central courtyard.
One of the most striking features of the Palacio de Gobierno is its stunning murals. Inside the building, visitors can explore a series of breathtaking frescoes created by renowned Mexican muralist José Clemente Orozco. These murals depict various scenes from Mexico’s history, culture, and the struggles of its people. Orozco’s murals are considered some of the most important and influential works of Mexican muralism and provide an insightful narrative of the country’s heritage.
The real head-turner is the 400-sq-metre mural of Miguel Hidalgo painted in 1937 that dominates the main interior staircase. Hidalgo brandishes a torch in one fist while the masses at his feet struggle against the twin foes of communism and fascism.
6. Visit the Instituto Cultural Cabanas
Once an orphanage, the Instituto Cultural Cabañas is a UNESCO Heritage site and serves as a gallery for Mexico’s most famous muralist. The building, known as the Hospicio Cabañas, was designed by the Spanish architect Manuel Tolsá and completed in 1805. It was in operation for nearly a century before being repurposed into a cultural and educational institution.
One of the most notable aspects of the Instituto Cultural Cabañas is its stunning architecture. The building is a prime example of Neoclassical architecture, characterized by its grand central courtyard, ornate archways, and intricate frescoes adorning the ceilings. The highlight of the institute’s architecture is the magnificent chapel, with its iconic dome and murals also created by the famous Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco.
In addition to the murals, the institute regularly hosts art exhibitions and cultural events, making it a vibrant center for the arts in Guadalajara. The building itself is a work of art, and the combination of its historical significance and architectural beauty makes the Instituto Cultural Cabañas a must-visit attraction in Guadalajara.
7. Visit the Museum of Arts
Nearby, you’ll find the impressive MUSA (Museum of Arts from the University of Guadalajara), born for the interest of highlighting the magnificent works of José Clemente Orozco, one of the most famous artists in Guadalajara.
In 1994, this gorgeous space became a museum with 950 m² of halls and a program of national and international contemporary art exhibitions. Since its inception, several national and international artists have exhibited their work. In addition to this, the museum has integrated a collection of its own art over time.
8. Admire the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento
The Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento is a remarkable Catholic church located in Guadalajara, Mexico. This neo-Gothic architectural masterpiece is not only a place of worship, but also an iconic and historic landmark in the city.
Construction of the temple began in the late 19th century, in 1897, under the guidance of architect Adamo Boari. The neo-Gothic style of the church is characterized by its pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and towering spires, which give the building a captivating and elegant appearance reminiscent of medieval European cathedrals.
One of the most distinctive features of the Templo Expiatorio is its intricate stained glass windows. The church boasts a stunning collection of these windows, which are crafted with vibrant and colorful designs, depicting various religious scenes and biblical stories. When sunlight filters through the stained glass, it creates a breathtaking play of light and color within the church’s interior, adding to the spiritual and aesthetic experience.
9. Try Torta Ahogada
Torta Ahogada is a beloved and iconic specialty of Guadalajara, often considered the city’s signature dish. The name “torta ahogada” translates to “drowned sandwich,” which is a fitting description of this delectable creation. This dish consists of a birote (a type of Mexican bread roll) filled with various ingredients and drenched in a spicy tomato sauce, typically made with chiles de árbol.
Some of the best places to try tortas ahogadas are Taquería Los Faroles and La Chata de Guadalajara (go early to avoid the long lines!). It usually costs no more than 50 MXN (US$2.50) and is best enjoyed on the streets. It can get real messy though.
10. Have Dinner at La Madalena
To make your trip to Guadalajara extra special, I recommend treating yourself to dinner at La Madalena Guadalajara. This upscale restaurant offers one of the most unique dining experiences in Mexico.
Its eclectic decor and extraordinary dishes are not the only reason this is a must-visit restaurant in Guadalajara – the visually stunning digital art displayed on the ceiling truly adds an extra dimension to the whole setting. Keep looking up for views of dancing jellyfish, coral reefs, and ocean waves above your head.
11. Catch Sunset from a Rooftop Bar
Just before the sun sets, head up to El Mariachi Cantina for views of the Cathedral. It’s a casual rooftop bar with a great food menu. Prices are not too steep and you don’t usually have to book a table in advance.
Another elegant spot is Piso Siete, one of the most popular rooftop bars in Guadalajara for the best views. Perched on the highest floor of the Hilton Hotel, this rooftop bar has a more panoramic view of the city. Remember that the rooftop bar can get busy on weekend nights, so it’s a good idea to book a table in advance.
12. Get Lost in Mercado Libertad
Mercado Libertad, also known as San Juan de Dios Market, is one of the largest indoor markets in Latin America. Covering an expansive area of over 40,000 square meters and spanning two floors, the market is the best place to shop for produce and souvenirs in town.
The market has a wide array of products ranging from traditional Mexican crafts and clothing to electronics, fresh produce, meats, and spices. It serves as a one-stop destination for both locals and tourists, offering a comprehensive glimpse into the vibrant culture of Guadalajara.
One of the highlights of Mercado Libertad is the street food stalls offering local specialties such as birria, tortas ahogadas, or pozole. We had an amazing birria as well as quesabirria here, highly recommend coming here for lunch! This market is also one of the best spots to try the traditional Mexican dessert, jericallas, a combination of a flan and a creme brulée with a Mexican touch; it’s originally from Guadalajara!
13. Enjoy Live Music at Plaza de los Mariachis
Next to the sprawling market is a landmark of the city – Plaza de los Mariachis – a symbol of the city’s deep connection to traditional Mariachi music. Guadalajara is well known as the birthplace of Mariachi music, and you can’t come to Guadalajara without visiting this square.
Plaza de Mariachi is a hub for Mariachi bands, and the square is filled with the melodious sounds of Mariachi music, creating a festive and energetic ambiance that resonates throughout the area. You can listen to live performances by talented Mariachi musicians, dressed in their distinctive charro outfits, complete with wide-brimmed hats and intricate embroidery.
The square is adorned with statues and monuments celebrating the Mariachi tradition, paying homage to the cultural significance of this musical genre in Mexican heritage. As visitors stroll through Plaza de los Mariachis, they can immerse themselves in the history and artistry of Mariachi, gaining a deeper appreciation for its role in shaping the cultural identity of Mexico.
14. Watch a Lucha Libre Show
Lucha Libre (Mexican wrestling) is dramatic, acrobatic, and extremely entertaining. We’re not wrestling fans, but even we enjoy the drama and acrobatic skills of the luchadores. Mexican pro wrestlers, adorned in vibrant masks and paints, create a visually stunning and entertaining experience.
The Lucha Libre matches take place in Arena Coliseo every Tuesday night, with occasional Sunday events. Tuesday nights are tailored for an adult audience, while Sundays cater to families and kids. Ticket prices typically hover around 150 MXN (US$7), with slightly higher costs for closer seats. It’s worth noting that sitting in the front rows might involve becoming part of the show!
For a hassle-free experience, I recommend purchasing tickets upon arrival, considering the ample seating available and the chance to secure the best prices. There’s the option to book a guided tour if you prefer all the details taken care of. These tours not only pick you up from your hotel but also kick off the experience with an entertainer dressed as a wrestler on the bus.
15. Be a Mexican Cowboy for a Day
While in Guadalajara, I highly recommend taking the opportunity to learn more about the cowboy tradition, known as charro, which originated in the Jalisco state. Traditionally, a charro is someone who practices charreada (similar to a rodeo), considered the national sport of Mexico which maintains traditional rules and regulations in effect from colonial times up to the Mexican Revolution. This tradition symbolizes to Mexican families the life lessons of working hard at your craft, overcoming challenges time and time again, and passing traditions down to younger generations.
In Guadalajara, you can you can experience what it’s like to be a Mexican cowboy through the Charro for a Day program. During this immersive encounter, you’ll get to learn firsthand from experienced charros about their unique way of life. You can acquire practical skills such as roping and catching a bull, horseback riding, and the distinctive act of donning a Charro hat.
16. Go Underground at the Puente de las Damas
Delve beneath the surface of Guadalajara at the city’s only subterranean museum! Originally constructed around 1790 as Puente de las Damas (Ladies Bridge), this historic bridge was gradually buried as the city expanded, eventually being built over and only rediscovered in 2016. Subsequently, the city undertook efforts to transform it into an engaging museum.
While compact, the underground museum offers a fascinating glimpse into Guadalajara’s hidden history. Entrance to the museum is entirely free, and it’s opened from Tuesday to Sunday, with a break for lunch from 2 pm to 2:30 pm, reopening until 6 pm.
17. Watch a Show at Teatro Degollado
The Teatro Degollado stands tall as one of Guadalajara’s most revered cultural institutions, boasting a rich history and remarkable preservation that ranks it among the finest theaters in Latin America. Dating back to the 1800s, this neo-classical marvel has become an iconic landmark, defining the city’s architectural landscape.
With a diverse array of shows and cultural events hosted here each month, it’s well worth checking out their schedule and ticket availability to see if any performances align with your visit dates. Book your tickets here.
From mesmerizing Mariachi performances to captivating displays of opera and dance, the Teatro Degollado offers a range of artistic expressions to suit every taste. Whether you’re a music aficionado or simply seeking an immersive cultural experience, attending a show at this historic venue promises an unforgettable journey through Guadalajara’s vibrant arts scene.
18. See Art Sculptures All Over Guadalajara
One of the most pleasantly surprising aspects of Guadalajara for me was encountering the abundance of unique sculptures and monuments scattered throughout the city. While the surreal works of Sergio Bustamante certainly stand out, Guadalajara offers much more in terms of artistic expression.
Among the notable pieces is the iconic Quetzalcoatl sculpture located in Plaza Tapatía, a symbol deeply rooted in Mexican mythology. Additionally, there’s this striking giant head sculpture adorned with a growing tree. What makes it even more intriguing is the staircase tucked at the back, inviting visitors to climb to the top of the head and enjoy a panoramic view — a perfect opportunity for capturing a memorable photo moment in Guadalajara!
19. Hit the Bars on Avenida Chapultepec
Avenida Chapultepec is a bustling and vibrant avenue, renowned for its lively atmosphere and diverse offerings. It’s lined with an eclectic mix of cafes, restaurants, and bars, making it a culinary hotspot in Guadalajara. You’ll find a wide range of dining options here, from trendy gastrobars to international restaurants to well-loved taquerias offering authentic Mexican flavors.
The street is also adorned with vibrant street art, murals, and sculptures, creating a visually appealing environment for pedestrians. Art galleries and cultural spaces along the avenue contribute to the artistic flair, often hosting exhibitions, performances, and cultural events that add to the dynamic atmosphere.
In the evenings, Avenida Chapultepec transforms into a lively nightlife destination. The numerous bars and clubs along the street offer a diverse range of entertainment, from live music to DJ sets, ensuring a vibrant and memorable night out in Guadalajara.
20. Take a Sunday Morning Bike Ride on Via RecreActiva
Every Sunday, a few of the main roads in Guadalajara are closed to traffic, allowing people of all ages to take advantage of the open spaces for walking, jogging, cycling and rollerblading. Via RecreActiva typically covers an extensive network of routes – check this link for the exact route.
You can rent bikes or rollerblades from Parque Revolución and start cycling along Via Federalismo, which is one of the roads closed for Via RecreActiva. Throughout the cycling routes, you’ll find exercise stations, public art installations, and various community events. Local businesses often take advantage of the opportunity to set up stalls, offering food, drinks, and entertainment.
The initiative has become a cherished tradition in Guadalajara, attracting thousands of locals each week. It not only promotes physical well-being but also contributes to a sense of community and social connection.
Things to Do around Guadalajara
21. Explore Colorful and Vibrant Tlaquepaque
You can’t leave Guadalajara without visiting the charming, cobblestoned pueblo mágico (magic town) of Tlaquepaque, located in the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. at just a 25-minute drive from centro, Tlaquepaque feels more like a suburb amidst the urban sprawl. The charismatic enclave is famous for its cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and charming plazas.
One of the highlights of Tlaquepaque is its abundance of artisan workshops, galleries, and boutiques. You can explore the numerous shops and studios showcasing a wide range of traditional Mexican handicrafts, including pottery, glassware, textiles, and folk art.
Tlaquepaque boasts several historic landmarks and cultural attractions worth exploring. The Parroquia de San Pedro Apóstol, a stunning neo-gothic church with intricate stonework and stained glass windows, is a must-visit for architecture enthusiasts. The Jardín Hidalgo, a central plaza surrounded by restaurants and cafes, is an ideal spot to relax and soak in the ambiance of the town.
22. Wander around Historical Zapopan
Another town just 20 minutes from Guadalajara centro is Zapopan, well known as a pilgrimage spot. First off, you’ve got to check out the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, a stunning church with beautiful architecture. There’s an annual pilgrimage to honor the Virgin Mary at this basilica. Plus, the area around the basilica is lively with street vendors selling all sorts of treats and trinkets.
Zapopan’s historic center also has a mix of old and new, with colonial buildings, quaint cafes, and modern shops. You can spend hours wandering around, grabbing a coffee, and checking out the local artisan crafts. And of course, no visit to Zapopan would be complete without trying some birria – it’s a local specialty and there are plenty of spots around town serving up this delicious stew.
For a bit of nature and relaxation, don’t miss Parque Metropolitano. It’s a huge park with walking trails, lakes, and plenty of green space to chill out in. You can rent bikes, have a picnic, or just take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the scenery.
23. Shop in Tonalá’s Artisan Markets
In the southeast of Guadalajara centro is Tonalá, a super cool town just east of Guadalajara famous for its artisan crafts and bustling markets. If you’re into shopping for unique souvenirs or just love browsing handmade goods, Tonala is the place to be.
A must-visit is the Tianguis Artesanal, a massive open-air market where you can find everything from pottery and ceramics to textiles and jewelry. It’s a feast for the eyes and a great spot to pick up some authentic Mexican treasures. And if you happen to be in Tonala on a Thursday or Sunday, be sure to check out the local market in the main square.
When in Tonalá, you can’t miss the Museo Nacional de la Cerámica, or the National Ceramic Museum. It’s a really neat museum that showcases the history and artistry of Mexican ceramics. You’ll see all kinds of beautiful pottery and learn about the different techniques used to create these masterpieces.
24. Take a Leisurely Walk in Bosque Los Colomos
Nestled in Providencia, Bosque Los Colomos is an excellent escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. The charming woods is just a just a breezy 20-minute ride from Guadalajara, and offers such a refreshing chance to soak in nature. One of its standout features is the renowned Japanese-style garden, a symbol of the enduring friendship between Mexico and Japan.
The park boasts an array of winding paths, perfect for leisurely strolls or invigorating hikes, while cozy nooks beckon visitors to unwind and soak in the natural splendor. Thanks to its lush foliage, Bosque Los Colomos doubles as a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, providing ample opportunities to spot various avian species.
Beyond leisurely walks, the park offers additional activities such as horseback riding and sports like badminton, ensuring there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Bosque Los Colomos welcomes visitors daily from 7 am to 7:30 pm, and entry is completely free.
25. Drink in the Views at Parque Mirador
The Oblatos-Huentitán Canyon, carved by the Río Grande de Santiago, is an epic natural wonder right outside of Guadalajara. It’s deep, averaging around 600m (1,968 feet). If you wanna catch some killer views of this majestic canyon, head over to the Parque Mirador Independencia Amphitheater. It’s the prime spot to take it all in.
Guadalajara’s Metropolitan area has a bunch of lookout points along the canyon, but the Independencia amphitheater and the park around it are special because they’re right in the heart of Huentitán. Fun fact: the name “Oblatos-Huentitán” comes from two old towns, Oblatos and Huentitán, which are now part of Guadalajara but used to be their own neighborhoods back in the day.
26. Take a Day Trip to Tequila
The most popular day trip from Guadalajara is a trip to the town of Tequila, just 1 hour away. Renowned as the birthplace of the iconic distilled spirit, Tequila is a charming small town abundant with agave plants and distilleries.
Tequila’s significance lies in its deep-rooted connection to the production of the world-famous beverage. Here you get the chance to explore traditional distilleries, known as “tequileras,” where the intricate process of tequila-making unfolds. These guided tours provide insights into the cultivation of agave, the harvesting process, and the fermentation and distillation stages.
As a designated pueblo mágico (magic town), Tequila boasts a gorgeous, well-preserved historic center. Cobblestone streets lead to vibrant town squares, adorned with colonial architecture, charming churches, and artisanal shops.
27. Hop on the Jose Cuervo Express Train
The best way to get to Tequila is onboard the Jose Cuervo Express, an exclusive vintage-style train in Mexico. This unique journey will transport you from Guadalajara to Tequila, through agave fields, with a series of tequila tastings and a visit of the Jose Cuervo distillery in Tequila town.
The interior of the train is adorned with exquisite wood-paneled walls and offers comfortable seating. Some carriages will have a bar conveniently located inside. As part of the experience, you’ll participate in a traditional toast featuring one of the country’s premium tequilas.
It’s not a cheap experience though – tickets for the Jose Cuervo Express start at 2,590 MXN (US$127) and vary in price based on the chosen level of luxury for your train car. The train operates exclusively on Saturdays, typically every second week.
28. Stay in a Tequila Barrel
There’s so much to do in Tequila it’s worth staying the night in Tequila – we stayed at the unique Matices Hotel de Barricas, where rooms are housed in giant tequila barrels, surrounded by agave fields. You get the sensation you’re in the middle of tequila backcountry, even though you’re just minutes from town.
Every hotel guest is welcomed to a free guided tour and tequila tasting at their distillery. There are English and Spanish tours that run twice a day and the guides are fun and engaging. There’s also a gorgeous cave restaurant with giant Cathedral ceilings and a bottleshop selling all kinds of tequila. You’re also free to wander around the agave field and snap photos with artistic sculptures.
29. Take a Day Trip to the Guachimontones Ruins
Just an hour’s drive from Guadalajara, the Guachimontones Archaeological Site makes a great day trip from Guadalajara, especially for history buffs out there. This remarkable archaeological site is renowned for its circular pyramids, with the largest pyramid towering over 60 feet (18 meters) and featuring 52 steps, symbolizing the number of weeks in a year.
Discovered in 1969 by the American archaeologist Dr. Phil Weigand, Los Guachimontones was first excavated in the 1990s. Researchers revealed that the ten round pyramid structures found here were constructed approximately 2,000 years ago by the Teuchitlán people.
To reach the site, you can rent a car and driving or take the bus or taxi, with the bus being the more economical choice at approximately US$3 each way. When you get to the archaeological site, you’ll need to do a short hike to reach the ruins, so be prepared for that. While access to the ruins is free, it costs US$3 to visit the on-site museum. The site is open from 9 am to 5 pm on Thursday to Sunday.
30. Take a Day Trip to Lake Chapala
Just an hour’s drive away is Mexico’s largest lake – Lake Chapala. Backdropped by imposing mountains, Lake Chapala is littered with charming little waterfront towns and pueblos mágicos (the most famous being Ajijic).
The best way to soak up the beauty of the lake is strolling along the Malecon (boardwalk), drinking in the views and discovering local eateries. Beyond its natural allure, the Lake Chapala area holds allure as a favored retirement destination for many Americans, Canadians, and Europeans, thanks to its agreeable climate and affordable cost of living.
We drove here from Guadalajara, but if you don’t have your own transport, I recommend booking a private tour that includes a stop at the lake and an exhilarating catamaran ride. You’ll also have the chance to explore the charming town of Ajijic, famed for its cobblestone streets and vibrant homes.
Guadalajara Travel Guide
Best Time to Visit Guadalajara
The best time to visit Guadalajara are during the months of October to December. The weather is typically pleasant, with mild temperatures and lower humidity. This is also the time when Guadalajara celebrates many festivals, including the Day of the Dead. We were in Guadalajara for Dia de Muertos last year and had a blast!
If you prefer to avoid crowds and take advantage of more affordable accommodations, the shoulder seasons of late spring (April to June) and early fall (September) can be a great option. During these times, the weather is still relatively pleasant, although there may be occasional rain showers.
Try to avoid the summer months, particularly July and August, as it can get really hot and humid. While some travelers may find the summer weather less comfortable, others may enjoy the festive atmosphere of local events and activities during this time.
Is it Safe to Visit Guadalajara?
Guadalajara, like any major city, has its share of safety considerations, but it remains a generally safe destination for tourists. According to travel advisories and statistics, the city has experienced fluctuations in crime rates, with certain neighborhoods showing higher levels of criminal activity.
The majority of visitors to Guadalajara do not encounter serious issues, especially if they exercise common-sense precautions. Tourist areas, such as the historic center and well-established neighborhoods, tend to be safer, with a visible police presence contributing to overall security.
TIP: It’s important to have travel insurance whether you’re traveling for weeks or years. Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers worldwide travel. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get Around Guadalajara
Guadalajara is the third biggest city in Mexico, so you will need a car if you want to explore outside the historic center. Drivers with foreign licenses are allowed to drive. It only gets stressful driving on the highways from the historic center to other neighborhoods, but you should be able to get a hang of it after a few days.
I always book my car rental from Discover Cars as they offer the best prices and excellent customer service. An economy rental car in Guadalajara averages just $100 for a whole week, which is less than $20 a day. The current price for gas is 16.50 pesos per liter (about $2.50 per gallon), though this varies throughout the country.
Colectivos (shared minibus or minivan-like vehicles) run all around Guadalajara. The colectivo fares are cheap, and you just need to flag them down along when you see one. Be sure to have Mexican pesos in hand to pay the fares.
You can easily flag down a taxi from anywhere in Guadalajara, but make sure you negotiate and agree on a rate before starting the ride. Uber works very well in Guadalajara and prices are very cheap; a trip within the historic center won’t cost more than $5.
Where to Stay in Guadalajara
Budget: Hostel Hospedarte Centro
Located in the historic center, Hostel Hospedarte Guadalajara offers budget-friendly accommodation with dormitory-style rooms and private options. It’s known for its friendly atmosphere, communal spaces, and proximity to attractions like the Cathedral and Teatro Degollado. Check rates here.
Mid-Range: Hotel de Mendoza
We stayed at Hotel de Mendoza, a comfortable, well-priced choice situated in the heart of Guadalajara’s historic district. The hotel offers comfortable rooms, a courtyard with a fountain, and is within walking distance of landmarks like Plaza Tapatía and Hospicio Cabañas. Check rates here.
Luxury: Hotel Demetria
Hotel Demetria offers a unique and artistic atmosphere. Situated in the Americana neighborhood, this boutique hotel features modern design, contemporary art installations, and avant-garde furnishings. It provides a distinctive and creative ambiance for travelers seeking something out of the ordinary. Check rates here.
Where to Eat in Guadalajara
Birriería las 9 Esquinas
This local hotspot is famous for its birria, a traditional Mexican stew often made with goat or beef. The rich and flavorful broth, tender meat, and accompaniments make it a must-try dish. Read reviews here.
Taquería Los Faroles
For an authentic taco experience, Taquería Los Faroles is a popular spot among the locals. Known for its delicious and affordable tacos, this taquería offers a variety of fillings, including pastor, suadero, and carnitas. Read reviews.
La Chata is a traditional Mexican restaurant with many years of history. We had to wait around 15 minutes in line to eat here but it was well worth it! Known for its hearty and flavorful dishes, including pozole, enchiladas, and carne en su jugo, La Chata provides a taste of classic Mexican comfort food. Book your table here.
Hueso is a unique and visually stunning restaurant known for its eclectic decor featuring thousands of animal bones. The menu focuses on contemporary Mexican cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The artistic setting and creative dishes make Hueso a memorable dining experience. Book your table here.
This upscale restaurant offers one of the most unique dining experiences in Mexico. The visually stunning digital art displayed on the ceiling truly adds an extra dimension to the whole setting. Keep looking up for views of dancing jellyfish, coral reefs, and ocean waves above your head. Book your table here.
Further Reading on Guadalajara
I hope you’ve found this Guadalajara travel guide and comprehensive list of things to do in Guadalajara useful! I have tried to include as many things as possible. Let me know in the comments field below if there are any other fun places to visit in Guadalajara worth mentioning in this article.
For those who are planning to travel more of Mexico, check out other articles I’ve written on Mexico:
- 10 Best Hot Springs in Mexico
- 10 Spectacular Waterfalls in Mexico
- How to Visit La Gruta Hot Springs San Miguel de Allende
- Where to Stay in San Miguel de Allende
- 30 Fun Things to Do in Guanajuato
- 10-Day Guanajuato Itinerary
- Visiting Grutas Tolantongo Hot Springs
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