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The Best Things To Do In Guadalajara, Mexico

In this guide we will share with you the best things to do in Guadalajara, Mexico, also known as the Perla Tapatia. It is the second largest city in Mexico and one of the most beautiful and cultural destinations too.

Guadalajara is known as the birthplace of mariachi, “tortas ahogadas”, and being the closest major city to the town of Tequila and its famous namesake drink.

In this 4 day itinerary we share the best things to do in Guadalajara and the surrounding towns in the state of Jalisco. I hope this article helps you plan a vacation you won’t forget!

Is Guadalajara safe?

When visiting Guadalajara as a tourist, as when visiting any large city, it is important to remain aware of your surroundings and not flaunt expensive clothing, jewelry or electronics. In general we felt safe traveling around Guadalajara and Jalisco with our camera often stored securely in a bag.

When walking around some of the smaller neighborhoods in Guadalajara you can easily find yourself a block of the main road in a less busy area, and if you are not feeling comfortable, just turn around and head back to a more populated area.

How to get to Guadalajara?

There are several ways to get to Guadalajara, and it all depends on where you come from and your budget.

  • By plane: There are several airlines with daily flights from both national and international destinations to Guadalajara. Check flight prices here. From the airport it is can be cheaper to grab an Uber rather than a taxi depending on the time of day.
  • By car: If you coming from nearby cities in Mexico, you can easily get to Guadalajara by car. If you do not arrive by car to the city, but you want to rent one to get around more easily and comfortably, you can rent one from the moment you arrive. Renting a car in Guadalajara an excellent option if you are going to be visiting a lot small neighboring towns, or if you are traveling with several people and are looking for the simplest way to get around and that gives you the most freedom.
  • By bus: There are several bus lines that go to the city, depending on where you start from, but the main ones are: Future and ADO.

Where to stay in Guadalajara?

Guadalajara is a very touristy city, so you will find hotels for every taste and budget. We recommend staying near the historic downtown Guadalajara as it is easy to walk to the main attractions and also easy to get a cab or tour to the visit the nearby towns.

We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton and we loved it! It is a little bit pricier than other hotels around the area but its location was fantastic and it has the best rooftop with the perfect panoramic view of the Cathedral.

Other low budget options are hotel ONE, Hotel Casino Plaza, Hotel Morales, San Francisco Plaza Hotel, Hotel Dali Ejecutivo, and the Best Western Plus Gran Hotel Centro Historico.

How to move around Guadalajara?

As we mentioned before, Guadalajara is the second largest city in Mexico. We recommend either walking around downtown and using Uber/taxis to go further distances or you can rent a car. We recommend walking, as we did, because it gives you a more authentic perspective of the city and you can find always hidden gems, especially local food spots.

When going further distances in Guadalajara you can get an Uber or a taxi. If you get a taxi on the street make sure to ask the rate before you get in. I normally first look on Uber to get an estimated cost and then offer the taxi something similar.

Another very good option to move around the city is through its public transport network. The most functional are the special bus routes called feeder lines. We did not rent a car, so we don’t know how easy it is to drive around and how parking works in the city, however we did see heavy traffic each afternoon in downtown Guadalajara.

Map with the best things to do in Guadalajara and its surrounding towns

In this map we have shared all the stops and destinations that we mentioned on this guide. Each day has a different color to make it easier for you to plan your trip. Enjoy!

Day 1: Visit the museums in Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque

Guadalajara has some of the best museums in Mexico and no trip is complete to this beautiful city without visiting at least one of them. Some of the museums we recommend visiting are the Hospicio Cabañas and the MUSA.

The Hospicio Cabañas is one of the most visited places in Guadalajara. This building was built by the famous architect Manuel Tolsá and it used to be a shelter for several orphans for more than a century. Today, it is the headquarters of the Cabañas Cultural Institute. Here you can find several murals by Clemente de Orozco. Without a doubt one of the best places to visit in Guadalajara.

The Hospicio Cabañas is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10AM to 6PM. It has an entrance fee of $70 mexican pesos ($3.50 USD) for foreigners, $45 pesos for Mexicans and $20 pesos for students and teachers. It is free on Tuesdays.

The Museo de Artes Universidad de Guadalajara is an art museum from the University of Guadalajara. The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 10AM to 6PM and it is free to visit.

If you visit MUSA, then we also recommend visiting the Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento, which is next door and something you cannot miss in Guadalajara.

This remarkable neo-Gothic style church has an impressive facade that will take you back to Europe. We recommend going inside as it is very beautiful too with its stained glass windows that give it a spectacular view.

Where to eat breakfast in Guadalajara: La Chata. Great service, serving delicious local dishes at affordable prices.

After spending some time at the museums, head to Tlaquepaque for the rest of your afternoon. This town is the most picturesque places in the Guadalajara metropolitan area with its well preserved colonial architecture. The downtown walking area is full of handcrafted stores, restaurants, and art galleries.

What to visit in Tlaquepaque: Jardín Hidalgo, Parroquia de San Pedro Tlaquepaque, El Parián.

Where to eat in Tlaquepaque: Casa Luna. Stunning restaurant with great ambiance and delicious food. A little pricey compared with other restaurants in the area, but worth it for the intricate interior designs.

Next to Tlaquepaque is the small town of Tonalá, another great place where you can find beautiful handicrafts. On Sundays there is a street market of all these crafts that is very worthwhile to enjoy a relaxed walk. It is very large market and you can surely find something interesting to take home as a souvenir.

Both towns are beautiful with the main difference that Tlaquepaque is more touristic and Tonalá gives your a more authentic vibe. They are both less than 30 minutes away from downtown Guadalajara and you can get there by bus, taxi or Uber. The trip vis taxi/uber costs about $80 to $100 pesos.

Day 2: Day trip to Chapala Lake and Mazamitla 

The Chapala lake is the biggest in Mexico and it is definitely one of the top things to do in Guadalajara. The lake is less than an hour drive from Guadalajara and you can either take a day tour, private tour or drive yourself.

On the way to the lake you should drive along the Ribera de Chapala and visit its charming towns such as Chapala, Ajijic, and Jocotepec. If you only have time to visit one of these towns before heading to Mazamitla, make sure to choose Ajijic. This is a colorful town with a beautiful boardwalk along the lake.

The best things to do in Chapala Lake: Witness the “Voladores de Papantla”, the Dance of the Flyers, a show you cannot miss. Visit la Isla de los Alacranes, walk along the boardwalk and around the downtown area of each town and pay a visit to the Parroquia de San Francisco. 

What to eat in la Ribera de Chapala:

  • Nieve de garrafa: A hand churned Mexican sorbet.
  • Lapicitos de nieve
  • Tuba: A sweet wine made from coconut palm sap
  • Charales enchilados: small, deep-fried fish with chilis and a splash of lime juice
  • Birria de Jocotepec: Traditional goat stew

Tip: Stay to watch the sunset over the lake at the boardwalk in either Chapala or Ajijic. 

After spending the morning along the ribera de Chapala keep driving for about an hour more to the magic town of Mazamitla. If you have more than a day, you can easily spend two days enjoying the many activities this town has to offer, a favorite destination for nature and adventure lovers.

Things to do in Mazamitla: Visit the main square and the Parroquia de San Cristobal, hike to the Cascada el Salto and visit our favorite park in Mazamitla, Mundo Aventura Mazamitla. This park has everything you need from zipline, the longest hanging bridges, you can rent ATVs, play paintball and go rappelling and rock climbing. 

Day 3: Explore downtown Guadalajara and Zapopan

The metropolitan area of Guadalajara is divided into several municipalities including Tlaquepaque, Tonalá, Zapopan, and Guadalajara Centro. Each one has its own identity as they were once individual towns or small communities that with the passage of time and the growth of the city became part of the metropolis.

The main monuments and history of the city are in the downtown area. This will be your starting point to visit the best attractions in Guadalajara.

Things to do in Zapopan: First thing in the morning grab a cab to Zapopan and visit the Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan and walk around that area. Then head to Colomos Park. The park is located on the limits of Guadalajara and Zapopan, forming one of the lungs of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area. In this park there are several attractions from lakes with ducks, a Japanese garden, tours, running tracks, picnic area and a cultural center.

On your way back to Guadalajara stop by the Minerva Roundabout and the Arcos Vallarta. The “Fuente La Minerva” is one of the main symbols of Guadalajara. The fountain with the goddess Minerva in the center is surrounded by agaves plants. Next to the roundabout are the Arcos Vallarta, two neoclassical arches that were built in 1938 to celebrate the entrance to the city as a result of the construction of the highway that leads to Mexico City.

Top Things to do in Historic Guadalajara

Visit the Cathedral and the Plaza de la Liberación

The main thing to do in Guadalajara is to visit its beautiful cathedral located at the Plaza de la Liberación. Its towers are in the Neo-Gothic style, although its façade is more baroque and in general its structure is very beautiful. Do not forget to take a photo of the “Guadalajara, Guadalajara” sign at the Plaza de la liberación.

Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres

Next to the Cathedral you will find this 17-column monument that houses the remains of various characters from the city who were prominent in different branches, such as the arts, politics, literature and more. Right next to the Rotonda are several statues with a QR code for you to learn more about each of this famous figures and their important role in Guadalajara’s history.

Plaza de Armas

This beautiful square is on the other side of the Cathedral and it has a gazebo in the center of the square. From our room at the DoubleTree Hotel by Hilton we were able to see the entire square and the side of the cathedral.

Palacio de Gobierno de Jalisco

Go inside the Palacio de Gobierno de Jalisco and enjoy the two murals of José Clemente Orozco. This stunning building houses the Government offices. The Palacio is free to the public and it is open Monday to Friday from 9AM to 7PM.

Watch a show at the Teatro Degollado

Built in a neoclassical architecture and with several Italian influences, this beautiful theater is the headquarters of the Orquesta Filarmónica de Jalisco. Currently, in addition, several concerts and music and dance shows are presented here, so make sure to check out its calendar to experience one of the shows.

Mercado de San Juan de Dios

Get lost at the largest indoor market in Latin America, the Mercado de San Juan de Dios, right outside the market it is the Plaza de los Mariachis, the best places to hear the mariachis singing.

This is the largest roofed market in Latin America, with its 3 floors of stalls and among more than 3,000 stalls you will find everything from batteries for your watch to delicious food and everything in between.

Panteón de Belén

The historic Panteón de Belén cemetery has hundreds of legends and it is possible to visit it on a guided tour to learn more about them. The tours are carried out a few days a week and in two shifts, morning and night, the most recommended are the night tours.

Walk along the Dos Templos square

The Dos Templos square is flanked by two catholic churches, the Temple of Our Lady of Aranzazú, with a ornate Baroque façade, and the smaller Temple of San Francisco de Asís.

Enjoy the stunning views from the Barranca de Huentitán

The Barranca de Huentitán is a canyon with a depth of nearly 3,500 feet. It is a popular place to go for a hike and enjoy the panoramic views of the canyon. This ravine is also the cite of many battles with the native communities during the Spanish conquest and during the Mexican Revolution and the Cristero rebellion.

Finish your day at Chapultepec, a neighborhood full of lively bars and delicious restaurants. 

What to eat in Guadalajara: tortas ahogadas, nieve de limón con tejuino, carnes en su jugo, jericallas, Cazuelas Voladores or Cazuelas de Tequila and tacos de barbacoa.

Day 4:  Day trip to Tequila 

One of the most visited places in the entire state of Jalisco, is the magical town of Tequila, where precisely one of the famous drinks of Mexico, tequila, is created.

If you are in Guadalajara during the weekend then you must book a seat on the Jose Cuervo Express. This train takes you to Tequila from Guadalajara. This tour includes round trip transportation, snacks, a show, a plantation visit, and all the tequila you will ever need, with a price that reflects that. If the price is a concern then you can either drive, take the bus or take a day trip to this beautiful city.

Tequila is only one hour away from Guadalajara by bus and you can spend the whole day, learning about the process of making and distributing tequila, enjoying the different distilleries, and eating its delicious gastronomy. Make sure to try the cantaritos “el güero” and palomas. 

Tequila was declared an UNESCO world heritage site due to its unique landscape full of agave fields. It is also considered a magic town. 

Must go places in tequila: Museo del Tequila, take a tour to Sauza or Jose Cuervo and visit the hotel la cofradía for amazing photos with the rooms in shape of barrels in the middle of agave plantations. You are not able to go to the rooms but if you visit the restaurant you have to go through the hotel grounds and are able to take amazing photos.

Read more about our day trip to Tequila from Guadalajara with Jose Cuervo Express

Other day trips you can do from Guadalajara:

  • Guachimontones: It is a round pyramid and the largest Late Formative to Classic period pre-Columbian archaeological site in the state of Jalisco.
  • Tapalpa:  It is another “Pueblo Mágico” and it is very similar to Mazamitla. If you visit Tapalapa make sure to visit the famous waterfall called “las piedrotas” and walk around its painteresque downtown.

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