Things To Do in Guadalajara, Mexico: A Former Resident’s Guadalajara Travel Guide
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I knew this ‘things to do in Guadalajara’ travel guide would be unwieldy and long, because when it comes to talking about my favourite city in Mexico, I just don’t know when to stop.
Anyone who’s spoken to me in real life can attest to that.
In fact, I originally planned to include literally everything to do, eat, drink and see in Guadalajara, along with transport and day trips from Guadalajara info. In the end, I decided that you probably didn’t wanna read a 15,000-word love letter to my former home city, so I cut this bad boy down and divided it into a handful of separate, smaller (but still just as comprehensive) posts for your reading pleasure.
Therefore, in this Guadalajara travel guide entry, I’ll be addressing the ‘what to do in Guadalajara, Mexico’ question, adding in info all about the top Guadalajara attractions, as well as things to see and do in Guadalajara, Mexico where to stay in Guadalajara, and some frequently asked questions about Guadalajara travel.
…OK, I’ll stop talking (typing?) now, this guide does not need any more words. Happy reading!
GUADALAJARA TRAVEL GUIDE
Even though Mexico City and Oaxaca are often the most talked about foodie destinations in Mexico, you should also take advantage of being in Guadalajara (the most Mexican of all cities) to try some super typical foods. Think, ‘drowned sandwiches’, birria and, of course, tequila and tejuino.
At this point, I pretty much only go back to Guadalajara to do a victory lap of eating in my favourite restaurants and street food stalls, maybe squeezing in a couple of new places along the way each time. As such, I’ve curated a vast and diverse list of places to eat in Guadalajara, as well as sampled most of the city’s typical dishes and drinks.
Intrigued? Head to the post below for more where to eat and drink info.
WANDER AROUND THE CENTRO HISTÓRICO
Guadalajara’s historic centre doesn’t rival that of Mexico City, but it still has plenty of important sights that can be ticked off your Guadalajara travel itinerary in the space of a day, tops.
First of all, basically everything worth seeing in the historic centre lies just off one of the four plazas that dominate the centro histórico de Guadalajara. To start, head to Plaza Guadalajara for the best views of the Guadalajara must-see, the iconic double-spired cathedral, before circling to the left for a quick stop by the Rotunda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres, where you can take a look at the busts of several notable people from Jalisco. (Also, for whatever reason, there are loads of fucking cats there too, so cat lovers will be in their element. I recommend picking up a raspado, shaved ice snack, and plonking yourself down to read in this area.)
A pretty cute plaza on the other side of the Guadalajara cathedral is the Plaza de Armas, which is usually full of pigeons and ringed by important government buildings in architecturally intriguing edifices.
However, the best of the four plazas is, in my opinion, Plaza de la Liberación which looks onto the Teatro Degollado, one of the most important (and still working) theatres in all of Mexico, which depicts the muses on its façade and has columns that could rival those of any Greek amphitheatre (I mean, maybe, I’ve never been to Greece).
Passing Teatro Degollado, you get to another plaza, Plaza Fundadores. It’s usually lined with street vendors, has water features running through the centre and takes you straight to the Hospicio Cabañas, which is full of important and instantly recognisable José Clemente Orozco murals. Apparently, this is the most notable attraction in Guadalajara and I think it’s worth visiting if you’re a fan of Mexican muralism. Or if you’re not.
EXPLORE MERCADO SAN JUAN DE DIOS | Javier Mina 52, San Juan de Dios
If you want to check out Latin America’s largest indoor market while you’re in Guadalajara downtown, then a must-visit is one of the top Guadalajara tourist attractions, the Mercado San Juan de Dios. There you’ll find all the usual tourist tat, as well as some affordable leather goods (including sandals, bags and, just in case, horse saddles). There are also plenty of counterfeit clothes, shoes and DVDs on the higher levels, as well as a food court full of traditional Mexican dishes and places to eat.
Hot tip: If you want to try a very typical and regional dish while in Guadalajara, you can pick up a ‘torito’ at the Mercado San Juan, which is kind of like a huge melted cheese covered chimichanga filled with meat, beans, onion and cilantro.
GO OUT ON AVENIDA CHAPULTEPEC | Avenida Chapultepec, Ladrón de Guevara/ Americana
Avenida Chapultepec (or just Chapu to those in the know) is generally considered the epicentre of Guadalajara nightlife, and is lined by tons of cafes, bars and restaurants which make it the perfect place to stroll along in the day and get a drink in the evening. Generally speaking, the bars are mostly casual, offering commercial beers and some pretty good deals. There are also an obscene number of wings places and burger joints, as well as a few bakeries mixed in and amongst.
On weekends, tianguis (open air markets) take up the central, pedestrianised reservation, which you should definitely take an hour or so to wander through if you get the chance. Just make sure to watch out for the spontaneous street performers, skateboarders and salsa dancers that like to hang out there too.
Related Post: Nightlife in Guadalajara, Mexico (COMING SOON)
GET A TATTOO AT NOMADAS TATTOO | Hidalgo 847, Centro
Obviously, this falls under the ‘niche’ Guadalajara activities category, but I thought I might as well throw in a recommendation for Nomadas Tattoo given that I got both a tattoo and piercing there at different points during my stint in Guadalajara. While my belly button piercing eventually grew out (a common thing that happens regardless of the piercing shop), my feminist wrist tattoo is still going strong (obviously).
PICNIC IN BOSQUE COLOMOS | El Chaco 3200, Providencia
If you’re sick of the city and want some fresh air and the opportunity to feed some very tame squirrels, then the 92-hectare expanse of Bosque Colomos is where you should head. As far as I remember, Sundays are free to enter and the rest of the week you have to pay a nominal seven pesos per person to gain access to this urban park on the outskirts of Guadalajara. Parking costs 20 pesos.
When there, you can have picnics, feed the ducks and birds and enjoy the Japanese gardens. So, if you’re looking for the best things to do in Guadalajara with kids, consider a trip to Bosque Colomos.
To get there, you’ll have to grab a local bus or take an Uber. The bus you take will heavily depend on where you’re staying, so I recommend checking with your host and they can point you in the right direction.
HANG OUT AT PARQUE MIRADOR | Volcán Hueytepec, Panorámica de Huentitán, Mascuala
Another one of the most outdoorsy and best places to visit in Guadalajara, Mexico is the Parque Mirador, which looks onto the impressive Barranca de Huentitán (I’ll get to that). Apart from the beautiful views though, you can also play sports, camp and keep the kids entertained with the play areas too.
HIKE THE BARRANCA DE HUENTITÁN | Periférico Norte, Tetlán Río Verde
This is the barranca that the Parque Mirador looks over, but instead of just looking at it, you can also hike down to the base of the Barranca de Huentitán and get your fix of fresh air and exercise while you’re in Guadalajara. When I went there (the first and only time), we parked by the entrance, walked down and hiked back out via some definitely off limits aguas termales (hot spring pools). While I’d love to give you instructions to visit them, we 100% weren’t supposed to be there (oops) and also, it was four years ago, so I can’t remember now. Even so, taking a brisk hike through the lush barranca is a fun activity if you’re in Guadalajara for a while and are looking for something a little different to do.
WATCH A FOOTBALL MATCH
Maybe you don’t like football, just like me. Maybe you find it tedious and vaguely ridiculous, just like me. WELL, I still recommend going to see at least one game when you’re in Guadalajara (or Mexico, generally), if only to soak in the atmosphere that permeates pretty much every Mexican football match.
Guadalajara, after all, is home to four football teams (Atlas and Chivas are the main two, while Tecos and Leones Negros are the student football teams), so there’ll likely be plenty of games to choose from and if I remember rightly, tickets can cost as little as 150 pesos.
Related Reading: A Non-Football Fan’s Guide to Watching Soccer in Mexico
GO TO A BICINEMA NIGHT
Bicinema is one of those cool cultural activities that you think you’ll do every week, but then you just take part once in the first week you live in Guadalajara and never again. Oh wait, I’m talking about myself again.
Even though I was flaky af over my Bicinema attendance though, it’s easily one of the most fun things to do in Guadalajara, Mexico which involves riding around the city for a bit on a bike (which you can rent at the Templo Expiatorio start point), before settling down to watch a pop-up film screening and riding home again. If you’re interested in going, keep an eye on their Facebook page for info (linked above).
CHECK OUT THE TEMPLO EXPIATORIO | López Cotilla 935, Centro
Speaking of the Templo Expiatorio, it’s worth more than five pre-Bicinema minutes of your time, mainly because of the beautiful Neogothic architecture (supposedly the best example in Mexico) and the mechanical figures that pop out when the clock strikes.
As well as being one of the best things to see in Guadalajara, it’s also one of the quickest.
CHECK OUT THE GUADALAJARA ART MUSEUMS
While most people think of Mexico City as being Mexico’s artsiest city, Guadalajara puts up a pretty good artistic offering for visitors too. Contemporary art fans will particularly enjoy places like Galería Curro, Galería Tiro al Blanco, Museo de Arte Raúl Anguiano or MUSA.
For more traditional art, go to the Museo de las Artes Populares de Jalisco.
CHECK OUT THE OTHER MUSEUMS
If you’re more into history than art, then Guadalajara also has you covered. To learn about the regional history of the area, head to the Museo Regional de Guadalajara, or the Palacio de Gobierno.
If you prefer having the shit scared out of you, the Panteón de Belén spooky night tour is a must. I’m a scaredy cat and never got around to doing this tour unfortunately, but everyone says it’s incredible.
If you just wanna fuck around a bit and go to some vaguely ridiculous but also interactive and fun museums in Guadalajara, then the Wax Museum and attached Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum in the centre are pretty cool.
THE GUADALAJARA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
One of the biggest and most important annual Guadalajara, Mexico events is the Guadalajara International Film Festival, or the FICG. Usually held in mid-March, the festival generally involves talks and screenings that will most likely be of interest to any cinephiles in Guadalajara. So, not me. But you! Maybe you!
THE FERIA INTERNACIONAL DEL LIBRO
If you’re anything like me, then you’ll definitely consider attending the FIL (a.k.a. the Feria International del Libro, a.k.a. the Guadalajara International Book Fair) as one of the best things to do in Guadalajara, Mexico. The FIL comes to the city over a 10(ish)-day period in late November, bringing with it a number of free concerts and a ginormous book fair (the biggest in Latin America and the second biggest in the world).
Each year, there’s a different city, country or region that serves as the ‘invitee of honour’ and there are always talks by big names in the publishing and literary industry. (Last year George R.R. Martin was there!)
Basically, go and buy a shit ton of books and thank me later.
THE FIESTAS DE OCTUBRE
If you’re wondering about things to do in Guadalajara in October then wonder no longer, because the October festivals are an annual event that give you a good excuse to hang around in Guadalajara for longer than you need to and take advantage of the free concerts. My first year in Guadalajara, I went to see Café Tacuba play FOR FREE. That’s, like, a big deal (which I did not realise at the time).
As well as cultural stuff, there’s also a fairground where you can go and win stupidly oversized toys and eat your weight in salchipulpos (hotdog sausage and fries).
THE 212 FESTIVAL
The free 212 music festival (a.k.a. the dos doce) takes over Avenida Chapultepec each year (although the dates can vary—2018’s edition will be held in November) and brings together Mexican and international names to play. As you can imagine, it gets busy as hell, so it’s worth arriving early(ish) to get prime position for your favourite acts.
While I know Guadalajara pretty well, my knowledge tends to be limited to the more central Guadalajara neighbourhoods, as opposed to my knowledge of Mexico City neighbourhoods which goes a bit beyond the touristy zones. Either way, reader that’s probably just researching for a trip to Guadalajara, it’s great for you because I still know the best place to stay in Guadalajara!
But first, let me just give you a tiny intro to the barrios you’re most likely to pass through in Guadalajara, Mexico: Santa Tere is the neighbourhood just above Avenida Chapultepec. It’s quite residential and ‘on the rise’, while Americana (which encompasses the southern stretch of Chapultepec) is the fancier, full-of-coffee-shops neighbourhood which makes it a must-visit stop on your Guadalajara travel itinerary, whether you stay there or not. Downtown Guadalajara city is actually the area I probably know the least about in terms of accommodation, although when it comes to activities I’m not short on suggestions.
Anyway, here’s my recommendation for where to stay when you visit Guadalajara.
LA FE HOTEL & ARTS | San Martín 123, Americana
On my last and most recent visit to Guadalajara, I was kindly invited to stay for two nights at one of the best hotels in Guadalajara, Jalisco, La Fe Hotel & Arts (which was recently handed over to new owners, Chris and Patrick) and I was especially pleased with their prime location in perhaps the best area to stay in Guadalajara and near some of the best Guadalajara nightlife, too.
Another special shout out also has to go to their quirky art gallery on the lower level, where they rotate the exhibits by local Mexican artists every couple of months, as well as the Art Deco inspired decor.
As for the rooms, my Juan Rulfo bedroom (each suite is named after a Mexican creative) was very cute—just spacious enough to not feel small by any means, but not so vast you felt you were rattling around the place. The bathroom was petite but the shower had good water pressure and very hot water (the taps themselves heated up quite a deal once the hot water had been running for a little while). The bed was super comfy and I love that there was a desk in the room for nerds like me who like to work while they’re on holiday, along with complimentary drinking water (in a fancy glass bottle that looked like it was probably from Tonalá). The addition of a balcony is especially great for people less lily white than I that like to sit outside and get some sun every once in a while.
Related Post: Must-Read Books About Mexico
If I had any constructive criticism for La Fe Hotel & Arts though, I would have loved to see a few more breakfast options, and maybe a jar of Nutella thrown in as a toast-topping option! (Although they do have an artisanal chocolate spread that’s made locally, so maybe I should just stop being a brand name bitch?!) Included in the morning meal when I stayed at La Fe was a buffet-style continental breakfast, with cereals, yoghurt and toast (plus butter and some other cool artisanal jams and peanut butter—the dulce de leche one was fab!). They also served coffee, plus orange juice and milk, which were cleverly kept cool on an ice tray. I think as soon as they break through that notorious Mexican bureaucracy and are able to serve prepared food (they’re in the process of sorting that out!), the breakfast will just level up a notch, even with something as simple as an egg option.
Overall, I would definitely go back and stay at La Fe and I recommend this hotel for solo travellers and couples looking for Guadalajara hotels who like small boutique accommodation and artsy surroundings. Plus, I honestly think La Fe is only going to continue getting better and better under its new ownership (I only met Patrick in person but he was so friendly!)
Where is Guadalajara? Honestly, if you’ve got this far into the post without figuring out the answer, I salute you. I will humour you though: Guadalajara is the capital of Jalisco state, which is on the central/ west side of Mexico. So Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico would be its full ‘address’.
How long should I stay in Guadalajara? As long as you want! No, just kidding. Kind of. If you want to visit the main sights and sounds of the city, eat at a handful of the top restaurants in Guadalajara and have time to knock back a tequila or seven, then I think four days is more than enough. That probably gives you time to squeeze in a day trip too.
Is English spoken in Guadalajara? It’s spoken in the touristy spots, and probably in most restaurants, but you’re not going to get Cancun or Puerto Vallarta levels of people speaking English as far as I’m concerned.
What’s the climate of Guadalajara? The Guadalajara weather is usually hot in spring, rainy in summer, pleasant in autumn and cool in winter.
When’s the best time to visit Guadalajara, Mexico? Autumn is hands down the best time to visit Guadalajara, a city which can get swelteringly hot in spring and is prone to heavy rainy season rainfall in summer. Winter is fine, but if you plan your Guadalajara travel for autumn, you can take advantage of the cool events like the Fiestas de Octubre too.
What should I pack for Guadalajara? Unless you’re from a Caribbean beach or the outer edges of the tundra, you’re probably going to be OK with your ‘normal’ clothes. Jeans, t-shirts, a short or two and trainers. You don’t need bikinis or wispy pieces of beach cover up fabric unless you’re planning on visiting Puerto Vallarta after visiting Guadalajara, Mexico.
Is Guadalajara safe? Is Guadalajara dangerous? When I lived in Guadalajara, I would have definitely said ‘omg, yes, Guadalajara is SO SAFE’ without a heartbeat, because I was naïve, didn’t know better and hadn’t recognised the value of nuance when talking about personal safety just yet. Since I lived there in 2014, the situation has for sure worsened in terms of cartel violence (although I maintain that people who just want to travel Guadalajara, rather than live there, are highly unlikely to be caught in any literal or metaphorical crossfire).
I do feel less safe walking around after dark or in areas that I don’t know as well; however, I wouldn’t say Guadalajara is dangerous. Nor would I say it was entirely, totally super safe, for that matter either. I would advise taking the normal precautions you’d take in any big city, use your common sense and stick to touristed areas (a.k.a. everywhere I mentioned in this post).
WANT MORE GUADALAJARA TRAVEL INFORMATION?
I’ve already laced several of these links throughout this post, but if you just can’t get enough of my sweet, sweet Guadalajara travel guide info, here are the rest of the posts in this series:
Nightlife in Guadalajara, Mexico (COMING SOON)
Day Trips from Guadalajara, Mexico (COMING SOON)
Transport in Guadalajara, Mexico: Getting To, From + Around Guadalajara (COMING SOON)
Did you find my mega things to do in Guadalajara and where to stay in Guadalajara travel guide useful? Let me know in the comments!