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What to Do in Guadalajara Mexico: A Travel Guide

What to Do in Guadalajara Mexico: A Travel Guide

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Wondering what to do in Guadalajara for a few days? There are so many things to do in Guadalajara! Whether you like spending some time in nature hiking (or simply enjoying the view) or you’re more interested in history and art, there’s a little something for everyone in Mexico’s second largest city.

We spent four days in and around the city exploring, eating, and enjoying the sunshine (and tequila), but you could easily spend an entire week in Guadalajara seeing even more.

The Best Things to Do in Guadalajara Mexico

Flights to Guadalajara

As the second-largest city in the country, there are plenty of domestic and international flights available to the Guadalajara airport.

The official name for the airport is El Aeropuerto Internacional de Guadalajara Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla. It’s the only major airport in the city, so simply enter it into Skyscanner and you’ll get the right one.

I flew direct to Guadalajara from Mexico City with Interjet for $80 USD roundtrip.

This was not the cheapest option, Viva Aerobus is usually the cheapest, but I am not a huge fan of their check-in and onboard service, so I paid about $10 more to fly Interjet. AeroMexico and Volaris also fly this route.

If you are flying from the US, you can get direct flights between Guadalajara and New York, LAX, and Fresno. The Mexican airline Volaris is based out of Guadalajara, so most of the direct flights between the US and Guadalajara are with Volaris, however, a few larger American airlines do fly here.

Alternatively, you can always flight direct into Mexico City from basically any major city in the US and then take a cheap connection to Guadalajara. It’s less than an hour between the two cities.

what to do in guadalajara mexico

Where to Stay in Guadalajara

There are tons of great places to stay in Guadalajara. If you prefer Airbnbs, then I cannot recommend the one we stayed in enough. It’s in the Americana neighborhood which is packed with cafes and within walking distance of Chapultepec Avenue (one of the main food and drink streets in Guadalajara).

It’s perfect for one person or a couple.

It actually felt more like a hotel room with a small kitchen, but since we weren’t cooking anything anyway, it was perfect for us. It’s right above a delicious cafe (have the chilaquiles here, they’re SO good!).

It’s on a pedestrian street, so it was super quiet at night, and the owner gave us some great tips on places to eat.

It’s less than $30 per night which I think is insanely good value for the space and location. Book a stay at that Airbnb here.

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, sign up with this link to receive up to $35 off your first booking.

Other neighborhoods that I think would be great for staying are near Chapultepec Ave and in the Centro close to the cathedral.

Arcos Vallarta and the neighborhood around Los Colomos was also really nice, although further away from the downtown area. Alternatively, you could stay in the quaint neighboring town of Tlaquepaque.

It’s about a 30 minute Uber ride to downtown Guadalajara from there.

what to do in guadalajara mexico

Some of the nicest boutique hotels in the area include:

  • Casa Fayette: Casa Fayette is in the Americana neighborhood and it one of the best boutique hotels in Guadalajara. It as a rooftop pool, gorgeous bar, huge plush rooms with views over the city, and it’s very reasonably priced for a place with so many amenities. Rooms start at $110 a night. Book a stay at Casa Fayette here.
  • Villa Ganz Boutique Hotel: Villa Ganz was one of the first boutique hotels to arrive on the scene in Guadalajara. It’s in a beautiful old mansion in the Pink Zone (near Americana and within walking distance of downtown). There’s a fantastic restaurant on site and breakfast is included (their chilaquiles are top class!). Rooms start at $130 per night. Book a stay at Villa Ganz here. 
  • La Fe Hotel and Arts: This is probably my favorite boutique hotel in Guadalajara. I love a hotel that seemlessly blends culture and arts into what feels more like a B&B than a hotel. The staff are personable, the rooms are gorgeous, there’s a gallery on-site that’s free to the public. It’s also located near the Americana area (it’s one of the nicest neighborhoods in the city in my opinion). Rooms start at $80 per night. Book a stay at La Fe Hotel and Arts here.

Getting Around Guadalajara

There are plenty of buses and even a very cheap and easy to use the subway to get around Guadalajara.

If you’re on a budget the subway is a great way to get from one end of the city to the other. I used the app Metro MX which has the subway line information for Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara.

If you want to get to know the trains and buses, then the Metro & Bus Mexico app is the one to get. It’s great for every major city in Mexico for public transportation.

Uber is available in Guadalajara, although they try to operate on the low at the airport.

They called me when I booked my Uber from the airport to ask me where I was standing because they don’t like to have their phones out at the airport. It’s not illegal, but the taxi unions in Guadalajara really don’t like Uber and they REALLY don’t like them at the airport.

If you would prefer, you can also pay for a taxi at the airport from any of the taxi stands. Just know that these taxis cost about 300 Pesos to take you to the center of the city and Uber only charges about 150 Pesos (you can see why the taxis hate Uber).

I’ve written an entire guide to using Uber in Mexico (while it’s actually about Mexico City, it applies to use in every other part of Mexico as well).

What to Do in Guadalajara

things to do in guadalajara mexico

1. Explore the Historic Center

The center of Guadalajara is one of the most beautiful downtown areas I’ve been to in Mexico.

Sure, you know I love me a little bit of Mexico City’s Centro Historico, but I was constantly in awe as I wandered the streets in Guadalajara.

There are stunning buildings like those above, beautiful little art deco buildings, enormous columns, tons of arches that line the cobbled streets, and some streets that were filled with color.

One of my favorite things to do when I first arrive in a new city is to simply get lost.

I took an Uber to the cathedral in Guadalajara and then I put my phone away and just took random left and right turns, stopped when I saw something cool like an enormous book sale or art museums or cantinas with 19 Peso beers.

A few of the main sights to check out in the historic center are the cathedral which is much grander on the outside than the inside (in my opinion), the Palacio de Gobierno del Estado de Jalisco where you can see some of the country’s most famous murals, and San Juan de Dios which is one of the largest indoor markets I’ve ever seen in Mexico (it actually felt more like a mall in some parts).

One place that we missed that I really wish we had a chance to go to was Instituto Cultural Cabañas.

The exterior of the building and the gardens inside are worth the trip alone, but inside is almost 60 modernist murals by José Clemente Orozco. While entrance to the other sites I mentioned above are free, this museum costs 70 Pesos.

tlaquepaque guadalajara mexico

2. Visit Tlaquepaque

This little neighborhood on the outskirts of Guadalajara was one of my favorite day trips from Guadalajara.

It’s pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh. Head here for a small-town feel, to do some souvenir shopping, to drink tequila, and to listen to amazing music at El Parian.

We got here by taking an Uber from the center of Guadalajara.

It cost just over 100 Pesos (about $5) and took about half and hour. You can also take buses 275B, 303, 647 or 706 TUR. They say Tlaquepaque on the front.

You can get them from Avenida 16 de Septiembre between López Cotilla and Madero. Buses only cost 7 Pesos each way.

If you want to see the live music at El Parian, be sure to time your visit with when they play.

We made the mistake of coming too early and ended up waiting around to hear it (it’s worth waiting for either way!). They play from Thursday to Monday between 3:30 and 5pm and then again from 9:30 to 11pm.

The drink to have at El Parian is the cazuela – it’s a citrus punch in a huge bowl and is served with a huge shot (90ml) or the tequila of your choice. I really enjoyed it with the Pueblo Viejo. I’d skip the food at these places, it’s overpriced and not all that great.

things to do in guadalajara

3. Drink Tequila in Tequila!

The place, not the drink! Tequila is easy to reach on your own by taking the bus from La Central Vieja bus terminal.

Inside the station, head to stand that says Tequila Plus. A roundtrip ticket currently costs 160 Pesos and buses run every hour. Be sure to check the bus website for bus times so that you don’t get there and end up having to wait for an hour until the next one.

It takes just over an hour and a half to get from Guadalajara to Tequila, but once you’re in the town, you can easily walk everywhere, including to independent tequila distilleries to have a tour for yourself.

Alternatively, you can take a tour of Tequila which picks you up in Guadalajara and takes you Tequila with a bilingual guide. If you’re short on time or you prefer to have things taken care of for you, this tour of Tequila is a nice option.

Of course, there is also the famous Jose Cuervo Express. During peak season, you don’t actually get to take the train (its why we skipped it in the end, I wanted to take the train!), but if you can grab a seat on the train, then this is a fun way to see the Tequila region.

Alternatively, you can rent a car and stay a night in Tequila. There are so many little pueblo magicos around this region of the country and having a car makes them so much more accessible.

things to do in guadalajara

4. Walk Through Bosque Los Colomos

I LOVE a park and this is one of the nicest city parks I’ve been to.

If you want a place to go for a walk or a jog in the mornings while you’re here or you want to check out some of the different gardens, this is the best place to head.

It’s easily reached by Uber from the center of the city (it cost us about 60 Pesos from Americana).

On our last day in Guadalajara, we headed here before lunch to stroll around, to walk off our chilaquiles, and to enjoy some peace that doesn’t come quite as easily back home in Mexico City.

It’s a great place if you have kids, too. There are tons of play areas, a bird pond, and a few nice gardens for them to run around. Dogs are not allowed in the park and it seemed like bikes weren’t either.

the best things to do in guadalajara mexico

5.Take in the Views at Parque Independencia Mirador

This was by far the highlight of my trip to Guadalajara.

I didn’t even know it existed before I came to the city. I had high hopes of hiking the below canyon, but by the time we got out of bed, showered, and ate breakfast, it was the height of the sun and hiking didn’t seem like such a fun idea.

Instead, we headed to this park where you can enjoy all of the beauty of Barranca de Huentitan without having to break a sweat.

There are five different lookouts around the park where you can see the canyon from different angles and see deep into the river below. It’s breathtakingly beautiful and the park itself is just a nice place to spend an afternoon.

Bring some snacks and plenty of water if you come during the middle of the day when it’s quite hot.

We got here by taking an Uber. From the center it cost about 100 Pesos. You can also take the blue metrobus from Avenida Independencia north towards Mirador.

6. Hike Barranca de Huentitan

Feeling fitter than me? I have read some absolute rave reviews for this hike. Based on what I’ve read on Trip Advisor and what others I spoke to in the city said, you definitely want to start this hike early before it gets too hot.

It starts at the top of the canyon ridge.

It takes 45 minutes to walk down 2,000 feet to the base of the river. Here you can dip your toes, take in some views, see the famous red bridge, and also wade into some hot springs which are down there.

It takes about two hours to walk back up if you take the traditional path. Hardcore hikers can take the faster, steeper route up the train tracks (which are no longer in use by actual trains).

I found this thread on Trip Advisor to be the most helpful when it came to finding the start of the trail and figuring out how to walk it.

If you like hiking, but want a guide, there are some great reviews for this tour on Airbnb Experiences. I thought about taking this one, but it was booked up for the weekend we were visiting.

what to do in Guadalajara

7. Visit the Towns Around Lake Chapala

This is perhaps one of the more popular things to do in Guadalajara. 

It’s a popular place for expats and retirees to move to from the US and Canada. I’ve been told it’s incredibly beautiful and peaceful.

Getting to Lake Chapala is pretty simple if you want to go it alone.

To get to Lake Chapala from Guadalajara, head to the bus station (La Central Vieja) and look for the buses to Chapala. There are a few companies that go there and they run very regularly (more than once an hour). Bus tickets cost 55 Pesos each way.

If you want to go it alone, but don’t feel like taking the bus, you can get an Uber there for about 300 Pesos. It’s the quicker, but a more expensive option. However, if you are traveling with more than two people, it ends up actually saving you a bit of money.

Watch my video from our time in Lake Chapala here.

You can also take a day tour to Chapala. This will include a bilingual guide and usually includes a stop in Tlaquepaque as well. This tour also includes a boat trip out onto the lake and to Scorpion Island, which really makes it worth the money in my opinion.

what to do in guadalajara mexico

8. Wander Avenida Chapultepec

One of the main streets in the city, Chapultepec is such a lovely street to wander down just as the sun starts to set.

There is a pedestrian walkway down the middle of the street and on the weekends loads of market vendors set up here selling jewelry, scarves, t-shirts and other beautiful artisan pieces.

It’s also one of my favorite places for nightlife in Guadalajara.

We tried a few craft beer bars here (more on that below) and also found plenty of nice spots of cheap beers and a few snacks. If you like bars with good ambiance, fun music, and cheap drinks, this is the definitely the place to head after dark.

woman looking at Guachimontones in Guadalajara

Visiting the ruins at Guachimontones is one of the best things to do in Guadalajara in my humble opinion!

9. Explore the Ruins at Guachimontones

Located about 45 minutes northwest of Guadalajara, this is a very easy day trip from the city if you have a rental car. If you do not, you can hire a taxi for the day in the downtown area or you can take a tour.

This tour with Get Your Guide includes pick up and drop off from your hotel in Guadalajara. You will be taken to the ruins with a bilingual guide who can explain all about their history. It also includes lunch and a stop at a nearby hacienda, a traditional estate in Mexico that was built back in 1722.

Book that tour here.

If you are renting a car while you’re in Guadalajara, then simply add this location to your Google Maps and then navigate yourself there. It’s a very straightforward route with easy and well-maintained roads.

There are helpful stewards all over the park, a museum that is included in your ticket price, and when you walk up the hill, you’ll get some incredible views of the surrounding area.

Be sure to bring water. Like basically every archaeological site in Mexico, there is almost zero shade. There are no shops here either, so you’ll want to take some snacks and drinks with you from Guadalajara.

10. Eat All the Food

I’m going to be writing a full post about the best places we ate in Guadalajara, but it’s worth mentioning that making food a priority in Guadalajara is a must. Some of the local dishes you’ll want to try are tortas ahogadas, pozole, birria (SO GOOD), and carne en su jugo.

Check out my post about the best restaurants in Guadalajara so that you know exactly where to go and what to order once you’re there!

things to do in guadalajara

11. Check out the Cantinas

Guadalajara has some of the oldest and coolest dive bars that I’ve been to in Mexico. Most are in the historic center of the city. With some cantinas, when you order drinks, you get a snack. At other spots, all you get is a drink.

Some of the best ones that we visited were La FuenteLa Iberia, El Bar Martin, and La Sin Rival. All have a nice selection of tequilas for a reasonable price (you sip them here, you don’t take a shot. It’s like mezcal in Mexico City) as well as very cheap bottled beers from Mexico.

La Fuente is where we spent the most time. It’s supposedly the most famous cantina in Guadalajara.

Above the bar, you’ll see a bicycle covered in dust. The story goes that a patron got very drunk and couldn’t pay his bill, so he left his bike and told the bartender he’d come back to pay later. He never came back, so the bike now sits above the bar as a reminder.

La Iberia is touted as the oldest cantina in Guadalajara. Apparently, Poncho Villa, the country’s famous revolutionary, used to drink in this very bar.

things to do in guadalajara

12. Sample Some Craft Beer

If you enjoy craft beer, you’ll love some of the spots around Guadalajara. Our friends Sarah and James wrote a great post about the best craft beer bars in Guadalajara, which we used as our guide to drinking in the city.

My absolute favorite spot that we tried was Patan Ale House. It’s slightly out of the way compared to the others, but on a Sunday around 6pm when there’s live music, the barbeque is going, and you can sample over 20 different draft beers from around Mexico, it’s worth going out of the way.

Another newer Guadalajara craft beer spot that I really love is called Ella Casa Cervecera (located here). They are making their own beers and also have a really great food menu. Grab a seat outside on their balcony area in the early evening to see the after-work crowd as they make their way home. 

drinking a light and dark craft beer at ella casa cervecera is one of the best things to do in guadalajara if you like beer!

Enjoying craft beer is one of my favorite things to do wherever I travel!

Check out My Things to Do in Guadalajara Video

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Silvia Adler

Monday 30th of May 2022

So well written! Planning a trip in 2 weeks. Thank you for the great information. Silvia Adler