When we first arrived in Guadalajara, we weren’t sure what to expect. I had assumed that being Mexico’s second largest city, it wouldn’t be dissimilar from Mexico City. But it is. The two cities are completely different.
Our first impressions of Guadalajara were that it was big city-like. There was traffic everywhere, most of the restaurants seemed to have built up along the major roads that score across the city and everything seemed quite far apart.
But once you scratch the surface, there’s so much more to Guadalajara. Head into the Centro Historico for architecture and art galleries. Get off the main Chapultepec avenue and there are corners with colourful street art, hipster cafes, wine bars and Japanese restaurants.
Guadalajara Centro Historico Walking Route
If you’re looking for things to do in Guadalajara, head over to the Centro Historico. Take off early in the morning to see the historic sights, beautiful architecture and the stunning yellow spires of Guadalajara Cathedral. We mapped out a walking route of Guadalajara’s Centro Historico:
Things to Do in Guadalajara’s Centro Historico
There are loads of things to do in Guadalajara, especially in the Centro Historico. Take a day to walk around all of these sights.
1. Instituto Cultural Cabañas
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the biggest hospital complexes in the Americas. Now, it’s used as a home to some of Mexico’s coolest art, including murals by Orozco. The building itself as a rich history and the art exhibits are some of the best we’ve seen in Mexico. Entry to the galleries is 60 pesos per person.
2. Teatro Degollado
Stop by Teatro Degollado during the day to admire the majestic theatre space. If you’re into your theatre and don’t mind Spanish-language performances then tickets are available for evening shows online. Entry is free.
3. Palacio de Gobierno
To the east of the Cathedral is the Palacio de Gobierno. Come here to see the murals painted by Orozco. The most famous mural in the Palacio de Gobierno is the portrait of Miguel Hidalgo. Don’t miss this place of your list of things to do in Guadalajara. Entry is free.
4. Guadalajara Cathedral
Guadalajara Cathedral is a must-see for visitors to the city. The crazy mix of architecture makes this quite the quirky cathedral. The cathedral was built in the 1560s, taking around 50 years to complete. An earthquake destroyed the original towers in 1818. They were replaced in 1854 by architect Manuel Gomez Ibarra, which is why they look so distinctly different in style from the rest of the building. Entry is free.
6.Museo Regional de Guadalajara
Next up on our list of things to do in Guadalajara is the Mueso Regional de Guadalajara. There a massive mammoth skeleton – that I wasn’t expecting! – when you walk into the first gallery that was discovered near Chapala Lake. Entry is 55 pesos.
6. Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustre
Set in the park, the Rotunda is a mausoleum for important men and women who were born in Jalisco. It’s right outside the Cathedral and Mueso Regional de Guadalajara, so worth stopping by.
7. Coronilla Street
Coronilla is a cool, arty street not far from the Centro Historico. If you’re looking for things to do in Guadalajara centre but need a break from galleries and museums, then check out this street. We stumbled down here by accident after seeing the colourful Frida Kahlo mural. Turns out there are a bunch of cool little cafe, eateries and a few art shops. Stop by Cafe Finca Riveroll for organic coffee or a yerba mate, and enjoy the street’s arty ambience.
More Things to Do in Guadalajara
Even though our Guadalajara walking route map only covers 1 -7 from our list, there are still plenty more things to do in Guadalajara! We liked Centro Historico a lot, we spent most of our time in the area around Chapultepec.
8. Avenida Chapultepec
The main avenue of Chapultepec is a hive of restaurants and bars. It gets pretty crowded on Friday and Saturday nights, and the traffic running up and down it is loud too, but if you’re looking for some night time buzz then this is definitely the place to be. Most of the restaurants we liked most were on side streets off of the main avenue rather than on the avenue itself (just a heads up!) On Sundays, the road is closed to cars and open to cyclists.
9. Calle Libertad
Take a right off of Avenida Chapultepec to Calle Libertad. Hanging out on Calle Libertad was my favourite thing to do in Guadalajara. It’s a lovely and leafy street to walk down. There’s everything an urban-hipster could want here. There’s a cluster of good cafes, a modern mercado which has local artisans on Sundays and a nice bakery called La Panaderia for pastries. Just up from the bakery is Tu Localito Ecologico, a great ecological store where you can get natural granola, peanut butter and other similar products. La Cafeteria is a popular brunch spot and above it is a really gorgeous boutique jewellery store where Luke bought me a super cute Christmas gift. For the evening, there’s a low-key bar called the Black Sheep where we met local friends for a drink.
10. Bosque Colomos
Bosque Colomos is one of the few green spaces in Guadalajara. It’s a beautiful park that includes a Japanese garden and some short trails. There are some over-friendly squirrels and gophers that come disconcertingly close to you because they’re used to being fed popcorn by little kids. However, there are signs everywhere warning against feeding them. The park is a 20-minute drive from central Guadalajara and can be easily accessed by Uber, but make sure you give the driver the exact entrance otherwise you could end up driving around the whole of the park like we did.
Day-Trips from Guadalajara
If you’re staying in the city for a while, then there are a number of good day-trips from Guadalajara.
Tlaquepaque is one of Mexico’s pubelo magicos (magic towns). This sweet town is home to many artisans and has some of the regions best pottery and glasswares. Come here to spend the day wandering along the avenue, browsing at boutique shops and artisan stalls. I bought a great pair of earring made from recycled paper for 50 pesos, though most of the shopping here is a little more high-end than that. Tlaquepaque is a 20-minute drive from Guadalajara and an Uber there costs 80 pesos.
The hot and dusty town of Tequila is the original home of – well, you guessed it – tequila. The town is just an hour outside of Guadalajara (2 hours if you take the long and indirect bus) and it attracts a lot of both foreign and Mexican tourists on the weekends. We toured the Jose Cuervo distillery, the first distillery to bottle tequila, and learned about the distilling process. It’s a hot and crowded tour with a lot of people crammed into a small factory, but interesting nonetheless. An hour tour costs 200 pesos per person and we thought it was ample, but you can opt for a longer 2 or 3-hour tour if you’re really into your tequila and agave.
Tonala craft market was recommended to us by an Uber driver from Guadalajara. Always keen to take tips from locals, we headed out to the market town on a Sunday. The tianguis (open air market) goes on for streets and streets. There are stalls selling fruits, veggies, tacos, ceramics, paintings, clothes and loads of other things. Unfortunately, we didn’t rate Tonala very highly, but perhaps because we have limited interest in shopping and weren’t looking to buy anything.
Best Restaurants in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is chock-full of restaurants with all kinds of different cuisine. You can get everything in the city, from Mexican tacos to Japanese sushi. Here’s our run down of the best restaurants in Guadalajara. We’re vegetarian, so all of the places listed here have at least a few good vegetarian options.
Pa’l Real – modern cafe with strong coffee
This hipster cafe is the place to be for lunch on sunny days. We discovered this gem thanks to a local friend in Guadalajara who swears their coffee is the best in the city – we reckon he’s right. Their strong coffee, quirky menu and courtyard dining make it a great lunchtime spot. Vegetarians and vegans have the option of Mexican encacahuatadas.
Google Map: Lope de Vega 113, Arcos Vallarta, Guadalajara
Café Finca Riveroll – arty cafe with organic coffee
Located on the arty Coronilla Street, this organic coffee shop and cafe is worth a check-in. The yerba mate is like nothing you’ve ever tried before and I’m still wishing I’d tried the falafel wrap! The staff here were all super great and it’s an ideal spot for sitting outside in the sun.
Google Map: Coronilla 11, Zona Centro, Guadalajara
Lúcuma – nice vegan restaurant
We always like to try the local vegan restaurants in Mexico and this one came recommended by a local. Though we liked the atmosphere and the staff were friendly, the food wasn’t as good as it could be. We ordered BBQ cauliflower wings to share and a BBQ burger but both were covered in way too much sweet, sticky BBQ sauce. The ensalada dulce (salad with strawberries) was nice but by the end of the bowl it felt like I’d eaten too many sugary sweets.
Google Map: Av. Justo Sierra 1741, Villaseñor, Guadalajara
Our favourite restaurant in Guadalajara was this neon-lit Japanese joint. It gets busy on weekends, so I’d recommend getting your ramen fix on a mid-week night. The ramen is not vegetarian but the udon noodles are. We ate udon noodle soup with grilled vegetables and had a pot of green tea. Both were excellent.
Google Map: Calle Argentina 20, Americana, Guadalajara
Uma Uma – low-key Japanese kitchen
The original restaurant of the ones owned by Peko Peko, Uma Uma is a small cantina style Japanese place with a bright pink neon-lit cat cartoon in the window. Uma Uma serves up Japanese curry, yakisoba and yakimeshi. Unfortunately, the food isn’t as good as Peko Peko but the atmosphere is fun, low-key and almost kind of studenty.
Google Map: Av. Justo Sierra 1988, Americana, Guadalajara
Savora – late night Argentinean pepitos
If you’ve been out drinking, then Savora is the best place to come for good food. Soak up the atmosphere in the dimly lit, front courtyard-style dining. This Argentinean restaurant specialises in pepitos (crusty rolls). There are two vegetarian peptio options but we strongly urge you to get the portabello mushroom pepito.
Google Map: Libertad 1698, Americana, Guadalajara
Best Hotels in Guadalajara
Hospedarte Chapultepec – friendly backpacker hostel
This sizeable hostel is located right off Avenue Chapultepec and has a good, friendly vibe. There is a garden and a colourfully painted rooftop balcony. The wifi is mostly very good, though a little slower in the evenings when everyone gets back to the hostel and jumps on. There’s a basic breakfast of toast and cereal included. I should say that we booked this hostel through booking.com and the price shown online was incorrect. Our reservation said 420 pesos but when we turned up we were told that the price for private double room is 600 pesos and that the hostel was having problems with booking.com. If you want to stay here, I’d recommend booking through Hostelworld for the correct prices.
La Fe Hotel Boutique – pleasant and arty, mid-range hotel
La Fe Hotel Boutique is an ideal option for mid-range travellers. The boutique hotel is located just two blocks off of Avenue Chapultepec. The rooms are large and well-decorated with fresh white bed linen and fluffy pillows. There’s fast wifi to boot and a kitchen for those who want to eat in. A small and simple breakfast of fruit, toast and granola is served in the morning. If you want a really pleasant hotel experience in Guadalajara, then this is the place for you. Private double rooms with en-suites start at 1020 pesos ($50).
Do you have more suggestions for things to do in Guadalajara?
I’d love to hear about even more fun things to do in Guadalajara. If you’ve explored the city and discovered some fun activities, then let me know about them in the comments. If you’ve not yet been to Guadalajara in Mexico, then tell me about what you would most like to do if you did get to visit this cool city!