5 Reasons to Visit Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara Streetscape

Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city and a little off the usual tourist route. We were only visiting en route to the Pacific Coast. It had a reputation for being ‘edgy’ due to several issues with Mexico’s drug cartel a few years ago. What we found was impressive, a city that was putting its past behind and putting its best foot forward.

Guadalajara is well-known as a city of tequila, cowboys and mariachi. Head to Plaza de los Mariachis in the evening for the mariachi bands.

You can book a 6-hour Tequila tasting tour that includes a visit to the famous Jose Cuervo Distillery.

We found a colonial city of incredible architecture with lots to see and do. If you can you should plan to visit on a Sunday.  On Sundays join the locals in the morning on Avenidas Vallarta and Juarez where you can cycle, walk or dance down the middle of the road.  It is a time for families to enjoy some exercise together before they head back home for lunch. There is street theatre lining the streets and there is a vibrant buzz all around.

Our guide on 5 reasons to visit Guadalajara will assist you to plan your visit to one of Mexico’s largest cities and the capital of Jalisco state.

(Editor Update 2020)

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Where is Guadalajara

Guadalajara Map

Map of Guadalajara

Guadalajara

Guadalajara is the capital of Jalisco State and is located 536 km from Mexico City or 6.5 hours driving.

Guadalajara is made up of 3 towns – Guadalajara, Tlaquepaque and Zapopan. For great shopping head to Tlaquepaque.

Close by is the popular town for ex-pats of Ajijic on Lake Chapala.

Essential Information for Visitors to Guadalajara

Guadalajara Hotels

Bedroom at Hotel San Francisc

Colonial style double bedroom

We stayed at the Hotel San Francisco Plaza on Degollado 267 close to the Degollado Theatre. The 3-star family-owned and run hotel was centrally located which enabled us to walk to all of the highlights of Guadalajara.  The hotel had an outdoor terrace and fountain in a colonial setting. We enjoyed breakfast and dinners at the Quijote Restaurant that served excellent local Mexican cuisine.  The rooms are spacious and very comfortable.

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Best Hotels in Guadalajara

Hotel de Mendoza – 4-star hotel located on Calle Venustiano Carranza 16 Centro Historico that offers a gym, pool, hot tub and free WiFi.

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4-star Hotel Morales Historical & Colonial Downtown at Avenida Corona 243.  The hotel is located in the heart of downtown and offers guests a swimming pool and gym.

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4-star Country Hotel & Suites at Calle Jorge Alvarez Del Castillo 1482 is located 15 minutes from downtown and offers guests a swimming pool and on-site restaurant.

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Dickinson Guest House is located at Calle San Uriel 338 near the Expo area of Guadalajara in a gated community. It is a 3-star boutique hotel for up to 12 guests.

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For accommodation outside of Guadalajara in Tlaquepaque 6 km away as an alternative we can recommend La Villa del EnsuenoYou can read our review here.

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Airbnb Guadalajara

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Getting In

Guadalajara Airport (GDL) is located 16 km south of the city centre. It is serviced by international and domestic carriers.

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There are buses and taxis available at the airport.

Bus Services to Guadalajara

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Car rental is available at the Airport and Downtown. Click here for information.

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Things to do in Guadalajara

Our 5 reasons to visit Guadalajara include:

Map of Guadalajara City

Guadalajara City Map

1.  Visit Guadalajara’s Cathedral

Guadalajara's Cathedral

Guadalajara’s Cathedral

The Roman Catholic Cathedral certainly has a history:

  • It was first constructed in 1541
  • In May 30, 1574 it caught fire as a result of neighbours firing shots into the air which fell onto the cathedral.
  • In February 1618 the renovated cathedral was completed.
  • In 1818 an earthquake caused the dome and the tower to collapse
  • In 1849 these had been reconstructed only to suffer another earthquake and rebuilt again in 1854
  • Earthquakes in 1932, 1957, 1979, 1985, 1995 and 2003 have caused the North Tower to tilt and more structural damage to the Tower
  • It is built in the Spanish Renaissance style

AddressAv. Fray Antonio Alcalde 10, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara

2.  Car-Free Sunday

Sunday in Guadalajara

Sunday in Guadalajara

Join the locals on the main east-west arterials Avenues of Vallarta and Juarez.  You can cycle, walk, skate down the streets as street performers perform either side of you from 7 am to 2 pm.

It has a great vibe and we would recommend that everyone try and plan to visit on a Sunday.

3.  Street Vibe and Shopping

Head to Mercado San Juan de Dios for affordable leather goods.

One place to purchase a Sombrero in Guadalajara

A Sombrero, stetson or cowboy boots anyone?

Guadalajara - great city for leather boots

Guadalajara – a great city for leather boots

Colonial Home of Conqueror Juan de Saldivar

Colonial Home of Conqueror Juan de Saldivar

This is the colonial home of the Conqueror Juan de Saldivar which dates back to 1589.  The colonial home was also used for the Headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition.  The alley where is it located is known as the Rincon del Diablo translated means the Devil’s Nook.  Legend states that supernatural encounters and deaths have taken place in the home.

4.  Plazas

Street Vibe Guadalajara

Street Vibe Guadalajara

Plaza Tapatia has many statues and interesting shops to view as you wander down its vast length where at the far end lies Instituto Cultural Cabanas.

The Instituto Cultural Cabanas was originally a hospice that provided care for invalids, handicapped people, old people and orphans at the beginning of the 19th century.  The chapel contains murals of the famous Jose Clemente Orozco. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

Monumento Hidalgo in Guadalajara

Monumento Hidalgo

In the North section of Plaza de Liberacion, you will find the statue dedicated to Don Miguel Hidalgo y Costill who signed the Mexican Declaration of Independence in the Governor’s Office.

Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres in Guadalajara

Rotonda de Los Jaliscienses Ilustres

The Rotonda is a mausoleum containing the ashes of 98 men and women who were important to the city and who were born locally in the state of Jalisco.  The remains are of scientists, writers, artists and educators. The Rotonda was built in 1952.

Address: Av. Fray Antonio Alcalde 108, Zona Centro

Bronze Sculpture in Commemoration of the City's Founders of Guadalajara

Bronze Sculpture in Commemoration of the City’s Founders

The bronze sculpture commemorates the city’s founders and was created by Rafael Zamarripa.

5.  Palacio de Gobierno

Palacio de Gobierno in Guadalajara

Palacio de Gobierno

Murals lining the staircase within Palacio de Gobierno

Murals lining the staircase within Palacio de Gobierno

The Murals are by Jose Clemente Orozco.  The building has a section on the history of Jalisco.  The original building collapsed during an earthquake in 1750 and it was subsequently rebuilt in the baroque style.
It is located at 43 Corona street at the Historic Center.

What To Do in Guadalajara – Tours Available

 

 

Where to Eat in Guadalajara

Some of our top recommendations for where to eat in Guadalajara are:

I Latina – Inglaterra 3128 Col Vallarta for great fish tacos.

Restaurant Alcade – Avenida Mexico 2903 for great cerviche and vegetarian dishes.

In Tlaquepaque – Restaurant Casa Luna at Calle Independencia Centro San Pedro Tlaquepaque for great cocktails and chicken mole.

Alta Fibra – Calle Prisciliano Sanchez 370B for a local set lunch menu which is very busy and a favourite for locals. They also offer some great vegetarian food options.

For the best craft beer in Guadalajara head to  Patan Ale House at Calle Morelos 1281 Col Americana.

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16 Comments

  • Annick says:

    I’m so glad to hear that Guadalajara is worth the visit. Unfortunately bad news tend to stick around for so long and keeps visitors away. I love that the two avenues are closed on Sunday so everyone can enjoy the outdoors. It’s good to know that a Sunday visit is a must. And what an interesting past with the church and the Spanish Inquisition!

    • Hi Annick
      Thanks for your comments. We were so pleased that the drug cartels in this area had moved along and that the city could get back to normality.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • I can see why you’d be nervous after watching that kind of news about drug cartel actions, so I’m happy that you had a wonderful trip in the end. Thanks for the tip to include a Sunday so you can appreciate the central avenues free of vehicles! The Palacio de Gobierno looks particularly of interest.

  • Guadalajara looks like a very interesting place to explore. I love the statues in the plaza, reminds me of piss manequins of Brussels. The no car Sunday is an awesome idea to bring down pollution levels and encourage cycling. I love the murals in Palacio de Gobierno

    • Hi Sinjana
      Thanks for your comments.We love the idea of no car Sunday and to see all the families out exercising and enjoying being together.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • umiko says:

    It’s always interesting to find out about cities in Mexico that are clean and full with historical buildings from the Spanish era, like Guadalajara. The car free Sunday is absolutely a nice way to give its people a special time to enjoy their city while socializing through bicycle, walking, or skating down the street. I never thought that these are what people will find when traveling to Guadalajara.

  • blair villanueva says:

    Thank you for sharing the beauty of Guadalajara! Mexico is considered a sister-country of the Philippines as we are both been colonized by Spain hundreds of years ago. How I wish to visit this sister country in the future 😀

    • Hi Blair
      Thanks for your comments. Mexico is fascinating and I hope you can visit one day as we hope we can visit the Philippines one day too.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

  • Well, it started on a scary note but you gave such convincing reasons to go to Guadalajara. I totally loved the murals lining the staircase within Palacio de Gobierno. Car free Sunday is a great idea. And there is so much more. There is cathedral, plazas and leather boots. Well, I like such slow and easy places with lots of history and character.

  • Yukti says:

    After reading your Mexico posts, I am getting more and more temptation to book my tickets to Mexico. I loved all the 5 reasons to visit Guadalajara, especially the street vibes and shopping area. Would love to check out some boots there. Palacio de Gobierno looks quirky palace and also the mural looks interesting. Would love to know the story behind this mural.

  • Parnashree Devi says:

    Wow ..I didn’t even know about this place called Guadalajara. It seems like a city with a lot of architectural gems. Great knowing about it through your post. Shopping scene looks exciting, especially the boots. Loved reading about it.

    • Hi Parnashree
      Thanks for your comments. The boots were very tempting but seeing we only travel with a carry-on I could not buy any.
      Cheers Jane and Duncan

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