Welcome to Guadalajara, we want you to enjoy your visit to our city to the fullest. This guide aims to make your visit more enjoyable and easier by showing you our suggestions of what to do & see in Guadalajara. However, the city is so large and so rich in culture and traditions, that it would be impossible to include all the attractions that “La Perla de Occidente” (“The Pearl of the West”), has to offer. So venture out and discover the many things to do & see in Guadalajara by wandering around and touring its streets, squares, markets and historic sites. This way, you will not only discover incredible places, but also the culture and traditions behind them, which make Guadalajara the synthesis of Mexican identity.
What to do & see in Guadalajara ( content)
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Tour the Historic Center
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Day Trip to Lake Chapala
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Enjoy Jalisco Gastronomy
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Visit the Pueblos Magicos of Tapalpa and Mazamitla
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Tour the Tequila Route
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Experience a Soccer Match at the Stadium
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Go Shopping in Guadalajara
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Attend a Mexican Wrestling Show
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Stroll through Chapultepec District
- What to do & see in Guadalajara: Visit the Museums of Guadalajara
- What to do & see in Guadalajara. Tour the Pueblo Magico of Tlaquepaque
Tour the Historic Center
Guadalajara has one of the most beautiful Historic Centers in Mexico, almost 500 years of history are told in its streets and buildings. The first painting in the city, is an architectural jewelry box that amazes both, locals and visitors. It gracefully combines baroque, neo-classical, art nouveau, neo-gothic, and contemporary styles. Among the things to do in Guadalajara, you cannot miss a visit to the historic center. During your tour of the center, do not miss the Cathedral, the Hospicio Cabañas, the Degollado Theater, the Government Palace, the Roundabout of Illustrious Men and Women, and the Ibero-American Library. If you like museums, options include the Guadalajara Regional Museum, the City Museum, the Paleontology Museum, the Army and Air Force Museum, and the Museum of Arts.
The Metropolitan Cathedral of Guadalajara is an example of the mixture of architectural styles that characterizes many downtown buildings. In the cathedral, a baroque facade with a circular pediment is amalgamated with neo-gothic towers, which together form one of the most characteristic profiles of the urban skyline of Guadalajara.
However, the Cathedral is much more than a beautiful building. Its influence on a very devout society has shaped the history of the city. The Cathedral is also the subject of many fascinating legends, although some are based on historical events, they all have a touch of fantasy that makes them so interesting.
Learn more about the Cathedral, its history and its legends.
Cross of Squares
Continue your tour of the center visiting the four squares that are located around the cathedral and that together, form a “Cross of Squares”. “La Cruz de Plazas” as it is known in Spanish, was built in the 50s of the 20th century. Its construction required the demolition of hundreds of buildings, many of them with historic and cultural significance. In the name of modernity they were teared down, to clear the space now occupied by Plaza de la Liberación, Plaza Guadalajara and Plaza de la Rotonda de los Jaliciences Ilustres. These three plazas would be added to the existing Plaza de Armas to create a large-scale public recreation space until then unknown in the city.
Nowadays the “Cruz de Plazas” is an essential part of the Guadalajara Center. From it, you can not only have the best views of the Cathedral but also of other outstanding buildings such as the State Government Palace and the Guadalajara Municipality.
Learn more about the history behind the Cross of Squares and its construction in the 50’s
State Government Palace
The wonders of the Historic Center do not end with the Cathedral and the “Cruz de Plazas”, on the contrary, they are just a sample of many treasures that exist there. The State Government Palace is a good example of this, although the building has great architectural merit, which can be seen from a distance, inside there is an unexpected treasure. A couple of murals by a renowned artist from Jalisco, José Clemente Orozco. The first one, one of Orozco’s most acclaimed works, is located on the main steps, portraying the independence war, with Hidalgo (Father of the Nation) in the center. The second mural is located in the old room of session of the legislative power, and it shows Hidalgo this time accompanied by Carranza, Juárez, and Morelos (other national heroes from different times).
Read our article about the Government Palace of Jalisco and learn about its history
The Degollado Theater is another of the stellar buildings in the Historic Center. One of the most beautiful theaters in the country, which amazes everyone who visits it. Its neo-classical style design was submitted to a competition, being the architect Jacobo Gálvez the winner. Its construction began in 1855, and it was inaugurated in 1866. Today, it is the most important performing arts venue in the west of the country and the home of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra.
Learn more about the Degollado Theatre, its free tours, and the seasons of the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra at the Degollado.
“Cabañas” Cultural Center
The Cabañas Cultural Institute is undoubtedly the most iconic building and the jewel of the crown of the historic center of Guadalajara. It is known by the people of Guadalajara as “Hospicio Cabañas” because for many years it was an asylum. It is a neoclassical style building, with a design of simple lines, from which its beautiful central dome stands out. The Cabañas harmoniously combines closed and open spaces. It has 106 rooms, 78 corridors, two chapels, and 23 symmetrically aligned interior patios. The building, which is the masterpiece of prominent architect Manuel Tolsá, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.
But the appeal of the Cabañas Cultural Institute goes beyond its original architectural design. In the ’30s of the 20th century, the Jalisco muralist José Clemente Orozco was invited to decorate his walls and ceilings. The artist painted 53 murals, including his most important work, among which “The Man on Fire” stands out in the dome.
Visiting the incredible site is definitely a must on every bucket list of things to do and see in Guadalajara.
Learn more about Hospicio Cabañas, its murals and what you need to know to visit it.
Day Trip to Lake Chapala
Visiting Chapala should be on every list of things to do in Guadalajara. Lake Chapala is the largest lake in Mexico by extension, covering an area of 1112 square kilometers. It is located Southeast of Guadalajara, about 35 minutes by car. Lake Chapala has always been the favorite weekend destination for the people of Guadalajara. Thanks to its excellent climate throughout the year, its beautiful landscapes, and its quiet pace of life, it is also an important retirement destination. The Chapala riverside is particularly popular among retirees from the United States and Canada. Thus, it is not uncommon to see advertisements in English on the streets and shops catering to the foreign community.
On the shore of the lake, there are many picturesque little towns. Town Chapala is the largest and a good place to start your tour. Start by visiting the waterfront, walk until you reach the pier known as “Rinconcito del Amor.” At the end of the pier, there is a lighthouse, from which you will have incredible views of the lake. This place is also a great spot for a souvenir selfie. You can also hire a boat ride here, there are different rides to choose from, depending on what you want to visit and the time you want to spend. You can even have the option to visit the “Mezcala” Island, to see the remains of a fort from the 19th century.
Do not leave Town Chapala, without trying the delicious ice creams from the stands on the boardwalk. There are dozens of flavors, from classic to seasonal fruit, and even some more exotic flavors like tequila.
Where to eat and where to sleep in Chapala
Ajijic is another town on the shores of the lake that you must visit. It is located just 10 minutes from Town Chapala. Its picturesque streets full of color, flavor, and life, are a magnet for locals and strangers. In 2020, Ajijic received the honor of “Pueblo Magico” from the Mexican Ministry of Tourism. This distinction was obtained for the city efforts in protecting and preserving its cultural wealth. As you could expact, Ajijic is also a very artistic town; With old houses lining the streets of the city center with colorful murals on the façades, and interiors serving as art galleries, souvenir shops, boutiques, and restaurants.
When it comes to restaurants, despite being a small town, Ajijic offers a wide variety of cuisines. Here, we can find restaurants of local cuisine and famous restaurants of international cuisine. The great gastronomic variety is due to the demand generated by thousands of U.S. retirees living in the region.
Continue your tour to Ajijic visiting the beautiful central square, admire the collection of wood carvings that adorn the plaza. If you are interested in art, visit the cultural center, which is located next to the square. In it, you can admire murals, paintings, and crafts made by local artists. End your day in Ajijic with a stroll along the boardwalk, from where a spectacular sunset over the lake is worthy of a postcard.
Learn more about Ajijic: Actiities, where to eat, where to sleep and more
Planning on visiting Chapala or Jalisco’s Pueblos Magicos? Renting a Car in Mexico can be the easiest and cheaper way to get there.Discover how to Rent a Car in Mexico at the best rate and free of scams.
Enjoy Jalisco Gastronomy
Visiting Guadalajara and its surroundings, just to enjoy its rich and varied typical cuisine, is a trip that is worth it. Here the gastronomic offer is immense. From elegant restaurants, owned by some of the most renowned chefs in the country, to regional cuisine places and street food stalls, there is something for every taste. Here we will focus on the most traditional regional dishes, which you must try on any visit to Jalisco.
Carne en su Jugo
“Carne en su Jugo”, literally “meat in its Juice”, is a relatively new dish as it was only just invented in 1958, but it has become one of the favorites of the people of Guadalajara. It’s very simple to prepare by mixing small steaks with bacon, tomatoes, green tomatoes, and chili peppers. Everything is cooked in the juices released by the same ingredients, resulting in a delicious dish.
The place par excellence to eat meat in its juices is Karnes Garibaldi, which has several branches in the city. If you visit them, do not forget to accompany your “Carne en su Jugo”, with some delicious refried beans with corn. Another thing that makes this restaurant famous is the speed of its service, on average, it takes 13 seconds to have your order ready. This fact has earned them recognition in the Guinness Book of Records as the fastest-serving restaurant in the world.
Looking for the perfect place to dine? Discover The Best 10 Restaurants in Guadalajara.
This is perhaps the most iconic dish of Guadalajara, which in recent years has become popular in the rest of the country. It is a sandwich made with “birote” (a savory bread which is a variation of the baguette) stuffed with “carnitas” (fried pork meat), bathed in a tomato sauce, and topped with deflated onion and hot sauce. In Guadalajara, it is considered the quintessential food to cure a hangover after a night out. You can find it in restaurants, especially those frequented by tourists, as well as in breakfast buffet bars. However, a self-respecting person from Guadalajara only consumes “tortas ahogadas” in establishments specializing in this dish, which luckily are many throughout the city. Amongst the best known are “Las Famosas,” “Tortas Toño”, “José El de la Bicicleta Drowned Cakes”, “Tortas Ahogadas el Tío Juan”, and of course “El Principe Heredero”
Read our complete guide to The best “Tortas Ahogadas” as well as other regional cuisine options that you should try
“Birria” is another of the classics from Guadalajara, a preparation of lamb, goat, or beef meat, marinated with a mixture of chilies and cooked underground for 5 hours. The result is a dish with an intense and complex flavor with a medium-thick broth and soft meat. Accompanied by hot sauce, chopped onion, lemon, and tortillas, it is a true delicacy, whose popularity has spread to other states of the republic. Amongst the places, we recommend trying this delicious dish are “El Chololo,” “El Pilón de Los Arrieros” and “Las 9 Esquinas”
Read our post about the best places to eat in Guadalajara
For those seeking a more international and contemporary type of cuisine, Guadalajara offers a wide variety of restaurants offering signature cuisines. They mix local and imported ingredients in dishes with influences from cuisines from around the world. Get to know our selection of the 10 best restaurants in Guadalajara and continue to fall in love with the culinary offer of the city.
Visit the Pueblos Magicos of Tapalpa and Mazamitla
After enjoying the regional cuisine, it’s time to continue your tour of Guadalajara and its surroundings.
There are nine Magical Towns in Jalisco (Pueblos Magicos), all with a special charm, great beauty, and hosts that will make you enjoy and feel at home. If you have enough time, they are all worth visiting. However, if you don’t have time to tour the state, there are two magical towns within a relatively short distance. We refer to Tapalpa and Mazamitla, which can be visited in a one-day excursion each. Visiting these towns is one of the things you should not miss on your visit to Guadalajara.
Mazamitla, the preferred Magical Town of the people of Guadalajara, is an old and beautiful mountain town, nestled in the mountains just 120 kilometers from Guadalajara. Upon arrival, you will notice the homogeneity of its constructions, white and red facades, and clay roofs, typical elements of rustic Mexican mountain architecture. Visit the main square, where the parish of San Cristobal stands out. This is a very particular construction since it mixes several architectural styles, one of them quite unexpected. If you look at the temple in question, you will notice certain elements that resemble a Chinese temple.
Continue touring the main square of Mazamitla, here you can enjoy an ice cream or some tasty esquites (boiled corn) with cream and cheese while resting on a bench. In the surrounding portals, you will find numerous shops that offer crafts, souvenirs, delicious typical sweets, as well as typical dairy products of the region, all good options to take as a gift.
Adding to the charm of the town, in Mazamitla, you can do a large number of ecotourism activities. Amongst the main activities are hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding. Amongst the most popular walks, you can do in the forest is the visit to the “El Salto” waterfall and the “Mirador de la Sierra del Tigre.” For those who simply want to kick back and relax, just being in the woods admiring the scenery and breathing in the pine-scented fresh, air is both energizing and relaxing.
If you have the opportunity to visit this site for more than one day, we recommend staying in a cabin. Which you can find with capacity for a couple, even for a whole family, and at quite affordable prices.
Another option for those who want to visit a picturesque magical mountain town is Tapalpa, one of the 9 Magical Towns of Jalisco. It is located 140 km away from Guadalajara at 2000 meters high. Given its proximity, it is ideal to visit for a weekend or even on a day trip.
It shares the rustic mountain architecture of other mountain towns, although with a unique charm. The beauty of Tapalpa is evident wherever you walk, its peaceful and narrow cobbled streets and old houses with red roofs, transport the visitor to other times.
Its central square with its kiosk in the center has the particularity of having two temples. The old temple, more than 350 years old, which today functions as a museum of sacred art and the temple currently in operation, consecrated to Santa Maria de Guadalupe.
Around the square, there are dozens of restaurants, craft shops, and some hotels. It is worth walking through its streets and walkways calmly without fear of getting lost in them. In this way, it is very likely that you will end up finding a perfect picturesque corner for a photo. If you walk down Luis Enrique Bracamontes street, you can visit the Casa de la Cultura, with a beautiful garden in the center and spaces that represent a home of yesteryear, in a mountain town. If you prefer not to walk, you can take a city tour on a bus, ATV, or on the back of a horse. In this way, you can also make better use of your time if you only visit Tapalpa for a few hours.
Las “piedrotas”, ball stones or also known as the valley of enigmas, is another of the great attractions of Tapalpa. These are monumental rock formations, of which their origin we do not know. Some say that they were placed there by extraterrestrial beings, the truth is that in some of them, you can see inscriptions made by pre-Hispanic civilizations.
If what you are looking for is more action, you can also find it in Tapalpa. Here, you can do zip-lining, rent ATVs, go hiking, mountain biking, and even take a tandem paragliding flight.
Get to know other attractions of Tapalpa, as well as our recommendations of what to do, what to eat and where to sleep.
Tour the Tequila Route
Tequila is the most representative drink in Mexico and one of the most famous in the world. This distillate has its origin in the area surrounding Tequila, the picturesque magical town from which the drink takes its name. Visiting Tequila and the tequila zone is a treat for the senses. Walking through the agave plantations, you can enjoy the agave landscape, which along with the old Tequila industrial facilities, were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Take a tour of a tequila hacienda to learn about the process of distillation and preparation of the drink. The best way to end the tour is with a tequila tasting. In addition to savoring the different varieties of this drink, you can pack your own bottle, mixing the varieties that you liked the most.
To continue pleasing senses, you can enjoy a good birria or other regional dishes in one of the many restaurants in the center of town. Continue your tour of the center, visiting a couple of beautiful old churches “El Templo de la Purísima”, and “La Capilla del Calvario”, the City Hall, and the Tequila Museum. End your afternoon in the Main Square, where you can buy one of the famous, refreshing, and delicious jarritos, made with a mixture of citrus fruits and of course, Tequila. This drink is served on a small clay jug called “jarritos” in Spanish, from whet it takes its name.
If you are a tequila lover, the tequila trail should be a priority on your list of things to do and see in Guadalajara. If you do not have enough time to do the whole route you can always take a quick day trip from Guadalajara to Tequila, read our article “Visiting Tequila from Guadalajara” and learn all your options to get to Tequila and our best recommendations for a unforgettable visit to this beautiful pueblo magico. Even if you are one of those few who do not like tequila, you will undoubtedly appreciate the culture and traditions around this ancient spirit drink.
Learn more about the Tequila Route, activities, where to eat, where to sleep and the best tequila haciendas to visit.
Planning on doing the Tequila Trail? Discover how to Rent a Car in Mexico at the lowest rate and avoid scams.
Experience a Soccer Match at the Stadium
For sports lovers, especially soccer, Guadalajara is home to two first-division teams. One of them, the Guadalajara Soccer Club, better known as the “Chivas”, is one of the most traditional and with the greatest fans in the country. If you’re in town for a weekend, you can’t miss the experience of attending one of their games at the modern Akron Stadium, formerly known as Omnilife Stadium. Going to a football game in Guadalajara is a show that everyone can enjoy because the atmosphere in the stadium is festive and familiar, even if you are not a huge fan, you will have a lot of fun. You will be able to shout “goooool” when a player scores, enjoy a beer paired with some snacks, and you will laugh at the ingenious yells that the fans launch at the opposing team and the referee.
Check out the schedule for Chivas games at Akron Stadium. If you are anti-chivas, might prefer to attend one of the “Atlas” Matches, the other first-division team in Guadalajara, which games are held at home in the emblematic Jalisco Stadium.
Do you prefer baseball to soccer, check out our article about Los Charros de Jalisco and the information on their matches
Go Shopping in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a city with many tourist attractions, but it is also an important industrial and commercial city and the second-largest city in Mexico. All of this makes Guadalajara an ideal city for shopping. With dozens of markets, shopping centers, street markets (tianguis), specialty shopping areas, you’re sure to find anything you’re looking for and more. From tequila, souvenirs, clothing, footwear, art, technology, food, handicrafts, jewelry to luxury goods, furniture, industrial supplies, and more.
If you are into fashion, in Guadalajara you can spend hours and days touring shopping centers, with stores and brands that are not present in all cities in the country. As for footwear, there is a shopping center dedicated exclusively to the sale of shoes, as well as areas in the center of the city, specializing in the sale of wholesale footwear and clothing.
Learn about the best shopping malls, street markets and markets in the city.
Attend a Mexican Wrestling Show
Wrestling is one of the sports with the greatest cultural identification in Mexico, and although it exists in other countries, our version of the sport has a special color and charm that will surprise everyone. Even if you’re not a fan of wrestling and would never have thought of attending a show, this is one of the most fun shows in town. In addition to the fighting and acrobatics, you’ll see in the ring, much of the entertainment is done by the attendees themselves, expressing their support or opposition to the fighters, in a very colloquial way to say the least. Surely if you go with the intention of having fun and having a good time, you will end up loving this experience. The performances are on Tuesdays (“glamour Tuesdays”) and on Sundays at the Arena Coliseo.
No matter how many times before you have visited Mexico, if you have not attended a wrestling show, you still have some basic things to learn about Mexican culture. Do not go home without experiencing one of our favorite things to do and see in Guadalajara.
Start the party from the road. Meet the tour in the only bar-bus that takes you to the wrestling arena.
Stroll through Chapultepec District
AChapultepec Avenue and its environs have become one of the city’s liveliest areas in recent years, with a certain bohemian, hip and trendy vibe. That has earned it to be considered by many as Guadalajara’s “Zona Rosa,” in reference to the neighborhood in Mexico City famous for its nightclubs. With a lot to do, see, eat and drink, the Chapultepec Area are the place to go when you are in search of fun.
Start your tour of the area along Chapultepec Avenue, where you can admire the permanent art exhibition in the shade of the trees. On Saturdays, you will find a small flea market, where books and crafts from the region are sold. You will also find street artists, playing their tunes or performing all sorts of arts, they will surely make your walk more pleasant. Having an ice cream sitting on one of the benches, watching the young people skate and the not so young walk, is a good way to kill time until it’s time to eat something.
Fortunately, in the area, there are a variety of dining options. The Chapultepec district is recognized by the people of Guadalajara as one of the best places to eat because it, along with the surrounding community, gathers some of the best restaurants in Guadalajara. From tacos, hamburgers, stakes, Mexican food, Italian food, and any other craving you might have, you’ll have it all in Chapultepec.
If you are in the mood for a drink, you will also find a large number of bars. During afternoons throughout the week, these places host large numbers of people of all ages who gather to celebrate something, or just relax after a long day of work. If you’re looking for a quieter place, Chapultepec is also a great place to enjoy reading a book or chatting with friends, over coffee or a delicious dessert.
Read our recommendations for restaurants, cafes and bars in Chapultepec District
Visit the Museums of Guadalajara
In a city with such a rich cultural heritage, visiting its museums should be at the top on your list of things to Do and See in Guadalajara.
After touring the center, strolling through Chapala, getting to know Mazamitla and Tapalpa and enjoying Jalisco cuisine, there is still much to do in Guadalajara. We believe that there is no better way to learn about a place’s history and culture than to wander its streets and visit its museums.
Fortunately, Guadalajara has a wide variety of museums, so you can spend hours admiring collections of great artistic and historical value.
Museum of the Cabañas Cultural Institute
In addition to the beauty of the building, work of the renowned architect Manuel Tolsá and the works of the muralist José Clemente Orozco, the Cabañas museum houses an important collection of popular art. The Roberto Montenegro collection stands out, made up of pottery objects, toys, fabrics, yarns, utensils, articles related to charrería (Mexican rodeo), masks, 19th-century paintings and ex-votos.
It is located next to the cathedral, in a beautiful 18th-century building, previously used as a seminary. The pieces exhibited in its fourteen rooms tell the history of the city and the origins of its inhabitants until the revolutionary movement. The museum also has a paleontological room where a mammoth skeleton stands out, while its archeology exhibition includes a reproduction of a shaft tomb. Other representative works of the museum are the New Spain pictorial collection of Villalpando and José Ibarra, as well as the mural of José Guadalupe Zuno.
Learn more about the Regional Museum and its exhibition
The Guadalajara Museum of Paleontology is adjacent to the Agua Azul Park. It shows the visitor the vestiges of prehistoric life in the area, especially in the nearby Chapala and Sayula basins. The immense part of the pieces that are exhibited here were collected and donated by the researcher Federico Solórzano.
The fossils date from the Miocene, Pliocene and Pleistocene epochs and among them are those of antelopes, saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, megatheria, birds, amphibians and the imposing 8-feet-high gomphothere, found in 2000 in Chapala
Museun of the City
Almost five hundred years of Guadalajara’s history are recounted in this museum, which is located in an 18th-century estate of great heritage value. In its six permanent rooms, through objects, documents and photographs, the urban, artistic, ethnographic, cultural and political evolution of this beautiful city is narrated.
Tour the Pueblo Magico of Tlaquepaque
For those who don’t know Guadalajara, it may seem strange to have a beautiful and traditional town in the middle of one of the most important metropolitan areas in the country. That is Tlaquepaque, the beautiful magical town, also known as “the potter’s village,” for its important artisan and pottery tradition. Tlaquepaque is one of those towns with all the charm of the province. A rich in culture, picturesque sights and a quiet, and at the same time festive atmosphere. Its beauty and charm have made it one of the obligatory stops on any visit to Guadalajara. Being also a place frequented by Tapatios who want to enjoy a calm afternoon or weekend.
There is a lot to do in Tlaquepaque, walk its streets, visit its craft workshops and its many art galleries, stroll through its squares, marvel at its temples, listen to mariachi music in its “cantinas” and enjoy the wide gastronomic offer. As you can see, Tlaquepaque has a lot to offer visitors of all ages. oh! And if you are one of those who enjoy shopping and bringing home a small souvenir of your travels, Tlaquepaque is the ideal place.
If you want to find out more about Tlaquepaque, and learn about its top attractions, read our “Top Ten Things to Do in Tlaquepaque” article. It will help you to plan your visit and fall in love with this beautiful Jalisco
Lee este artículo en Español: Qué hacer en Guadalajara. 10 principales atracciones.
Existe un sinfín de cosas que hacer en Guadalajara, incluso si viaja con niños. Conoce nuestras recomendaciones en nuestro artículo Guadalajara para Niños.