As the second-biggest city in Mexico, Guadalajara has a lot to offer anyone who makes the trip. Due to its size of over 5 million people, the city is a sprawling metropolis filled with endless things to do. A week in Guadalajara isn’t enough time to see it all, but this guide will highlight the best things to do in Guadalajara, the best day trips from Guadalajara, and general tips for planning your trip.
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The Best Things to Do in Guadalajara
Due to its size, Guadalajara is jam-packed with things to do. Guadalajara is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of Mexican culture, due to the fact that it is the home of tequila, mariachi, and the traditional sombrero! This list of the best things to do in Guadalajara is by no means exhaustive, but it will give you a good idea of can’t-miss experiences for during your trip.
1. Go on a Free Walking Tour
Guadalajara has a lot going on. There is so much history and beauty in this city, and there’s no better way to be immersed into it than with a walking tour! Camina GDL is a great company that offers free walking tours in the heart of Guadalajara. The tours meet every day of the week at 10:30am in the Plaza Liberacion. Our tour guide, Valeria, was fantastic and extremely knowledgeable.
I recommend going on a walking tour as early as possible when visiting Guadalajara, because you’ll learn about several cool things to do while on the tour. Additionally, Camina GDL offers excursions and events all over the city and region, and going on a walking tour is the best way to learn about what all they have to offer! Visit their website to ask any questions or book your tour.
2. Spend an Evening on the Avenida Chapultepec
The Avenida Chapultepec is one of the main strips of Guadalajara, and it’s a can’t miss spot – especially in the evening. The Avenida Chapultepec, or Chapu as the locals say, is a two way road divided by a central walkway with a lot of greenery and benches to hang out. Very often vendors will set up their stands to sell all kinds of goods, and people hang out here every hour of the day.
When the evening hits, however, is when this place really picks up. The Avenida Chapultepec is lined with great restaurants serving up every type of international cuisines as well as endless bars and craft breweries.
3. Attend an Atlas or Chivas Soccer Game
In Mexico, soccer is life. Well, futbol is, as far as they’re concerned! Guadalajara is one of the best places in Mexico to catch a soccer game (or football match) as they have two teams and both tend to be above average. On the north side of the city you can catch an Atlas game at Estadio Jalisco, or you can head out to the west side of the city to catch a Chivas games at the Estadio Akron. Attending a soccer game is a great way to experience a local event, as you’ll rarely see Mexican people more passionate than they are at a soccer game!
We went to see Atlas play against Monterrey, and it was a really cool experience.
That is why I can testify first hand that attending a soccer game is one of the best things to do in Guadalajara! Even though the stadium was at reduced capacity because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was still absolutely worth the time and money. Tickets and concessions are also very cheap by American standards, meaning that you don’t need to break the bank for this one, either!
We paid about $15 USD per ticket, and beers were two for $5. A very cheap, fun activity indeed!
4. Head to a Night of Lucha Libre – Mexican Wrestling
You know that Jack Black movie, Nacho Libre? Well, this is the real thing. Lucha Libre is a really cool cultural experience in certain cities, and Guadalajara is one of the best places to go for it. There are two wrestling nights per week; Tuesday and Sunday. While the experience is worth going to in any circumstance, it’s even better if you can go with locals who can teach you all about what’s going on! For this reason, I’d advise finding a tour group that is heading to the wrestling to make sure that you get the most out of your experience.
I should warn that this is not the most family-friendly event in Guadalajara. The evenings are filled with swearing, yelling, drinking, and vulgarity, and that is what gives it its charm! Unlike the WWE, the whole thing is actually real and is not pre-scripted. While definitely a colorful event, it is absolutely one of the best things to do in Guadalajara.
5. Drink a Cazuela and Explore in Tlaquepaque
Tlaquepaque is a Pueblo Magico that has been absorbed by the sprawling metropolis of Guadalajara. While it has now been pulled into the metropolis, it still retains its quaint, quiet atmosphere that gives it its fame. Tlaquepaque is one of the most adorable places we’ve been to in all of Mexico, and it deserves at least an evening of your time while in Guadalajara.
There are a few things that we recommend you check out in Tlaquepaque. Firstly, head to El Parian, the largest cantina of its kind in the world! This is an incredible place to catch some Mariachi music and grab a cazuela, which is a local tequila-based drink. Then I’d advise wandering the streets until you get to Calle Independencia, which is an absolutely adorable place lined with great restaurants and shops. Whether you’re looking to shop or not, odds are you’ll be drawn into at least one of the boutiques!
5. Hang Out in the Expiatorio Park at Night
The Templo Expiatorio is an absolutely beautiful church located in the Colonia Americana, and apparently even celebrities need to get on a waiting list to get married there. I actually believe that, too, because on the Saturday that we were there we saw three weddings, including on starting at 7:00pm. Crazy, right?
There’s more to this area than just a beautiful church, though! The park in front of the Templo Expiatorio is really alive at night, and especially on the weekends. For great food, entertainment, and drinks, you should head here at night if you have the chance. It’s pretty close to the Avenida Chapultepec, so you can head out there after grabbing a snack here. We saw a really talented guy juggling fire on a tightrope, and there are so many more crazy possibilities. Totally worth checking out.
The Best Day Trips from Guadalajara
While the city limits alone contain enough to fill up a week in Guadalajara, there are some really enticing day trips that you need to at least consider making! The first two of these places are much closer than the third, but all of them are worth a visit if you’re able to find the time! Guadalajara is really well located, and I advise taking advantage of it. One place that won’t make the cut on this list because it’s simply too far is Puerto Vallarta, but I absolutely recommend heading there if you have a few days to spare!
1. Go to Tequila to Visit Distilleries
In case you didn’t know, there actually is a town named Tequila, and yes, there is a lot of tequila there. Visiting Tequila is by far the best day trip from Guadalajara, whether you’re looking to party or sip on fine tequila. We weren’t sure what to expect, and when we got off the bus in Tequila we were definitely shocked by the sheer amount of tequila in this town. It’s EVERYWHERE. Tequila is one of my favorite Pueblos Magicos in all of Mexico, honestly. For more information, be sure to read my post on visiting Tequila as a day trip from Guadalajara. Tequila can be reached in about an hour and a half from downtown Guadalajara.
Also, in case you’ve never been partying in Mexico before, it might be good to have a little understanding of what some of the most common alcoholic drinks in Mexico are. If you’re wondering about things like Palomas and Micheladas, I’ve got you covered in my post on the best alcoholic drinks in Mexico.
2. Lake Chapala
If you’re not in a party mood or aren’t a big fan of tequila, you should consider heading to Lake Chapala. Lake Chapala is the biggest lake in Mexico, and it is a really calm, relaxing place to spend a day! In fact, the Chapala area has one of the largest communities of American and Canadian expats in all of Mexico. The boardwalk areas in the towns around the lake are really fun and filled with food and vendors, making a great evening activity.
We recommend visiting either the town of Chapala or Ajijic, as those are the two most-traveled and tourist-friendly towns on the Guadalajara side of the lake. Both of them are a ton of fun, and you’ll see pretty quickly why people love to retire here. If you visit Ajijic and are looking for a sweet snack, we recommend checking out Donas Donuts Ajijic, located on the east edge of the town. They have some of the best donuts we’ve ever had in Mexico.
Morelia is the furthest and biggest of all of the day trips on this list, making it the least opportune one for sure. However, it is just such a beautiful and charming city that it deserves to be on this list. Morelia is a stunning colonial city, and is best recognized for its beautiful pink cathedral. Located about 3 hours away from Guadalajara in the state of Michoacan, Morelia is definitely a long haul, but once you get there you’ll feel like it was absolutely worth it.
Walking through the streets of Morelia feels like Europe in just about every way, and I highly recommend making the trip if you have the time. There are direct buses heading to Morelia from Guadalajara, and you can also opt to take a BlaBlaCar which will get you there even faster. If you’ve never used BlaBlaCar and want to learn more, check out my Beginner’s Guide to BlaBlaCar.
How to Get to Guadalajara
If you’re planning to get to Guadalajara from another country, you really only have one airport option, which is Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport (GDL). This is the only international airport in the area, and you don’t have another choice. The good news is that this is one of the best connected airports in all of Mexico, and there are plenty of great flight options coming from the United States, Mexico, and Central America. While you don’t have any other airport options, that doesn’t mean you need to be stuck paying high airfare! To find out how to save hundreds of dollars on your flights, check out my guide to finding cheap flights.
How to Get From The Airport to The Center of Guadalajara
From the airport to the center of Guadalajara you have three options; you can either take a taxi, a bus, or an Uber or Didi. Like I say in just about every Mexico travel guide, don’t take a taxi unless you absolutely must. They’re usually more expensive and less reliable than ridesharing apps like Uber, plus there is no GPS tracking feature like there is on Uber. I’d say that taking a taxi is your last resort option.
How to Get Around Guadalajara
SUBWAY | BUS | UBER | DIDI
Getting around Guadalajara is really, really easy. Guadalajara is one of the few Mexican cities that has a subway system, and the 3 lines of the subway are a cheap and effective way to get between certain places in the city. It is not a perfect system and can be inconvenient due to the lack of lines and stations, but it can be a good option depending on your origin and destination.
Each subway ride costs $9.50MX ($0.50USD) just like the bus. Tickets can be bought at any station in cash.
The bus network is the best connected public transportation system in Guadalajara, and it can get you just about anywhere you want to go. Whether it is urban buses to get you around the city or buses that are designed to take you a bit further out to places like Chapala and Tequila, the bus network is definitely expansive and cheap. If you’re looking for the cheapest possible way to get around, the bus is the best way.
While we love public transportation and it tends to be our go-to, I actually have a different recommendation in Guadalajara – Uber and Didi. While for money reasons I almost never recommend ridesharing apps over public transportation, Uber and Didi are just so cheap in Mexico that you’re getting private transportation for just a fraction more. You might pay $3USD for a 20 minute ride, for example. This was our go-to in Guadalajara, as it is just too convenient.
I never recommend renting a car in Mexico because of sometimes poor driving conditions and corrupt police. Neither of these factors make for a fun trip, and for this reason I tend to stick to other means of transportation. However, if you do plan to rent a car despite my warnings, I implore you to at least check out my tips for driving in Mexico.
Is Guadalajara Safe to Visit?
Many travelers are weary about safety in Mexico. This is a fair concern, as the country has a bad reputation for gang violence in certain areas. Guadalajara is a major city, and crime rates in major cities are usually higher than crime rates in rural areas, regardless of what country you are in. While this is true, we personally never felt in danger while visiting Guadalajara.
As with everywhere, it is crucial that you take general precautions to stay out of trouble. Don’t carry large amounts of money, keep your valuables concealed, don’t wander out late at night if you aren’t familiar with where you are going, and stay out of dangerous areas as much as possible. On top of that, never engage in any illegal activity in Mexico, as many crimes (like drug consumption, for example) expose you to both the justice system and the cartels.
Is Guadalajara Worth Visiting?
As Mexico’s cultural capital and its second biggest city, Guadalajara is loaded with things to do. From tequila and mariachi to outstanding museums and architecture, There are a lot of draws to Jalisco’s capital. With that being said, Mexico is packed with incredible destinations, and it can often be hard to decide which ones to visit.
For example, many people wonder: should you visit Guadalajara or Mexico City? Personally, I think that there are incredible draws to both, and you can’t go wrong with either one. However, if I’m being honest, I am partial to Mexico City over Guadalajara. While Guadalajara is absolutely worth visiting, I would recommend exploring Mexico City first. If you have already been to Mexico City, Guadalajara is a must-visit.
That’s all we have for you! If you’re planning a trip to Guadalajara, let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Also, if you have any other recommendations for Guadalajara or Jalisco comment them below!