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Guadalajara Jalisco: Top Things to Do, Eat, and See

  • Joel CZ 
  • 22 min read
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Welcome to Guadalajara Jalisco! I want you to enjoy your visit to my hometown by sharing this complete travel guide and making things easier on your next trip.

However, because the city is so big and rich in culture and traditions, it would be impossible to mention all the attractions that “The Pearl of the West” offers.

Therefore, I will include only the very best for you!

For starters, Guadalajara has one of Mexico’s most beautiful Historical Centers. Its streets and buildings tell almost 500 years of history. Guadalajara’s population is just over 8 million.

TOP things to see in Guadalajara Jalisco

Among the things to do and see in Guadalajara, visiting the historic center is a must.

The city’s first square is an architectural jewel that amazes both locals and visitors.

It gracefully combines baroque, neo-classical, art nouveau, neo-gothic, and contemporary styles.

During your tour of downtown, don’t miss the Cathedral, the Cabañas Hospice, the Degollado Theater, the Government Palace, the Rotunda of Illustrious Men, and the Iberoamerican Library.

If you like museums, options include the Regional Museum of Guadalajara, the City Museum, the Museum of Paleontology, the Army and Air Force Museum, and the Museum of the Arts.

Jalisco’s Government Palace

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Jalisco’s Government Palace – Source: Aurora Angeles / Shutterstock.com

The wonders of the Historic Center do not end with the Cathedral and the “Cruz de Plazas”.

On the contrary, they are only a sample of the many treasures there.

The State Government Palace is an excellent example of this; although the building has great architectural merit, which can be seen from a distance, there is an unexpected treasure inside.

A pair of murals by the renowned Jalisco artist José Clemente Orozco.

One of Orozco’s most acclaimed works is located on the main staircase and portrays the struggle for independence, with Hidalgo in the center.

The second mural is located in the old session hall of the legislative power. In it, Hidalgo is portrayed, accompanied by Carranza, Juarez, and Morelos.

Degollado Theater: Spectacular!

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Source: Diego Grandi / shutterstock.com

The Degollado Theater is another of the stellar buildings of the Historic Center.

One of the most beautiful theaters in the country. It amazes everyone who visits it.

Its neo-classical design was submitted to a competition, and the winner was the architect Jacobo Gálvez.

Its construction began in 1855, and in 1866 it was inaugurated. Today it is the most important performing arts venue in the western part of the country and is home to the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra.

Visit the Cathedral of Guadalajara Jalisco

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Source: posztos / Shutterstock.com

Guadalajara’s Metropolitan Cathedral is an example of the mixture of architectural styles that characterizes many downtown buildings.

The Cathedral amalgamates a baroque façade of circular pediment with neo-Gothic towers, which together form one of the most characteristic profiles of the urban skyline of Guadalajara Jalisco.

However, the Cathedral is much more than a beautiful building. Its influence on a very devout society has shaped the city’s history.

You may want to read: Guadalajara Airport Guide, Everything You Should Know

The Cathedral is also the subject of numerous fascinating legends; although some are based on historical events, all have a touch of fantasy that makes them so attractive.

Continue your downtown tour by visiting the four squares located around the Cathedral that together form a “Cross of Squares.”

This group of public spaces was built in the ’50s of the 20th century.

For its construction, it was necessary to demolish hundreds of buildings in the space now occupied by the Plaza de la Liberación, the Plaza Guadalajara, and the Plaza de la Rotonda de Los Jaliciences Ilustres.

These three plazas would be added to the already existing Plaza de Armas to create a large-scale public recreational space formerly unknown in the city.

Today the “Cruz de Plazas” is an essential part of downtown Guadalajara.

From there, you can have the best views of the Cathedral and other outstanding buildings, such as the State Government Palace and the Guadalajara City Hall.

Cabañas Hospice

Known by the people of Guadalajara as “Hospicio Cabañas” since it was an asylum for many years, the Cabañas Cultural Institute is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of the historic center of Guadalajara.

It is a neoclassical-style building with a simple design, from which its beautiful central dome stands out.

The Cabañas harmoniously combines closed and open spaces with 106 rooms, 78 corridors, two chapels, and 23 symmetrically aligned interior patios.

The building, the masterpiece of noted architect Manuel Tolsá, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997.

But the appeal of the Cabañas Cultural Institute goes beyond the original architectural design.

In the 1930s, the Jalisco muralist José Clemente Orozco was invited to decorate its walls and ceilings.

The artist painted 53 murals in them, including his most important works, among which stands out “El Hombre en Llamas” in the dome.

Visit Lake Chapala

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Source: Bob Hilscher / Shutterstock.com

Visiting lake Chapala should be on any list of things to do in Guadalajara.

This lake is the largest in Mexico with its 1112 Km², located 35 minutes from Guadalajara, and has always been a favorite resting place for the locals and foreign retirees.

Its excellent year-round climate, beautiful views, and tranquil pace of life have made this area an important retirement destination.

The Chapala lakeshore is particularly popular with retirees from the United States and Canada, so it is common to see English-language advertisements on the streets.

Along the lakeshore are many picturesque villages, the town of Chapala being the largest of them all.

This is an excellent place to start your visit. Walk along the boardwalk until you reach the viewpoint “Rinconcito del Amor,” where there is a beautiful lighthouse and an incredible view of the lake, an excellent place for a souvenir photo.

On this site, you can also hire a boat ride, depending on the type of tour, and you will have the option to visit Mezcala Island and the remains of a fort from the Cristero era.

Before heading out to visit the other towns along the Chapala riverbank, be sure to try the delicious “garrafa” ice cream on the Malecon.

There are dozens of flavors, from traditional, seasonal, and a little more exotic, such as Tequila.

Discover Ajijic

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Source: FERNANDO MACIAS ROMO / Shutterstock.com

Ajijic is another famous and picturesque town on the shores of the lake that you must visit, only 10 minutes from Chapala.

Its picturesque streets full of color, flavor, and life are a magnet for locals and tourists, which has earned it to be named Magical Town in 2020.

Ajijic is also very artistic; it is common to find old houses whose facades have been adorned with colorful murals and whose interiors function as art galleries, souvenir stores, boutiques, and restaurants along the downtown streets.

Speaking of restaurants, despite Ajijic being a small town, it has a wide and varied culinary offer.

Here you can find both regional food centers and renowned international cuisine restaurants.

The offer obeys the demand generated by the thousands of North American retirees that live in the area.

Continue your tour to Ajijic, visit the beautiful central square, and admire the collection of wood carvings.

If you are interested in art, you can see the cultural center located next to the square.

There you can admire murals, paintings, and handicrafts made by local artists.

End your day in Ajijic, strolling along the boardwalk and watching the spectacular sunsets over the lake, worthy of a postcard.

Guadalajara Jalisco and its rich gastronomy

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“Torta Ahogada” – Source: Benjamin Lopez G / shutterstock.com

Visiting Guadalajara and its surroundings to enjoy its rich and varied gastronomy is a worthwhile trip.

The gastronomic offer is immense, from elegant restaurants of the most renowned chefs in the country to regional cuisine places or street food stalls, where you can enjoy tacos or even sushi.

Here I will focus on the most traditional regional dishes, which you must try on any visit to Jalisco. Take note!

Carne en su Jugo (meat in its juice)

This is a dish that, despite being relatively new, has become one of the locals’ favorites since it was only invented in 1958.

Its preparation is very simple, consisting of a mixture of steak in small pieces with bacon, tomatoes, green tomatillo, and ground chiles.

Everything is left to cook in the juice released by the ingredients, resulting in a delicious dish.

The place par excellence to eat carne en su jugo in Guadalajara Jalisco is Karnes Garibaldi, which has several branches in the city.

If you visit them, be sure to accompany your meat in its juice 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 has earned them the Guinness record as the restaurant with the fastest service in the world.

Torta Ahogada

This is undoubtedly the most iconic dish in Guadalajara, which has become popular in the rest of the country in recent years.

The torta ahogada (drowned sandwich) is made with birote (a salty roll typical of the region) stuffed with carnitas, bathed in a tomato sauce, and accompanied by pickled onion and spicy sauce.

In Guadalajara, it is considered the food par excellence to cure hangovers after a night of partying. You can find it in restaurants, especially those frequented by tourists, as well as street food stalls.

However, the residents and connoisseurs only eat tortas ahogadas in establishments that specialize in this dish, which, fortunately, there are many throughout the city.

Among the best known are:

  • Las Famosas
  • Tortas Toño
  • Tortas Ahogadas José El de la Bicicleta
  • Tortas ahogadas El Tío Juan
  • Tortas ahogadas el Príncipe Heredero

Birria

Birria is another big classic, a preparation based on lamb, goat, or beef meat, marinated with a mixture of chiles and cooked underground for 5 hours.

The result is a dish of an intense and complex flavor with a medium-thick broth and tender meat.

Accompanied by spicy sauce, chopped onion, lemon, and tortillas, it is a true delicacy whose popularity has expanded to other states of Mexico.

Among the places we recommend to try this delicious dish are “El Chololo,” “El Pilón de Los Arrieros,” and “Las 9 Esquinas”.

Guadalajara offers a wide variety of signature restaurants for those looking for a more international and contemporary type of cuisine.

They mix local and imported ingredients in dishes influenced by cuisines worldwide.

Visit the Magical Towns of Tapalpa and Mazamitla

After delighting yourself with the regional cuisine, it’s time to continue your tour of Guadalajara Jalisco and its surroundings.

There are nine Magical Towns in Jalisco, all with a unique charm, great beauty, and hosts that will make you enjoy and feel at home.

If you have enough time, it is worth visiting them all. However, if you don’t have the time to tour the state, there are two magical towns within a relatively short distance.

I refer to Tapalpa and Mazamitla, which can be visited in a day trip each. Without a doubt, visiting these towns is one of the things you should not miss during your visit to Guadalajara.

Let’s take a closer look at them:

Mazamitla, Jalisco

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Source: Foto Para ti / shutterstock.com

Mazamitla is an ancient, beautiful mountain town nestled in the Sierra, just 120 km from Guadalajara.

Upon arrival, you will notice the homogeneity of its buildings, white facades with red and mud roofs, and typical elements of rustic Mexican mountain architecture.

Visit the main square, where the parish church of San Cristobal stands out. You will notice certain elements that resemble a Chinese temple if you observe.

This is a very particular construction since it mixes several architectural styles, one of them entirely unexpected.

While strolling through the main square of Mazamitla, you can enjoy some artisan sorbets and ice cream or esquites with cream and cheese while resting on a bench.

If you have the opportunity to visit this site for more than a day, I recommend staying in a cabin. You can find cabins that can accommodate from a couple to a whole family at very affordable prices.

In the surrounding portals, you will find numerous stores that offer handicrafts, souvenirs, typical delicious sweets, and dairy products typical of the region, all good options to take as a gift.

In addition to the town’s charm, in Mazamitla, you can enjoy a significant number of eco-tourism activities. Among the main activities are hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

Also, one of the most popular hikes is to venture into the forest to visit the iconic waterfall “El Salto” and the “Mirador de la Sierra del Tigre.”

For those who want to rest and relax, just being in the forest, admiring the scenery, and breathing pure pine-scented air, is energizing and relaxing at the same time.

Tapalpa, Jalisco

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Source: Lorenza Ochoa / Shutterstock.com

Another option for those who wish to visit a picturesque, magical mountain town is Tapalpa, one of the 9 Magical Towns of Jalisco.

It is located 140 km from Guadalajara at an altitude of 2000 meters above sea level. It is ideal for a weekend visit or even a day trip, given its proximity.

It shares the rustic mountain architecture of other mountain towns but with a unique charm.

The beauty of Tapalpa is evident wherever you walk; its peaceful and narrow cobblestone streets and old houses with red roofs transport visitors to ancient times.

The main square, with its kiosk in the center, has the particularity of having two temples.

Over 350 years old, the old temple, which today functions as a museum of sacred art and the temple currently in operation, is dedicated to Santa Maria de Guadalupe.

Around the square, there are dozens of restaurants, craft stores, and some hotels. It is worthwhile to stroll through its streets and walkways without fear of getting lost in them.

This way, you will most likely find a picturesque corner perfect for a photo. Walk along Luis Enrique Bracamontes Street.

You can visit the Casa de la Cultura, with a beautiful garden in the center and spaces representing a yesteryear home in a mountain village.

If you prefer not to walk, you can tour the town on one of the tourist buses. This way, you can make better use of your time if you only visit Tapalpa for a few hours.

The “Big Stones” of Tapalpa

The piedrotas (big stones) are ball stones – also known as the valley of the enigmas which make another of Tapalpa’s great attractions.

These are monumental rock formations whose origin is unknown. 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 you are looking for more action, you can also find it in Tapalpa. Here you can go zip-lining, rent ATVs, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking, and even take a tandem paragliding flight.

Travel the Tequila Route

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The Jose Cuervo Express – Source: T photography / shutterstock.com

Tequila is Mexico’s most representative drink and one of the most famous in the world.

This distillate originates in the area surrounding Tequila Jalisco, the picturesque, magical town from which the drink takes its name.

Visiting the town and the Tequila production areas is a treat for all the senses.

Strolling through the agave plantations, you can enjoy the “blue” landscape, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with the old industrial facilities of Tequila.

Take a hacienda tour to learn about Tequila’s distillation and production process. The best way to end the day is with a tasting!

In addition to tasting the different varieties of this drink, you will be able to bottle your own mix, with the varieties you like the most.

To continue indulging your taste buds, you can enjoy a good birria or other regional dishes in one of the many restaurants in the center of town.

Continue your tour downtown, visiting the Templo de la Purísima, the Capilla del Calvario, the Palacio Municipal, and the Tequila Museum.

End your afternoon at the Main Square, where you can buy one of the famous, refreshing, and delicious Cantarito drink, made with a mixture of citrus and, of course, Tequila.

Experience a live soccer game

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Chivas Stadium “Akron” – Source: ehudson / shutterstock.com

Guadalajara Jalisco is home to two first-division teams for sports lovers (Atlas and Chivas), especially soccer fans.

Club Guadalajara, better known as the Chivas, is one of the country’s most traditional and popular teams.

If you’re in town for a weekend, you can’t miss the experience of attending one of their games at the modern Estadio Akron, formerly known as Estadio Omnilife.

When attending public events, always check for COVID restriction updates.

Fortunately, this is a show that everyone can enjoy, as the atmosphere in the stadium is festive and family-oriented.

Even if you are not a big fan, I assure you that you will have a great time.

You will be able to shout the goals, enjoy a beer with a snack and laugh at the witty shouts that the fans throw at the opposing team and referee.

Check the schedule for the Chivas games at the Akron stadium. However, if you’re anti-Chivas, you’ll probably prefer to attend one of the Atlas games, which play their home games at the iconic Estadio Jalisco.

Go Shopping in Guadalajara Jalisco

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“Andares” shopping and fashion mall – Source: Lorenza Ochoa / Shutterstock.com

As you’ve seen so far, Guadalajara is not only a city with many tourist attractions but also an important industrial and commercial city, besides being the second-largest city in Mexico.

All this makes Guadalajara an ideal city for shopping. With dozens of markets and fashion shopping malls, you are sure to find whatever you are looking for and much more.

If your thing is to dress fashionably, in Guadalajara, you can spend hours and days touring shopping malls with stores and brands that are not present in every city in the country.

As for footwear, there is a mall dedicated exclusively to selling shoes (the Galerias del Calzado) and areas in the city’s center specializing in wholesale clothing.

Live the Lucha Libre experience

Lucha Libre is one of the sports most identified with Mexican culture.

Although it is also practiced in other countries, our version of this sport has a colorful and special charm that amazes everyone.

Even if you are not a wrestling fan and would never have considered attending a wrestling match, you should know that this is one of the most fun shows in town.

In addition to the wrestling and acrobatics that you will see in the ring, a good part of the show is done by the attendees themselves, who express their support or opposition to the wrestlers, in a very flowery way, to say the least.

Surely if you go with the spirit of having fun and having a good time, you will enjoy this experience very much.

Shows are on Tuesdays (“Glamour Tuesdays”) and Sundays at the Arena Coliseo.

Strolling around Zona Chapultepec

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Source: NickyRedl / Shutterstock.com

Chapultepec Avenue and its surroundings have become one of the city’s liveliest areas, with a certain bohemian, hipster, and trendy air in recent years.

This has earned it to be considered by many as the Zona Rosa tapatía. The place where you can go for a walk, eat and have fun.

Start your visit to the area by walking along Chapultepec Avenue, where you can appreciate the art exhibits on display under the shade of trees.

On Saturdays, you will find a small flea market where books and handicrafts from the region are sold.

You will also find strolling artists that will make your walk more live with their music or performances.

You will also find many bars if you are in the mood for a drink.

Having an ice cream while sitting on one of the benches, watching the youngsters skate, and the not-so-young walk is a good way to pass the time until lunchtime (or dinner).

Fortunately, the dining options in the area are wide and varied.

The Chapultepec Zone is recognized among the people of Guadalajara Jalisco as one of the places with the best gastronomic offer, as it concentrates along with the surrounding neighborhoods, some of the best restaurants in Guadalajara.

You can find it in tacos, hamburgers, steaks, Mexican cuisine, Italian, and any other craving you may have in Chapultepec.

During the evenings throughout the week, these places receive many people of all ages who gather to celebrate something or just to relax after a day’s work.

Chapultepec is also the place to enjoy a chat with friends, accompanied by a coffee and a delicious dessert if you’re looking for something quieter.

Guadalajara Jalisco Museums

After touring downtown, strolling through Chapala, visiting Mazamitla and Tapalpa, and enjoying the gastronomy of Jalisco, there is still plenty to do.

I believe there is no better way to get to know the history and culture of a place than walking its streets and visiting its museums.

Fortunately, the museums in Guadalajara are vast and rich, so you can spend hours enjoying collections of great artistic and historical value.

Museum of the Cabañas Cultural Institute

In addition to the beauty of the building, the 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 collection of Roberto Montenegro, composed of pottery, toys, textiles, yarns, utensils, articles related to the charrería, masks, 19th-century paintings, and ex-votos, stands out.

Regional Museum of Guadalajara

It is located next to the Cathedral, in a beautiful building of the XVIII century, previously used as a seminary.

The pieces exhibited in its fourteen rooms tell the history of the city and the origins of its inhabitants up to the revolutionary movement. 

The museum also has a paleontological room with a mammoth skeleton, while its archeology exhibit includes a reproduction of a shooting tomb.

Other representative works of the museum are the Novo-Hispanic pictorial collection of Villalpando and José Ibarra and the mural of José Guadalupe Zuno.

Museum of Paleontology

Located next to Agua Azul Park is the Paleontology Museum of Guadalajara.

It shows the visitor the vestiges of the prehistoric life of the area, especially in the nearby basins of Chapala and Sayula.

The immense part of the pieces exhibited here was collected and donated by the researcher Federico Solórzano.

The fossils date from the Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene epochs.

Among them are those of antelopes, saber-toothed tigers, mammoths, megatheres, birds, amphibians, and the imposing 2.5-meter high gonfotherium, found in the year 2000 in Chapala.

City Museum

Almost five hundred years of Guadalajara’s history are recounted in this museum, which is located in an 18th-century estate of great patrimonial value.

This beautiful city’s urban, artistic, ethnographic, cultural, and political evolution is narrated in its six permanent rooms through objects, documents, and photographs.

Tour the Magical Town of Tlaquepaque within Guadalajara Jalisco

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Source: eskystudio / Shutterstock.com

For those who don’t know Guadalajara, it may seem strange that a beautiful little town may be nestled in the middle of one of the most significant metropolitan areas of the country.

I am talking about Tlaquepaque, the beautiful, Magical Town known as “the Pottery Village” because of its important handicraft and pottery tradition.

Tlaquepaque is one of those towns with all the flair of the province: rich in culture, picturesque, quiet, and at the same time, festive.

Its beauty and charm have made it one of the must-see stops on any visit to Guadalajara Jalisco, and it is also a place frequented by residents.

Stroll through its streets, visit craft workshops and its many art galleries and plazas, marvel at the temples, listen to Mariachi music in the cantinas and enjoy the wide gastronomic offer.

As you can see, Tlaquepaque and Guadalajara have a lot to offer visitors of all ages.

Oh, and if you are one of those who enjoy shopping and always carry a souvenir of your trips, Tlaquepaque is the ideal place.

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