Guadalajara is a little off the tourist track but that doesn’t mean there is any shortage of cool things to do. This is an extensive list that I have curated over the course of years about great activities that everyone visiting Guadalajara should consider. Guadalajara highlights include restaurants, markets, tours, museums and local attractions.
Explore Guadalajara’s Centro Histórico
Guadalajara’s Centro Histórico needs to be at the top of your list of Things to do in Guadalajara. It is crazy to see so many different styles of architecture crammed together is such a small area. It is literally a time capsule that dates back to the 16th century founding and walks you up to the present day. There are dozens of Spanish, colonial era churches that need to be seen to be believed. This is where you are going to get your best pictures of Guadalajara. You need to see the old town before you can understand Guadalajara’s dichotomy of modern and traditional.
Visit the Hospicio Cabañas Museum
Designated an Unesco World Heritage site, this 19th century orphanage is part community center, part museum and part theater. The Jose Clemente Orozco murals, of one of Mexico’s big three muralists, tell the story of Mexico from conquest to industrialization. The English language guided tours of the murals are enthralling. There are a number of rotating expositions by local artists, the Guillermo del Toro movie theater screens all sorts of international genres of film, as well as an outdoor space that is used to stage ballet and theater productions (that incorporate the buildings architecture into the set design). Check the calendar to see what events are going on while you are in town.
Go Inside The Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral
The Guadalajara Metropolitan Cathedral is iconic. The bell towers are easily identifiable across the country and have been used to represent the city in all sorts of media. The original bell towers were damaged in an earthquake over a hundred years ago so new ones were built. The new bell towers were built with a neo-Gothic style that contrasts with the earlier construction but have become iconic anyway.
Take your hat off, keep your voice down, be respectful and make sure to step inside to appreciate this beautiful and famous cathedral.
See a Concert in the Teatro Degollado
The small but mighty Teatro Degollado is a 19th century theater that hosts some of the coolest concerts in Guadalajara. Walking in off of the street is like stepping back in time. It is an intimate venue that barely seats a thousand people. The filharmonic orchestra of Jalisco, opera and ballet are the most common events, along with performances from visiting musicians. Check out Ticket Master for upcoming shows and prices.
Things to do in Tlaquepaque
Downtown Tlaquepaque is what you think about when you imagine a picturesque, traditional Mexican village. Internationally renowned artists like Rodo Padilla and Sergio Bustamante have set up boutiques in beautifully renovated colonial mansions that line the cobblestone pedestrian streets. There is Instagram gold to be found everywhere.
There was a time when Tlaquepaque was a whole different city. Today there is no break in the urbanization between Zapopan, Guadalajara and Tlaquepaque. It is like 10 minutes east of downtown Guadalalajara but it is a world apart.
Make sure to get a drink in one of the numerous cantinas in the Parian and take in a folkloric show. The weekends are rocking when there is live music in the street and vendors selling traditional munchies.
Shopping For Traditional Folk Art In San Pedro Tlaquepaque
Tlaquepaque is famous for its artisans. They craft pottery (Tlaquepaque is Nahuatl for place where there’s clay), blown glass, leather works, carpentry and much more. Most of the workshops have been pushed to the outskirts and replaced by high end galleries. You can find traditional folk art, and particularly ceramics, from all across Mexico. I really enjoyed the ceramic museum and seeing examples of all the regional styles. The clay in Jalisco is a completely different color than the clay in Oaxaca.
Get A Drink In The Parián De Tlaquepaque
The Parián de Tlaquepaque is a collection of 17 different bars set in a 19th century building. The bars are set around a stage where there are mariachi and folkloric dance shows everyday. This is classic Mexico at its finest.
On Sundays huge swaths of the city are closed to cars and opened up for pedestrians, bikes, skateboards and all sorts of non-motorized forms of transportation. The Mi Bici program allows you to rent a bike and get an intimate view of the city while not having to worry about bad drivers. The bike rentals are cheap and you can pick them up and drop them off at numerous locations throughout the area. I recommend starting somewhere near the Glorieta Minerva roundabout and heading east down Av. Vallarta. Once you get to the city center walk the bikes around the main cathedral, the Plaza Tapatio, the Degollado Theater to the Instituto Cultural Cabañas and head back up by the San Juan de Dios market.
Nighttime Bike Ride: Paseo Ciclista Nocturno
Another spectacular thing to do in Guadalajara is to take a nighttime bike tour (Paseo Ciclista Nocturno). This is a very well organized and very large bicycle group that meets every Wednesday (weather permitting). The pace of the bike ride is mellow with police escorts shutting down major intersections for the cyclists. A new path is taken every week but it has been going on for so long I am surf they repeat some favorites. The group meets at the intersection of Av. Mexico and Av. Chapultepec a little before 10pm. I shot this photo from my apartment in the Torre Minerva while a particularly large group was coming through. This is a super fun bike ride with cool people and a great vibe.
Jalisco is the heart of tequila country and if you are interested in learning about the history and culture of agave based spirits you should schedule a tasting at Mezonte. There are around 40 different classes of agaves used to make distilled spirits all across Mexico and Tequila just happens to be a class of mezcal that uses the Weber blue agave (agave tequilana). Mezonte will give you a chance to try the whole spectrum of agaves while teaching you the cultural significance of the Agave plant to the people of Mexico. You are more than welcome to stop by and have a drink but the two hour tasting is really the way to go.
Go shopping for Tlaquepaque Folk Art
Downtown Tlaquepaque is what you think about when you imagine a picturesque, traditional Mexican village. Many of the massive 19th century estates have been converted into luxury restaurants and galleries, and the downtown is very pedestrian friendly. The area is famous for their artisans that make pottery (Tlaquepaque is Nahuatl for place where there’s clay), blown glass, leather works, carpentry and much more. Most of the workshops have been pushed to the outskirts and replaced by high end galleries. Make sure to get a drink in one of the 19 cantinas in the Parian and take in a folkloric show. The weekends are rocking when there is live music in the street and vendors selling traditional munchies.
Sporting Things to do in Guadalajara
Mexico is a one sport country: there is futbol and everything else. That everything else can be pretty damn fun too. The baseball stadium is small but very nice, Jalisco style rodeo helps define Mexico abroad and there is even talk of American football coming to town. While you may know the sports, watching them in Mexico is a whole new experience.
The Pan American Games were held in Guadalajara in 2012 and the city inherited a lot of infrastructure. The baseball stadium is small but that makes the experience more intimate. There are tennis tournaments, swimming events, rodeo and so much to see. Check the calendars to see who is playing what while you are in town.
See A Soccer Game in Estadio Jalisco
The Estadio Jalisco is an old, historic and some would say sacred place. Built in 1960, it’s the third largest stadium in Mexico and has hosted world cup and Olympic matches. The stadium is in a residential neighborhood where the neighbors rent out their parking spaces and sell tacos. The food outside the stadium is excellent and many of the vendors have been to every game for decades.
First division Atlas and second division Leones Negros share the stadium. Chivas also played here until 2010 when they finished their new stadium on the other side of town. Even diehard Chivas fans will admit that the Estadio Jalisco is a better overall experience even though the Stadium is antiquated.
Watch Chivas Play in Estadio Akron
Honestly, the new Chivas stadium feels a little sterile after visiting the old Estadio Jalisco. Everything is new and comfortable but the food is terrible. It feels corporate and cold. Chivas Football Club is one of Mexico’s top teams but the experience leaves a lot to be desired.
Catch a Charros Baseball Game
The Guadalajara Charros play in Liga del Pacífico along with mazatlán and Culiacán. In 2019 they won their first championship. The stadium was built for the 2012 Pan-American games and is really enjoyable. The level of play may not be on par with the MLB but the atmosphere is awesome. The smaller stadium gives you a close-up vantage point and the fan base feels well-to-do.
Lorena Ochoa Invitational LPGA
While nothing has been confirmed, golf leagend Lorena Ochoa is working to bring back the LPGA to her hometown of Guadalajara. She is working with the governor of Jalisco and local businesses to find the sponsorship money required to bring professional golf back to Jalisco. There are a number of excellent courses in Jalisco however the greens fees are rather steep.
Bullfights in the Plaza de Toros Nuevo Progreso
It is not surprising that this brutal activity is a thing in Guadalajara. Given the amount of immigration from Spain to Mexico during the Spanish civil war it was bound to happen. The professional corridas take place on Sundays at 4pm in Spring and Fall. The atmosphere outside the plaza is excellent and the food is world class. Oxtail stew, liver and onion tacos are a couple of my favorite dishes. Bring a bottle of wine and buy a Spanish style wine bladder to bring it into the plaza. Just be prepared to watch six animals die.
Artsy Things to do in Guadalajara
Guadalajara is a very cultural city. I think the combination of history, disposable income and good universities has blessed Guadalajara with a lot of art. There are tons of galleries with rotating exhibits but the murals will always be available. Jose Clemente Orozco left his best work in Guadalajara and you should see at least a couple of his pieces.
Find the best Jose Clemente Orozco Murals in Guadalajara
Along with Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco is one of the three great Mexican muralists. Born an hour south of Guadalajara in the town of Ciudad Guzman (AKA Zapotlan El Grande), his family spent part of his youth in Guadalajara. Orozco would later move back to paint what are considered his masterpieces in the Hospicio Cabañas. The Orozco murals are like little treasures spread about Guadalajara and can be found in the Palacio del Gobierno, the Museo de las Artes in the original Rectory of the University of Guadalajara and the Casa-Museo Clemente Orozco. Pick up a copy of John Steinbeck’s The Pearl for a quick peek at his style.
Chapalita Art Walk
The streets of Chapalita are lined with orange trees, roses and palms. On Sundays the Glorieta Chapalita is transformed into an open air art market. You can meet the artists and stroll through the park looking for some munchies. Most of the art is tacky but there are some nice pieces hidden behind the superheros and Catholic idolatry.
There are numerous restaurants surrounding the glorieta including La Pasteria , La Bocha, La Morenita del Santuario and dozens more up and down Av Guadalupe and Av Tepeyac. Make sure to get an ice cream at Nieves de Garrafa Chapalita and some tacos at Los Alteños. Chapalita is another traditional neighborhood of upper middle class means as you can observe from the architecture and gardens.
Mexico is Found in its Markets
Maybe it is because I studied economics but I am fascinated with markets and particularly Mexican markets that sell food. I love to eat and the markets usually have some good ingredients being turned into spectacular local foods. There are markets for just about everything but these are my favorites.
Most travel guides will tell you to visit San Juan de Dios because it is big but I enjoy Mercado de Abastos much more. Mercado de Abastos is the regional wholesale market that is the size of a neighborhood. There are about 3 blocks of retail vendors that show off the agricultural jewels of Western Mexico. Guadalajara is less than 3 hours from the tropics, less than 2 hours from dairy country and the shipments arrive 24 hours a day.
This is where you can find some of the best examples of Jalisco style birria, menudo, carne asadas as well as some good Asian food. The price of one of the best breakfasts in Guadalajara start as low as 50 pesos and the produce is about half of what you would pay in the supermarket for much better quality.
Visit Mercado San Juan de Dios AKA Mercado Libertad
While Mercado de Abastos is the best market to eat at, Mercado San Juan de Dios is still an experience. It is regarded as one of the largest indoor markets in the world and it’s easy to get lost in here. There is less food than there are other retail goods like clothes, hardware and plenty of pirated good. The market is informally known as Taiwan de Dios because of the plentiful supply of pirated goods. Even though the pirated movies are cheap they rarely work or are of such a poor quality they are unwatchable. Just avoid the pirated goods altogether.
Cruise the Santa Teresita Neighborhood and Market
Santa Teresita is a blue collar neighborhood that maintains a lot of the charm of the villages of Jalisco. The Santa Teresita market is one of the best examples of the traditional market in Mexico. Most of the vendors have been there for decades and are a testament to the Guadalajara lifestyle in times long past. You will find some of the best examples of traditional foods in Santa Teresita like Birrieria La Victoria, Fonda Amadita, Pastelería Santa Teresita, Tripas el Rojo, Aguas Frescas Las Titas, Mr. Pacos Tortas Ahogadas among many, many more.
Visit the Agave fields along the Ruta del Tequila
The highlands or the lowlands, that is the questions. No matter what direction you drive out of Guadalajara you are going to see a whole lot of agave fields. There are a number of different ways to visit tequila country but the towns of Amatitan and Tequila are the principle destinations with regular train rides and bus rides daily. A little further off the beaten track are the towns of Magdalena, Etzatlán and Atotonilco that are just oozing with country charm. The scenery is magical, the people are beautiful and the food is going to be off the hook.
Visit the Guachimontones archaeological site
The best example of a prehispanic archaeological site within a reasonable distance from Guadalajara.
See the Alpine Forests of Mazamitla or Tapalpa
I bet you weren’t thinking about Alpine forests when you were planning your trip to Mexico. The towns of Mazamitla and Tapalpa are each about two hour drive from Guadalajara and are magical. Picturesque town squares with unique cathedrals and local foods. There are plenty of tours that will let you see the forest on horseback or ATVs. If you have a few extra days getting out of the city is a must!