Guadalajara is a Mexican destination like no other. As the capital of Jalisco – the state which gifted mariachi, tortas ahogadas and tequila to the world, lest we forget – Guadalajara boasts a big-city feel and small-town charm, and is chock full of unique sights and sounds that more than justify paying it a visit. So skip the coastal classics, make room in your Mexico itinerary, and pay a visit to the top 15 attractions in Guadalajara.
Bosque Los Colomos is the most famous park in Guadalajara. It is home to many attractions, including a Japanese garden, a cultural center, bridges, a small dam, and many trails, often occupied by runners and bikers getting in a workout. The park, a natural protected area, sits in the western part of the city, with new houses and apartment towers trying to invade the land, but the citizens continue to defend the rich landscape.
Sprawling San Juan de Dios is Guadalajara’s largest market, filled to the brim with vendors who’ll happily hawk you anything from fresh produce to live animals, and from tacky tourist trinkets to some of the most emblematic of Mexican crafts (leather products and tyre-soled sandals, anyone?). Prepare to haggle with the sellers (within reason), because if you walk in as a tourist, you can be sure their price point will suddenly shoot up.
The two iconic towers of Guadalajara’s cathedral loom out over the downtown area, making for an impressive attraction in the centre of the city. It’s no wonder, then, that locals are incredibly proud of this architectural highlight, which (in its current iteration) dates back to 1854 and is made up of a veritable blend of architectural styles. Those famed towers are neo-gothic, while the rest of the building is Spanish renaissance.
Around 20 minutes from the historic centre of Guadalajara is Tlaquepaque, one of the state’s most colourful and typical pueblos, aspopular with locals as tourists. Wander the cobbled streets, pick up plenty of typical Mexican goods, and enjoy some of the city’s best dining while you’re there too. For small-town charm just a stone’s throw from Guadalajara, a day trip to Tlaquepaque can’t be missed.
For nature fans in Guadalajara who want to escape the city for a few hours and enjoy a day out in the countryside, the official Protected Area of Barranca de Huentitán is the ideal getaway spot. Situated on the outskirts of the city, if you love hiking, extreme sports or just great views, you should make time in your itinerary for a visit. And, if you’re feeling extra-prepared, take a picnic or pack a disposable barbecue to make the most of the afternoon… but take your rubbish with you when you leave!
The stunning Hospicio Cabañas building is not just one of Guadalajara’s architectural highlights; it may also be one of the city’s most haunted. At various times, the establishment has been used as an orphanage, an asylum, and a military barracks. Several ghost stories are told about the property, the most popular being the legend of the huge clock which stopped every time a child died in the orphanage.
One of Guadalajara’s less-visited Catholic attractions, Templo Expiatorio makes for a pleasant hour or two, especially thanks to the peaceful plaza situated out front. After exploring the interior of this neo-gothic build, which took three quarters of a century to construct, you can take it easy with a book and enjoy the pleasant Guadalajara weather outside. Keep your eyes peeled for the display that takes place every time the hour strikes.
Surrounded on all sides by well-manicured grass on which you can enjoy a moment of relaxation in the heart of Guadalajara’s historic centre, the Rotunda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres (“illustrious Jaliscienses”) is a monument constructed in 1952 which pays tribute to the most famous sons and daughters of the state of Jalisco. Take in the busts of Dr. Atl, muralist Jose Clemente Orozco, Irene Robledo G., and even Pedro Moreno, or just see which names you recognise.
For a traditional theatrical experience in Guadalajara, getting tickets for a show at the historic Teatro Degollado is a must. Opened in 1866, this imposing downtown building is the best conserved example of neoclassical architecture in all of Latin America and one of the most important performing arts institutions in the country. If you can, check out an orchestral performance or catch a dance show; you can pay a visit without buying a ticket, but do check the opening times for guided tours carefully.
Chapu to the locals, and Chapultepec to the guidebooks, this avenue slices through Guadalajara, providing a dividing line between the Obrera and Americana neighborhoods. It is known for its great cafés during the day, great restaurants for the evening, and even better nightlife after dark. If you go to Guadalajara without going out on Chapu, have you really been to Guadalajara? (No.) If you’re not much of a party person, you can head there for the weekly Saturday tianguis (market) and pick up some souvenirs instead.
Nothing is more typical in Mexico than market dining, and it’s not uncommon to be the only foreigner in the Mercado de Santa Tere tucking into deep-fried quesadillas or a hearty chile relleno, served with rice, soup, or tortillas. Watch Mexican ladies haggle for chiles and admire the colorfully decorated juice bar and the even more colorful characters that run it. Even if you didn’t fancy eating here, soaking up the buzzing atmosphere makes it worth the trip. Outside of the market, strolling around the entire Santa Tere neighborhood allows a peek into daily Mexican life, too.
Constructed in the mid-20th century, this neoclassical edifice is a must-visit for anyone finding themselves in the historic centre of Guadalajara, especially if you’re interested in the art, culture, and history of the city and state. As well as housing many archeological finds and rooms dedicated to discussing the typical crafts of Jalisco (tequila-making, anyone?), there are a number of impressive Orozco murals for you to snap a few photos of, and a pleasant courtyard in which to take a break.
Jalisco is the birthplace of tequila, the famous Mexican spirit made from the blue agave plant, and visiting Guadalajara without spending a day in Tequila is unthinkable. There are several tour companies that run trips to this small and vibrant town, including the Tequila Express. Although the most expensive option, everything is planned out for you and it includes travel, food, entertainment, and tastings. Alternatively, make your own way there and join a distillery tour group when you arrive, but either way, prepare for a boozy day.
The Natural Adventure amusement park makes for the ideal afternoon out if you’re travelling to Guadalajara with kids. With paintball, climbing walls, and go-karts, among other attractions, you’ll surely be able to find something to keep everyone amused all day long.
The Panteón de Belén was originally built and expanded upon to provide a final resting place for the sheer volume of Jaliscienses who were dying from cholera, and once housed the homages to famous Jaliscienses which can now be found at the aforementioned Rotunda de los Jalisicenses Ilustres. Nowadays, it is simply one of Guadalajara’s spookiest attractions, and is well known for hosting guided nighttime tours complete with ghost stories and tall tales.