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How To Spend Three Days in Guadalajara, Mexico

Guadalajara's cathedral is one of the city's main attractions
Guadalajara's cathedral is one of the city's main attractions | © Jorge Garrido / Alamy Stock Photo
As the second-largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara has a wide selection of restaurants and cafés, a vibrant cultural scene and plenty of night entertainment options. This “Tapatía Pearl” makes for the perfect destination for those wanting to explore the less-touristy side of Mexico for a weekend or a few days.

Day 1 – Step into the city’s historic center

Morning

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at Chai Café, a local’s favorite thanks to its traditional – and affordable – morning buffet. Enjoy the famous chilaquiles (crispy tortillas with red or green sauce) or some classic Mexican eggs (scrambled eggs mixed with tomato, onion and chili peppers) before heading to Plaza Guadalajara, a perfect departure spot to begin your journey.

Have a look at the cathedral, one of the city’s main landmarks, and marvel at its Gothic architecture. If you are into eerie experiences, you can also venture downstairs and explore the catacombs, where most of Guadalajara’s bishops are buried.

Afterward, you can’t miss the Rotonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres (Roundabout of Illustrious Jaliscienses), which is a monument dedicated to the most renowned personalities of the state. The daylight setting is best for walking around and taking some pictures, though keep in mind that the monument is also beautifully lit at night. Next, head to the Regional Museum of Guadalajara just across the street. Here, you will be able to see an ancient mammoth skeleton and learn more about the indigenous tribes of the area.

The Rotonda de los Jalisciences Ilustres is dedicated to Jalisco’s most prominent individuals © Diego Grandi / Alamy Stock Photo

Afternoon

Enjoy a well-deserved break at Plaza de Armas. Buy some local snacks from the street vendors and, if you’re lucky, you might even be able to listen to an authentic mariachi band or even Jalisco’s Traditional Orchestra playing in the gazebo.

Grab some street food at the Plaza de Armas © Hemis / Alamy Stock Photo

For lunch, you can’t leave Guadalajara without sampling some birria (spicy goat or beef stew) from Las 9 Esquinas. Savor the typical dish and order an horchata (sweet rice drink) to accompany it, or even a cazuela if you’re ready to unwind, which is a tequila cocktail with orange, lime and grapefruit.

For an afternoon activity, the Hospicio Cabañas is a perfect choice. This magnificent building used to be a shelter for orphaned children, but now it acts as one of the most important cultural spots in Guadalajara. Its walls are famous for exhibiting some of the murals of José Clemente Orozco, one of Jalisco’s brightest artists. Additionally, the Cabañas offers a permanent art exhibition, a library and a cinema room.

Evening

To finish the day, go to the Degollado Theater. This is one of many Neoclassical buildings in the city and a must-see spot for performing arts lovers. If there’s a concert or a ballet that night, don’t think twice and get some tickets. If not, you can always enjoy a coffee or some light dinner at its boutique café, which is the perfect place to appreciate the beauty of Guadalajara’s urban scenery.

Don’t pass up a performance at the Degollado Theater © Eduardo Estrada / Alamy Stock Photo

Day 2 – Explore Guadalajara’s hip neighborhood

After taking in your dose of historical sites, now it’s time to explore some of the trendy spots in town. The Chapultepec neighborhood is one of the most popular places among locals. It not only has a good selection of hipster coffee shops and bookstores, the area also offers some of the best nightlife in town.

Morning

Start by eating breakfast or brunch at Piggy Back, which is a restaurant with the right amount of flavor and quirkiness to fuel you up for the rest of the day. Then walk around the neighborhood’s old streets and admire the clash between early 20th-century architecture and modern culture. It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to discover a pop-up design store or a hidden art gallery. Additionally, there are plenty of cafés and tea houses to help you recharge your energy.

Afternoon

For lunch, Mercado México has something to offer for every palate. Its food stalls and mini restaurants are ideal for those looking for the latest culinary trends. Vegan bowls, gourmet hot dogs, champagne doughnuts… you name it. Just walk around the building and take your pick.

Grab a bite at a market in Guadalajara © Don Klumpp / Alamy Stock Photo

After your meal, head to Chapultepec Avenue and have a look at the permanent photo exhibition. This urban gallery displays the work of some of the best local photographers, and it’s completely free.

Evening

At nighttime, the options are endless. If it’s a Saturday, you can stroll around the main avenue market, which is the perfect spot to buy second-hand books, jewelry and indigenous souvenirs. If not, don’t worry – there are tons of restaurants, bars and nightclubs around to keep you entertained until the early morning. El Rey Mezcalería or Cantina Mexicaltzingo offer some excellent local drinks, whereas El Callejón de los Rumberos or Galaxy 1985 are the best options for the dancing queens out there.

Day 3 – Go to the outskirts of the city

Morning

If you are craving some outdoor fun, then escape from the city and visit the Bosque Los Colomos (Colomos Forest). These urban woods are perfect for an early run or a morning picnic. You can rent a horse to wander through the area, feed peanuts to the squirrels or discover a tiny castle hidden between the trees. And, if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of a typical Mexican quinceañera (a girl about to turn 15 years old) taking pictures in a big puffy dress by the Japanese garden.

Afternoon

The Colomos Forest is really close to Zapopan, so you shouldn’t miss the chance to visit it. Zapopan is technically another city, but it’s so close to Guadalajara that not even locals can tell the difference between the two.

The most famous landmark in the area is the basilica. But, if you’ve had your fair share of churches, you can just admire the exterior and then step into MAZ, which is one of the most famous contemporary art museums in the region. Cultivate yourself for a while, and then head outside to the restaurant area. Waiters will make their best effort to convince you to pick their restaurant, so check out the menus and choose the one that appeals to you the most.

The basilica in Zapapan is one of its landmarks © Mint Images Limited / Alamy Stock Photo

Evening

If you’d like to finish the day with some high-end shopping, then go to Andares Mall. Even if you’re not as interested in walking around the designer stores, you can still take in the lively atmosphere and enjoy some of the live performances they sometimes have in the main square. When you get hungry for dinner again, there are some food choices at the VIP Avenue of the mall, which offers a selection of famous international restaurants as well as some local options. Or, if you prefer, you can leave Andares and head to Real de Acueducto street, where you’ll be able to find some fine dining alternatives like Mare Mio (seafood) or Los Otates (traditional Mexican food).

Burn your last energy reserves and conclude your three-day visit to Guadalajara by having a drink in the Providencia neighborhood. With some of the chicest bars in the city, this area will give you the perfect finale for your Mexican trip.