Guadalajara is one of the largest metropolitan areas in Mexico and offers an abundance of culture within its diverse neighboring cities. The state of Jalisco offers catchy mariachi music, delicious street food, and of course 100% pure agave tequila.
The Centro Histórico, Zapopan, and Tlaquepaque illustrate three unique sides to Guadalajara. If you have more than a few days to spend in the city, a day trip to Tequila to tour the agave fields and distilleries is a must-do!
Getting around the city is easy with public buses, taxis, Uber, and DiDi (another rideshare). Guadalajara is BIG and can seem overwhelming at first, but its steady pulse will keep your energy up for exploring.
Begin your stay in Guadalajara with an afternoon in the busy historic center. As you approach, you'll no doubt notice the Gothic Revival twin yellow spires of the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady. The inside is equally impressive with its colorful stained glass windows, gilded altar, and crypt.
Discover the architecture, museums, and attractions surrounding the nearby plazas. The Plaza de Armas has a beautiful wrought-iron gazebo with benches ideal for a rest. Plus it offers a look at the Palacio de Gobierno, a historic government building with murals by Jose Clemente Orozco.
The expansive Plaza de la Liberación has a statue of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, fountains, and vendor stalls with various trinkets. There are plenty of restaurants and ice cream shops around if you need a snack. The neoclassical Teatro Degollado is nearby if you'd like to attend a ballet or orchestra performance in the evening.
Ready to practice your bargaining skills in the largest indoor market in Latin America? If so, spend some time inside the three-level San Juan de Dios Market and meander the thousands of booths filled with crafts, cheap eats, and imported goods.
Looking for a break from the hustle and bustle? Journey to the quaint downtown city center of Zapopan and fall in love with the relaxed atmosphere. It's about a 40-minute bus ride from the center of Guadalajara.
The Franciscan sanctuary Basilica of Our Lady of Zapopan, 17th Century, has two ornamental towers featuring floral motifs and pilaster columns. On October 12th, many Catholics partake in the annual pilgrimage to follow the small wooden relic of the Virgin of Zapopan on its 5-mile journey from the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady in Guadalajara to Zapopan.
Make your way through the Plaza de las Americas before strolling on the Prol. 20 De Noviembre which is lined with citrus trees. Cafés, museums, and restaurants border the pedestrian-only street. We opted for the hearty chicken gyros at Agios Aggelos for a late lunch.
The free Museo de Arte de Zapopan offers a variety of contemporary collections. We enjoyed the provocative ceramics on display as well as the temporary exhibit showcasing fashion designer Alexander McQueen. Some of the artists have a great sense of humor!
Want to interact with some wildlife? Walk about 30 minutes south of the Zapopan city center to the free Bosque de Colomos park. We had a blast feeding the pudgy ground squirrels inside of the Japanese Garden. The koi fish, geese, and butterflies were truly picturesque.
Perhaps the most touristy city in the metropolitan area is Tlaquepaque, which is only 5 miles southeast from the center of Guadalajara. I'm a bit torn recommending this spot since it was swarming with crowds of people. Aye!
However, if you are looking for authentic galleries, shopping, and sculpture this place is worth a stop. There are plenty of restaurants and street vendors, especially nearby the Jardín Hidalgo plaza. We couldn't help but enjoy posing with Rodo Padilla's bronze sculptures.
For a taste of architecture and history, visit the Centro Cultural El Refugio which offers free tours. Built in 1884, the building functioned as a charity hospital run by nuns. The roof is particularly interesting with its miniature domes intended to help infectious germs leave the patient rooms below. Now the center hosts events and art exhibitions.
You are guaranteed a great time when you sign up for a tour to Tequila! Who wouldn't want to hop on a van with like-minded strangers to drink countless tequila shots and palomas?
Even though I am not an avid tequila drinker, there was no way I was missing out on the chance to drink the liquor in its hometown. We booked with Panoramex Tours & Travel through our hostel and started with a seven shot tequila tasting at Los Tres Toños distillery. Bottoms up!
Our bilingual guide, Carmen, explained the distillery process from start to finish. Did you know a blue agave needs to grow 8-10 years before harvest? She also explained a hangover can be avoided if you stick with 100% pure agave tequila!
We stopped at Cantaritos Che-Ches Amatitán, a roadside stand making fresh cantaritos to order, before reaching our final destination in downtown Tequila. Brad and I had a few hours to wander and eat before making the 1.5-hour drive back to Guadalajara.
Although we stayed in Guadalajara for one week, three days is plenty of time to hit the top places. The city can feel overwhelming, but if you journey to the smaller neighboring cities of Zapopan, Tlaquepaque, and Tequila you will have a well-rounded Jalisco experience.