Guadalajara comes from Arabic وادي الحجارة (wādī al-ḥajārah), meaning “Valley of the Stone” or “Fortress Valley”. With a population of over 5 million inhabitants, it is Mexico’s second-largest city. It is an important center of finance, business, art, science, technology, and culture. As you can imagine, tourism is another important industry. But what is there to do in Guadalajara? That’s a good question, and today we will answer it.
We will also show you the best things to do in Guadalajara so you can start planning your next trip. How much time do we recommend? Well, that depends on several factors, but I’d say 6 days is a good time. Let’s see what you can do during 6 days in Guadalajara.
Day 1: Chapala and Ajijic
Chapala and Ajijic are two small towns about an hour away from Guadalajara. If you fly in, the airport is halfway there. Many locals do this a day trip on weekends. Renting a car is easy and convenient. Here are some things you can do:
Los 3 Potrillos. This hacienda is owned by Mexican singer Vicente Fernández and was open to the general public until recently. While you can no longer visit it, you can still drop by his charro store where you will find lots of items like cowboy shirts, boots, wallets, belts, hats, and other items. Right next to it, there is a nice restaurant where you can eat delicious Mexican dishes. To top it off, they also have live music so you can spend a nice time with your companions.
Chapala Old Train Station. This is now the House of Culture, where local kids and teenagers go take art classes and workshops. There are also temporary art exhibits, a nice garden, and an old train that serves as a cool background.
Chapala Lake. This is by far the most popular spot in the area. You can walk along the malecón (seawall), take a boat ride, watch the birds fly, eat at one of the many restaurants nearby, and buy some cool souvenirs.
Isla de los Alacranes. This small island is shaped like a scorpion, hence the name. It is a sacred place to the Wixárika, better known as Huichol. They make a pilgrimage to several sites every year, and this is one of the stops along the way. You can see the offerings they leave to their gods as they pass by.
Murals in Ajijic. If you’re into street art, then I recommend you head over to Ajijic just a few minutes away from Chapala. This small town was recently included on the list of pueblos mágicos (magical towns) by the Mexican government. Its cobblestone streets along with its colorful buildings and murals make you fall instantly in love.
Ajijic Main Square. Locals decorate the main plaza for different festivities like Day of the Dead or Saint Andrew’s novenary. There are fireworks, food, drinks, rides, and live music. If you’d like to see this, then you should visit during the last week of November. Regardless of the time of the year, you will always find nice bars and cute coffee shops where you can relax after so much walking.
Ajijic Seawall. Ajijic shares the seawall with Chapala since they’re bordering towns. I don’t know if it was the perspective or something else, but the sunset in Ajijic is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Take some time to walk along the seawall while you drink something refreshing and take lots of cool pictures. Remember the small things are what really matters in life.
Stay at a Cabin. How about staying at a cabin in the woods? A campfire, marshmallows, horror stories, breakfast with nice views of the lake at sunrise? Does that sound good? There are many options available in Ajijic.
Day 2: Tonalá and Tlaquepaque
It’s time to continue our journey. This time we will go to Tonalá and Tlaquepaque in the vicinity of Guadalajara. Here are some suggestions:
Tianguis de Tonalá. You can find this street market on Thursdays and Sundays. This is the best place to buy handicrafts of all sorts, especially pottery and blown-glass items. No wonder Tonalá is known as “the land of the artisans”. If you’re into bargains and negotiating prices, you will love it here.
Visit a shop or factory. You can visit a factory and learn more about the making process of glass items and pottery. Or if you want something more personalized, you can see an artisan working at home. Many tours offer this experience. In the end, you can buy some souvenirs and support the small businesses in town.
Tonalá Main Street. Along Tonaltecas Avenue, you will find a corridor with lots of impressive sculptures. Take your time to walk and admire each sculpture. Don’t forget your camera!
Mercado Municipal Benito Juárez. You must be hungry after so much walking and shopping. Time to eat something delicious. How about some quesadillas, tacos, or gorditas? I recommend you go to the main market in Tlaquepaque. You will love it.
Jardín Hidalgo. This is the main plaza of Tlaquepaque and a gathering place for locals. Why don’t you buy a tejuino, a refreshing corn-based drink, and pick a bench to relax? There are a nice kiosk in the middle and a couple of churches around you can visit once you’re done.
Andador Independencia. You will find this corridor right next to Jardín Hidalgo. It’s a colorful place with beautiful decorations, restaurants, coffee shops, and stores where you will find sweets, handicrafts, and other items. One of the most instagrammable places, if you ask me.
El Parián. Before calling it a day, there is nothing better than tequila and mariachi. This is the place to go party at night. El Parián is a plaza with several restaurants where you can eat, drink, and listen to live mariachi music. The classical drink is the cantarito, a tequila-based cocktail with citric fruits. Don’t miss out!
Day 3: Tequila
Speaking of tequila, did you know that its name comes from the town it’s produced in? Yes, there’s a town in Mexico called Tequila. Here’s what you can do there:
Ride Tequila Express Train. This tourist train runs between Guadalajara and Tequila every Saturday. There is live entertainment as well as refreshments on board. It’s a little pricey but well worth it.
City Hall. There is a beautiful mural in the center of the patio representing Mayahuel, the goddess of the maguey (the plant tequila is made from). Unfortunately, it was undergoing some renovations when I visited, but you could try your luck.
Templo de la Purísima. This church was built in the 17th century and is dedicated to St. James. It boasts a Neoclassical style and there is a statue inside that was beatified by Pope John Paul II.
Main Plaza. A colorful plaza with trees and benches where locals and visitors alike gather. There is always something going on by day or night.
Mundo Cuervo. This is the oldest distillery in the Americas and a must-visit when in town. You can visit an agave plantation, tour the factory to learn about the making process of tequila, and of course, do some tasting at the end.
Take a City Tour. Everything revolves around tequila in Tequila, even the vehicles that take you on tours. There are several of them to choose from. You can visit different distilleries besides Mundo Cuervo’s.
Mercado de Comidas Cleofas Mota. If you’d like to eat something authentic and affordable, this is the place to go. It’s right next to the main plaza. You can find all sorts of Mexican dishes like chilaquiles, carne en su jugo, tortas, tacos, etc.
Feria Nacional del Tequila. This is the most important festival in Tequila. It is held every year between November 30 and December 12. There are events throughout town including parades, cockfights, charreadas, fireworks, rides, and mariachi music. One of the best times to visit Tequila!
Day 4: Guachimontones and Guadalajara
Guachimontones. This archaeological site is famous for its circular pyramids. How cool is that? I had never heard about such things, but yes, they do exist and they’re impressive. You can tour the area on your own, but I recommend hiring a guide if you want to learn the history of the place and everything about it. There is a museum on site that you can visit too.
Trying Pre-Hispanic Foods. Are you a foodie? If yes, have you ever tried worms, grasshoppers, and other insects? If you haven’t, this is your chance! There is a small restaurant on the way back from Guachimontones where you can try these delicacies.
Teuchitlán. There is not really much to do here, except for a few artisan shops you can visit. I got myself a nice bracelet, and an artisan told me they can show you around if you want.
Arcos Vallarta and the Minerva. Arcos Vallarta is an archway that commemorates the 400th anniversary of Guadalajara. The Minerva is a fountain and is the icon of Guadalajara. It is where locals gather to celebrate a soccer victory, for instance. Both landmarks are located in the modern part of Guadalajara. Besides downtown, this is another excellent area for your stay.
Templo Expiatorio. This beautiful temple in Guadalajara boasts a neo-Gothic style. It was built between 1897 and 1972 and is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament. A true masterpiece of architecture.
Plaza Expiatorio. Outside the church, there is a plaza with a fountain and benches where locals gather every day of the week. It looks beautiful, especially when lit up at night. If you’re looking for a cheap bite, this is the place.
Day 5: Downtown Guadalajara
Main Square. This beautiful plaza is a gathering place for locals. There are trees, benches, statues, and a French kiosk in the center. From music performances to comedy shows, there is always something going on here.
Cathedral. This church boasts a Spanish Renaissance style. It dates back to 1618. It is dedicated to the Assumption of Our Lady. The altar inside is made of marble and silver, and the stained glass came from France.
Museo Regional de Guadalajara. One of the best museums in Guadalajara and a must if you want to learn about the history of the city. The building dates back to the 18th century and houses archaeological and historical artifacts.
Rotonda de los Jalisciences Ilustres. This landmark is located in the heart of downtown Guadalajara and honors the memory of notable figures of the state of Jalisco. The rotonda is made of quarry and has 17 columns.
Government Palace. This government building hosts a couple of impressive murals depicting the history of Mexico.
Plaza de la Liberación. This plaza is located behind the cathedral. It’s an excellent point to start exploring the city as most attractions are nearby. You can ride a horse-drawn carriage, watch a musical performance, admire the architecture and sculptures, buy snacks, take tons of pictures, or just relax on a bench. One of the best times to visit is spring when the jacaranda trees blossom and everything looks purple.
Teatro Degollado. One of the most beautiful theaters in Mexico. It was inaugurated in 1866 and is still an important venue for artistic events like plays, dances, and operas. If nothing is going on, they can let you enter the theater just to see around.
Instituto Cultural Cabañas. If you were to visit just one museum, I recommend you visit this one. This cultural complex hosts temporary and permanent art exhibits, including the impressive frescoes by Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco. Due to its cultural and historic significance, it is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.
Mercado Libertad San Juan de Dios. Right next to Instituto Cultural Cabañas, you will find this market. It’s the largest indoor market in Latin America. You can find everything inside: clothes, toys, handicrafts, souvenirs, and of course, delicious Mexican food. Don’t miss the torta ahogada, Guadalajara’s signature dish. It’s a torta with pork carnitas, beans, and onion covered in a chili sauce.
Paseo Chapultepec. To end the night, head over to Paseo Chapultepec, the chic area of Guadalajara. There you will find plenty of restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and nightclubs to dance the night away. There is a nice corridor in the middle of the avenue, where you can buy handicrafts jewels, among other items. Oh, you can also rent a bike to tour the area if you don’t feel like walking.
Day 6: Zapopan
This is our last day, so let’s make the most of it. Here are some ideas:
Bosque Los Colomos. This is a nice park on the outskirts of Guadalajara. It has several walking paths, picnic areas, and even a Japanese garden. Whether you want to break a sweat or just take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city, then this is the place to go.
Plaza de las Américas. The main plaza of Zapopan and a gathering place for locals. There are trees, a kiosk, sculptures, and benches where you can relax as people pass by.
Basilica. One of the most visited churches in western Mexico. It was built in the 17th century and is dedicated to Our Lady of Zapopan.
Huichol Museum. A small museum featuring an exhibit about the Huichol culture and a gift shop where you can buy items made by them.
Andador 20 de Noviembre. A beautifully decorated corridor with restaurants, coffee shops, and souvenir shops. If you haven’t bought any souvenirs yet, this is your final chance to do it.
Arcos de Zapopan. A historic monument built to honor the founders of the city.
Fonda de Doña Gabina Escolástica. This two-story restaurant boasts Mexican decor and offers signature dishes like tacos dorados, enchiladas, tostadas de pata, and more. One of the best places in town.
Akron Stadium. If you’re lucky and a soccer fan, then you don’t want to miss visiting this place. It’s one of the most modern stadiums in Latin America and home of Guadalajara FC, better known as Chivas. Mexican soccer matches are out of this world!
A Few Tips
It’s always a good time to visit Guadalajara. Summers and winters are mild, making it an ideal place to visit any time of the year.
The best places to stay are downtown, Chapultepec, and the area around the Minerva. It’s a safe city for the most part but always watch your surroundings.
The public transportation system is efficient and includes buses, a light rail, taxis, and Uber.
Although the attractions close to Guadalajara are accessible by public transportation, I recommend renting a car to avoid being pressed for time. For Guadalajara alone, you don’t need a car, but consider renting one when traveling out of town.
Many people visit Puerto Vallarta during their Guadalajara trip. If driving, consider it’s a 5+-hour drive. However, you can fly instead as flights are not that expensive, and that will save you time.
As you can see, there are plenty of things to do in 6 days in Guadalajara. You will fall in love with this city after your first visit. I know from experience.
I hope you liked this itinerary. Feel free to make changes and/or adjust the activities for each day. That’s the fun part of trip planning.
Have you visited Guadalajara? What would you add to the list above? Let me know in the comments below. If you have any questions, please leave them below, and I will answer them as soon as possible. Bon voyage!
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