Among the best things to do in Guadalajara is strolling through its colonial plazas and taking in the majesty of the many neoclassical landmarks that dot its historic center. The capital of one of the most culturally important states in Mexico is also well known for tequila and mariachis. In all, it is a mecca for those seeking authentic Mexican culture.

    Guadalajara features vast parks where not only can you admire manicured gardens and sculptures, but also take part in major festivities such as the vivid Day of the Dead celebrations. A train ride out of the city treats you to beautiful countryside with plenty of distilleries as well as intriguing world heritage and archeological sites.

    What are the best things to do in Guadalajara?


    Guadalajara Cathedral

    The city’s prime landmark

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    Guadalajara Cathedral – also referred to as the Cathedral of the Assumption of Our Lady – stands majestically at the heart of the city with its Spanish Renaissance architecture. This unmissable landmark is over 4 centuries old, built back in 1541 and completed in 1618. Among its relics are the remains of Santa Innocencia (Saint Innocent) alongside several cardinals and bishops.

    The sight of the cathedral with its twin spires is most impressive from Plaza Guadalajara, just to the west across Avenida Fray Antonio Alcalde. The plaza has a central fountain and many bars and cafés lining its perimeter, from where you can enjoy coffee or a meal with among the city’s most iconic views. Evenings are extra splendid when the cathedral gets illuminated.

    Location: Av. Fray Antonio Alcalde 10, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 9 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +52 33 3613 7168


    Plaza de Armas

    Guadalajara’s landscaped town square, south of the cathedral

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    Plaza de Armas is one of the most charming urban squares in Guadalajara, and it’s also considered the oldest traditional Mexican plaza in the heart of the city. The square is bordered by the majestic Guadalajara Cathedral to its north and the Palacio de Gobierno (Government Palace) to its east.

    Rows of trees providing ample shade and small pockets of well-manicured greenery dot the square, with well-placed benches for you to relax and take in the view from after your strolls through Guadalajara’s historic center. Oftentimes, you can enjoy occasional mariachi bands playing live from the large Art Nouveau bandstand in the center. At night, Plaza de Armas and its ornate lampposts offer a nice touch for couples on a romantic stroll.

    Location: Av. 16 de Septiembre, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: 24/7


    Fiestas de Octubre

    Guadalajara’s month-long festivity

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    Fiestas de Octubre or October Festival is an unmissable month-long celebration in Guadalajara filled with Mexican culture, food, and music. The festivals have taken place since 1965, and showcase the best of the state of Jalisco in its capital, Guadalajara.

    The festival kicks off with a traditional parade featuring colorful floats along Avenida 16 de Septiembre-Alcalde, from the Niños Héroes traffic circle toward the Glorieta de la Normal plaza. Some years have even featured night parades. Ballets and contemporary dance, movie screenings, art exhibitions, and food workshops – among many other things – fill the agenda.

    photo by Gerardo Gonzalez (CC BY 2.0) modified



    The town and birthplace of the eponymous Mexican liquor

    Tequila is the town from which the famous Mexican beverage gotten its name. Its surrounding area, with red volcanic soils well-suited for the blue agave plant from which tequila is made, gotten its UNESCO World Heritage site designation back in 2006 for its significance.

    You can get to know how tequila is made and how the blue agaves give it the special herbaceous fragrance and flavor through tours of legendary distilleries like La Rojena. Tequila is an hour’s drive west from Guadalajara. A great way to get there is the Jose Cuervo Express, which features luxurious wood-panelled automobiles and onboard bars to take passengers back in time. Also in Tequila are the Museo Nacional del Tequila and the Museo Los Abuelos that feature exhibits on the iconic beverage.

    Location: Tequila, Jalisco, Mexico


    Plaza De Los Mariachis

    Guadalajara’s corner square where mariachis perform

    Plaza De Los Mariachis is a public square at the western corner beside the San Juan de Dios church in Guadalajara. Stretching from Calz Independencia to Calz Álvaro Obregón with collonaded buildings on both sides, the long ‘square’ is dotted with bronze statues and various café tables with parasols.

    This charming square has a big bandstand at the northwestern corner that regularly features live mariachi bands. Sometimes, different bands perform at open spaces along the pedestrianized plaza or beside the plaza’s iconic statue of Vicente Fernandez riding horseback, serenading souvenir shoppers and passersby.

    Location: C. Álvaro Obregón 23, San Juan de Dios, 44360 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Phone: +52 33 3617 4421


    photo by Liz Saldaña (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Parque Morelos

    The main venue for the Day of the Dead

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    Parque Morelos (Morelos Park) is one of Guadalajara’s public parks that is most notable for hosting the Day of the Dead festivities. The festivities usually take place from late October through early November each year, with the traditional Dia de los Muertos street market held at the park.

    During the celebrations, Parque Morelos features everything from skulls and skeletal decorations to various other ‘spooky’ features. You can browse all sorts of Mexican knick-knacks at the various local stalls – pan de muerto (Bread of the Dead), sugar candies, and scented candles are among the top buys. On any other day, Parque Morelos is a great place to either relax and enjoy the greenery or let the kids go out and play.

    Location: Calz Independencia Nte, Zona Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Phone: +52 33 3837 4400


    photo by Ponchomx (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Bosque Los Colomos

    Guadalajara’s bucolic urban heart

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    Bosque Los Colomos is one of the greenest city parks in Guadalajara that features an actual forest with picnic spaces and walking paths through well-manicured gardens. The park is right on the limits of Guadalajara and Zapopan and serves as a green lung for both metropolitan neighborhoods.

    You can walk or go for a pleasant jog through the park with several attractions within for whenever you need a breather. There are duck lakes, a beautiful Japanese garden with ornate bridges over streams, picnic neighborhoods, and even a cultural center.

    Location: C. El Chaco 3200, Providencia, 44630 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Daily from 7 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +52 33 3641 3804


    photo by CejaJessica (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Hospicio Cabañas

    A grand 18th-century hospital complex turned cultural center

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    Hospicio Cabañas is one of the largest hospital complexes in the Americas, located just to the east of Guadalajara’s landmark cathedral. Built in 1791, this UNESCO-listed complex is also considered the oldest of its kind. Besides facilities built for caring for patients, it also used to house an orphanage and an almshouse, among other things.

    Today, this 18th-century complex is a cultural institute that focuses heavily on arts and culture. The exterior, with its impressive architecture and sculptures by Mexican artist Alejandro Colunga, is a sight to behold. And inside, check out the series of monumental frescoes by notable Mexican painter, José Clemente Orozco. Among his highlighted works is Hombre de Fuego (The Man of Fire) inside the dome.

    Location: C. Cabañas 8, Las Fresas, 44360 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +52 33 3668 1645



    Vast pre-Columbian archeological wonders

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    The Guachimontones are a series of unusual conical pyramid structures an hour’s drive west of Guadalajara. The archeological site features among the greatest remnants of the Teuchitlán people, who built the structures over 2,000 years ago. This UNESCO World Heritage site is a top highlight within the Tequila Valley.

    The conical, bull's-eye-shaped mounds are shaft tombs. Past discoveries here have included ancient ceramics and shell ornaments, among other mortuary items. A visit to the grounds treats you to beautiful natural valley landscapes. The conical mounds look like UFOs that have landed or crashed and eventually became overgrown with greenery.

    Location: Carretera Estatal 604 Guadalajara-San Marcos Gral. Lucio Blanco, Estanzuela, 46762 Guachimontones, Jalisco, Mexico

    Phone: +52 38 4109 0388


    Arena Coliseo

    The spot for lucha libre wrestling in Guadalajara

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    Arena Coliseo is one of the most popular venues for lucha libre wrestling matches in Guadalajara. Masked and colorfully costumed luchadores (wrestlers) enter the ring to duke it out, all to the cheers of a fun crowd. The Mexican form of theatrical freestyle wrestling is thrilling to watch, especially with all sorts of unexpected antics thrown in alongside the blaring rock music.

    Why the masks, you ask? Luchadores use masks to keep their private lives secret from wrestling fans. The gimmicks surely enhance their superhero-like personas. Oftentimes, fans honor their idols or favorite trio tag team by throwing money into the ring after a spectacular match. You can expect great fights at Arena Coliseo every Tuesday from 8 pm, with shows lasting about 2.5 hours.

    Location: Calle Federico Medrano 67 Analco, Centro, 44100 Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

    Phone: +52 33 3617 3401


    photo by Eduardo López López (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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