48 Hours in Guadalajara: The Ultimate Itinerary

Beautiful view of stone Jalisciences and Guadalajara Cathedral
Jaliscenses monument and the Guadalajara cathedral. Elenathewise / Getty Images

Mexico’s second city is a bastion of Mexican culture as well as a university city and technological hub, making it a fascinating blend of the traditional and modern. The city’s striking architecture, pleasant green spaces, and hopping cultural scene make it a fabulous choice for a weekend away. In 48 hours you can sample a small selection of the delights Guadalajara has to offer, going home with some great memories and a desire to return again to explore more deeply. To help you make the most of your stay, we’ve compiled an itinerary with the not-to-be-missed experiences in this sophisticated city.

01 of 06

Day 1: Morning

Indoor tile courtyard in Hotel Morales in Guadalajara

Courtesy of Hotel Morales

10 a.m.: After arriving at Guadalajara’s Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla International Airport, take a taxi or your pre-arranged transportation to the city’s historical center. The Hotel Morales is a good choice for a central stay, just three blocks from Guadalajara’s impressive 16th-century cathedral and within easy walking distance of many of the city’s main sights.

11 a.m.: Once you’ve checked in and freshened up, it's time for some sustenance, La Chata restaurant is just two blocks from the hotel, and the perfect spot for brunch. In business since 1942, this Guadalajara institution serves traditional Mexican specialties, and filling up on huevos rancheros or chilaquiles will give you plenty of energy to tour the town.

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02 of 06

Day 1: Afternoon

Historic Downtown area of Guadalajara

TripSavvy / Ana Alarcon

1 p.m.: It’s time to explore Guadalajara’s architectural beauty and historical and cultural significance. Stroll the historical center discovering the cathedral and the Cruz de Plazas (“Cross of Squares”—the cathedral is surrounded by squares on all four sides, forming the shape of a cross when viewed from above). Make a stop at the Palacio de Gobierno. The main staircase is decorated with murals by one of Mexico’s great muralists, José Clemente Orozco. "Social Struggle" shows Miguel Hidalgo, the Father of Mexican independence, with a torch illuminating the struggle against oppression and slavery. The building also houses the Government Palace Site Museum which gives some history of the building and the area. 

2:30 p.m.: Make your way to the Cabañas Cultural Institute, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Designed by architect Manuel Tolsá and built at the beginning of the 19th century, it originally functioned as an orphanage as well as a home for the aged, the infirm, and the destitute. In the early 20th century, the chapel was decorated with a series of murals by José Clemente Orozco. Now it’s a cultural center that hosts cultural events and exhibits. Admire the murals, in particular, "El Hombre de Fuego" (“Man of Fire”) in the cupola of the chapel. Considered a masterpiece of 20th-century mural painting, it shows a man ascending in flames, surrounded by figures in shades of grey representing the natural elements.

4 p.m. When you’ve explored the Cabañas institute sufficiently, head to the Mercado Libertad, just a block away. This huge traditional indoor market has stalls selling almost anything you could imagine, including handicrafts, hardware, clothing, and electronics. Grab a snack at one of the food stalls. It’s the perfect opportunity to try one of Guadalajara’s traditional dishes such as a torta ahogada or birria.

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03 of 06

Day 1: Evening

Plaza de Armas and the cathedral of Guadalajara at night.
Filippo Manaresi / Getty Images

7 p.m.: After a rest and change at your hotel, head to Paseo Chapultepec neighborhood. This happening area has numerous bars and restaurants, and there’s something going on every night of the week. On Saturdays, there’s an open-air market where you’ll find vendors selling jewelry, handicrafts, books, artwork, and more. There are cultural activities and street performers as well. 

8:30 p.m.: When you’ve worked up an appetite, either select one of the many trendy restaurants for a bite, or head to Hueso restaurant, just off Chapultepec Avenue, for a memorable dinner. There’s no sign outside, but the former mansion decorated in white tiles stands out from its neighbors. This uniquely decorated restaurant serves innovative dishes—the menu varies according to the season and the chef’s fancy—communal-style at a long wooden table.

11 p.m.: Once you’ve eaten your fill, find out what Guadalajara’s nightlife has to offer. Back on Chapultepec Avenue, you can get a craft beer on the terrace at El Grillo or Ambar before heading to Bar Americas to dance the night away. If something low-key is more your speed, you’ll find a laid back atmosphere and live entertainment at Centro Cultural Breton most evenings.

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04 of 06

Day 2: Morning

people walking on a colorful street in guadalajara mexico
Roberto Galan / Getty Images

9 a.m.: Since you’ve only got two days in the city, don’t waste time sleeping in. The promise of excellent coffee and fresh-baked pastries at Boulangerie Central is just the incentive you need to throw off the covers and start your day. Grab a table outside on the patio so you can enjoy the morning light with your breakfast. 

10:30 a.m.: Grab a taxi or Uber to Tlaquepaque, 6 miles southeast of the Guadalajara city center. Originally a separate crafts town, it has been absorbed in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, although it retains the feel of a small Mexican town with its central plaza, parish church, and central market. Start your explorations at the visitor’s center located by the colorful 'Tlaquepaque' sign on Calle Independencia. Pick up a map and inquire if there are any special events taking place. Stroll along pedestrian-only Independencia and nearby Avenida Juárez where you’ll find many galleries, boutiques, and vendors selling their wares on the street. Make a stop at Mercado Benito Juarez, a lively, local market where you’ll find fresh produce, prepared foods, local crafts, and even piñatas.

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05 of 06

Day 2: Afternoon

All Women Mariachi Troupe performing with purple hair ribbons and neckties

 Courtesy of El Patio Tlaquepaque

1 p.m.: Visit the historic Centro Cultural El Refugio. This 19th-century building originally served as a convent and later a hospital, and now houses a cultural center that hosts a variety of events such as concerts, plays, art exhibitions, commemorative events, and more. The center also houses the National Ceramics Museum, which has varying exhibits throughout the year and some fine examples of traditional ceramics.

2:30 p.m.: When hunger strikes, head to El Patio restaurant for a traditional Mexican meal with a live performance by an all-women mariachi band (3 p.m. daily). Start with some guacamole and a margarita or a cazuelitaa tequila and citrus fruit cocktail served in a clay vessel. Be sure to leave room for some jericalla for dessert, a local specialty similar to creme brulee. 

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06 of 06

Day 2: Evening

people sitting on a fountain front of a stone theatre facade at night
Filippo Manaresi / Getty Images

6:30 p.m.: Back in Guadalajara, catch a show at the Teatro Degollado, a neoclassical theater built in 1866. The horseshoe-shaped interior ensures every member of the audience has an excellent view. Be sure to look up to see the mural on the vault of the ceiling, inspired by Dante’s "The Divine Comedy." Guadalajara’s folkloric ballet performs regularly in this theater, as does the Jalisco Philharmonic Orchestra.

9 p.m. A late dinner at Bruna is the perfect way to wrap up your weekend in Guadalajara. This upscale Mexican restaurant in the Colonia Lafayette is housed in an early 20th-century French-style mansion with a stunning garden and attached art gallery. Try the duck in mole sauce or eggplant tacos. You won’t be disappointed! 

11 p.m: Afterward, continue the fun at one of Guadalajara’s swanky speakeasy-style cocktail bars. Sip on a hand-crafted mezcal mule while enjoying the ambiance at La Oliveria. Then, if you’re still not ready to call it a night, head to Kin Kin nightclub where you can dance to techno, house, and disco until the sun comes up.