As a traveler to Mexico, at some point, you’ll find yourself passing through Guadalajara. It’s location and the fact that it’s the second largest city in Mexico makes it a prime area for flights in and out of the country and also for exploring the region. While you might be tempted to fly on through to your final destination, why not do a layover and spend at least 24 hours in Guadalajara?
There’s a lot to see in the area and you could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring just the capital of Jalisco and it’s surrounding historic towns. But if you can afford a day, there’s really a lot that can seen in 24 hours in Guadalajara. Especially if you start with the historic center. Here’s a quick walking itinerary to get you started.
Arriving and Getting Around in Guadalajara
Flying into Guadalajara you will arrive at Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Guadalajara International Airport or GDL, which is so much easier to say and write. The airport is located about twenty miles south of the city.
Taxis and Ubers are readily available throughout the city. At the airport, you can hail a taxi right out front. My preferred method of getting around is Uber. The airport conveniently has a ride share lot. Simply exit the airport, cross the road main road towards the OXXO, a chain of convenience stores, to the other side.
Southerner Says: there’s also an ATM next to the OXXO as well as a taco stand and some tables if you want to change money or grab a bite to eat while you wait.
If budget is a concern and you prefer to go into the city by bus, there are a couple of different options. From the airport, buses leave from the Terminal Terrestre to various stops thru out the city. Check the airport website for more information. There is also a shuttle to take will take you to the city center.
You could also check with your hotel to see if they offer an airport shuttle. I’ve found in Guadalajara there is usually an additional fee for this service since the airport is out of the city center.
If you are arriving into Guadalajara by bus and not by plane, you probably won’t arrive at the bus station at the airport. It really just depends on where you are coming from and what bus line you are on as to what station you will arrive in.
Since bus travel is probably the most utilized mode of transportation for getting around the country and Guadalajara is so large, it’s not surprising that the city has several bus stations. However, if you arrive at a station out of the downtown area, it should be easy enough to transfer.
Where to Stay in Historic Guadalajara
There is so much history and beauty in Guadalajara, it’s easy to find a classic historic hotel. You would be missing out if you didn’t plan to stay in one for your 24 hours in Guadalajara. There are plenty of options for every price range.
The hotel I recommend is Hotel Morales. It’s a beautiful property that, like a lot of buildings in the area, was once a private residence and then reconfigured into a hotel. Countless famous people have passed through the property. Over the years, it has accommodated many a bullfighter, due to the bull ring that was across the street.
Abandoned for thirty years, the hotel was bought and brought back to life in the early 2000’s. Now it has a pool and gym on the rooftop, Juliette balconies and rooms built around a Spanish looking courtyard. It’s a beautiful building that truly makes you appreciate architecture. I loved the tall ceilings and old world feel but also the modern touches like a rain shower, fluffy towels and special toiletries.
Breakfast at the Hotel
If you follow me long enough you’ll know I’m a huge fan of breakfast, so it was so convenient that the hotel also offers a full breakfast buffet for guests. Breakfast buffets in Mexico are very different than what you might find at hotels in the US. There were real eggs, an omelette station, chilaquiles, pastries and plenty of fresh juices, which is a must when in Mexico.
What to Do in 24 Hours in Guadalajara
One of the best things about Hotel Morales is its location. It’s in an excellent area for the historic city center. Surrounded by plazas, parks, churches restaurants and bars, you don’t have to go far if you don’t feel like wandering much.
It’s no secret that the best way to get to know a city is by walking around. From the hotel, it’s super easy to do a walking tour on your own, through the historic city center. Just by staying in this one neighborhood, you can see much of the historic part.
For the walking tour, I’ve created a list of some must see’s that you can use for reference but really the historic center of Guadalajara as a whole is very picturesque. No matter where you wander and explore you are going to see something interesting. There are also blue signs placed along the streets to help you find your way.
Here’s some suggestions of what to see within a few blocks of the hotel.
Walking Tour From Your Hotel
Exiting the hotel, go right or north towards your first stop:
Plaza de Armas– this is the main square in Guadalajara’s historic center. A meeting place with grassy areas and benches made for people watching and picnics. Plaza de Armas is also one of the four plazas that surround your next stop.
Catedral de Guadalajara– the double spires identify Guadalajara’s main Catholic church. There has been a church here on site for more than 450 years. It is a functioning church so remember to be respectful and pay attention to how you are dressed.
Rontonda de los Jaliscienses Ilustres– another one of the beautiful plazas that surrounds the Cathedral. It celebrates the region’s writers and revolutionaries.
Teatro Degollado– the theater opened in 1866 so citizens could enjoy culture. As you make your way there you can walk on the street or by way of Plaza Liberacion. Another of the plazas that surrounds the Cathedral.
Plaza Tapatia– walk the plaza and have a look at a sculpture of Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent god of the Aztecs.
Plaza de los Mariachis– Guadalajara is the birth place of mariachi. Stroll thru the plaza to see mariachis of all ages sing classic Mexican songs.
Plaza de las 9 Equinas– yes the plaza really does connect nine streets. Marked by a fountain and some of the best restaurants downtown, it’s one of my favorite areas of the city.
Our Lady Aranzazu Chruch– as you walk to the hotel, don’t miss this church and plaza in front. It’s very unique. And that line in the photo isn’t to go in, it’s for the bus.
Where to Eat in Historic Guadalajara
Throughout the historic center are plenty of restaurants with typical food. Here’s a few suggestions.
Tortas Ahogadas El Guerito For an authentic Guadalajara experience, a torta ahogada should be on your list. The name translates to drowned sandwich in English. A torta consists of pork marinated in garlic and citrus, slow cooked and then fried to crispness. Place that meat on a birote roll, which is similar to a bolillo and dip the entire thing into a spicy salsa.
The salsa gets its flavor and color from chile de arbol, vinegar and tomato sauce. The bread’s crustiness goes to work absorbing all the saucy goodness so that it mixes just right with the pork. Who would have ever imagined that Guadalajara’s signature dish came about because of an accidentally dropped a sandwich into a into a container of salsa?
Although the creator of the torta has since passed away, his employee that was there on the day of the famous mistake, is still in business. You can stop by the restaurant on Madero 13, between the Plaza de los Mariachi and your hotel and taste a torta firsthand.
Birrieria las 9 Esquinas So a torta doesn’t sound like your thing? Another uniquely Guadalajara dish to try is birria and you can’t get a much better experience than at the Birrieria las 9 Esquinas. Located in that cute 9 corner area I already mentioned, the restaurant is as authentic as they come. Birria is stewed meat traditionally made from goat. But it can be made with beef as well. Rumor is that the Birrieria was the first place to serve it.
While you can get birria all across the city, the food and atmosphere of the Birrieria las 9 Esquinas can’t be replicated. Bright tablecloths, dishes and tile complete your true Guadalajara dining experience.
Delicious Food Outside the Historic Center
Now I know this post is about the historic center but I couldn’t write an article about Guadalajara and not include my favorite restaurant just because its outside the area I’m writing about. So if you’ve spent your day in the historic center and feel like venturing out to see more of the city, the Minerva area is a great place to spend some time.
La Minerva is about 15 minutes from downtown. It’s outstanding landmark is a roundabout or glorieta in Spanish, with a statue of the Roman goddess Minerva.
It’s in this neighborhood that you will find La Matera, a Argentinian restaurant with some of the best steak, pasta, empanadas and cheese, oh my the cheese, I’ve ever had. The chimichurri is good enough to drink. I could go on and on but I’m making myself hungry now just thinking about it. Honestly some of the best food I’ve ever had.
Other than that the only thing more I have to say is save room for dessert.
What Else to do in 24 Hours in Guadalajara
If you find yourself with more time, you can always add in a museum or two. Some interesting ones close by Hotel Morales are:
The Regional Museum of Guadalajara – historical and archaeological artifacts displayed in an 18th century building
Ex Convento de Carmen – modern art museum in an old church
Museum of the City – exhibits and artifacts about the city’s history
Guadalajara and the entire state of Jalisco are amazing. There is so much history and so many things to do in this one state alone. Next time you fly through GDL, why not take some time to explore the city or combine a trip to Puerto Vallarta with a weekend in Guadalajara. That torta ahogada is calling your name.