As a traveler to Mexico, at some point, you’re going to find yourself in Guadalajara. It’s location and the fact that it’s Mexico’s second largest city, makes it a prime area for flights in and out of the country and exploring the region. While you might be tempted to fly on through to your final destination, why not spend some time in Guadalajara?
You could easily spend a couple of weeks exploring the capital of Jalisco, it’s surrounding historic towns and Lake Chapala but if you can spare a day, at least spend some time and explore the historic downtown of the city. It’s easy to do. Here’s how you can spend twenty four hours in Guadalajara.
Where to Stay in Historic Guadalajara
After arriving at Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Guadalajara International Airport (GDL), about twenty miles south of the city, take an Uber or a hotel shuttle to the historic center. Hopefully you have chosen a classic Mexican colonial style hotel to get into the spirit. There are plenty of affordable options available but my choice would be Hotel Morales.
It’s a beautiful property that like a lot of private residences in the area, was turned into a hotel. Full of history, 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. And they did a great job. Complete with a rooftop pool, Juliette balconies and rooms built around a beautiful courtyard, it’s a beautiful property that truly makes you appreciate Mexican architecture. I loved the tall ceilings and the small added touches like a rain shower, fluffy towels and special bathroom toiletries.
If you follow me long enough you’ll know I’m a huge fan of breakfast, so it was convenient that the hotel offers a full breakfast buffet for guests. There were real eggs, an omelette station, chilaquiles, sweets and plenty of fresh juices, which is always one of my favorite things in Mexico. The choices checked all my breakfast boxes.
The location of the hotel is the best too. Surrounded by plazas, restaurants and bars, you don’t have to go far if you don’t feel like wandering too much. Guadalajara is very beautiful at night with most of the cathedrals and plazas lit up. The location of the hotel and the roof access allows you perfect views of the area.
What to Do in Historic Guadalajara
From the hotel, it’s super easy to do a walking tour on your own. I have created list of some must see’s that you can use for reference but the historic center of Guadalajara as a whole is very picturesque. So no matter where you wander you are going to see something pretty. Here’s some suggestions of what to see within a few blocks of the 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 to satisfy your appetite.
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.
La Matera 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. There’s a roundabout here with one of the largest fountains in the city and statue dedicated to the Roman goddess Minerva. Restaurants are plentiful. One of my favorite restaurants of all time is here. La Matera is a Argentinian restaurant with a great vibe and some of the best steak, pasta, and empanadas. 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.
If you don’t want to blow your Mexican theme, there are some good Mexican restaurants around the roundabout but if you are going to blow it, La Matera is the place. Save room for dessert.
What Else to do in the Historic Center of Guadalajara
If wandering and walking around aren’t your thing or you have more time to spend, you can always add in a museum or two. Within or close by the walking tour area are several museums. Some interesting ones 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 area 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, 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.