Mexico is one of the most diverse and enthralling countries on the planet, but a few destinations seem to hog all the attention for travelers there. From the nonstop praise heaped upon Mexico City to the seemingly infinite number of tourists who land in Cancún each day, Guadalajara never stood a chance.
And yet while Guadalajara is Mexico’s “second” city by quite a large margin, it doesn’t play second fiddle to the capital by any means. In fact, depending upon how many days in Guadalajara you decide to spend, you may place this city (and the tequila-producing countryside that surrounds it) at the very top of your Mexico list.
Where to Stay in Guadalajara
Guadalajara’s historical center (more on that in a minute) is home to one of the most magnificent hotels I’ve ever stayed at: Hotel Morales, which also happens to be one of the best-value luxury hotels you’re likely to find anywhere in the world. If you spend your 3 days in Guadalajara here, you’ll definitely leave the city feeling refreshed.
How to Divide Your Days in Guadalajara
Explore the Centro Histórico
A big advantage of choosing the Hotel Morales (or another nearby heritage property) as a base during your three days in Guadalajara is that it provides you front-row access to the most fascinating part of the city: the charming historical center, which includes (but is definitely not limited to) the breathtaking Guadalajara Cathedral.
To be sure, Guadalajara’s Centro Histórico is a laundry list of must-see and must-do items, from tourist attractions like the Instituto Cultural Cabañas and Plaza Tapatio, to the small paseos you wander down (purposefully—this is still Mexico, remember) when you hear atmospheric Mariachi music coming out of them. The historical center is also where some of the most delicious Jalisco food can be found, including favorites like flautas, pozole and tortas ahogadas.
Feel cool in the Centro Hipstérico
Mexico City’s hipsters are a well-known phenomenon, but what’s less-known (and less obvious, if you make your home in Guadalajara’s historical center) is that there is also a healthy population of hipsters here. They base themselves along Avenida Chapultepec, which is unsurprisingly the best place in Guadalajara to sip expensive coffee, buy ugly-cute clothes and stare down a stud you can barely see behind his coke-bottle glasses.
Of course, feigning coolness isn’t the only reason to venture westward from Guadalajara’s historical center. There are plenty of more traditional tourist attractions out this way, from the stunning Basilica de Zapopán and the illuminating Museum of Paleontology, to the bizarre Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento or the dramatic Arcos Vallarta, to name just a few.
Drink tequila in Tequila
A town named Tequila sits about two hours northwest of Guadalajara, and I’m happy to report its name is not merely coincidental. Here, you’ll find no less than a dozen distilleries, where you can taste countless varieties of the Mexican elixir, to say nothing of the margarita options on offer. There’s even a Tequila Express train, although I didn’t personally ride it.
In fact, the best way to get around Tequila (not to mention, to and from Guadalajara) is private taxi, which allows you to stop as often as you want in the picturesque fields of blue agave that cover the Jalisco countryside. They make for some of the best photos (and selfies!) in all of Mexico, and fitting imagery to signify the end of your three days in Guadalajara.
Is Guadalajara Worth Visiting?
Even if you can only manage to spend 3 days in Guadalajara, the city is absolutely worth visiting. The food, historical architecture and traditional culture are arguably as plentiful as in CDMX, but without the congestion and stress of traveling in the capital. If anything, traveling in Guadalajara can seem relaxing, which is strange when you consider that it’s actually a pretty large city.
As far as the context of visiting Guadalajara, this is another advantage to the city. It works well as a long weekend trip from the United States, but also if you’re traveling through Mexico and decide to stop off here, for example on your way from Mexico City to the Pacific Coast. Guadalajara’s versatility makes all its other aspects seem even more appealing.
Other FAQ About Travel to Guadalajara
How many days do you need in Guadalajara?
Obviously, I wrote this article because I believe three days is the optimal amount of time to spend in Guadalajara. However, if you decide not to take a day trip to Tequila, you could explore the city center in just two days. Likewise, you can easily expand your trip to 4-5 days, or even longer.
What is there to do in Guadalajara in 3 days?
With 3 days in Guadalajara, you can explore the cuisine, culture and architecture of the historic center, and also take one of several day trips outside of it. Most travelers visit the city of Tequila (can you guess what’s made there), but there are many other excursions as well.
Is Guadalajara safe for tourists?
It’s difficult to argue, on an absolute basis, that anywhere in Mexico is really “safe.” However, if you stay mostly near tourist attractions, watch your surroundings (especially at night) and don’t flaunt conspicuous signs of wealth, you should be fine.
The Bottom Line
No matter how many days you spend in Guadalajara, you’re sure to agree the Mexico’s city gives its first a run for its money, to say nothing of how much more satisfying the history and culture here can be than the tourist trap of Cancún. Whether you visit Guadalajara as part of a longer trip in Mexico or as a standalone weekend getaway from the United States, prepare to be profoundly charmed. Spending a longer amount of time in Mexico? Head to Huatulco to enjoy a stylish stay at La Vivienda Villa, a breezy property just steps from the beach.