Planning for Guadalajara
And yet, although Guadalajara is by far Mexico’s “second” city, it does not play a supporting role in the capital. In fact, depending on how you spend your 3 days in Guadalajara, you can put this city (and the tequila-producing countryside that surrounds it) right at the top of your Mexico list.
Where to stay in Guadalajara
The historic center of Guadalajara (more details in a minute) is home to one of the most magnificent hotels I have ever stayed: The Morales Hotel which also happens to be one of the best value luxury hotels you can find in the world. If you spend your 3 days in Guadalajara here, you will definitely leave the city feeling refreshed. You can also choose a modern apartment like Auréa Suites or a more economical hotel like B&B Olga Querida is also a great option.
How to divide your 3 days in Guadalajara
First day: Centro Histórico
A great advantage of choosing Hotel Morales (or another nearby heritage property) as a base during your three days in Guadalajara is that it gives you direct access to the most fascinating part of town: the charming historic center, which includes (but is certainly not limited to) the breathtaking Guadalajara Cathedral.
from Guadalajara Historical Center is a long list of things to see and do, tourist attractions like the Instituto Cultural Cabañas and Tapatio Square, to the small paseos you walk around (deliberately – it’s still Mexico, remember) when you hear the atmosphere Mariachi the music that comes out of them. The historic center is also where some of Jalisco’s most delicious dishes can be found, including favorites like flautas, pozole and tortas ahogadas.
Day two: Centro Hipstérico
Mexico City hipsters are a well-known phenomenon, but what’s less well-known (and less obvious, if you set up shop in historic Guadalajara) is that there’s a healthy population of hipsters here too. They are based along Chapultepec Avenue, which is unsurprisingly the best place in Guadalajara to sip expensive coffee, shop for ugly and cute clothes, and watch a stallion you can barely see behind his coke bottle glasses.
Of course, feigning coolness isn’t the only reason to venture west from the historic center of Guadalajara. There are a lot of more traditional tourist attractions this way, from the magnificent Basilica of Zapopan and enlightening it Paleontology Museum, to the weird Templo Expiatorio del Santísimo Sacramento or the dramatic Arcos Vallarta, to name a few.
Third day: Tequila!
A named city Tequila sits about two hours northwest of Guadalajara, and I’m happy to report that its name isn’t just a coincidence. Here you will find no less than a dozen distilleries, where you can taste countless varieties of Mexican elixir, not to mention the margarita options on offer. There is even a Tequila Express train, although I have not personally used it.
In fact, the best way to get around Tequila (not to mention Guadalajara) is by private taxi, which allows you to stop as often as you like in the scenic blue agave fields that cover the Jalisco countryside. They’re some of the best photos (and selfies!) In all of Mexico, and images tailored to signify the end of your three days in Guadalajara.
Is Guadalajara worth a visit?
Even if you only manage to spend 3 days in Guadalajara, the city is absolutely worth a visit. Food, historic architecture and traditional culture are arguably as abundant as in CDMX, but without the congestion and stress of traveling around the capital. On the contrary, traveling to Guadalajara can feel relaxing, which is odd when you consider that it is actually quite a big city.
Regarding the context of the visit to Guadalajara, this is another advantage for the city. It works well as a long weekend from the US, but also if you are traveling through Mexico and decide to stop here, for example on your way from Mexico City to the Pacific coast. The versatility of Guadalajara makes all of its other aspects even more appealing.
Other FAQs on trips to Guadalajara
How many days do you need in Guadalajara?
Obviously, I wrote this article because I think three days is the optimal time to spend in Guadalajara. However, if you decide not to take a day trip to Tequila, you can explore downtown in just two days. Likewise, you can easily extend your trip to 4-5 days or even more.
What 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 the many day trips outside. Most travelers visit the city of Tequila (can you guess what is made there), but there are plenty of other excursions as well.
Is Guadalajara Safe for Tourists?
It’s hard to say, in absolute terms, that anywhere in Mexico is really “safe”. However, if you stay mostly near tourist attractions, watch your surroundings (especially at night) and don’t display any obvious signs of wealth, you should be fine.
The bottom line
After three days in Guadalajara, you will certainly agree that the Mexican city gets its money’s worth, not to mention how much more satisfying the history and culture here can be than Cancun’s tourist trap. Whether you’re visiting Guadalajara as part of a longer trip to Mexico or an independent US weekend, prepare to be deeply charmed.