When it comes to visiting Mexico most people travel to Cancun or Mexico City. If you want a quick day trip it’s usually a border hop to Tijuana. Sometimes they branch out to Oaxaca, Tulum or Puerto Vallarta.
However, while Guadalajara is Mexico’s second-largest city, it is also four times smaller than the sprawling metropolis that is Mexico City.
It also claims much of Mexico’s traditional history, it is the birthplace of Mariachis, it’s a short car trip or bus away from Tequila the town responsible for Mexico’s national drink, it also is responsible for its own culinary dish torta ahogada and its very own craft beer Minerva.
Guadalajara is hot, humid and rainy during its rainy season. It is one of the few cities where the locals are so polite and respectful you can wear the shortest of skirts or shorts and not be cat-called or stared at suggestively.
If you want to avoid its rainy season, travel between November and March. However, the rain does tend to take the heat off the day and usually falls late afternoon. I was fortunate to spend three days in Guadalajara exploring this unique and historical part of Mexico.
Where I stayed
I stayed at the Square Small Luxury Hotel, Av. Mexico 2929 Col. Vallarta San Lucas, 44100 Guadalajara, Mexico. It is a boutique business hotel which I must say spoiled me for exploring this city.
Situated in the Vallarta Norte/Terranova Colonia, it was positioned central to exploring most of Guadalajara and was only a quick 50 peso/2.5USD Uber away from most of the city’s main attractions.
This hotel also offers an airport shuttle from GDL airport and 24-hour check in.
Check-out is at 12pm or 1pm for late checkout and it offers small suites instead of the standard hotel rooms, with gorgeous bathrooms, fully stocked toiletries from the British brand Molton Brown and a fully stocked mini-bar, at affordable prices.
The suites also have a Nespresso machine with two complimentary coffee pods and then charge 40/$2 peso for each additional coffee pod.
Downstairs it has a Spanish restaurant called La Bocha, it’s a quick stroll to the OXXO, Mexico’s version of 7 Eleven and also across the road from the OXXO has one of the best bakeries I have been to in the world.
The Square Small Luxury Hotel contains small suites that offer every amenity,a gorgeous rooftop pool that overlooks Guadalajara city, with a Sky Bar to sip cocktails as you watch one of Guadalajara magnificent sunsets. The hotel also has a restaurant by the pool that includes a full breakfast for its guests. You simply select from the menu and complement it with bread, cured meats, pastries, fruit ,coffee and juice.
The staff are beyond helpful and most of them generally speak Spanish and English. This hotel also offers a fully stocked business centre you can work from, if you need a space to conduct your zoom meetings or finish a presentation.
The best thing about this hotel is it has one wifi network for everywhere you need to be, this gives you multiple options: you can work by the pool, the restaurants or the business centre without needing another wifi password.
You literally could easily never leave this hotel or its street but of course, I had to explore Guadalajara a little bit more so here are my suggestions of what to do and see.
EL Centro is the main city centre of Guadalajara, founded in the 1500s, it gives you the option of taking a horse and carriage ride around the city and is also a quick ten min walk to Col Americana, an area I spent a lot of time in during my stay.
This is the place to try Guadlajara’s signature torta ahogada, see some Mariachis and pay your respects to its iconic cathedral. Built in Spanish Renaissance style , this cathedral has been the centrepiece of Guadalajara main city centre and skyline for over 450 years. A wander through it is a must for its historical architecture,paintings and numerous Catholic altars.
Indulge your inner foodie.
Los Tapatíos as Guadalajara locals are known to be called, are extremely committed to serving quality food at pocket-friendly prices.
Several times I had to check that the cheque was correct because even for Mexico prices the standard and quality was truly exceptional and affordable.
This is a foodie city and most locals dine out regularly and by regularly, I mean three times a week. So reservations are essential or you may find yourself waiting outside for a table, like it’s the hottest club not a restaurant.
I could literally dedicate an entire blog series to the Guadalajara food scene so I’ll just share my Top 3 dining places to go
Av. México 2850 Col. Terranova Guadalajara, Jal. Mx.
Literally opposite the OXXO on the same street as the Square small luxury hotel, is an adorable bakery that is perfect for lunch or a quick coffee and pastry. I must confess on my last day I grabbed a baguette and a pastry for my Bla Bla car ride back to CDMX.
Check them out here Goti Bakery and if you love simple bakery style lunches with amazing coffee, pop in for a visit.
Calle Luis Perez verdia 384 ladrón de guevara,
Located in a tiny colonia known as Ladrón de Guevara,
California burgers are literally a homage to LA’s famous, In and Out burgers.
I’m fairly certain the owners worked there and learned all their secrets because as an LA local for over ten years, I can attest that these burgers taste the same as the OGs.
You can pre order to dine in or take away and this secret spot is a must to book if you are craving some burgers and fries in GDL.
Farmacia Rita Pera
C. Colonias entre Avenida Ignacio Luis Vallarta y Pedro Moreno, Col Americana, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal.
If you are a seafood fiend then this place is a must you do need a reservation at night as it is very popular
The daytime menu boasts ceviche and seafood dishes that will make you feel like you are at a Mexican beach due to its freshness and flavor. The night time menu ( after 7pm) , is a smaller menu which does not offer the ceviche but does have a range of seafood botanas and delicious tacos.
It also has some of the best cocktails and be warned, they make them strong in Guadalajara, so strong you may only need one or two. You will also want to make sure you bring some pesos, because it has one of the best jukeboxes in the city.
Going out all night in Guadalajara
This is the main avenue for literally everything in Guadalajara. It boasts everything from street tianguis to bookshops to boutiques, bars, restaurants and nightclubs.
If you want one street that has it all then this street is definitely going to give you all the options
However, if you would like to explore some smaller, less well-known nightspots then read on.
Exploring Col Americana at night.
Col americana is known for its street art ,cafes and boutiques but its nightlife is fast rivalling Av Chapultepec. During my stay I checked out these great places that prove that even beyond Av Chapultepec , Guadalajara nightlife has something for everyone.
Morelos 1360, Col. Americana
Avenida de las Américas 1500 (Pannarama)
One of the few places to expand during the pandemic, this Spanish style wine bar offers cheese plates, tapas, ciabattas and wine. The bread and cheese platter are to die for and among the best I have had in Mexico.
You definitely need a reservation here and it makes for a great night out for wine lovers, friends or date night. If you love wine and Spanish-influenced food then this is a must.
Check out the menu for Romea here.
C. Morelos 1443, Col Americana, Americana, 44160 Guadalajara, Jal.
This is a club that offers everything from deep house and techno to afro funk nights. The night I went had a trumpet player playing along to a deep house set as everyone danced and drank from their delicious cocktail selection. This club boasts a seriously decadent cocktail list crafted by a mixologist they stole from a well-known bar.
It’s jungle decor and outside courtyard will make you feel like you are not even in a city but a beach side town somewhere in the Caribbean and it is a must see if you enjoy a cooler, smaller atmosphere that is less commercial.
Take a peak at Pardo’s award winning cocktail list here.
Jamaica a go go speakeasy
C. Bernardo de Balbuena 145, Ladrón de Guevara, Ladron De Guevara, 44600 Guadalajara, Jal.
Jamaica a go go in true 1920s style reminiscent of prohibition presents itself as a simple Mexican cantina that leads to an underground nightclub, speakeasy style.
This speakeasy has no cover charge but they will cover your phone cameras with stickers so you can’t take any photos inside the venue.
The DJs spin house and techno while the bar serves up cocktails, mocktails, bottle service and beer.
The vibe here was incredible and gives the feeling of an underground Berlin club with an open air feel. Even the staff dance to the DJs in between serving drinks.
You definitely never feel like you can’t breathe and their table service is exceptional.
You will never need to pour a drink or even light a cigarette. Yes, in Mexico people do still smoke cigarettes.
Add Guadalajara to your Mexican travel itinerary now
Guadajara really prides itself on offering a quintessential Mexican experience mixed with an up and coming food, culture and nightlife scene.
It is a clean city. Everywhere in Guadalajara has specific bins for recycling,organic,plastic,trash and even cigarette butts, making it possibly the cleanest city in the Usa and Mexico.
The must-have app for this city is definitely Instagram. Restaurants and bars have their menus on it and most places use it to enhance the Guadalajara dining experiences.
If you are planning a beach or Mexico city trip, it is definitely worth including Guadalajara to your travel itinerary to experience a truly unique Mexican vibe with all that this city has to offer. From tequila to mariachis to street art, art galleries, flea markets,restaurants and bars. Guadalajara offers something for everyone at a truly affordable price point .