Two days is not a lot of time in any major city, let alone one as sprawled out as Guadalajara, Mexico. If you do it right though, you can hit a lot of the best spots in historic downtown without over-exhausting yourself.
On a 12-day trip to Puerto Vallarta, my friend and I went to Guadalajara on a whim to escape the heat and humidity of the coast. It wasn’t part of our original plan, but ended up being the perfect mini trip.
Keep reading below for my favorite experiences and advice on making the most of 2 days in Guadalajara.
Sit on the rooftop of Palacio de Gobierno
That’s right - the rooftop!
Palacio de Gobierno was the best surprise of our trip to Guadalajara. The ground floor is a mix of arches and outdoor courtyards, followed by a second floor with more arches and a view of the entryway below.
However, stealing the show was the third-floor rooftop. Here you can see the city stretched out in front of you, and dangle your legs over thin air. It also offered the best views of Catedral de Guadalajara.
We had a blast taking pictures here and would’ve loved to stay and watch the sun go down had the building stayed open a few hours longer.
Read more: 3 Easy Hikes Near Puerto Vallarta
Go out at night
To be honest, I was little afraid of how safe it’d be after dark in Guadalajara. It’s a lot bigger city than Puerto Vallarta, and doesn’t have much of a tourist vibe at all.
That being said, Yuting and I got dinner pretty late each night and never had any issues. We just tried to stick to areas with heavy foot traffic, and avoided poorly lit streets. Guadalajara is a happening place at night, and has some decent bars to check out.
Where you should go:
- La Lupita Catina - popular club; constant line out front so get there early or be prepared for a wait
- Escarabajo Scratch - more of a casual bar; you can get late night food here along with drinks
- Hudson Bar - great reviews but it’s a decent ways away from the historic center
Eat like a king
Food is Guadalajara is much cheaper than in Sayulita or Puerto Vallarta. Since there are fewer foreign tourists, prices are more geared to the locals in the area.
To really save money though, keep your eye out for comida corridas - the Mexican version of a lunch special. Comida corridas usually include a drink, soup, and your choice of 1 entree from a list of 2-3, all for a low price.
While I was in Guadalajara, I found a comida corridas I liked so much, I ended up eating there 3 times! The restaurant was El Sazon De la Comadre (casual setting with authentic Mexican food). If you decide to check it out, I highly recommend the fruit smoothies.
Read more: Money-Saving Tips for Puerto Vallarta
Read more: The Ultimate Sayulita Travel Guide
Sit and absorb the Catedral de Guadalajara
The Catedral de Guadalajara was one of first things that caught my eye while walking around. After being surrounded by beaches and jungle in Puerto Vallarta, I wasn’t expecting to see such a grand, European-looking structure.
The ceiling is arched up high, hefty columns line the aisle way, and people visit the tributes to Saints inside. While I’m not very religious myself, sitting inside the cathedral was a great way to learn about Catholic culture and take a break from the busy streets outside.
TIP: For the best picture of the cathedral’s tall bell towers, head inside Palacio de Gobierno and make your way to the rooftop
Appreciate the work of Orozco
Orozco was a famous Mexican muralist in the early 1900’s. One of his most famous pieces, is a collection of wall murals inside Instituto Cultural Cabañas in Guadalajara, Mexico. This Unesco World Heritage site was once a large hospital, but now serves as an art gallery showcasing the work of Orozco and other Mexican artists.
Since Guadalajara was a spur-of-the-moment decision for my friend and I, we didn’t plan on seeing Orozco’s murals till we literally stumbled upon the gallery’s doorstep. The beauty of the building inside though kept us busy photographing for hours.
Instituto Cultural Cabañas isn’t designed like a typical, stuffy gallery. What you’ll find instead is a series of outside courtyards and arched hallways, with a few exhibits sprinkled here and there. The main attraction is the cathedral where Orozco left his mark along each of the walls, and inside a massive dome in the middle.
TIP: If you don’t mind a little dirt, lay down on the floor directly under the dome for the best view.
- General Admission - 70 pesos
- National Tourism (with ID) - 45 pesos
- Students and Teachers (with ID) - 20 pesos
- Tuesdays - FREE
I’m not sure about children and senior citizen ticket prices, but you may want to ask when you’re there to see if you get a discount.
Check out the weekend market outside Templo Expiatorio
The full name of this church is actually Templo Expiatorio del Santisimo Sacramento (hope you’ll understand why I shortened it haha). It’s a mouthful to say, but a name fitting of a church so large.
While this church is a 15-20 minute walk from the center of the historic area, I highly recommend making your way out here for the weekend market in the outdoor plaza.
There were a ton of small food booths selling everything from freshly fried churros, to elaborately decorated cakes. It was food heaven!
We also found a lot of unique, handmade crafts. One vendor we spoke to in particular, was selling hand-painted journals. They were beautiful, and it took a lot of self-control not to buy a bag full of them (I have way too many unused journals already).
Unlike a lot of the other crowded markets in the area, this one had a more relaxing vibe to it too.
have you ever been to mexico?
Let me know where in the comments below!