Guadalajara has long been considered a sleepy town compared to the massive metropolis that is Mexico City. But while Jalisco’s capital is far less chaotic than its neighbor to the southeast, the city of over a million people has a vibrancy all its own.
Teeming with art, architecture, and food, Guadalajara’s storied history and modern outlook are written in its streets. Direct flights from SFO will get you there in less than four hours with the whole weekend still in front of you. Here’s what to do when you arrive.
Friday in Guadalajara: Check in at Casa Habita + Mezcal Tasting
Courtesy of @casahabita
4pm: Check in at Casa Habita.
Guadalajara’s historical center has the culture, but the neighborhoods of Colonia Americana and Colonia Lafayette have the city’s best restaurants and nightlife. Casa Habita (Lerdo de Tejada 2308), a stylish boutique hotel with high-rise views, is on the border between them. A somehow seamless mix of Art Deco, industrial, and tropical decor give Habita a vibe that is at once vintage and modern. Downstairs, a loungey bar and restaurant are decked out in flamingo pinks and jungle greens, while the rooms are divided with Mondrian-esque walls of frosted glass. A slim pool makes the terrace all the more inviting in Guadalajara’s year-round heat.
6pm: Sustainable Tequila Tasting at Mezonte
In the capital of the capital of tequila production, it’s only fitting to start Friday night with a tasting at Mezonte (Argentina 299). The label cum sustainable agave promoter works with small family farms in Jalisco and Michoacán to reduce over-farming of the precious succulents and assure a living wage to producers. In the speakeasy-like space you’ll get a taste of mezcals and raicillas, each saturated with the terroir of the land. Advance reservations are required.
8pm: Dinner at Alcalde
In the last decade, Guadalajara’s restaurant scene has come into its own and leading the way was chef Paco Ruano’s Alcalde (Mexico 2903). The modern Mexican restaurant, which has made the list of both the 50 Best Restaurants in Latin America and in the world, is still among the city’s most distinctive. On the menu you’ll find innovative reinterpretations of traditional dishes like the mouth-watering cheese-stuffed gordita with chili cream and grated macadamias, and grilled octopus bathed in a pumpkin seed sauce. Both a la carte and tasting menus are available.
Saturday in Guadalajara: Explore the Historic Center + Taste the Nightlife
Courtesy of @bruna_mx
10am: Breakfast at Rin Tin Tin Cafe
This adorably tiny Rin Tin Tin Cafe (Morelos 1196) in Colonia Americana is known for its chilaquiles, one style of which is made with a peanut-chile salsa; its molletes (open-faced Mexican sandwiches made with beans, cheese, and a variety of other toppings); and its extravagant pastries. Be prepared to wait if you go on a weekend or grab some Chiapas-grown coffee and a dulce de leche–topped muffin to go. Rin Tin Tin also has a second, larger location with a patio just a few blocks away called the Casa Mucha(Juan Manuel 1168), but don’t expect it to be any less busy.
12pm: Explore the Historic Center
Guadalajara, the nation’s first capital following the Mexican War of Independence, has a vibrant centro historico that blends early Spanish architecture with revolutionary pride. The neighborhood is dominated by the Guadalajara Cathedral (Fray Antonio Alcalde 10), a soaring renaissance temple founded in 1541, and the Governor's Palace (Ramón Corona 31), which dates to 1790. The pedestrian-only streets here are like a public sculpture garden where surrealistic giant heads and creepy magicians grow, but the neighborhood’s masterpiece is found in the Hospicio Cabañas(Cabañas 8). This historic hospital turned art museum was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in large part for its original chapel, which was covered cupola to floor in striking apocalyptic murals by artist Jose Clemente Orozco in 1939.
5pm: Pulque at La Ultima Lucha Pulqueria
It’s a big commitment to get out to Arena Coliseo for a night of live Mexican wrestling but you can find their spirit at La Ultima Lucha Pulqueria(Escorza 9) near the excellent Museo de las Artes Universidad de Guadalajara(Juárez 975). Better yet, at this fun bar plastered with playful luchador art, you can get a taste of pulque, traditional agave beer. The liquor, which can be mixed with fruit juices and other flavors to tone down its slightly funky fermented flavor, has about the same alcohol content as actual beer but twice the travel cred.
8pm: Dinner at Bruna
Bruna(England 3100) is as much a culinary experience as it is an artistic one. The contemporary Mexican restaurant and gallery, a black-and-white checkerboard of tile and glass, is arranged around a glowing garden that mists ethereally into the night. The menu is a mix of Indigenous and European flavors with Oaxacan moles, coastal aguachiles, and black truffle ice cream for dessert. They take special care with their cocktails, many of which have a presentation that packs as much of a punch as the spirits inside.
11pm: Drinks in the Colonia Americana
You can find whatever kind of nightlife strikes your fancy in Guadalajara due, in part, to the sheer number of universities located within the city limits. Many of the best are in the Colonia Americana, which goes from quiet to boisterous after dark. A good starting point is the popular La Cantina De La O(Argentina 70), where they sling craft cocktails in a retro-inspired space. For a slightly more laid back experience where mezcal is king, try Pare de Sufrir next door (Argentina 66). If beer is more your style, the award-winning Cerveza Loba’s bright, industrial taproom is just a couple blocks away (Gregorio Dávila 76).
Sunday: Mariachi + Lively Meals in Tlaquepaque, a Pueblo Magico
Tlaquepaque, Guadalajara's quaint artisan neighborhood.
(Courtesy of @vt_con_manu/@guadalajaratourism)
As Guadalajara grew, it absorbed the charming historic town of Tlaquepaque in its sprawl. Though only about five miles from the city center, the neighborhood, one of Mexico’s “pueblos mágicos,” has a completely different character than Guadalajara proper.
On Sundays, the streets around its central plaza, El Parián, buzz with locals and tourists out for a stroll or brunch, both with a mariachi soundtrack (the musical style originated in this region). Sit down for a lively meal at El Patio(Independencia 186, Tlaquepaque) or Casa Luna (Independencia 211, Tlaquepaque), then spend the rest of the morning browsing shops like the Del Corazón de la Tierra(Independencia 227, Tlaquepaque), which sells exquisite Indigenous textiles and crafts from Mexico and Central America, or local ceramic producer Azulejos Talavera Cantú (Francisco de Miranda 60, Tlaquepaque).