What to do with 24 hours in Guadalajara

Discovering the colonial city during a long layover

During your travels, a long Guadalajara layover can feel like a pesky roadblock that’s getting between you and your vacation. That doesn’t have to be the case, though. Instead of staring at the clock until your next flight, kick-start your adventure as soon as your plane lands in Mexico. Spend your limited amount of time venturing into a world of mariachi bands, colonial treasures, and tequila tastings.

How to venture around

Your flight to Guadalajara will touch ground at Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla Guadalajara International Airport (GDL), which is on the outskirts of the city’s main attractions. If you’re brave enough to navigate the streets on your own, rent a car in Guadalajara at the airport terminals; otherwise, sit back and let the professionals take the wheel.

Taxi kiosks are located at both ends of Terminal 1, just outside of the baggage claim, custom services, and immigration areas. Order and pay for your ride at the kiosk and then bring your receipt to the curb, where the cabs are lined up. For a cheaper option, hop on one of the buses at the Terminal Terrestre, which offers rides to El Centro or Central Vieja. Once you’re in town, you can always walk or take a taxi to your next attraction.

How to spend your time

With an opportunity like this, you’ll want to spend at least some of your Guadalajara day trip getting to know the history behind this colonial pueblo, which dates back to 1532. First stop? Plaza de Armas, the main square in the historical region.

The square was remodeled in 1910 to celebrate the 100th year of Mexican independence. The intricately designed, wrought-iron bandstand, which was gifted by President Porfirio Diaz, is a buzzing spot where the state band performs every Sunday and Thursday evening. Buskers play in the square, too, so stop by for a listen—this city did invent mariachi music, after all.

The 18th-century, Baroque-style Palacio de Gobierno sits on the east side of the plaza, looking a bit like Buckingham Palace in the middle of Mexico. It houses the state government offices and features Jose Clemente Orozco murals on display. Next, venture just north of the plaza to arrive at Guadalajara Cathedral. Easily one of the most prominent landmarks in the city, this 16th-century cathedral is decked out with twin towers and a medley of architectural influences, including Baroque, Mexican churrigueresque, and neoclassic styles.

How are you doing on time? If you still have some wiggle room before heading back to the airport, mosey over to the Rotunda of Illustrious Men, located in the Dolores Cemetery just behind the cathedral. This pillared monument is dedicated to those who have served Mexico, such as significant presidents, poets, artists, and musicians.

If your layover is especially long and you’ve booked a hotel in Guadalajara, jump on the chance to explore outside the city limits. For day trips from Guadalajara, head south to Lake Chapala for some waterfront dining and shopping, or cruise northwest to Tequila—yup, you guessed it, the birthplace of everyone’s favorite Mexican liquor. Spend an afternoon touring the massive distillery and getting tipsy off tequila tastings. 

Instead of moaning when you find out you have a long layover in Guadalajara, look at it as your chance to whip out your high school Spanish vocab and dabble in the history and culture of this mesmerizing Mexican town.

What other spots belong on this itinerary?

Viewfinder Tip: Taxis and buses provide the main form of transportation around town.

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Chloe Mulliner

As a staff writer for Expedia, Chloe Mulliner is dedicated to providing top travel tips for your jaunts around the world. She believes there are adventures to be had on every inch of the globe from surf spots on the Peruvian coast to the charming villages of the English countryside. Chloe specializes in showcasing all the must-see attractions on your travel wish list. She lives by the belief that every adventure is a story worth sharing.