Things to do in Guadalajara, Spain - 1-day itinerary
Facing the River Henares, Guadalajara has been occupied since the
Roman era. During the 12th century, Alfonso VII offered a charter to the
city, increasing the interest in this growing urban centre. Later, it
became the seat of the Dukes of the Infantado, whose palace still stands
Alongside the Infantado Palace, it’s worth walking along
the historic centre, which sits around Calle Mayor. Guadalajara is the
perfect place for a quick getaway from Madrid, as it’s only an hour away
from the capital. Our itinerary below features the best things to do in
Guadalajara to help you make the most of your day.
Begin your day with a visit to the Infantado Palace, one of the
city’s most iconic attractions. It is the former palace of the Mendoza
family, who earned the title of the Dukes of the Infantado. The family
had a major role in developing the city.
Take some time to admire
the facade with its spiky-shaped stones before stepping into the
courtyard known as Patio de Los Leones. Look out for the carved lion and
griffin motifs adorning the columns. Then head to the city museum or
stop by Las Salas del Duque, where you can spot 16th-century frescos
designed by Italian artist Romulo Cincinato.
A few steps away is the Palace of Antonio de Mendoza, dating back to the
16th century. The building mainly follows the Italian Renaissance
style, but you’ll also spot a few Neoclassical elements added in the
19th century. Throughout the years, it’s had multiple functions: a noble
palace, convent, and museum, but currently, it works as a school.
Right in the heart of the old town is another Renaissance palace called
Palacio de la Cotilla. Established around the 17th century by the
Marquises of Villamejor, it is the perfect representation of the noble
taste of that era. The main attraction here is the Chinese hall, where
you can admire a 19th-century Chinese rice paper featuring the feudal
life of Imperial China. End your visit with a stroll through the gardens
located around the back of the building.
Almost across the street from the palace is the Santa Maria
Co-Cathedral, a 14th-century building occupying the site of an old
mosque. Despite having had some renovations during the 17th century, its
Mudejar style is still prevalent. Among the most iconic elements are
the doors with horseshoe arches, a brick tower and several carved tombs.
As you exit the cathedral, you'll spot this striking 16th-century
chapel. The facade stands out with its brick structure, but it's worth
stepping inside to see the Mannerist frescos decorating the vault. You
can book a tour of the chapel (usually takes around 20 minutes) to learn
more about the building and its connection with the city.
Sharing the name of the El Alamín neighbourhood, this tower is one of the highlights of Guadalajara. The attached bridge was erected at the end of the 13th century by the Infanta Isabella, Lady of Guadalajara, and her sister Beatrix to allow access to the convent of San Bernardo. The tower is now home to an exhibition space that covers the history of medieval Guadalajara. The collection includes a model of the old city where you can see the former defensive layout and the narrow streets.
Plaza Mayor is the heart of Guadalajara's old town. This iconic square
is home to several restaurants, bars and shops. You can also find the
town hall here. Its central location makes it a good meeting spot too.
Keep walking down the Calle Mayor until you reach Plaza de Jardinillo, a
lovely square where you’ll find a 16th-century statue of Neptune.
Noteworthy buildings around here include the Bank of Spain, the Palace
of the Counts of Coruña and the Church of San Nicólas. Erected in 1647,
the church features a striking Baroque facade, while the interior has a
classic Jesuit style. It’s worth capturing the high altar and the statue
of comendador Rodrigo de Campuzano.
Another must-visit in Guadalajara is the beautiful Church of San Ginés
in Plaza de Santo Domingo. The highlight here is the colonial-style
facade with two towers on the side. Inside, you can discover paintings,
sculptures and chapels featuring ancient designs.
Just a few minutes from the church is Concordia Park. Take a stroll
under the trees and enjoy a break from sightseeing at one of the
benches. There are also swings and slides everywhere, making it ideal
This pantheon was built in honour of the father and relatives of María
Diega Desmaissieres, also known as the Duchess of Sevillano. Surrounded
by lush trees, it is a remarkable example of 19th-century architecture
influenced by the Italian art. Inside is a mix of paintings, sculptures
Our last stop is the Iglesia de Santa María Micaela. Designed by Velázquez Bosco, this 19th-century church has a single nave with three levels. It follows the Mudéjar style, but some pieces, like the choir arch, feature elements of the Renaissance too.
Alcalá de Henares: Alcalá de Henares is famous for being the
birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes, the brilliant author behind “Don
Quixote”. The house he was born in is now a museum dedicated to his
work. At Calle Mayor, keep an eye out for number 48, which features a
life-sized sculpture of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza sitting on a bench.
Other attractions in the town include the University, Torre de Santa
María, and the Corral de Comedias, an ancient theatre dating back to the
Alto Tajo Natural Park: You'll find this natural
reserve between Guadalajara and Cuenca. It offers one of the largest
networks of canyons and gorges in Castille-La Mancha. The scenery is
ideal for a hike, but you can also practise kayak, abseiling or mountain
There are a few things to do in Guadalajara with kids. The city is
relatively small, so you can easily explore it on foot. Beyond the main
attractions, families can visit the Guadalajara Zoo for free.
Alternatively, you can go hiking or kayaking along the Alto Tajo Natural
Like many places in the Castilla–La Mancha region, Guadalajara is
known of its meat dishes. Roasted lamb and kid are some of the top
specialities. Other favourite ingredients include trout, crayfish and
pork. Below are some of the best places to eat in Guadalajara:
Casa Palomo: This family-run restaurant is located right next to the
city's cathedral. The decor is rustic, with exposed brick walls and
ceramic flooring. Oxtail, suckling pig, lamb and mushrooms are a few
things you can expect to find on the menu.
Dávalos: This spacious restaurant is
conveniently located in the city centre. The menu features local
specialities like oxtail, as well as fresh fish. For dessert, try the
bizcochos borrachos, a kind of sponge cake typical from this region.
AC Hotel by Marriott Guadalajara (4 stars): Only a few steps from the
Infantado Palace, this contemporary hotel offers easy access to the
city's main attractions. It features 103 rooms with a minimal design.
Facilities include a fitness centre and a lounge offering cocktails and
small plates to share.
The best time to visit Guadalajara is around May. The weather is
pleasant enough for sightseeing, with temperatures ranging between 20ºC
and 26ºC. It gets much hotter in July when the temperatures can reach
32ºC. Meanwhile, January is the coldest month of the year, with an
average of 10ºC.
Festival of Medieval Theatre in Hita: The most important festival in the district of Guadalajara is the Festival of Medieval Theatre. Held in the town of Hita, it includes medieval plays, processions and dances. It all starts in early July with the 'Botargas' and 'Danzantes de la Somosierra', a performance that includes pipers and 'dulzainas' (an instrument similar to a clarinet). Other activities include a medieval lunch and the running of the bulls.