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Guelaguetza | © Y! Música/Flickr
Guelaguetza | © Y! Música/Flickr
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The Best Things To See & Do In Oaxaca City

Picture of Lauren Cocking
Northern England Writer
Updated: 6 February 2018
While it would be hard to argue that Oaxaca is a neglected Mexican destination, it wouldn’t be erroneous to say that much of the attention this southern state gets on an international level is due to its legendary beaches and coastal hotspots. However, Oaxaca City is a gorgeous, culturally rich option that has a wealth of things to see and do, plus some exquisite and world famous cuisine.
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Wander Through the Historic Center

Oaxaca City was built for the wanderer; winding streets take you high up above the center with views over the Oaxacan skyline, and cobbled paths lead you to cafés you wouldn’t ordinarily have found in a million years. The multi-colored façades of many of Oaxaca City’s houses and edifices only adds to this smalltown charm in what is actually the state capital. Wandering round the historic center of Oaxaca is undoubtedly one of the must-do things for any visitor – just start at the zócalo and go from there!

Zócalo, Portal del Palacio, Centro, Oaxaca, México

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Relax in Parque Llano

If you want a break from exploring the city, then you must stop by Parque Llano. An open public space, there are trees, fountains and quaint walkways in abundance, making it the perfect place to go with a book, coffee or a friend, and on various days of the week markets are hosted there. Always busy, you’re sure to get a glimpse into everyday life for Oaxacan’s in the capital city; and, if you’re a people watcher, you might even find it tough to leave.

Parque Llano, Juárez, Centro, Oaxaca, México

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Visit the Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca

You’d be hard pressed to visit Oaxaca and not stop by the Museo de las Culturas at least once, given that it’s located next to the famed Templo de Santo Domingo in a 17th century converted monastery. Even if you’re not big on museums – and this one does have some cool exhibits – you should check it out for the location alone; huge open windows frame the surrounding Ethnobotanical Garden, creating some literally picture perfect views.

Museo de Las Culturas de Oaxaca, Macedonio Alcalá S/N, Centro, Oaxaca de Juárez, Oaxaca, México +52 951 516 2991

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Check out Santo Domingo

Speaking of which, the Templo de Santo Domingo – one of Mexico and Oaxaca’s most iconic landmarks – is also well worth a look at. It is over 400 years old and while it seems deceptively understated from the outside, the interior is ornate, impressive and positively drenched in gold. Also, given that it’s surrounded by cacti and often bathed in the midday sun, it makes for a great spot to take some artsy photos.

Templo de Santo Domingo, Calle de Macedonio Alcalá S/N, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 516 3720

Santo Domingo | Courtesy of author

Santo Domingo | Courtesy of author

Explore the Art Galleries

While Mexico City takes the title for the most museums, Oaxaca is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to art galleries. From smaller independent ones that you can dip in and out of as you wander the cobbled, winding streets of the city to the larger more famous ones that display pieces from renowned artists, the art scene in Oaxaca is absolutely one of the things you must see. We recommend the well-known contemporary art stronghold MACO, as well as the Museo Textil de Oaxaca.

MACO, Calle Macedonio Alcalá 202, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 514 1055

Museo Textil de Oaxaca, Hidalgo 917, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca, México +52 951 501 1104

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Attend the Guelaguetza

This one may be tricky to achieve if you’re not in Oaxaca during mid to late July, but you should absolutely make your best effort to attend the spectacular Guelaguetza celebration at least once in Oaxaca City. All seven of Oaxaca State’s regions are represented in this cultural spectacular that shows off some of Mexico’s best traditional dances. You must buy tickets in advance, though, (they go on sale about two months ahead of time) if you want a guaranteed seat.

Auditorio Guelaguetza, Carr. Internacional, Área sin Asignación de Nombre de Colonia, Oaxaca, México

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Visit a Typical Market

Oaxaca City is a haven for those who love trawling through a good market, whether that be a food market or one that sells traditional artisanal products and clothing. You can head to one of the city’s permanent markets, such as the Benito Juarez Market in the center, or keep your eyes peeled for the roaming street tianguis. If you do head to the former, we highly recommend picking up a packet of freshly ground Oaxacan coffee to take home with you as a souvenir.

Mercado de Benito Juárez, Miguel Cabrera S/N, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 516 2352

Drink Oaxacan Coffee

While on the subject of coffee, Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s primary coffee producing states and you can’t forget to café hop while you’re passing through. All down the city’s principal pedestrianized street, Calle Alcalá, there are numerous spots you can try your luck at and taste test the blends on offer, although if you want to plan ahead, we recommend Nuevo Mundo, Café El Volador or the legendary Café Brújula.

Nuevo Mundo, M. Bravo 206, Ruta Independencia, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 501 2122

Café El Volador, Xolotl 118, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 205 1664

Café Brújula, Calle Macedonio Alcalá 104, Ruta Independencia, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 516 1389

Café Brújula | © Bex Walton/Flickr
Café Brújula | © Bex Walton/Flickr

Try the Cuisine

Oaxacan cuisine is some of Mexico’s best and you can’t afford to miss out while you’re in the capital. Even if you can only try out a few dishes, make sure they include at least one of its regional specialities. Tlayudas are also known as Mexican pizzas because they’re large, crispy tortillas topped with beans, cheese, avocado and meats of your choice – you can’t not try one! The same goes for Oaxacan mole, chapulines (grasshoppers), tasajo (dried beef) and tamales Oaxaqueños.

Tlayuda | Courtesy of Inti Yañez
Tlayuda | Courtesy of Inti Yañez

Drink Authentic Mezcal

It’s not all about the food in Oaxaca; the drinks are also pretty damn good, too. The city is known for its mezcal and we highly recommend that if you have time, you pay a visit to one of the nearby mezcal factories where you can learn more about the process. Alternatively, stop by one of the city’s mezcalerías instead, and taste test the drink some regard as the cooler cousin of tequila. Los Amantes and In Situ are widely regarded as some of Oaxaca’s best mezcalerías.

Los Amantes, Allende 107, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca, México +52 951 501 0687

In Situ, José María Morelos 511, Centro, Oaxaca, México +52 951 514 1811

Fábrica de mezcal | Courtesy of author
Fábrica de mezcal | Courtesy of author