Has a spot ever spoken to you so deeply that you just depart feeling modified? Oaxaca City did that for me. Its thriller, vibrancy, layers upon layers of artwork, meals, tradition, and historical past made it probably the most lovely locations I’ve ever visited. Not solely is Oaxaca City visually gorgeous from each charming courtyard to sun-bleached zocalo, one thing about it spoke proper into my soul. The vibrant colours of the textiles and Seventeenth-century stucco buildings are rivaled by the heat and kindness of its locals, keen to introduce you to its wealthy historical past and culinary traditions.
On a current journey to Oaxaca City, I ate extra molé and recent tortillas than I ever thought doable, logged an unbelievable variety of miles on foot (almost all the pieces is walkable), sipped nice espresso or spicy mezcal at each meal, and wandered from store to store with an woke up curiosity for Oaxaca’s creative traditions. There have been wonders to be discovered round each nook, and I’ll be trustworthy—I’m already planning my return journey to dive deeper into Oaxaca’s magic. The handful of US and European expats I met described the town’s pull that spoke to their artist spirits in a method they couldn’t shake. So be forewarned: whereas this Oaxaca City journey information will persuade you to ebook an extended weekend, you’re destined to be again.
Want all of the deets on what I wore throughout my journey (aka, the final word summer season journey capsule wardrobe)? Sign up here to get the checklist.
What to find out about Oaxaca City
One of the one complete cities that made it onto UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list, Oaxaca City is known for its beauty, incredible history, and rich arts and crafts traditions.
When to go to Oaxaca
There’s really no bad time to visit Oaxaca City. Its temperate year-round climate and make it pretty much perfect all the time. And, it’s widely considered one of the safest regions in Mexico.
Where is Oaxaca City?
Oaxaca (pronounced waa·haa·kuh) is both the name of the state (Oaxaca de Juarez) located in southern Mexico, and the capital city. Most things to do in Oaxaca City are located near the city center, so you’ll often hear locals simply reference “Centro” when talking about things to do or places to eat in the city. When you fly into Oaxaca City, pull out some pesos at the airport or a bank to cover taxis and cash-only restaurants.
How to get around.
Almost everything in Centro is walkable, so you can definitely get away without a car. There are incredible day trips all around the area, but there are myriad taxi, bus, and private tour guide options, which I’ll share in my Oaxaca City travel guide below.
Where to stay: Best Oaxaca Hotels
Escondido Oaxaca. Part of the Grupo Habita hotel group, Escondido Oaxaca was our home base for the trip, and it was basically perfect. Located right in Centro, the hotel is a beautifully-designed blend of history and modernism. Whether you stay here or not, be sure to watch at least one sunset while sipping a mezcal margarita on the lush rooftop terrace.
Casa Antonieta. Our friends stayed at Casa Antonieta, and we were thankful for a reason to make it our second home, stopping by for cocktails on the terrace and snacks at the charming light-filled restaurant, Muss Café. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in Oaxaca City, dating to 1529, it has that certain character that can’t be replicated in newer construction, though the thoughtfully-designed rooms and beautiful design details fill it with modern comfort.
Here’s what to do in Oaxaca City on a long weekend…
Day 1: Explore the City on Foot—and Discover the Best Oaxaca City Spot for Mezcal
Head to beloved bakery Boulenc for breakfast (it likely won’t be your last visit there over the course of the weekend.) Hop in line at the counter bakery to grab pastries and a cold brew latté, or grab a table and order from the menu—highly recommend the breakfast sandwich served on a house-made english muffin. Share a flaky, sugar topped Nudo pastry for dessert.
I learned from experience that the best way to soak up Oaxaca City is to carve out several hours just to walk, explore, and be guided by your curiosity. Start in the zocalo around stunning Santo Domingo church, then pop into the textile and ceramics shops that speak to you. A few favorites of mine: Huizache is a big store with conventional embroidered clothes and textiles, ceramics, and different artisan items; Los Baúles de Juana Cata for lovely tablecloths and napkins, and Silvia Suarez for hats and clothes. Marchanta is the store I want we had in the states—beautiful garments and luggage with sculptural shapes and arresting patterns from South American designers.
When your ft want a break, seize a espresso at Onno Loncheria—the vibe is hip, and the espresso and snacks are stable.
Run don’t stroll to Las Quince Letras for lunch. Our guide, Lalo, who was born and raised in Oaxaca City, recommended this spot as one of his favorites, and I’m so glad he did. We sampled three types of molés and devoured corn tortillas made by hand on the comal in the center of the restaurant. It was fresh, nourishing, and I wanted to go back and try everything on the menu.
Now it’s time to wander, a key part of any trip to Oaxaca City. Some of the greatest moments from our trip happened when we didn’t plan, walking around the streets of Centro, popping into shops that caught our eye, people-watching, and snapping photos of beautiful buildings covered in flowering vines. Go ahead, get a little lost.
Since Oaxaca is the birthplace of mezcal, it’s no secret that everyone here is obsessed. The ultimate mezcal tasting happens at Mezcaloteca. Make a reservation at this incredibly “library” of over 100 types of mezcals, and your group will have the place all to yourself as Rodrigo guides you through an hourlong history of mezcal in Oaxaca, as well as how to experience it for maximum enjoyment. You won’t want to leave without buying a bottle to take home.
Head to dinner at Criollo, one of the most visually stunning restaurants I’ve ever set foot in. Helmed by Chef Enrique Olvera (of Pujol in Mexico City), that is undoubtedly one of many pricier meals you’ll have in Oaxaca, but it surely’s a singular expertise that I might advocate for any first-time customer to the town. You enter by means of a colonial mansion, and are led into an expansive courtyard with minimalist wooden furnishings, lush flowers, and bunnies and chickens roaming the property. The 6-course menu is elevated however speaks to Oaxacan custom. Prepare to eat a lot.
Day 2: Soak up historical past at Monte Albán
Tour Monte Albán. Sure you may take a taxi to this historical Zapotec metropolis, however hiring a neighborhood information to fill us in on the unbelievable historical past of this archaeological website, based round 500 B.C., was value each penny. Hearing the tales and which means behind the pyramids, tombs, and historical carvings introduced it to life in a method that I by no means would have appreciated alone. Monte Albán opens at 8am, and the sooner you arrive, the extra likelihood you have got of beating the new solar. (Shoot an e mail to [email protected] in case you’re going to Oaxaca and wish our information’s contact data!)
Grab lunch at delicious vegan restaurant Hierbe Dulce—the food is surprisingly satisfying whether you’re vegan or not. We sat on the very warm courtyard (seriously, try to grab a spot near a fan) and had tostadas topped with pickled vegetables, new twists on guacamole, iced horchatas, and mushroom tacos.
Hope you saved room for an ice cream, because come 5pm, the Nieves vendors come out all around the city center. It’s one taste you’ve got to experience when visiting Oaxaca City. Nieves is artisanal hand-churned ice cream that’s more like sorbet than traditional American ice cream. It comes in refreshing flavors like mango, hibiscus, and cactus fruit.
If it’s Saturday, you’ll likely be treated to an impromptu wedding parade through Oaxaca City’s streets—truly one of the highlights of our entire stay. Let yourself get caught up in the parade and join the dancing.
Casa Oaxaca is one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City, so definitely make time for a dinner there. Thanks to the stunning setting and incredible food, it’s as beloved by locals as it is by tourists and travel experts. Request a seat on the terrace overlooking the church, and prepare your appetite for a parade of Oaxacan seafood dishes, molés, grilled meats—and for dessert, an incredible coconut flan that I’m still dreaming about.
Day 3: Explore the Art, Artisans, and Best Oaxaca Restaurants
Start the day with a pastry (did I mention the Nudo from Boulenc? I ate one every day of our trip.) Then, make it a point to explore the interior of Templo de Santo Domingo, the long-lasting church in the town heart that you just’ve possible walked previous numerous instances at this level in your journey. It’s free to enter the church, and in case you plan forward, you may reserve a spot in one of many guided excursions of its Botanic Gardens, which I extremely advocate. There are a number of guided excursions a day, with a couple of every week in English.
Oaxaca City is filled with pottery, textile, and residential retailers—there’s an unbelievable fusion of conventional people artwork and fashionable design. My favourite place to go for handmade ceramics is Colectivo 1050°. Don’t let its small size fool you—it’s packed floor to ceiling with a stunning array of handmade pieces made by artisans around Oaxaca, and perfectly embodies this blending of past and present.
For lunch, head to one of the markets like Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Pull up a chair and have perfect carne asada cooked right in front of you, with peppers, onions, and (of course) handmade tortillas to wrap it all up in.
Though the weekend is nearing a close, we’ve saved perhaps the best experience for last: a trip outside Oaxaca City to Teotitlán del Valle, a small village that epitomizes why Oaxaca is the capital of Mexico’s artisan craft scene. You can ebook a information to take you to the village by means of many resorts or journey companies—our unbelievable information Angie took us to family-owned workshops the place we might watch artisans weave vibrantly-hued rugs, hand-dye wool with pure supplies like flowers and herbs, and create lovely beeswax candles into sculptural kinds. Many of the artists deliver a up to date point-of-view to historic Zapotec designs. It’s actually a once-in-a-lifetime, can’t-miss alternative when you’re in Oaxaca.
It’s time to get dressed up and toast an unforgettable weekend in Oaxaca City. Book a table at Selva for artisanal cocktails made with Oaxacan ingredients. Since it’s your last night, might as well go with a mezcal drink, like the green Selva cocktail described as a “rainforest in a glass.”
Words can’t describe my love for dinner at Levadura de Olla, fairly probably my favourite meal of all the journey. Everyone advised us that the tomato salad was an absolute spotlight, and they were right. 26-year-old chef/proprietor Thalía Barrios Garcia has created a menu rooted in the delicacies of her hometown in Oaxaca’s southern mountains, and her meals is without delay recent and smoky, vegetable-forward and deeply nourishing. We sipped crisp white wine from Mexico and dug into candy potato-filled tamales as the feminine cooks turned out recent corn tortillas on the close by comal. More than some other meal I’ve had in current reminiscence, all the pieces about dinner at Levadura de Olla made me actually, actually completely satisfied.
Have any recommendations to add to our Oaxaca City travel guide? Drop your tips and favorite spots in the comments.