A Guide To: Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

All images ©  PAUL MARTINEZ

All images © PAUL MARTINEZ

Oaxaca is a vibrant colonial city, rich in indigenous roots. It’s full of bustling marketplaces, culinary delights and incredible folk art traditions.

Oaxaca is a place with fascinating history. Once, the capital of the Zapotec civilization located on the nearby mountaintop now known as Monte Albán. Later, the Dominicans built some of their most impressive churches and convents here. It’s now a city full of color, movement and sound; overflowing with deep-rooted culinary traditions. Oaxaca also offers ample tranquil spaces where one can quietly enjoy the natural and cultural beauty of this magical area.

Whether you're people-watching in the zócalo, eating street food from one of the bustling marketplaces, or shopping for traditional handcrafts; Oaxaca offers an immersive cultural experience for all to enjoy.

STAY

Oaxaca City’s rich history can be felt from the inside of one of its many hotels. From staying in a former convent to calling a former 19th-century colonial mansion your home for the weekend. Many of these hotels are within walking distance of central Oaxaca, where the majority of the tourist sites are located—and walking is definitely the best way to get around.

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Casa Los Telares

Airbnb is a great option for those booking last minute; which isn’t always recommended but does provide for some flexibility.

It’s also a great way to really immerse yourself in the place your visiting. You get to rise with the locals and even if just for a few days, get to experience what life can be living in the place you are visiting.

Casa Los Telares is a traditional Oaxacan home; combining contemporary elements and exterior finishes inspired by handcrafted looms with wood as the predominant element.

This property also has an open patio with a small garden, providing the optimal space to enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning or a bottle of mezcal in the evening.

It’s located in Oaxaca’s Xochimilco neighborhood near the Historic Center. Near museums, cafes, restaurants, galleries and traditional markets.

You can also reach the Church and former monastery of Santo Domingo de Guzmán (one of the cities main tourist attractions), within a few minutes on foot.

CASA ANTONIETA

This property provides the simplicity and hospitality of staying in a Oaxacan home with the attention and detail of a boutique hotel fit for the modern-day explorer. It’s the ideal place to disconnect and enjoy even the simplest moments. While also being the perfect home base for those who enjoy to be at the center of it all.

Each of Casa Antonieta’s six suites shares a special touch. From the finishes on the walls to the carefully selected handmade pieces by local artisans.

Their design draws on contemporary trends, in combination with the rich Oaxacan culture that keeps every corner of this hotel simple and unique.

The awe-inspiring and deep historical architecture of Casa Antonieta is apparent from the minute you arrive. With its large symmetrical columns perfectly surrounding the beautiful courtyard, allowing for a cool breeze and peaceful atmosphere.

In this common area, you can spend time sipping a latte from Muss Cafe—their onsite coffee bar.

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“Oaxaca is the belly of Mexico.” — HUGO ORTEGA

 

EAT

One of the many draws to Oaxaca is its culinary scene. The regional dishes borne from tradition are some of the best in Mexico, while the city’s growing reputation as a food hub has been driven by innovative chefs taking local cuisine to new heights.

STREET FOOD

We believe that some of the best food you can have when visiting a place, is that which is served by local street vendors.

Usually modest stalls set alongside the street, where locals gather to grab a quick bite throughout the day. It’s the lifeblood of the city and in our opinion, where the culinary experience begins.

Famous Oaxacan dishes that should not be missed include: tlayudas, tamales Oaxaqueños, memelas, tetelas and chapulines… yes, grasshoppers.

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Casa Oaxaca

As one of the top restaurants in town, having a meal at Casa Oaxaca is an experience unto itself. The menu is an elevated take on classic Oaxacan dishes with each plate packing an incredible array of flavor. Its courtyard and rooftop terrace offers plenty of seating for those looking to enjoy some of the best mole in town.

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Boulenc

Located in the heart of the city; Boulenc offers fresh daily baked bread, healthy-driven dishes and an assortment of beverages—from kombucha to mezcal. Their bread is the star, which is why many consider it to be the best bakery in town; using only fresh and locally sourced ingredients.

La Popular

An unassuming corner tucked restaurant serving an array of antojitos to snack on, as well as deliciously made Oaxacan and Mexican dishes. It tends to get busy as the night goes on, so make sure to arrive early and enjoy a few micheladas.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

A locals market consisting of a variety of food stalls where you can sample many Oaxacan specialties. One of the most popular areas is "El Pasillo de las Carnes Asadas,” also known as the grilled meats aisle. Where one can pick a select choice of raw meat and have it grilled to your specifications as you watch.

El Escapulario

Located right in the center of town, across from the Templo de Santo Domingo; El Escapulario serves a large variety of mole driven dishes. From the widely known ‘mole negro’ to a personal favorite of ours ‘mole coloradito.’

SEE

Mexico aficionados have long favored the state of Oaxaca for its climate, culinary richness and artistic traditions; but its landscapes and biodiversity are some of the best in all of Mexico.

As a state consisting of one of the country's largest indigenous populations, with two out of three Oaxaqueños descending from the Zapotec or Mixtec people; this cultural heritage can be experienced at the archaeological ruins of Monte Albán, Mitla, and Yagul. Each bearing witness to the highly advanced cultures of their ancestors and can be seen by traveling just a short journey from town.

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Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

Oaxaca is home to many impressive churches, but the most stunning is the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman; with construction dating back to the 16th century. Its interior decoration is hyper-ornate, full of 17th century baroque decoration.

The former convent also contains the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, a large and well presented museum famously housing the Treasure of Tomb 7 from Monte Alban.

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Monte Alban

Just a short drive from Oaxaca City is Monte Alban, an impressive archeological site and former ancient Zapotec city from 500 BC to 800 AD—making it one of the first in the Americas.

Today, the partially excavated area is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site that can be explored by visitors on a guided tour.

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Templo de Cuilapam de Guerrero

Cuilapan, located just southwest of Oaxaca, is one of the few Mixtec towns in the Valles Centrales. It’s the site of a historic Dominican monastery, the Ex Convento Dominicano, whose construction began in 1559 but was never finished.

Its large and intricate construction suggest that had this church been finished, it might have been the most beautiful and greatest monument of colonial Spanish America.

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HIERVE EL AGUA

This petrified waterfall is a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca city, with a good portion of the drive being on windy unpaved roads—which is why we suggest booking a guided tour.

The landscape is spectacular and allows you to enjoy some of the pleasures of rural Oaxaca.

Take a hike around the falls, then enjoy a dip in the mineral springs at the top. There are also many food stalls selling cold drinks and snacks on site.

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Mitla Archeological Site

San Pablo Villa de Mitla is a town located in the Central Valleys region, about a 40-minute drive from the capital of Oaxaca.

The name “Mitla” means “place of the dead” with this site being inhabited by Zapotec and Mixtec people during different periods. Making it one of the most important attractions of this area.

This site was discovered by archaeologist Leopoldo Batres during his explorations in 1901 and 1902.

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DO

Teotitlán del Valle textile tour

The Teotitlán valley lies less than an hour southeast of Oaxaca City and is renowned for its traditional hand-woven naturally died rugs. While many rugs made here are sold in various shops around Oaxaca, you can visit the source and interact with the artist’s directly in their workshops.

*Either book a group tour or hire a private driver to take you to a few artisans directly.

Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca guided tour

The Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca is a botanical garden sitting on a little over two acres in the middle of Oaxaca’s sprawling city center and the former monastic grounds of the Church of Santo Domingo.

*The botanical garden can only be explored through a guided tour; which is offered in English on Tuesday, Thursday and Sundays mornings.

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Mezcal Tasting

To understand Mezcal, you first have to understand how firmly rooted it is in myth and culture.

Book a tour of one of the many mezcal distilleries located just outside of the city. Where you’ll learn all about its origins and how it eventually became mezcal. 

EXPERIENCE a Oaxacan black clay workshop

Barro negro pottery or "black clay" is a style of pottery synonymous with Oaxaca and distinguished by its color, sheen and unique designs. Oaxaca is one of a few Mexican states which is characterized by the continuance of its ancestral crafts, which are still used in everyday life.

To head to the pottery’s original source, visit the village of San Bartolo Coyotepec where the biggest workshop—Alfarería Doña Rosa is located.

 

*THIS ARTICLE WAS MADE IN COLLABORATION WITH BAMBA EXPERIENCE.