30 Unmissable Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico [2022]


Wondering, What is there to do in Oaxaca?

You’ve come to the right place, because this article will highlight the 30 best things to do in Oaxaca City, Mexico. It also includes information about the best Oaxaca day trips, and a few places located just outside the city.

Oaxaca City itself is quite walkable, so you won’t need a rental car in Oaxaca for the city. If you’re venturing outside the city to the things to see in Oaxaca nearby, you’ll want a car, or if you prefer not to drive, you can book a tour.

With all the things to do in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, listed below, you’ll see recommended tours if the place is located outside of the city.

If you have the time and space on your Oaxaca itinerary, make sure to venture outside the city, where some of the top sites are located.

Ready to get to this list of the 30 best things to do in Oaxaca City? Let’s dive in!

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Map

For your convenience, all the places to see in Oaxaca City mentioned in this article have been pinned to the map above. I hope it makes planning your trip to Oaxaca Mexico a little easier, so all you have to do is enjoy!

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

1. Hierve el Agua Oaxaca

woman at the pools in hierve el agua in oaxaca mexicoHierve el Agua is one of the most Instagram worthy Mexico destinations. (Photo: Sebastian Huber via Unsplash)

Is Hierve el Agua open? Yes — Hierve el Agua reopened to the public in October 2021 after being closed for about 1.5 years. Head to Hierve el Agua Oaxaca Mexico: Ultimate Visitor’s Guide for more info.

Located about 45 miles from Oaxaca City, is perhaps Oaxaca’s most famous natural wonder — Hierve el Agua, which means boiling water.

While the natural mineral pools are the most photographed places here, you should also check out the amazing “cascadas” (waterfalls).

“Cascadas” is in quotes because there are two cliff faces at Hierve el Agua that look like waterfalls.

They are covered in calcified mineral deposits, which just so happen to look like falling water. You can see this from afar at the pools, or you can hike down for a closer look.


The easiest way to experience Hierve el Agua? On a tour of Hierve el Agua, of course! Check out the great, and varied, tours of Hierve el Agua below, ranging from half- and full-day trips to one of the best Oaxaca places to visit.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

2. Monte Alban Oaxaca Ruins

monte alban ruins in oaxaca mexicoThough not as well-known as Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, Monte Albán archaeological site is the perfect place to see pre-hispanic ruins in Oaxaca.

Located about 30 minutes outside of the Oaxaca City Center, Monte Alban is the most-visited of all archeological sites and ancient ruins in Oaxaca Mexico.

It is among the best pyramids and ruins in Mexico, and a Oaxaca must see for all visitors.

You can visit on your own, but tours of Monte Alban means having a guide explain all the ways this site is so important — and there are many.

If you’re visiting on your own, arrive early to beat the crowds and the midday sun; Monte Albán opens at 8am.

When visiting, remember to wear a hat, eco-friendly sunscreen, sunglasses and comfortable shoes.

Don’t forget to bring your Water-To-Go Bottle, which filters your water so you don’t get sick in Mexico, and keeps you hydrated ▶︎ Use code SOLO15 for 15% OFF your order.

Best Monte alban tours in Oaxaca

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

3. Oaxaca Centro Historico and Zocalo

colorful buildngs in centro historico, downtown oaxaca cityThe beautiful Macedonio Alcalá Theater in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico.

While it may just look like a beautiful colonial city now, Oaxaca City and Centro de Oaxaca (Downtown Oaxaca), dates back to 1529 when it was originally occupied by the native Oaxaca Zapotec people.

Today, it is a mix of old and new. Out of the hundreds of sites listed on UNESCO’s World Heritage Site list, very few entire cities have made the cut, but Oaxaca City does. You can get to know it on the Oaxaca Free Walking Tour.

🤑 Note: Though free, tips are customary. Consider tipping at least $100 MX pesos per person ($5 USD).

Best Oaxaca tours in the city

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

4. Take a Oaxaca Cooking Class

man preparing food at a cooking class in oaxaca cityLearn how to make guacamole the real way, in a Mexican molcajete.

If there’s one thing Oaxaca is known for — it’s food!

However, Oaxacan cuisine isn’t what most people know as traditional Mexican food, because things like tacos, burritos and nachos aren’t the traditional foods of Oaxaca.

👩‍🍳 This Traditional Oaxacan Cooking Class with Sonia Silvia is one of the highest rated tours in Oaxaca City.

Instead, you’ll find tlayudas, mole, memelas, tamales oaxaqueños, tetelas, chapulines, enmoladas, tejate and cafe de olla.

Have no idea what any of that is?! You can learn about it, cook it, and of course, eat it, in these best cooking classes in Oaxaca City

Best Oaxaca Cooking Classes

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

5. Mitla Oaxaca Pueblo Magico

stone building in mitla oaxaca mexicoThe Mitla pueblo magico (magic town) is worth a visit to see the ancient ruins, shop from street vendors and enjoy the local culture.

After Monte Alban, Oaxaca’s second most important archeological site is in Mitla. It is a Oaxaca Mexico UNESCO World Heritage site, along with Prehistoric Caves of Yagul.

As Mitla is easy to access, and the caves are not, most tours and visitors will only go to Mitla, Oaxaca.

Oaxaca UNESCO World Heritage Sites

There are not one, but three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Oaxaca — Historic Downtown Oaxaca City, Monte Alban Ruins, and the Prehistoric Caves of Yagul and Mitla — and all three belong on your What to do in Oaxaca City list.

Best Mitla Oaxaca tours

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

6. El Tule Tree (World’s Widest Tree Trunk)

el tule tree in oaxaca mexico, the widest tree trunkEl Arbol de Tule (Tule tree) is located in Santa Maria del Tule, one of the best small towns near Oaxaca City.

A must see Oaxaca vacation site! El Tule (The tree of enlightenment) is a giant Montezuma cypress tree on the grounds of the gorgeous Templo Santa María de la Asunción church in the pueblo (small town) of Santa Maria del Tule, Oaxaca Mexico.

It has the world’s biggest tree trunk at 46-feet (14 m), which takes at least 30 people with clasped hands to wrap around. Scientists date this tree at about 2,000-years-old.

However, the Zapotec people of Oaxaca say the Wind God Ehécatl planted it about 1,400 years ago.

el tule Oaxaca tours

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

7. Oaxaca Botanical Gardens

cacti and plants in oaxaca botanical garden | best things to do in oaxaca city mexicoOne of the top things to see in Oaxaca Mexico is the beautiful Botanical Garden in Oaxaca City.

To see more of the native Oaxaca plants, head to Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca City Botanical Garden), located in downtown next to Templo de Santo Domingo.

This 2.5-acre garden showcases the immense biodiversity in Oaxaca with hundreds of local plants and cacti.

🌵 Oaxaca Travel Tip: Due to the fragility of the garden’s ecosystem, you can only enter with a guided tour. English tours take place Monday to Saturday at 11am, and last two hours. Oaxaca Botanical Garden tours cost $100 pesos ($5USD) per person.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

8. Pasillo de Humo in Mercado 20 Noviembre Market

cooking meat at pasillo de humo AKA smoke alley in oaxaca city november 20 market Visit three Oaxaca markets, including Mercado 20 Noviembre Oaxaca, on the Eating with a Local at the Markets tour where you’ll sample from the best food stalls.

Located inside the November 20 Market, you’ll find Pasillo de Humo, which means Smoke Hall or Smoke Alley.

Here, there are rows of vendors selling meats and veggies a la carte that you can buy and have them cooked al carbon (over charcoal) for a delicious smoky flavor.

If this will be your first visit to the Oaxaca Pasillo de Humo, it can be intimidating — especially if you don’t speak Spanish.

For this reason, I recommend going on the Eating with a Local at the Markets tour, or checking out this YouTube video about the market.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

9. Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman

Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman in oaxaca cityLocated in Oaxaca’s main square, the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is a 16th Century Spanish Baroque church, and the main religious center in town.

Only have 2 or 3 days in Oaxaca? Then don’t miss the Santo Domingo Temple, Museo de las Culturas and Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, all located next to one another.

The temple architecture is beautiful, and the museum has 14 rooms with permanent exhibitions about the history of Oaxaca.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

10. Oaxaca Photoshoot with a Pro

woman in floral dress in front of colonial church on a photoshoot in oaxaca city, mexicoLet a professional photographer capture the memories of your Oaxaca trip. (Photo: Photoshoot in the Center of Oaxaca City via Airbnb, Things to do Oaxaca City)

Join Kabir and Hugo, professional photographers Oaxaca locals, on a photoshoot in picturesque Oaxaca City.

You’ll go to all the top places to visit in Oaxaca, like Santo Domingo Church and Macedonio Alcalá Theater, and some Oaxaca off the beaten path hidden gems.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

11. Try Doña Vale’s Memelas: As Seen on Netflix

Valentina Hernández, AKA Doña Vale, serving a memela. (Photo: Food Tour in the Abastos Market via Airbnb)

Head to Mercado Central de Abastos, the largest market in Oaxaca City, to sample the memelas from Doña Vale.

She’s been well known for her memelas and salsa morita for years, but became a local celeb after appearing in an episode of Netflix: Street Food Latin America.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

12. Street Art Bike Tour of Oaxaca

Yellow building with balconyMarvel at all the best street art in Oaxaca on the Street Art Bike Ride in Oaxaca City with a local tour guide to show you around. (Photo: Airbnb)

Join Carlos Alberto, a Oaxaca City local, on a Oaxaca bike tour through three of the city’s best neighborhoods.

You’ll pass by colorful houses, buildings with unique architecture, all the top Oaxaca City sites, the coolest Oaxaca street art, and more.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

13. Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Textile Museum)

woman wearing colorful oaxaca textile skirtLearn how to do bordado, or traditional Mexican embroidery, in this Making Beautiful Oaxacan Embroidery class.

The architecture of the Oaxaca Textile Museum is just as impressive as the colorful textiles inside.

If you happen to be visiting during Oaxaca Day of the Dead, you’ll find it covered in thousands of marigold flowers, for a beautiful smell and look 🌼

This is by no means a huge museum, but head inside to see the traditional Oaxacan textiles and beautifully-displayed handicrafts.

The museum gift shop also sells artisan textiles by locals in the areas surrounding Oaxaca City. Admission to the Oaxaca Textile Museum is FREE.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

14. Best Oaxaca Mezcal Bars

bartender pouring mezcal into a small cupLooking for things to do in Oaxaca at night? Head to the mezcalerias, or Oaxaca City mezcal bars.

Mezcal is a distilled spirit that can be made from more than 30 varieties of the maguey (agave plant).

It is meant to be sipped and savored, because mezcal has an intense flavor that’s quite complex. If mezcal sounds like tequila to you — it kind of is.

Much like how champagne is essentially a sparkling wine from the city of Champagne, France, tequila is a kind of mezcal from the city of Tequila, Mexico that’s made only with blue agave.

If Tequila is the land of tequila, Oaxaca is the land of mezcal.

To show how much Oaxacans love their mezcal, there’s this common saying: Para todo mal, mezcal. Para todo bien, también. This means, “For everything good, mezcal. For everything bad, mezcal.”

🥃 When visiting, make sure to check out these best mezcalerias in Oaxaca City:

La Mezcaloteca Mezcal Tasting Room

three small glasses off mezcal at a bar in oaxaca city mexicoLocated in the Oaxaca de Juarez City Centre (Downtown), make sure to visit La Mezcaloteca Oaxaca mezcal bar.

La Mezcaloteca Oaxaca is part mezcal school, part tasting room. After your time here, you can take your knowledge of mezcal to all other mezcalerias in Oaxaca you visit.

🥃 Note: There’s free admission, but reservations are required.

La Casa del Mezcal

This is one of the oldest mezcal bars in Oaxaca City, founded in 1935, which offers many different varieties of mezcal.

It has a charming vintage aesthetic, and you’ll feel like you’ve traveled back in time when you walk through the doors at La Casa del Mezcal Oaxaca.

La Mezcalerita

La Mezcalerita Oaxaca has a casual atmosphere, with three cozy rooms downstairs and a big rooftop patio.

There are a lot of rooftops in Oaxaca to choose from, so make sure you visit this one (or any of them) to enjoy the beautiful Oaxaca sunset and live music one evening.

Along with their extensive list of Oaxaca mezcals, they also have a huge list of artisanal beers from Mexico. La Mezcalerita is also a brewery so this is both a great Oaxaca mezcaleria and one of the best Oaxaca beer bars.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

15. Ancient Temazcal Ritual (Sweat Lodge)

man sitting outside a temazcal in oaxaca mexico (similar to a sweat lodge)Oaxacan temazcal ceremonies are a big part of the local culture.

For some self care, you’ll want to put a temazcal ceremony on your list of things to do in Oaxaca City.

Temazcal is a pre-hispanic cleansing and purification ritual, similar to a Native American sweat lodge — so expect to sweat a lot.

The Ceviarem Temazcal Oaxaca is located right outside downtown Oaxaca City, but for a more authentic experience, head about 45 minutes out of the city to Ex Hacienda San Antonio Hotel & Spa.

Their RenaSiendo en Oaxaca Temazcal Ceremony is an authentic temazcal ceremony.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

16. Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Culture Museum)

oaxaca culture museum at templo santo domingo oaxaca cityThe Oaxaca Museum of Cultures is located at the Santo Domingo de Guzman Cathedral in downtown.

After visiting the Santo Domingo de Guzman Church and Oaxaca Botanical Garden, head next door to the Oaxaca Culture Museum.

Also called the Oaxaca Culture Center and Museum of Cultures, the museum has 14 rooms with exhibits that chronicle the history of Oaxaca State.

More of the Best Oaxaca Museums

There are quite a few more museums in Oaxaca City to choose from.

Besides the Oaxaca Cultural Center and Textile Museum already listed, there’s also the Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO), the Rufino Tamayo Museum and the Oaxaca Stamp Museum.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

17. Learn How Mezcal is Made at El Rey de Matatlan

mezcal making process in oaxaca cityLearn how mezcal is made on a mezcal tour at El Rey de Matatlán mezcal distillery in Oaxaca.

Oaxaca is the top agave producing state in Mexico, and where most Mexican mezcal comes from — so there’s a plethora of agave fields.

Many are not actually open to the public, but some, like El Rey de Matatlan, has distillery tours, a sampling station and store on-site.

Admittedly, El Rey de Matatlan Oaxaca is a bit touristy. If you want to visit some of the more off the beaten path Oaxaca City agave farms, join a local guide one of these highly-rated Oaxaca City mezcal tours ⤵

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

18. Oaxaca Artisan Villages

black pottery from oaxaca mexicoYou’ll see local artisans making the famous black pottery of Oaxaca on the Black Pottery, Alebrijes, Textiles Villages Tour. (Photo: Airbnb, Oaxaca things to do)

There are eight regions of Oaxaca, each different from the other. One of the main distinguishing features is the art that comes from each area.

The most commonly visited towns are listed below, and if you want to buy souvenirs in Oaxaca, these are the places.

San Bartolo Coyotepec: Black Pottery Town

In the Oaxacan black pottery town of San Bartolo Coyotepec you get to see where the famous barro negro (black clay) comes from, and the artisans who make it.

This pottery was first made by Doña Rosa hundreds of years ago, and is still the town’s main source of income today.

Santo Tomás Jalieza: Textile and Rug Town

man making a rug on a loom in oaxaca mexicoWatch Oaxacan artisan handcraft rugs and textiles on the Black Pottery, Alebrijes, Textiles Villages Tour.

In Santo Tomás Jalieza Oaxaca, you’ll see the entire textile-making process — from hand-dying the yarn with natural materials, to how the famous Oaxacan rugs are made on a loom.

There’s a large selection of rugs for sale, with shipping available.

San Martin Tilcajete: Alebrije Town

colorful alebrije mexican folk artOaxacan alebrijes are fictional hybrid animals that serve as spirit guides, like Dante in the movie Coco.

Alebrijes (pronounced al-lay-bree-hays) are iconic and colorful Mexican folk art creations, made from paper maché or carved from wood.

On first glance, they look like animal figures — but when you look closer, you’ll see each one combines a few animals into one figure.

👩‍🎨 For a unique Oaxaca experience, join the Learn to Paint Your Own Alebrije class.

First made with paper mache by artist Pedro Linares in Mexico City, Manuel Jiménez Ramírez is the artist credited with making the wooden Oaxacan alebrijes that are so popular today.

Nowadays, many visitors head to the pueblo (small town) of San Martín Tilcajete, Oaxaca, Mexico to buy their own unique alebrije figure. As these are handmade, no two alebrijes are alike.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

19. Eat the 7 Moles of Oaxaca

red, black and green mole enchiladas in oaxaca cityRed, black and green enmoladas, which are Oaxacan enchiladas covered in mole instead of salsa, as they are in traditional Mexican cuisine.

Wondering, What food is Oaxaca known for? It’s mole (pronounced moe-lay), and there are seven Oaxaca moles (listed below).

Mole is also the national dish of Mexico, and it’s also made in other states like Chiapas and Puebla, which both border Oaxaca State.

  • Mole Negro: Black Mole, the most popular type.
  • Mole Poblano: AKA Mole Rojo, or Red Mole. Mole almendrado (almond mole) is a common variation of mole poblano.
  • Mole Colorado: Dark Red Mole
  • Mole Verde: Green Mole
  • Mole Amarillo: Yellow Mole
  • Mole Manchamantel
  • Mole Chichilo

What is mole?

selling mole at a market in oaxacaThe best way to learn about mole in Oaxaca is in a cooking class, like the Traditional Oaxacan Cooking Class with Sonia Silvia.

Oaxacan mole is unique because it’s a marinade, a sauce and a full meal.

Mole is commonly served with rice and chicken or turkey, or used as a sauce, as with enmoladas. This is a Oaxacan take on enchiladas, which are usually topped with salsa, but mole is used in Oaxaca.

Mole recipes vary, but generally consist of these ingredients: chiles, red and green tomatoes, fruit, chocolate, local spices, nuts and seeds.

The ingredients are crushed and worked into a paste, then mixed with water or stock, and slow-cooked for hours (or days) until thick.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

20. Mercado Benito Juárez Market Visit

colorful purses for sale in oaxaca marketYou’ll find everything from clothing and textiles to mezcal and fresh produce in the Oaxaca markets.

One of the best things to do in Oaxaca City is just strolling the city’s mercados, or local markets.

The most well-known and best market in Oaxaca is Benito Juarez Market, perfect for everything from buying souvenirs, to sampling Oaxacan food and drinks, like aguas casildas.

Opened in 1926 by the late Casilda Flores Morales, Aguas Casilda in Mercado Benito Juárez Market is where the locals go for their aguas casildas (a local variation of aguas frescas).

Make sure to try the chilacayote, a family recipe that’s been passed down for generations.

Sunday Market in Tlacolula

If you’re visiting Oaxaca on a Sunday, head to the massive Mercado de Tlacolula in the nearby city of Tlacolula.

Vendors from all over the Oaxaca Valleys come here to sell everything from farm-to-table food and mezcal, to traditional clothing to artesanias (handmade crafts).

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

21. Oaxaca Pueblos Mancomunados

The Pueblos Mancomunados, located in the Sierra Norte Mountains, are the best places to learn about indigenous cultures in Oaxaca and Mexican culture. (Photo: Flashpack Journal)

For a unique, off the beaten path Oaxaca experience, head into the Sierra Norte mountains on a trekking adventure to the Pueblos Mancomunados.

These eight self-governing indigenous Zapotec villages, located a few hours from Oaxaca City, provide immersive Mexico ecotourism experiences.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

22. Top 10 Best Restaurants in Oaxaca City

fancy taco at el destilado restaurant in oaxaca cityFor a decadent splurge meal, enjoy the 12-course chef’s tasting at El Destilado Oaxaca — like I did!

For a more complete list, check out the 40 Best Restaurants in Oaxaca City for Foodies. As a bonus, the article also lists the 5 Best Mezcal Bars in Oaxaca as well.

Casa Oaxaca: Alejandro Ruiz’s famed Oaxacan eatery, located at the Casa Oaxaca Hotel. Order a bottle of Mexican wine, the crispy duck tacos, any of their moles — and do not skip dessert.

🍷Oaxaca Travel Tip: Make a reservation for a rooftop table.

El Destilado: Want to splurge on an amazing meal? Do the 12-course chef’s tasting menu with drink pairing at this fine dining restaurant in Oaxaca that serves innovative and delicious food.

Criollo: The seven-course tasting menu at Criollo Oaxaca changes daily, but you can expect an elevated spin on classic Oaxacan foods from chefs Enrique Olvera (of Pujol Mexico City) and Luis Arellano.

Ancestral Cocina Tradicional: You can try all seven moles here, or enjoy their Mole and Mezcal Experience.

La Olla Oaxaca: The menu changes seasonally, so try the menu del dia (menu of the day) for the freshest local cuisine.

Tlayudas Libres: Order a tlayuda and top it with cecina, tasajo or chorizo, if you eat meat.

oaxaca food: Mexican pizza, or tlayudaHead to Tlayudas Libres Doña Martha to try a Oaxaca tlayuda covered in yummy queso Oaxaca cheese.

Boulenc Oaxaca Bakery: Order shakshuka for breakfast, a brick-oven pizza for lunch, and a pastry for dessert, at what’s known to be the best bakery in Oaxaca.

Itanoni Oaxaca: Order tetelas, de ese con frijoles refritos (refried beans), tamales, memelas and wash it all down with tascalate or agua fresca (fresh fruit water).

Not sure what any of that means?! Learn to eat like a local on this tour.

Las Quince Letras: Owned and run by Oaxaca culinary legend, Celia Florián. Order the trilogía de moles (trilogy of moles) to sample three types of mole in one meal.

Lechoncito de Oro: A must try taqueria (Oaxaca taco shop)! This late-night street taco stand only serves chicharron (fried pork skin) and pierna (pork leg), so try one of each.

Beloved by locals, they serve some of the best tacos in Oaxaca City.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

23. Best Shopping in Oaxaca: ARIPO Oaxaca Artisan Market

colorful textiles on oaxacan rugs No list of the best things to do in Oaxaca City is complete with shopping for goods made by local people.

There are eight regions of Oaxaca, each different from the other.

The Instituto de Artesanias Oaxaqueños, or ARIPO, is the best place to shop for jewelry, clothing, art, textiles, homewares, crafts and artisanal products from each Oaxaca region. You can also shop ARIPO online.

🛍 Best Shopping in Oaxaca City

Want to do a bit more Oaxaca shopping?

Great choice; the local art from Oaxaca is beautiful, and most places to shop in Oaxaca City are fair trade, like these: Don Remigio Mestas, Colectivo 1050°, Marchanta, Silvia Suarez, MisMezcales, Xico 303 and Tienda Q.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

24. Andador de Macedonia Alcalá Pedestrian-Only Street

Andador de Macedonia Alcalá Pedestrian-Only Street in oaxaca city mexicoColorful Calle Macedonia Alcala is a pedestrian-only street with shops, restaurants and bars in Downtown Oaxaca City, Mexico.

Calle Macedonia Alcala is a main thoroughfare in Oaxaca City, as it connects the Santo Domingo Church with the Oaxaca Zocalo (Town Square).

As you walk this lively street, you’ll pass all the best Oaxaca art galleries, shops, bars, restaurants, museums and more.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

25. Sip Hot Chocolate at Mayordomo

oaxaca food: dunking a piece of bread into a cup of hot chocolateDipping a pan dulce (sweet bread) into hot chocolate at Mayordomo Oaxaca Chocolate Shop.

Chocolate has been a staple food throughout Mexico since prehispanic times.

In Oaxaca, one of the top regions for cacao beans in Mexico, you’ll find it used more for hot chocolate than eaten straight up. It’s also one of the main ingredients in mole negro (black mole).

While often prepared with milk, chocolate oaxaqueño (Oaxacan hot chocolate) is made with chocolate and water.

It is still frothy like in the United States because this chocolate beverage is hand-spun using a wooden whisk called a molinillo, which creates a foamy top.

The best place to try traditional Oaxaca hot chocolate is Mayordomo Oaxaca City.

There are several locations throughout Downtown Oaxaca City, where you can see the chocolate being made, and also enjoy free samples of their products.

Also try Tejate in Oaxaca

Tejate (pronounced tay-ha-tay) is a centuries-old chocolate and corn drink. While that flavor combo may not sound appetizing, this ancient drink has stood the taste test of time.

In fact, Oaxacans love their tejate so much, they call it the bebida de los dioses (drink of the gods).

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

26. Colorful Jalatlaco Neighborhood

colorful buildings in jalatlaco oaxaca city mexicoJalatlaco has some of the best coffee shops in Oaxaca, like Cocuche Artesanía & Café (AKA Coffee Shop The Pleasure).

Love street art, colorful buildings and cute cafes? Then head to the hippest of all Oaxaca neighborhoods — Jalatlaco (pronounced ha-lat-lack-oh).

It is located just outside of Centro Historico and the Zocalo, and makes for a fun, leisurely place to just stroll around.

Not sure where to stay in Oaxaca City? There are some great places here, and it’s a lot less touristy than Centro Historico so you get a more authentic locals’ vibe.

Of the best hotels in Jalatlaco, you’ll fall in love with City Centro Hotel, the famous pink hotel in Oaxaca City.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

27. Xochimilco Aqueduct in Oaxaca City

colorful xochimilco neighborhood in oaxaca city

Xochimilco (pronounced so-chee-mill-co) is the oldest Oaxaca City neighborhood. It is located just north of downtown, and known for colorful buildings and history.

One of the coolest things in Xochimilco is an 18th century aqueduct that runs along Callejon Rufino Tamayo street.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

28. Teotitlán Del Valle Zapotec Village

colorful oaxaca rugs from Teotitlán del Valle, MexicoThe wool and cotton carpets of Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca Mexico, made with natural dyes and materials.

Teotitlan del Valle Oaxaca is a quiet, picturesque pueblo (small town), located about 18 miles (30 km) from Downtown Oaxaca. The town is known for its history, culture, tradition, and the colorful rugs made here by local weavers.

Besides a great place to buy Oaxaca carpets (the prices are often cheapest here because it’s not very touristy), there’s other things to do in Teotitlan del Valle.

Don’t miss the beautiful hike to Cerro Picacho Mountain and the Iglesia Preciosa Sangre de Cristo church and ruins.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

29. Ex Convento de Cuilapam de Guerrero

ancient convent in oaxaca mexico (Ex Convento de Cuilapam)The Convento de Cuilápam is a beautiful place that’s full of interesting history in the small town of Cuilápam de Guerrero, Oaxaca. (Note: This temple is also called Ex-Monastery of Santiago Apóstol.)

Located just outside Oaxaca City, Cuilápam Convent is a 16th century church and temple space.

Photographers will love the aesthetics at this ancient site, and the temple itself is unique as it blends the pre-hispanic religions of indigenous people with Catholicism.

Note: You will see this city spelled as Cuilápan de Guerrero or Cuilápam de Guerrero, but both refer to the same place in Oaxaca.

Unless you have a rental car, you’ll want to visit on a tour. Many tours, like the Oaxaca Antigua Full-Day Tour, make a stop at Cuilápam Convent, along with other must see Oaxaca sites like Monte Alban archeological zone.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

30. Free Walking Tour of Oaxaca City

colorful oaxaca sign in downtown oaxaca city mexicoJoin local guides on a free walking tour of Oaxaca City, the best way to get your bearings when you arrive.

Looking for free things to do in Oaxaca City? The Oaxaca Free Walking Tour is among the top things to do in Oaxaca City, and makes a great first item on your Oaxaca itinerary.

🤑 Note: Though free, it is customary to tip your guide at least $100 pesos ($5 USD) per person.

The tour is led by local guides, and a great way to see the city’s highlights, off the beaten tracks sites and best Oaxaca neighborhoods. You’ll also learn some history and fun facts about Oaxaca along the way.

Oaxaca Tram Tour

If you don’t want to walk around, there’s the Tranvía el Alebrije Oaxaca Tram Tour. The tour is only in Spanish, but even if you don’t understand the words, it’s a nice way to see the whole downtown area without walking.

The tram costs $70 MXN pesos (about $4 USD).

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

Best Day Trips from Oaxaca Itinerary

colonial church in santa maria del tule, oaxaca mexicoThe small pueblo of Santa María del Tule is famous for the giant El Tule tree, one of the top Oaxaca attractions.

This article covered a mix of things to do in Oaxaca City itself, and things to do in Oaxaca Mexico’s surrounding areas.

There are plenty of Oaxaca tours you can take that combine the best Oaxaca sites, or you can go on your own in a rental car.

Here are the top places to visit on a day trip from Oaxaca City: Hierve el Agua hot springs, Monte Alban pyramids, Mitla Oaxaca pueblo magico (magic town), the giant El Tule tree, the agave fields at El Rey de Matatlan, and the Oaxaca artisan towns.

Beaches of Oaxaca

Puerto Escondido, Bahias de Huatulco, Mazunte, Zipolite and the rest of the best Oaxaca beaches on the Pacific Coast are far from the city.

You can not visit any beaches in Oaxaca on a day trip, but if you also want to hit the beach, check out the 21 Best Beaches in Oaxaca.

Best Oaxaca Festivals

La Guelaguetza Festival: Mid-July

Woman in traditional Mexican dress doing a danceA dancer at the Guelaguetza Festival, Oaxaca, a large folk festival held in mid-July each year.

The Guelaguetza (pronounced geh-la-get-zah) is Oaxaca’s most famous folk festival. In fact, it has been called the largest folkloric festival on the Americas continent.

This annual event takes place on two Mondays in mid- to late-July; its dates vary from year to year.

The Guelaguetza festival brings together people from all regions of Oaxaca to share their food, textiles and culture through dances, presentations and gift exchanges.

In fact, Guelaguetza comes from the Zapotec word, guendalezaa, meaning an offering or a gift.

Dia de Muertos: November 1-2

The Oaxaca Day of the Dead holiday is one of the most fun times to visit Oaxaca City, Oaxaca Mexico.

Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is one of the biggest festivals, not only in Oaxaca, but in all of Mexico. I went in 2018, and can’t recommend it enough.

🌼💀🌼 Head to Day of the Dead in Oaxaca: Everything You Need to Know to learn more about this Oaxaca festival.

When is Day of the Dead in Oaxaca City?

The Dia de Muertos holiday takes place November 1-2, beginning technically at midnight on November 1, so some arrive on Oct. 31, or even earlier.

The city actually begins prepping for the holiday and decorating about 7-10 days before the actual festival.

Night of the Radishes: December 23

carved radishes for night of the radishes in oaxaca mexico The Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) is one of the most fun festivals in Oaxaca City.

Looking for unusual things to do in Oaxaca Mexico? Look no further than the annual Night of the Radishes. On December 23rd each year, Oaxaca City hosts the world’s largest radish carving festival.

Yes, this is a real thing!

If you’re traveling to Oaxaca in December for Christmas, make sure you visit the festival to see the radishes carved into nacimientos (Nativity scenes) and other designs.

For more info on the Oaxaca Night of the Radishes festival head here.

Semana Santa (Holy Week): March or April

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a big deal in Mexico.

This is the week leading up to Easter (also called Easter Week), and in a country that’s 80% Catholic, this week-long holiday is an interesting time to visit Mexico, especially Taxco, Mexico, which has an elaborate festival.

The Oaxaca Semana Santa festival has parades and church processions that go through downtown.

Some can be graphic, depicting the death and resurrection of Jesus, while some, like the Procession of Silence, are meditative walks meant for contemplation.

Oaxaca Travel Guide and FAQ

How do you pronounce Oaxaca?

Wondering about the Oaxaca pronunciation? It’s a common question, so if you are, you’re not alone! The word Oaxaca is pronounced waa-haa-kah.

Where is Oaxaca located?

Oaxaca is a state in southern Mexico, surrounded by other Mexican states like Chiapas and Puebla.

The southern edge of the state sits on the Pacific Ocean. Oaxaca City is the state’s capital city, and located about six hours south of Mexico City, you can book direct flights.

Oaxaca Map

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

What is the best time to visit Oaxaca Mexico?

The best time to travel to Oaxaca is during the dry season, October to May. However, the temperate weather in Oaxaca City means it can be a year-round destination.

While it will rain during the Oaxaca rainy season, you’ll also get lower prices — as this is the slow season.

If you want to avoid the crowds, the Oaxaca busy season runs from about late-October for Day of the Dead, through mid-January.

Many also visit Oaxaca de Juárez (Oaxaca City) for the Guelaguetza in July, the second biggest Oaxaca festival.

Oaxaca weather

oaxaca weather chart

Oaxaca City has a desert climate, so hot days and cool nights. The temperature in Oaxaca fluctuates a lot, so be mindful and bring layers when packing for Oaxaca. If you hate the heat, avoid the hottest months of April to May.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

Is Oaxaca safe for tourists?

woman walking in oaxaca city mexicoDoing some Oaxaca solo travel? Check out this first-hand account from Poonam about her solo trip to Oaxaca.

For the vast majority of travelers, Oaxaca is safe to visit. In fact, Oaxaca is one of the safest states in Mexico. Oaxaca City is the country’s 67th largest city, with a population of about 275,000, but retains a humble, pueblo vibe.

⚠️ For a deep dive into this topic, check out Is Oaxaca Safe to Travel to Right Now?

That’s not to say bad things don’t happen in Oaxaca City; they do.

However, if you take the same general travel precautions you would anywhere else — ie. stay aware of yourself, your belongings and your surroundings — you should be safe traveling to Oaxaca City.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

What are the best places to stay in Oaxaca?

City Centro Hotel Oaxaca, the pink hotel in Oaxaca City 💝 The pretty, pink Oaxaca hotel, City Centro Hotel Oaxaca, in the Jalatlaco neighborhood. (Photo: City Centro Hotel Oaxaca Mexico)

Not sure where to stay in Oaxaca Mexico? That’s understandable because there really are a lot of great options at all price points.

Have a look at the options below, and if you need even more suggestions, check out these 17 Best Places to Stay in Oaxaca City.

Best neighborhoods in Oaxaca City

For first time visitors, you’ll find staying in Oaxaca Centro (Downtown) near the Zocalo very convenient, as it’s super walkable.

There’s also the colorful and artsy Jalatlaco neighborhood, and Xochimilco, the most historic neighborhood in Oaxaca — all three are great options.

Best HotelS in Oaxaca

Best HostelS in Oaxaca

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

How do you get around Oaxaca City?

Oaxaca City is very walkable, so if you’re just staying in the city itself, you can walk and use taxis and public transportation as needed.

If you’re doing Oaxaca day trips, a rental car or group tour is your best bet, and I recommend booking Oaxaca tours via Viator and Airbnb Experiences.

Is there Uber in Oaxaca City?

No — There is no Oaxaca Uber service, and no Lyft in Oaxaca either. They do have DiDi Taxi through the DiDi Rider app, which lets you call a Oaxaca taxi via the app. It’s basically like using Uber or Lyft, but you will get a regular cab.

  • Download DiDi Rider for iPhone
  • Download DiDi Rider for Android

Are taxis safe in Oaxaca Mexico?

For the majority of travelers, yes, taxis are perfectly safe to use in Oaxaca.

I personally prefer to call taxis via the DiDi Rider app, so I have a record of my trip and the price is already set for me, but you can also just hail a cab on the street.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

How many days do you need in Oaxaca City?

colorful buildings in downtown oaxaca cityColorful downtown in the city of Oaxaca, Mexico.

Within Oaxaca City itself, you can see the highlights in 2-3 full days.

For those who want to explore the villages outside town, like Hierve el Agua in San Lorenzo Albarradas, San Agustín Etla, Teotitlán Del Valle and San Pablo Villa de Mitla, you’ll want at least 5-6 full days.

What is Oaxaca known for?

Wondering, Why is Oaxaca so popular?

There are five things Oaxaca is known for — art, culture, the Oaxaca Day of the Dead celebration, mezcal and food. In fact, Oaxaca is known as the Foodie Capital of Mexico, so try both the street food in Oaxaca and the restaurants.

Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City Mexico

Is Oaxaca City worth visiting?

handicrafts for sale at a oaxaca marketYou’re going to fall in love with the art, food, beauty and friendly people of Oaxaca.

As you’ll usually need to take at least two flights to Oaxaca, Mexico, or even a flight and a bus, you might be wondering if traveling to Oaxaca is worth it. I hope this guide to Oaxaca made it clear that FU+K YES IT IS!

Oaxaca is magical; it’s the Mexico people imagine Mexico to be.

There’s everything from rich history, colorful festivals, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, locally-made Oaxacan mezcal, beautiful nature, colonial architecture, indigenous artisan communities, and of course, the Oaxacan food.

Final Thoughts: Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City

While there might seem to be an endless number of Oaxaca City things to do, once you get to town, you’ll see most things aren’t far from one another.

Even many of the best day trips from Oaxaca City are located about an hour away.

If your time is limited, a Oaxaca rental car will really come in handy to see the sites just outside of town, like Hierve el Agua, Monte Alban Ruins and Mitla pueblo magico (magic town).

However, Oaxaca City is very walkable, and it’s easier to get around on foot.

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