I have always wanted to go to Oaxaca, ever since I was a kid and first heard about it from my parents. The photographs of their time there inspired me and though I have been to many parts of Mexico, I don’t know why it took me so long to get to Oaxaca. I finally went this past February with my husband and we were completely blown away. While we only had time to go to Oaxaca City on this first trip, we’ll be going back again soon to explore the more coastal areas. I was amazed by the city’s vibrant colors, music always playing somewhere, the sweetness of the people, and all of the delicious exotic foods. It is definitely a walking city, and we must have averaged about 7 miles per day, discovering local craftsmen, inventive new restaurants and adventuring around different neighborhoods. We were fortunate enough to be there during the Carnival de los Diablos, a lively street festival with amazing costumes and music that happens once every year. The city really comes alive at night, and you can rooftop hop to different bars, restaurants and live music venues. Oaxaca is everything I imagined it to be, and more. Below are my favorite finds, but there is so much else to discover. Go visit and see for yourself this special, mystical, and ancient part of Mexico!
*Just click on the underlined links for info on each place below.
Hotel Sin Nombre Great boutique hotel with an intimate, private feel, centrally located in a beautifully renovated 17th-century building.
Hotel Escondido Oaxaca The newest addition to Grupo Habita, with gorgeous traditional Oaxacan architecture and an earthy minimalist vibe.
The Carnival de los Diablos
Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca One of the most stunning and important botanical gardens in Mexico, they’ve rescued many endangered species and highlight the diverse range of flora native to the region. Housed in a 16th-century monastery, the gardens can only be visited by guided tour, with two tours offered in English daily. Be sure you don’t miss the incredible tiny portrait gallery by the entrance!
MACO/Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca Contemporary art museum housed in a 1700s building with a great permanent and rotating collection of Mexican contemporary art.
Museo Textil de Oaxaca Museum devoted to the ancient tradition of textile arts throughout the state of Oaxaca.
Museo Tamayo Legendary Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo’s private collection of pre-Hispanic art, in a restored 18th-century mansion.
MUFI/Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca Interesting little museum with a collection of stamps and surrealist art.
Centro Cultural San Pablo Beautifully restored 16th-century convent and monastery turned cultural arts center offering a wide range of concerts, lectures, workshops, and other cultural events.
Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán A large church complex and former monastery with incredible baroque architecture in the heart of the city.
Hierve el Agua A geological wonder, these natural rock formations resemble a frozen cascade of water.
Xaquixe Factory Super cool glass-making studio, workshop, factory, and showroom devoted to the use of renewable energies and recycled glass. You can buy all their beautiful creations onsite.
Shenic Tours Wonderful tour company operated by two brothers, we had the delightful Edmundo de Jesüs Garcîa show us around. Contact: +52 (951) 160 63 35 or Dejesus_ged@hotmail.com to set up your tour.
Mitla Some of the most famous, important ruins in Mexico, the site was once a sacred burial ground for the ancient Zapotec culture. Located less than 30 miles from the city of Oaxaca, the ruins have incredible pre-Columbian architecture that’s been well preserved by the area’s cold, dry climate.
Monte Albán One of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica, Monte Albán was the preeminent civic hub of Zapotec civilization for over 1,000 years. The monumental stone ruins have incredible architecture with carvings that date as far back as 500 BC.
The Sacred Tree Located in the church grounds in the town center of Santa María del Tule, the Sacred Tree, or El Árbol del Tule, is an ancient Montezuma Cypress that holds the record for stoutest tree trunk in the world. About 30 minutes by car from the city center.
The preparing of the yarn to the natural dye making process to the final weaving of the rug at Casa Don Juan
Teotitlán del Valle Renowned for its weaving wares since pre-Hispanic times, the small village continues to produce textiles of incredible quality using traditional methods and dyes made from natural sources like indigo, cochineal and moss. The rugs and blankets are a particular speciality. About 30 minutes by car from the city center.
Casa Don Juan Located within Teotitlán del Valle, this fifth generation Zapotec family of weavers is known for their exceptionally beautiful handcrafted rugs. Porfirio gives great guided tours showing how the dyes are made, as well as how the rugs go from raw wool to final product. Contact +01 (951) 166 6244 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
A range of chiles and chapulines (grasshoppers) at the Tlacolula Market.
Tlacolula Market One of the oldest continuous markets in Oaxaca, as well as across Mesoamerica, the Tlacolula Market is held every Sunday in Tlacolula de Matamoros, about 45 minutes from Oaxaca’s city center. The square is flooded with a dizzying array of local delicacies and crafts, where you can find seemingly anything, from baskets of grasshoppers, to agave worms, to armigas (ants)!
Los Baules de Juana Cata Stunning, super high-quality traditionally made regional textiles. Be sure you ask Remigio to see the rare ones kept in the back!
Habitáculo Great selection of ceramics and little home-goods made by local artisans.
Aripo Curated selection of local handmade goods and decor by regional craftsman. A great place to find gifts.
Boulenc Fantastic cafe with a lovely courtyard. We went here every morning for coffee and the Eggs Shakshouka.
Origen Great contemporary Oaxacan cuisine (such as this vegetable and flower tostada above) in a breezy courtyard setting, especially nice for cocktails. We loved finding a spot by the large open windows. *Reservations suggested.
Ancestral Cocina Tradicional Unbelievably delicious, beloved local spot serving traditional Oaxacan fare under a beautiful covered patio. The homemade fresh mole and tortillas should not be missed!
Casa Oaxaca Housed in an 18th-century colonial townhouse, with wonderful views of Oaxaca’s many terraced rooftops and the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, the food is all locally sourced, with salsas made fresh to order table-side.
Vaca Marina Rooftop seafood and steakhouse with spectacular views, located right in the center of town. The lobster we had was super fresh and delicious.
Pitiona Beautiful rooftop restaurant with views of the city. Good for a more formal vibe, the prix-fixe menu features El Bulli-trained chef José Manuel Baños’ modern takes on traditional Oaxacan fare.
Itanoni Small casual eatery, perfect for lunch. The entire menu is based around the different seasonal varieties of heirloom corn, many of which, like memelas, tetelas and tejate, are specialties local to Oaxaca.
Criollo Incredibly fresh regional cuisine by chef Luis Arellano in a lovely garden setting.
Anywhere Omar Alonso says Omar is THE fixer for tours, especially when it comes to markets and street food. Follow @oaxacking for updates, and make sure you check out his ultimate guide to eating in Oaxaca here.
Archivo Maguey Fun, relaxed bar with cumbia music and dancing.
Los Amantes Mezcaleria A tiny, amazing hidden gem mostly frequented by locals, this mezcal bar is centrally located right across from the Hotel des Amantes (which also has a great rooftop bar). The perfect spot for sunset cocktails.
Sabina Sabe Sexy, low-lit cocktail bar in a beautiful turquoise room with a selection of creative craft cocktails.
Guajolote de Oro Beautiful, intimate bar located inside the Posada dos Palmas hotel, right down the street from Hotel des Amantes and their Mezcaleria.