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Best Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico

Never been to Oaxaca? We stayed in Oaxaca for one month and this is our experience. This blog also serves as a comprehensive list of things to do!

Enjoy this journey through Oaxaca City! I’ve added a few little tips for spots to visit outside of the city but really the mountains and the coastline are for another time! If you’re planning a trip, take this list and pick out the options that speak to you most! It’s a choose your own adventure kinda moment!

Roaming the streets finding the beauty

A few things to know before you go!

1. Plan ahead. Or don’t players choice. Honestly though, having an idea or a little list of the things you want to do when exploring, like going to libraries or searching for the perfect croissant… Try and have an idea of what you’d like to see and what neighbourhood you’d like to visit. Plan on walking a bunch to explore? Bring your walking shoes because it’s a hilly place!

2. Learn a few words in Spanish – Remember that you’re a tourist and English is not the native language. Actually Spanish is hardly the native language in Oaxaca as there’s a high population of indigenous people.  It’s a really beautiful thing because colonization hasn’t taken that away! My point is; don’t expect people to speak English just because it’s a tourist place. 

3. GET FAMILIAR WITH PESOS! I will admit, this has taken some time for me but, it’s helpful to have a conversion calculator on your phone. If you’re not accustomed to currencies with so many zeros this will be an adjustment.

4. Save your Google Maps offline. Again, or don’t. Get lost if you want to but try and have a sense of direction.  Many places in this state are disconnected from cell reception, so if you are diving out of the city let Google Maps be your bestie!

Best time to visit Oaxaca

Is anytime a fair answer? I went for the month of May and it was wonderful! The weather was hot but it wasn’t unbearable. In the mountains, it was super fresh during the morning and night and during the day it was sunny and warm. There were some rainy days and to be honest, they were much invited because it felt so good! Bring an umbrella or hat if you can’t handle strong sun!

Cinco De Mayo Parade in the Oaxaca Centro

Top 10 Best Things to Do in Oaxaca City, Mexico

There is something for everyone; food tours, nature, art, culture and history. You could walk around the city for days and continue to find new murals, craft shops and coffee shops. With great rooftop bars, museums, thrift shops and guided tours, I am sure you will find as much joy as I did! Oaxaca is such a big state and if you have the time, I highly recommend traveling outside the city. Here is a list of some of the best places to visit in Oaxaca! At least in my opinion; some are popular tourist activities and others are less mentioned.

Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca

I LOVED this place. We did a guided tour in Spanish and it was beautiful! Apparently, the English tour is better but that’s a rant for another day. There were so many beautiful plants and the landscaping was incredible. If you’re only there for the photos you won’t be disappointed, but if you’re interested in learning, I promise there’s a lot of valuable information shared. I highly recommend buying your tickets in advance, at least one day – the tours fill up quickly and I think they only do one English and one Spanish tour per day.

Experience Oaxacan Design

Everything in Oaxaca is beautiful, from the textiles to the homes. If you love design you will adore exploring this state. Visit Wabi Sabi and Zapotec if you’re moving around the state. If you’re only going to be in Oaxaca City consider visiting Hotel Sin Nombre, Textile Museum, Historical Archive Museum, or Museo de Filatelia. The design in this state is really forward thinking and outside of the box. There is a lot of seamless integration of indoor and outdoor living with a modern twist that is still close to the heritage and culture. The use of colour and nature is always beautifully integrated into their design.

Search for Street Art in Oaxaca City 

I will let these photos speak for themselves but seriously the art in Oaxaca City is unreal! You can see the curiosities, the resistance, the fight and the beauty of the humans through their artwork and expression. This was easily one of my favourite things to do, and it’s FREE!! Walk until your legs are wobbly and then grab a snack and walk some more! Aldama Street in particular was amazing and I highly recommend it! We got Tejate in this neighbourhood to sustain our energy!

Take a Oaxaca Cooking Class

Regrettably this isn’t something that I had the chance to do BUT I highly recommend it. Honestly, as much as Giuliana and I love food and love learning we spent a lot of that time in restaurants instead of classes! This is something we will not miss out on next time because there are some incredible classes that I’ve seen on social media like @oaxacacookingclass

Museo Textil de Oaxaca

This museum is so beautiful and it is quiet inside. I think it’s because all the textiles block sound vibrations. It felt like a secret somehow, the entrance isn’t large and grand, it’s quaint and humble. They had such a wonderful collection of tapestries and garments from all over the world. I highly recommend visiting. I believe this is also where we viewed the stamp museum (attached or close by) that also was incredible!

Get Obsessed with Tiles!

I am usually a head in the clouds kinda gal but Oaxaca had me looking down. Walking around with my head glued to the floor looking for unique tile work quickly became an obsession for me. I love architecture (I almost became one), and I am obsessed with design, so yeah – naturally I’m obsessed with Oaxaca.

I loved the doors, the tiles, the design of the restaurants and poking my head into homes as we passed them on the street. If you’re anything like me you will find yourself taking many photos of the floor and eventually making a reel out of it! THERE IS TEXTURE EVERYWHERE!

Go Thrift Shopping!

WOW, honestly wow. The clothing that makes its way to Oaxaca is honestly amazing. I love thrift shopping around the world and this was some of my favorite. There surprisingly are so many amazing shops to visit and the prices are really reasonable. We found some stellar pieces. Click here to see my full list of thrift shops.

  • Juana La Vintage
  • Sobre Ruedas Vintage Store
  • Antigüedades Oaxaca
  • Vikers Vintage/Thrift shop

Teatro MACEDONIO Alcalá

We went here and caught a show last minute! It is a beautiful theatre and we watched a contemporary dance performance. The show depicted the conversation of trees in a forest – it was wonderful. I think there are shows every night and the tickets are super inexpensive!

Indulge in Oaxacan Food

Make sure you look for these special items when you’re browsing markets and street food! They are local to Oaxaca and traditionally made for generations!

  • Tlayudas: I feel like this can be best described as a Mexican pizza! It’s a large corn tortilla with all the toppings on top.
  • Mole: YUM. Mole is the quintessential chocolate for dinner option. It’s sometimes served spicy, sometimes more sweet but always delicious. It is quite easy to find in the markets if you want to experiment with it in your own kitchen and it’s on almost every menu in Oaxaca.
  • Tejate: This is a local drink that is often had in the morning or during work hours to keep you satiated, it’s made from toasted corn, fermented cacao beans, pixtle (toasted and ground mamey pits), and cacao flowers. They are all ground into a paste that’s mixed with water, and stirred by hand Sometimes ice and sugar are added for additional enjoyment. 

Dine at Oaxacas Best Restaurants

The food in Oaxaca is UNREAL. If you love food, exploring flavors and watching the true artistry of cooking then you will love Oaxaca. Everything is done how it’s always been done, with whole ingredients, Oaxacan cooking is a true art form. It is celebrated worldwide for its unique ingredients, slow cooking and delicious flavors. 

  • Criollo (vegan options)
  • Herbívora (vegan)
  • Hierba Dulce (vegan)
  • Calabacitas Tiernas (vegan)
  • Masa de Maíz (vegan options)
  • Pitiona (food and rooftop view)
  • Guajolote de Oro (drinks)
  • Sabina Sabe (drinks)

Read my full review on these Oaxaca City restaurants here

Explore Mercado Benito Juárez, or really any Mercado!

I found the cutest dress in mercado benito juárez and I wear it all the time, it’s a terracotta linen dress that I now wear at least once a week. You can find everything and anything in the markets of Oaxaca. 

  • Mercado Benito Juárez (in Oaxaca City)
  • Mercado Municipal Martín González (Tlacolula de Matamoros)
  • Tianguis de Domingo en Tlacolula (outside of Martin Gonzales)

Visit a Mezcal Distillery and Learn How it’s Made

Maybe you didn’t know this but Mezcal is still made in a super traditional way and the experience is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. I’ve been to a Tequila distillery in Jalisco and that was fascinating; however, the process now has a lot as much human interaction since becoming mass produced.

If you want to see what makes mezcal so specialm you should take a day trip to learn. I know that the smokiness of mezcal is not everyone’s thing but the process is one to admire. 

Donkey making Mezcal, Oaxaca

What to do in Oaxaca? Activities Outside of the City

With the state being so long, the top of it is landlocked and the bottom cascades along the Pacific Ocean. One thing I really loved about travelling through Oaxaca was the diversity of landscapes. We drove through the mountains, along cliffside landscapes, through cities and through fields. There was no dull moment. All of that to say, there is a lot to do and so here are a few things we did that I recommend.

Hierve el Agua

Maybe one of my favorite days in Oaxaca, this place is STUNNING. It’s a little out there, but there are many stops to enjoy on the way. There are also organized tours and day trips that you can take advantage of if you don’t have your transportation.

After visiting Hierve el Auga, we went to a textile taller and bought a few beautiful pieces. We got a special tour of their workshop and I even got to try the loom!! Click here to watch the video!

Pueblo Visits

Both of these little towns are not too far from the city and you could easily make a day trip out of it. I highly recommend checking out:

  • Teotitlán de Valle – go here on Sunday if you want to catch a market
  • Mitla – go here if you want to buy textiles

Visit a Textile Factory

They are all over the place in Oaxaca because many of the textiles you see in Mexico come from this state. They are easy to recognize for their beautiful colours and tightly uniformed weaving. I loved that they used natural ingredients to dye the wool. The process is long for many of those natural dyes as well because they have to go through a whole process themself before you can start using them colouring. 

El Árbol del Tule

This tree is huge and the town that surrounds it actually is really cool. If you’ve got the time I suggest checking it out! Make it a stop to or from something else though because it’s a quick visit.

Learn How Coffee Is Harvested

This one might be a bit of a stretch because Pluma Hidalgo is pretty far from the city so it certainly isn’t a day trip BUT wow. If you ever have the chance to go where coffee is cultivated organically, know that you’ll be somewhere beautiful. In Oaxaca specifically, coffee is cultivated in pretty remote places in the mountains and we went! The dive was terrifying but the arrival was so worth it. 

Oaxaca City Travel FAQs

Here are a few commonly asked questions and things to keep in mind for your trip to Oaxaca City.

Our Experience in Oaxaca 

It was so special, so unique and very memorable. If this blog does not showcase Oaxaca and all its beauty then you need to go there and discover it for yourself. The people are hospitable, kind and warm. The food is delicious, obsession-worthy and crafted with love. The art is breathtaking and the mountains are tranquil. There is nothing that I can say about Oaxaca that is bad (other than the mountain roads are scary) I loved being in the city, I loved being in the mountains and I adored the Pacific Coast. 

Have You Ever Been to Oaxaca?

Leave me a comment and let me know your experience! How did you like it, what do you suggest I do next time I am there and what are some of your favourite memories? If you’re planning on visiting Oaxaca I hope this is informative for you, feel free to ask me questions I could talk about this state for days.

Thanks for reading, I hope you found this informative and it helps you plan the perfect trip to Oaxaca.

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