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Oaxaca City might not offer the posh resorts of Cabo or the cosmopolitan flavor of Mexico City, but it’s a worthy Mexico destination in its own right. A beautiful colonial town recognized the world over for its outstanding gastronomy, local crafts and archeological sites, Oaxaca City gives visitors plenty of opportunities to indulge in its rich culture and traditions. The state of Oaxaca is also home to some amazing beaches such as Puerto Escondido and Zicatela, which you can add on to make the most of your trip to the region. Check out seven reasons why you should visit Oaxaca City.

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Gastronomy at its best

Oaxaca City Market

Dried chilis at the market in Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxacan food is some of the best in the country, thanks to the variety of local dishes such as tlayudas, molotes, different types of mole, filled chiles and tamales. There’s also a boom in terms of well-known restaurants worth trying, including Casa Oaxaca, Pitiona, Origen, Criollo and Las Quince Letras. For a more casual stop, head over to the 20 de Noviembre market, famous for its grilled meat aisles, where you can also taste traditional dishes and buy mole and other ingredients to take home. If you need a break from Mexican food, check out Boulenc for great bread, sandwiches and pizzas.

Colorful local handicrafts

Ceramic skeletons in honor of the Day of the Dead festival

Ceramic skeletons in honor of the Day of the Dead festival

If you enjoy buying authentic crafts, you’ll have a field day shopping in Oaxaca. You can buy barro negro (black clay) pottery at the Mercado de Artesanías in the craft market in San Bartolo, where you can find items such as vases, jars and animal figures. If you are looking for huipiles, the traditional garment worn by indigenous women, you can find them being sold in small kiosks outside the Church of Santo Domingo. Other items such as palm woven bags can be found with street vendors across the city.

A pre-Columbian archaeological site

Mayan temple, Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico

Mayan temple, Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico

Explore an ancient Zapotec observatory and ball court, temples and palaces at Monte Albán, a large archaeological site located less than 6 miles east of Oaxaca City. It is one of the earliest cities of Mesoamerica and was the pre-eminent Zapotec political and economic center for almost a thousand years, from 500 B.C. to 800 A.D. It’s hard not to be impressed by the magnitude of the Main Plaza and the structures around it. Mitla, a bit further out, was the main religious center for the Zapotec culture and is unique due to the elaborate mosaics and geometric designs that cover the tombs, panels and walls. Another historical site worth visiting is the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo located next to the famous church. This used to be one of the most important convents during the colonial era and nowadays houses the library of Fray Francisco de Burgoa, the ethno botanical garden and the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca.

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The petrified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua

Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, Mexico

Hierve el Agua hot springs, Oaxaca, Mexico

One of the most popular sites to visit in Oaxaca City is Hierve el Agua, a set of natural rock formations that resemble cascades of water, as well as springs, where you can take a dip and swim. We suggest getting here early so you are able to take photos of the springs, the landscape and the amazing views without hoards of tourists.

World renowned Oaxacan painters

Oaxaca has been the cradle of some of the most important Mexican painters during the 20th century, starting with Rufino Tamayo. There are a number of renowned current Oaxacan painters such as Francisco Toledo, Roberto Doniz and Abelardo López, among others. You can check out some of their work at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca and the Oaxacan Painters Museum. The Textile Museum is also worth visiting; here you can see the diverse designs, techniques and creative processes for the textile production in the state. If you enjoy gallery hopping, some of the most important ones are Galería Maco, Voces del Copal, Galería ART, Piaf Gallery and Galería Quetzalli, all within walking distance.

Delicious mezcal



Mezcal, a distilled alcoholic beverage made with agave that has a strong smoky flavor, is produced widely in the state of Oaxaca. You can sip it straight or mixed in cocktails to smooth the flavor. Although you can taste mezcal almost everywhere, some of the best mezcalerias, or mezcal bars, are Mezcalerita, Mezcaloteca, In Situ, Los Danzantes and the terrace of hip boutique hotel Los Amantes.

Affordable, historic accommodations

NaNa Vida boutique hotel, Oaxaca

NaNa Vida boutique hotel, Oaxaca

In Oaxaca’s historic center, you’ll find a number of beautiful colonial-era hotels, including NaNa Vida, a beloved boutique property filled with Oaxacan art, both traditional and modern. Each room features a balcony overlooking the courtyard dotted with fruit trees and flora. The hotel also offers organized tours, cooking classes, yoga and—coming soon—a mezcaleria, where you’ll be able to taste some of the best mezcals from various regions of Oaxaca. Rooms start at just $70.

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Tagged: Mexico

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Michelle Meyer

Michelle Meyer

Michelle Meyer is a Mexico City-based writer whose passion for food and travel have led her to write about her experiences on her blog Find Meyer on social media at @michelleonbell.
Michelle Meyer

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