The city of Oaxaca is one of the treasures of Mexican colonial architecture. The gorgeous city center, or ZĂłcalo, is a haven of peace and tranquility. Tall trees cast shade on locals and visitors sitting outside at the many cafes, enjoying coffee, beer or a local specialty, such as lime-peel lemonade or the notorious smokey Oaxacan liquor, Mezcal.
Historical Sites in Oaxaca
The nearby ruins of Monte AlbĂˇn â€“ only about ten kilometers away â€“ draw most visitors to Oaxaca, but it is the city itself that keeps them there and brings them back. The city center, with its magnificent cathedrals, colonial homes and architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The old town area is a labyrinth of museums, restored homes, markets and quaint cafes and restaurants. From the ZĂłcalo, you can literally wander off in any direction and find something interesting. Head north and youâ€™ll find the restored church of Santo Domingo, with its dazzling interior of gold leaf. To the south are the Benito JuĂˇrez and November 20 markets (which, by the way, is named for the day the Mexican Revolution began in 1910: it is open all year), organized chaos where you can get delicious Oaxaca cheese, fruits and vegetables as well as souvenirs. To the east is the San AgustĂn church and the Macedonio AlcalĂˇ theater. To the west youâ€™ll find the religious museum and eventually the Monte AlbĂˇn archaeological complex.
Oaxaca Accommodations and Dining
Everything about Oaxaca is charming. Oaxaca hotels are attractive and well-run: look around for one in your price range and comfort level. Some of the best ones are in converted colonial homes or religious buildings; check these out if youâ€™ve got a little more to spend. The restaurants in Oaxaca are world-class: Oaxaca has its own cuisine, so steer clear of Italian or Chinese restaurants and open your mind to local dishes. Probably the most famous is the mole (â€śmoe-layâ€ť), which is a general name given to a sort of sauce that locals eat on tacos and other dishes. It can be prepared in any number of ways, including with unsweetened chocolate. Oaxaca cheese, Quesillo, a mozzarella-like product that is sold in balls- is excellent. Try the chapulines if youâ€™re very brave: theyâ€™re fried grasshoppers!
The museums in Oaxaca are fantastic. The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, or Oaxaca culture museum, is located in the Santo Domingo Cultural Center a couple of blocks north of the ZĂłcalo. It is home to a number of pre-Hispanic artifacts, including the contents of the famous Tomb 7 from Monte AlbĂˇn. The Museo de Arte ContemporĂˇneo, or Contemporary Art Museum, houses an impressive collection of modern art.
There are many things to do around Oaxaca besides the must-see ruins at Monte AlbĂˇn. BUT, if youâ€™re still hankerinâ€™ to see more ruins, check out Mitla, about 40 miles away to the east, on the way there, shoppers will want to hit TeotitlĂˇn del Valle where traditional wool rugs are woven on hand-made looms, just off the main road between Oaxaca and Tehuantepec.
To the north, the town of San AgustĂn Etla has a handmade paper industry: stock up for your scrapbooker friends back home. They also have an excellent market on Wednesdays. In fact, there are so many markets in the Oaxaca area, that you could simply spend every day checking out a new one.
To the south craft lovers will want to check out the small pueblos of San Bartolo Coyotepec, where black clay pottery is made, San Martin Tilcajete the town infamous for making the small, but brightly painted wooden figurines that are indicative of the Oaxaca region and anyone with a passion to spend shouldnÂ´t forget about the less-visited village of Santo Tomas Jalietza for cotton textiles hand-made on the wooden loom.
Neighborhoods in Oaxaca: Centro Historico,
Other places nearby Oaxaca: Puerto Escondido, Santo Tomas Jalietza, Mitla, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Tehuantepec, Ocosingo, Chiapa De Corzo, San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Zihuatanejo and Acapulco.