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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 Albán – only about ten kilometers away – 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 Zócalo, you can literally wander off in any direction and find something interesting. Head north and you’ll find the restored church of Santo Domingo, with its dazzling interior of gold leaf. To the south are the Benito Juárez 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 Agustín church and the Macedonio Alcalá theater. To the west you’ll find the religious museum and eventually the Monte Albán 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 you’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 (“moe-lay”), 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 you’re very brave: they’re fried grasshoppers!

Oaxaca Museums

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 Zócalo. It is home to a number of pre-Hispanic artifacts, including the contents of the famous Tomb 7 from Monte Albán. The Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, or Contemporary Art Museum, houses an impressive collection of modern art.

Around Oaxaca

There are many things to do around Oaxaca besides the must-see ruins at Monte Albán. BUT, if you’re still hankerin’ to see more ruins, check out Mitla, about 40 miles away to the east, on the way there, shoppers will want to hit Teotitlán 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 shouldn´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: San CristĂłbal de las Casas, Chiapa De Corzo, Taxco, Mitla, Ocosingo, Santo Tomas Jalietza, Tuxtla Gutierrez, Tehuantepec, Zihuatanejo and Puerto Escondido.

By Christopher Minster
I am a writer and editor at V!VA Travel guides here in Quito, where I specialize in adding quality content to the site and also in spooky things like...
04 Oct 2011

The Many Museums of Oaxaca

Xonaxi Cosana

104793In a city that truly appreciates cultural arts, the contemporary photo gallery, Xonaxi Cosana, is no exception. It is here that the contemporary cultre of Mexico, Oaxaca and Mexican is shown ...
Oaxaca, Mexico

Museo Casa De Juárez

127443If you can’t read Spanish, then there is little to do at the childhood home of Benito Juárez, who lived here for ten years (1818-1828). Juárez was one of Mexico’s most influential presidents, ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Museo Belber Jimenez

A fashion historian's paradise, this brand new museum (opened May 2008) showcases the private collection of Federico Belber Jimenez, a Mixtec Indian born in poverty who beat the odds and went on to ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Cultures of Oaxaca Museum

Within the expansive structure of Santo Domingo, which was originally a monastery, lays the Cultures of Oaxaca Museum. The museum has an impressive collection of archeological artifacts, many from ...
Activity Info., Museum
Oaxaca, Mexico

Contemporary Art Museum

The structure that holds this art museum was built toward the end of the 17th century by a family whose coat of arms can be seen on the front of the building. It is commonly misthought that the house ...
Info., Museum
Oaxaca, Mexico

The Top Tour Operators of Oaxaca

Quetzal Tours

Quetzal Tours, located in the main lobby of the Misión de los Angeles, a half-block north of Niños Héroes and Porfirio Díaz, has 15 years experience operating in Oaxaca. They provide both half ...
Tour Operator
Oaxaca, Mexico

TurĂ­sticos MarfĂ­l

Boasting both the best prices in town and certified guides, Turísticos Marfil is easy to find. It’s located on the second floor (or primer piso) in Plaza Santo Domingo.There’s a half-day Monte ...
Tour Operator
Oaxaca, Mexico

Casa Sagrada

Casa Sagrada is a tour operator, hotel, restaurant, and guide all in one. Situated in the mountainous region around Teotitlán del Valle, it allows the tourist to experience the magical countryside ...
Tour Operator
Oaxaca, Mexico

The Most Delicious Dining in Oaxaca

El Fogoncito

A chain can be a welcome sight to a number of travelers. El Fogoncito serves a wide variety of taco choices, salads, soups, and a number of meatless dishes in a super-clean environment. One look ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Las Rosas

After eating at Las Rosas, the traveler will understand why this local restaurant has been in business since 1974. It’s off the tourist track, north of the Instituto Cultural, near the junction of ...
Oaxaca, Mexico

Como Agua Pa' Chocolate

Inspired by the novel of the same name this restaurant offers first-class food in a romantic atmosphere. Spectacular dishes flambéed by the table and interesting fusion cuisine mixing Mediterranean ...
Oaxaca, Mexico

Lasagneria El Qunique

127442A very friendly family runs this cozy restaurant that feels like a oaxaqueño cabin, especially sitting on the second floor. The house specialty is the meat or veggie lasagna combo ($4), which ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

La Rustica Pizza Restaurant

For simple food and a laid-back atmosphere, head to La Rustica. The menu features pasta dishes with more than 20 sauces to choose from and a wide variety of thin crust pizzas. If you are a culinary ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

La Rustica

A smiling young man in a chef’s hat leans out a window where pizza is displayed by the slice ($1), and takes your order. It’s a locals’ favorite with seating inside where a full menu is ...
Oaxaca, Mexico

La Biznaga

Mestizo cuisine, prepared and served creatively in a little skylit courtyard. It's expensive but worth it for those who feel like delicious food in a fancy yet relaxed setting. The menu is extensive, ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Pizza Nostrana

Vegetarians or those who feel like a succulent dessert after visiting Santo Domingo will appreciate this tiny Italian restaurant. Pizzas come in four sizes, and toppings include local delicacies such ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico


It doesn't get more authentically Oaxacan and hardly any cheaper than Hipocampo's, which is surprising as it's just two blocks from the zocalo. Basically a big storage room with an open kitchen, and ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Cafe San Blas

Tiny on the inside but with a heart as big as the world shone through the plates it creates, Cafe San Blas is a must visit for hungry travelers far and near in Quito. Given it\'s a family-run ...
Centro Historico, Oaxaca, Mexico

Cafe Los Cuiles

Sink into one of the low-slung wide wooden, cushioned chairs and sip a refreshing limonade, or perch yourself up on a seat in one of the two balconies and sip a cafe while you wait for your ...
Oaxaca, Mexico
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