Oaxaca stole my heart. I was in awe of the vibrant and colorful city as I walked through its cobblestone streets. It has everything: tradition, culture, warm people, food, and mezcal. (I love this place, so it is great that we offer tours in the city today!)

Although the city may seem small, there are lots to do. The town’s popularity has increased post-COVID and resulted in new activities, tours, dining options, and art museums. (The popularity is not because of Americans or Europeans either. Mexicans are also here in large numbers! ).

With a lot to do, Here is my checklist of the best things to do and see during your stay in Oaxaca:

Enjoy a walking tour

The first thing I try when visiting a city I’ve never been to is to take an easy walk. They’re a great method to take in the major places, meet the area and its inhabitants, and meet the local guide who will help you with any questions. My top company to recommend is Oaxaca free walking tour. They provide daily tours for free that highlight the most popular attractions. Be sure to pay your guide a small tip at the end of your tour!

Visit the Templo de Santo Domingo Guzman with its original construction from the 16th century. This Dominican church and a monastery were also used as a military facility during Mexico’s revolution (1910-20). The interior is extremely elaborate, with intricate carvings on the walls. The church still hosts services (so dress appropriately when you visit).

A portion of the complex was converted into an art museum in the 1970s, The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. The collection focuses on Oaxacan culture and has diverse artifacts from pre-Columbian and religious ceremonies. Its “Treasures of Monte Alban” exhibition displays more than 400 relics of an ancient Mixtec tomb that is considered to be one of the most significant burial places in Mesoamerica which includes the skull that is covered in turquoise and bone carved objects, weaving tools, and jewelry made from jade and gold. It’s one of the most enjoyable activities in the town. You’ll require a few hours to explore it all.

Stroll around the Botanical Garden

The site is also in the former convent of the Santo Domingo de Guzman complex. The Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca is home to more than 900 species of plants all over the country and is one of the biodiverse regions in Mexico. Alongside the trees, flowers, and cacti are sculptures and works of art.

Admission is only via tour. There’s only one English tour daily (at 11 am). The tour is very popular since it only has 25 places available, so make certain to be there early since it’s first come, first offered.

Take a stroll around the city

Oaxaca is home to more than 1,200 historic structures. One of the most enjoyable ways to spend your time is to walk around the town and enjoy the historical buildings, vibrant graffiti, streets lined with cobblestone, and gorgeous architecture. Just get lost. Explore the famous landmarks such as the Zocalo (the principal square located in the vicinity of the National Palace), the Baroque Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, and the murals of Xochilmilco and the hues (and paintings) from Jalatlaco (which happens to be my most favorite district in Mexico City).

Take a look at the markets

Oaxaca is renowned for its market scene. My favorite one is Mercado 20 de Noviembre, a market covered in the 19th century that offers various kinds of tasty street food (fresh local food is also available). It was named after the beginning of the Mexican Revolution in 1910; it has been one of Oaxaca’s culinary and cultural centers for over a century. I am a fan of going here to walk around and watch people. It’s open from 7 am to 9 pm every day.

I also enjoy the close by Mercado Benito Juarez for its food stalls, shops, and restaurants.

There is also the well-known Abastos market, the biggest regional market. There is everything you need there. It’s huge. If they make it around the globe, It’s in this area. It’s not in the city center but well worth the trip.

Learn more about mezcal

Oaxaca is the home of mezcal, and more than 70 percent of Mexico’s production occurs in this region. Like tequila, mezcal is an agave-based spirit that is distilled, and, unlike tequila, the agave’s heart is made into a pit in the ground before being crushed. There are many ways to find out more about mezcal while here. Regarding bars, my favorites include Los Amantes Mezcaleria, Mezcalogia, Tres Hermanas, Mezcaleria In Situ, and Comere.

Tours are available with Rambling Spirits. The company was established by two reporters who built deep connections with the mezcal producers in the area and can guide you to places that most commercial tours can’t. They possess incredible expertise and can provide you with everything you must learn about mezcal and introduce you to families and producers. It’s one of my favorite tours in the city.

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