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Oaxaca City

Planning your trip to Oaxaca, Mexico? Let me just say, you’re a wise person since there are a ton of fun things to do in Oaxaca City!

Hi, I’m Shelley, and I have been traveling solo and living in Mexico since April 2018! I spent about four months in Oaxaca throughout my years of Mexico solo travel.
It is by far my favorite state since there are so many amazing things to do in Oaxaca in general!

Why Oaxaca?
In a word, Oaxaca feels — magical. I believe it encompasses all the things people imagine Mexico is!

Oaxaca seemingly has it all: from some of the country’s best food to UNESCO World Heritage Sites to gorgeous beaches and colorful festivals like Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead), it’s quite obvious why Oaxaca tops so many travel bucket lists.

Did You Get Insurance Yet?

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that you need to be prepared for anything!

The Insurance companies I personally recommend are Hey Mondo and Safety Wing

Hey Mondo is great if you are looking for a great value flexible policy. They offer single trip cover, annual multi trip cover, and long term travel cover.

Safety Wing is great value with monthly cover starting at $39. It’s super easy to use and it just renews each month. I currently use them as they offer me free cover for my son as part of my policy.

Read my full travel insurance post here where I go into detail about the companies. 

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Oaxaca City Travel Guide
The Ultimate Oaxaca Road Trip (Oaxaca itinerary To Help You Plan)

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Top 10 Things to do In Oaxaca City

An aerial view of the pyramids in Teotihuacán, Mexico.

1. Centro de Oaxaca

The entire downtown of Oaxaca is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Spend some time leisurely strolling around to see the Colonial architecture, traditional mercados, street food stalls, museums, and more.


Located about 45-minutes outside of Oaxaca City, these thermal pools and calcified “waterfalls” is one of the most beautiful and most photographed, places in Oaxaca. Hierve el Agua is one of the most visited places on an Oaxaca City trip; get there early to beat the crowds.

3 Monte Alban

Oaxaca City’s other UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy the day taking in the beautiful views of all of Oaxaca City when you climb to the top of Monte Alban’s pyramids. As with many Mexican archaeological sites, Monte Alban seriously lacks shaded areas. Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat, bring a reusable water bottle, and arrive early to beat the crowds and the midday sun.

4 Mitla

The pueblo magico (magic town) of Mitla is a unique prehispanic archaeological site, by Mexico standards. Rather than a complex of pyramids, Mitla encompasses a grouping of buildings with intricate and elaborate carved stone with geometric designs.

5  Zocalo/

You’ll find a zocalo in all Mexican towns. This area is the town’s main square, and central meeting point, with a park, (large gazebo) and the city’s largest cathedral, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption.


Saint Domingo’s Temple is a gorgeous 16th century Spanish Baroque-style church. On the grounds, you’ll also find the Oaxacan Culture Museum and impressive Oaxaca Botanical Garden.

7 Oaxaca Botanical Garden

Tour the 2.5-acre/1 hectare Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca to see Oaxaca’s impressive biodiversity with hundreds of the state’s plant and cactus species. Due to the garden’s fragility, you take a guided tour. They are offered in English several times per week for $100 pesos ($5/€3) per person.

8 Calle de Macedonia Alcala

Macedonia Alcala Street is a lively, pedestrian-only thoroughfare lined with numerous shops, art galleries, restaurants, cafes, bars, and more. It is one of Oaxaca City’s best streets to stroll and people-watch.

9 Mezcaloteca

Want to learn about, and drink(!), some of Oaxaca’s best mezcals? Mezcaloteca is part tasting room, part mezcal school, and a great place to learn all about Oaxaca’s beloved adult beverage, mezcal. Note: Reservations required.


November 20th Market is a traditional Mexican/Oaxacan market with authentic foods, artisanal shops, and more. This market, arranged in food hall style, has plenty of places to sample all of Oaxaca’s famous foods.

Quick Tip: These are the platforms that I use in Oaxaca for tours, accommodation, and transportation

Best Oaxaca Tours: Click here to check out the complete list of amazing Oaxaca Tours
Best Oaxaca Accommodation: Click here to check out the best accommodation in Oaxaca
Best Oaxaca Transportation: Click here to book a bus, ferry, or shuttle in Oaxaca

Food in Oaxaca

Known as one of the foodie capitals of Mexico, there’s no shortage of amazing things to eat, and places to eat them, in Oaxaca City. With the prevalence of nearby farms, and the availability of fresh, organic ingredients nearly-year round, you’re not likely to have a bad meal.


By far, Oaxaca’s most famous food is mole (pronounced mole-lay). Mole is both a marinade and a sauce, and each type has its unique combination of spices, fruits, nuts, and more.

While it often gets lumped as one food, there are actually seven distinct types of mole. The most prevalent type is mole negro (black mole), but many restaurants will serve several types.


Tlayudas (pronounced ta-lie-you-dah) is sometimes referred to as a “Mexican pizza,” and admittedly, it looks like a pizza! However, the similarities end there.

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A tlayuda starts with a large tortilla, which is then topped with beans, tomatoes, onion, and quesillo (Oaxaca’s famous cheese). After assembly, it is grilled over carbon (charcoal), folded in half, and served.


Perhaps the most infamous of Oaxaca City’s delicacies are chapulines (pronounced chap-pull-lean-es), AKA Mexican grasshoppers! You’ll find no shortage of street vendors selling throughout downtown, as Oaxacans snack on these insects like popcorn all day long.


Need something sweet after all that savory?! Two of Oaxaca’s tastiest desserts are nieves (an ice cream/sorbet hybrid, pronounced nee-yev-es) and tejate (pronounced tay-ha-tay).


Tejate is a prehispanic chocolate and corn beverage served cold. While this combo might sound weird, this tasty, centuries-old drink has obviously stood the test of time.

Eating at the markets

Oaxaca City has several mercados (markets) where you’ll find everything mentioned here, and so much more. The biggest marcado is Central de Abastos, which can feel a bit overwhelming. For a clamer experience, head to and Mercado Benito Juárez.

Cactus plants in front of a building with a cactus in the background, showcasing the captivating beauty of Thailand's natural landscape.

Oaxaca City Money Saving Tips

Looking to keep costs down while traveling to Oaxaca City? Mexico, in general, is quite inexpensive for European and American travelers with the exchange rate working in our favor, but here are few ways to keep costs to a minimum.

Street Eats

While you’ll likely find the most food in Oaxaca economical, stick to mercados and street vendors to conserve even more of your budget.

If you want to check out some restaurants as well, see if they have a menú del día (menu of the day). Common throughout Mexico, menú del día will usually come with two to three courses and a beverage for about $65 pesos ($2.50/€2.5). As the name implies, the items offered change daily.

Public Transport

Oaxaca City has pretty good public transport within the city limits. If you’re venturing outside, you also have public transport options, as well as taxis.

If you’re looking to go to a few sites outside of Oaxaca City in one day, consider hiring a taxi for the whole day. This is common throughout Mexico; just tell any taxi driver where you want to go and ask them for a day rate.

Shop at the Mercados

Looking for Oaxacan handicrafts and souvenirs to take home? Buy everything at the local mercados, and not the airport. If your accommodation has a kitchen, you can also buy groceries at the mercados and cook your own meals.

Learn Spanish

As always, learn some Spanish! It’s an instant way to save a lot of money. I took this course ran by my friends at Heart of Travel.

A colorful skeleton is being held by a Mexican skeleton, creating a vibrant and intriguing cultural fusion.

Oaxaca City Packing Advice

In general, the temperature ranges from about 85°F/30°C and sunny in the daytime, and about 60°F/16°C during the night. This means you can get away with pretty basic/minimal packing for Oaxaca City.

You’ll want to bring a few warmer weather outfits with sandals or sneakers for the daytime, and a few cooler weather outfits with sneakers or boots should work for the night.

Unless you’re planning to go hiking in the mountains surrounding the city, sneakers should suffice for both walking around downtown, and for climbing the pyramids at Monte Alban.

Checkout Claire’s Mexico Packing Guide here

Quick Tip: View my full Mexico packing guide here including a downloadable checklist. And check out my Oaxaca Essentials shopping list here.

Where to Stay in Oaxaca City

I strongly recommend staying in Centro (Downtown), and as close to the Zocalo as possible.

This will give you ease of walkability, and as with most downtown areas, Oaxaca’s Centro neighborhood is the most equipped to host visitors. Here, you’ll find Airbnbs, hotels and hostels, for nearly every budget.

Penthouse with a open-air tub (blow the budget)

Cute apartment a few blocks from the Zócalo

Independent Studio in Colonial House Downtown Oaxacca

Studio Conzatti in central Oaxaca 

For budget accommodations, check out the trendy Selina hostel. This chain of hostels has locations all over the world. 

Want to get a better idea of local life? Consider an Airbnb houseshare with a live-in host. These hosts usually make great resources for getting insider tips on the city you’re in.

Mid-level budgets should be able to find plenty of one-bedroom private Airbnbs options in Centro. Some nice mid-level hotel options include the boutique NaNa Vida Hotel and hip Hotel Casona Oaxaca.

For a splurge, check out the Quinta Real Oaxaca, located the same building that formerly housed a 16th-century Dominican convent. This gorgeous boutique hotel has both an old school Colonial esthetic, with all the modern conveniences.

Two additional neighborhoods that also work are Xochimilco (pronounced so-chee-mill-co) and where I stayed, Jalatlaco (pronounced ha-lat-lak-oh)

My personal favorite neighborhood, located just outside of Centro, is Jalatlaco. It felt very safe, and had plenty of amazing restaurants, colorful buildings and cool street art. This very photogenic area should be on your radar, even if just for a visit.

Xochimilco, located about a 15-minute walk from Centro, is Oaxaca City’s oldest neighborhood. You will still get the old school colonial city feel and look of Centro, but you’ll be further away from its touristy scene.

Map of Accommodation in Oaxaca

Vibrant tassels swaying in a lively Thai market.

Quick Tip: Book authentic tours in Oaxaca city with Where Sidewalks End

The company was created by Ian a fellow travel blogger who lives in Oaxaca. You can see all of their Mexico experiences here. 

One of the most unique tours they offer is the Sacred Alebrije Experience where you will learn about Alebrije painting something that very few people get a chance to experience.

Oaxaca Travel Guide planning

🧳 Any recommendations on what I should pack for Oaxaca?

Yes! I have created a whole packing guide to Oaxaca which you can read here and you can also check out my packing list for Oaxaca on Amazon here.

🚗 Where can I book bus or private transportation while I’m in Oaxaca?

I strongly recommend using GottoGo. You can book almost all transport in the major Mexican tourist destinations through them online. They don’t just cover buses they also cover shuttles, ferries, and private drivers.

🎫 Where can I buy tickets for museums, attractions, and tours in Oaxaca?

First and foremost check out all of the amazing Oaxaca tours Where Sidewalks End has. They are a small local company and they have some really special experiences.

For everything else I recommend either Viator or GetYour Guide

👩‍⚕️ What is the best insurance to have while traveling?

I recommend using Heymondo for a great value policy. The app also offers you 24/7 Dr Chat. For Digital Nomads check out SafetyWing digital nomad insurance.

I have also written a blog post covering all my recommended travel insurance here

✈️ Any flight recommendations?

WayAWay offers you cheap flights with cashback. You can use this code CLAIRE22 to get 10% off. Otherwise Skyscanner or Expedia are my go to flight searching platforms.

📱What do you use for internet connection while traveling?

I’m a big fan of personal WiFi devices and they have saved my ass so many times when traveling. I wrote a full review of the top travel WiFi devices you can read here. I personally use GlocalMe as I can either pop in a physical sim card or use their local carrier.

With regards to my phone connection, I use e-sims while traveling, so rather than having to swap out my regular sim card I can download the app and buy a virtual sim card. I recommend using eitherAirhub or Alosim. Both have great coverage of multiple countries and are very easy to use.

🛏️ What is the best platform to use for booking accommodation?

The 3 best platforms that I normally use are,, and Expedia They offer great deals and multiple options. I always check all three to be sure of the best deals.

🛅 Do you have any luggage recommendations for traveling?

I do have a complete list of the best packing and luggage products that I recommend, you can check the list here. I’m currently traveling with this suitcase and this backpack

Traveling in Oaxaca City

To get to Oaxaca City, you’ll fly into OAX airport. From there, you can grab a taxi or colectivo (shared van) as soon as you exit the airport.

The airport is located just 25 minutes outside of downtown. A private taxi will cost about $200 pesos ($10/8€) total, and the colectivo is about $50 pesos per person ($2.5/2€). Uber is not legal in Oaxaca, so you’ll have to opt for one of those two choices.

I went to Oaxaca City as a solo female traveler and felt quite safe using the taxis. As a general rule, public transportation is less safe than private transportation, but overall, Oaxaca City is known as a safe place. If you’re planning to travel by either bus, ferry, or shuttle, I recommend using GottoGo.

I also felt safe walking around downtown by myself at night. If you’re staying outside of the City Center, you might want to consider taking a taxi home, just in case.

Coworking in Oaxaca City

If you are a digital nomad then it’s going to be important to you to know where you can get good coffee and blazing WiFi in Oaxaca

Although Selina is pitched as a digital nomad friendly hostel. In reality, their wifi is dreadful, but there are a few places close by that you can work from.

If you prefer to work from a cafe then PanAm has great coffee and the wifi is pretty solid. They do a nice breakfast too and they won’t kick you out after your coffee has gotten cold.

Oaxaca City Safety Advice

Considered one of the safest states in Mexico, general travel safety measures should suffice.

As a solo woman in Oaxaca City, I did what I normally do when traveling: listened to my intuition. If something didn’t feel right, I avoided it; if some street felt sketchy, I didn’t walk down it; etc. If I wandered too far from my Airbnb at night, I took a cab home.

Though in general, I have felt safe while traveling solo throughout Mexico, I don’t believe that has been an accident! I have stuck steadfastly to a few precautions that I know kept my safe in Oaxaca City, and all of Mexico.

Oaxaca City isn’t very big, and in fact, it really feels like more of a small town. I found the locals to be reserved, yet helpful when asked about anything.

The Best Time To Visit Oaxaca City

Oaxaca City’s temperate/desert climate means this city basically makes a great year-round destination. Typical of a desert, you can expect hot days & cool, crisp nights — think 85°F/30°C and sunny during the day, and 60°F/16°C at night.

The city does have a relatively short rainy season, from July-September, though it doesn’t tend to rain too much.

If you want to avoid the tourist crowds, the best times to visit Oaxaca are from April-May and September-November. The spring and fall seasons tend to have fewer tourists and moderate temperatures.

Oaxaca City’s tourist crowd starts to appear in October, and will linger through about March. Expect the highest concentration of tourists during Oaxaca City’s two biggest festivals, the Guelaguetza (pronounced gay-la-get-zaa) in mid- to late-July, and Day of the Dead in late-October/early-November.

Author Bio

Shelley Headshot

Hi, I’m Shelley! I’m a former Miami travel magazine editor who ditched the office for the world! After traveling solo to 14 states in Mexico, she decided to live in Mérida. I created the Travel Mexico Solo blog and the Dream To Destination podcast to inspire women who have always dreamt of Solo Travel & Mexico Travel, but haven’t (yet!) accomplished either goal. I hope we can continue this conversation on the socials: Instagram | Facebook | Pinterest | Twitter 

What to Read in Oaxaca

This 2020 American Fiction Awards Winner in the Women’s Fiction category seems to have taken a page out of the author’s real life! Jessica Winters Mireles, who’s married to a Zapotec indian man from Oaxacan, has her own personal connection to the state.

The author, as well as the novel’s protagonist, Camille, are both pianists. In the novel, Camille suffers an accident and loses mobility in her hands, cutting her piano career short. She moves back in with her mom and starts teaching piano to the housekeeper’s daughter, Graciela.

Graciela abruptly disappears back to her native Oaxaca right before a big piano competition and Camille goes after her — with no knowledge of Oaxaca or the Spanish language. She eventually falls in love with the culture, and an Oaxacan man named Alejandro.

One of the biggest names in travel writing, Paul Theroux travels all over Mexico — from the Sononra/Arizona border in the north, to Oaxaca and Chiapas states in the south.

While in Oaxaca, he spent time with some of the native Zapotec people who work in mills in Oaxaca’s mountainous highlands.
As with most of Theroux’s books, this one takes a critical look at the stigmas surrounding marginalized peoples and communities, to give readers a deeper understanding into often misrepresented groups.

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