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CITY GUIDE | OAXACA

CITY GUIDE | OAXACA

Oaxaca is truly as magical as everyone says. Its culture is rich, its artisan crafts are vast, its gastronomy is legendary, and its people are beautiful. It use to be that when people asked me where to go in Mexico on their very first visit, I would say San Miguel de Allende. After visiting Oaxaca, I will have to change my recommendation. Oaxaca encompasses everything that I love about Mexico. I was so happy to have my mom join me on this incredible trip. She was born and raised in Mexico but had never visited Oaxaca. It was a first for both of us. 10 days, that's  how long I was in Oaxaca, and it feels like I only scratched the surface. Oaxaca te haz quedado en mi corazón.

criollo restaurant in Oaxaca, los danzantes restaurant in Oaxaca, origen restaurant in OaxacaCriollo. Photo courtesy of @criollo_oax  |  Los Danzantes. Photo courtesy of @danzantesoaxaca  |  Origen. Photo courtesy of @origenoaxaca

 

EAT

Los Danzantes | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 403, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Gorgeous courtyard restaurant. At night the sky panels are retracted, allowing for a full view of a starlit sky. Reservations highly recommended.

Boulenc | Calle Porfirio Díaz 207, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Best breakfast spot. I had the pancakes 3 times during my stay. Set inside an old home, Boulenc houses a cafe, bakery and bar. Their baked goods are incredible. Be ready to wait.

Tortas La Hormiguita | Calle de la Reforma (Calle de Gómez Farías)

This little food truck can be found on the corner of Jardin Conzatti. Eating a torta here was one of my favorite meals while in Oaxaca. Crazy, I know! The lunch time rush is very real here but don’t worry, the line moves fast. Order your torta and enjoy it while people watching on a bench in the beautiful park.

Mercado 20 de Noviembre | 20 de Noviembre 512, OAX_RE_BENITO JUAREZ, Centro

You can’t visit Oaxaca and not try a Tlayuda. It’s quintessential Oaxacan street food consisting of a large toasted tortilla covered with a spread of refried beans, lettuce, slices of avocado, Oaxacan cheese, salsa, and meat. Go extra and add the chapulines (fried grasshoppers). You can find a plethora of stalls inside of Mercado 20 de Noviembre that sell tlayudas.

Origen | Miguel Hidalgo 820, Centro

Chef Rodolfo Castellanos is innovating traditional Oaxacan gastronomy like no other chef. The menu is seasonal and Chef Castellanos works with local farmers to source his ingredients. The restaurant is set in a beautiful old colonial home in the heart of Oaxaca City. Reservations highly recommended.

Pan:am | Calle de Mariano Abasolo 103, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

I stopped here for a quick pastry and coffee. I was told the pastries were delicious here and they weren’t wrong.

Criollo | Francisco I. Madero 129, Santa María del Marquesado, Centro

Chef Enrique Olvera brings his innovative vision of Mexican cuisine to Oaxaca. Criollo is set inside a beautiful old colonial mansion - its interior is minimal and modern yet showcases warmth and traditional Mexican craftsmanship. When you enter the dining space you’re immediately greeted by a huge comal, where they make fresh tortillas all night long. Dining here is high-dining. Expect impeccable attention to detail and a 7-course tasting menu. Criollo also offers brunch on Sundays. Reservation needed.

 

Mezcaloteca in Oaxaca, Casa Oaxaca in Oaxaca, Sabina Sabe in OaxacaMezcaloteca. Photo courtesy of @mezcaloteca  |  Casa Oaxaca  |  Sabina Sabe. Photo courtesy of When They Find Us

 

DRINK

Casa Oaxaca | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 104, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

While Casa Oaxaca is a restaurant (and I’ve been told it’s delicious) I visited this spot to meet up with a friend for drinks. Whether drinks or dinner, I highly recommended reserving a spot on their rooftop. It’s one of the best views of Oaxaca City’s historic downtown area.

Café Brújula | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 407, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Excellent fresh-roasted coffee with 3 locations in historic downtown Oaxaca City. A must if you need a caffeine fix or a delicious hot chocolate. 

Sabina Sabe | 5 de Mayo 209, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

While Sabina Sabe has an incredible mezcal collection the cocktails are the star of the show.

Los Amantes Mezcalería | Calle de Ignacio Allende 107, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

A small, funky spot, Los Amantes is a great chill spot to build your Mezcal knowledge. Let the staff put a flight together for you and walk you through the different mezcales.

Mezcaloteca | Reforma No. 506, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

A mezcal library with a very knowledgeable staff. This is a great place to start your mezcal tasting journey to gain knowledge to better appreciate and understand this spirit. By appointment only.

 

centro cultural san pablo oaxaca, jardin etnobotanico oaxaca, graphic arts institute oaxacaCentro Cultural San Pablo  |  Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca  |  Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca (I.A.G.O)

 

CULTURE

Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca (I.A.G.O) | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 507, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Better known as IAGO, the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca, is a beautiful art school in Oaxaca City, founded by artist Francisco Toledo. The institute serves as a cultural center and hosts a large collection of Latin American art. 

Museo de Textil de Oaxaca | Miguel Hidalgo 917, Centro Histórico

This small museum, is located in a beautifully restored colonial mansion. The museum celebrates and showcases Oaxaca’s rich textile traditions. The museum hosts special exhibits and workshops. Make sure to visit the museum’s gift shop.

Centro Cultural San Pablo | Miguel Hidalgo 907, Centro

This breathtaking cultural center is set inside the restored Ex Convento de San Pablo (a 16th-century Dominican monastery). You’ll find an array of special exhibits, concerts, films, classes, conferences, all which serve to promote and preserve Oaxacan culture, especially its indigenous aspects. You’ll also find a research library that holds valuable anthropological archives and sound library with recordings of indigenous music. I was so lucky to stumble across a group of students playing classical music in one of the rooms. The sound and echo bouncing off the stone walls was magical.

Museo de Filatelia de Oaxaca | Reforma 504, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

You don’t have to be a philatelist to enjoy this charming museum. While I enjoyed viewing the museum’s stamp collection, it’s the museum’s architecture and patios that won me over. 

Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca | Reforma Sur n, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

The gorgeous botanical gardens, located behind the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, is more than just a garden. The Jardin Etnobotanico tells a story about the cultural and artistic traditions of Oaxaca and its place in the natural history of Mexico. The gardens can only be visited through guided tours. Tours are available in Spanish and English.

Centro Cultural Santo Domingo | Calle Macedonio Alcalá s/n, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

You can spend a full day at this cultural center. The museum is divided into 14 rooms covering 10,000 years of state history, from the emergence of the first sedentary settlements and the flourishing of the great pre-Hispanic cultures, passing through different aspects of the conquest and the colony, the independent period, reaching up to the twentieth century. Room 3 is a stand out. Here the jewels found at the beginning of the 30s, in a tomb found in Monte Albán, considered one of the most important treasures of all Mesoamerica, are on display. 

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 202, Centro

Set inside of a restored mansion from the 1700’s this museum is worth visiting even if you’re not a fan of contemporary art. I was super fortunate to have visited when the museum had a very special exhibit. The exhibit showed the work of local Oaxacan artists and artisans in collaboration with artists from around the world. 

Centro Fotográfico Manuel Álvarez Bravo | Calle de Manuel Bravo 116, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Named after the Mexican photographer Manuel Álvarez Bravo, this photographic exhibition center, is located in the Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca. Entry is free.

 

where to shop in oaxacaLanii  |  Andares del Arte Popular  |  Tienda Q

 

SHOP

Andares del Arte Popular | Av. de la Independencia 1003, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

This special showroom/shop is comprised of several rooms, showcasing the finest crafts in Oaxaca. The curation is wonderful.

Lanii | Murguía 302, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Lanii, one of the brands I carry at the shop, has a beautiful shop in Oaxaca City. While they carry ceramics and textiles, they’re stand out pieces are definitely all the woven palm bags and hats.

La Tiendita del Barro, by Colectivo 1050º | Rufino Tamayo 800, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

If you’re looking for ceramic homewares this is definitely the place to visit. All of Colectivo 1050º's products are hand-made in Oaxaca by traditional potters and designers who work collectively to create the pieces. 

Tienda Q | Calle de Manuel Bravo 109, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Art meets fashion at this chic boutique. Here you’ll find fine contemporary clothing and jewelry made in Mexico.

Los Baúles de Juana Cata | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 403, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

If you’re on the hunt for the finest and most intricate and beautiful textiles made in Oaxaca this is the spot.

Marchanta | Av. José María Morelos 802, RUTA INDEPENDENCIA, Centro

Well-curated boutique with pieces from Mexican and Latin American designers.

 

Mitla, Oaxaca. Centro de Artes de San Agustín Etla, Oaxaca. Hierva el Agua, Oaxaca.Mitla  |  Centro de Artes de San Agustín (CaSa)  |  Hierva el Agua

 

DAY TRIPS 

Teotitlán del Valle 

19 miles from the city of Oaxaca in the foothills of the Sierra Juárez mountains, lies the small village of Teotitlán del Valle. This village is renowned for its weaving wares - a craft artisans of this village have been practicing since pre-Hispanic times. This is definitely the place to visit if you’re looking for a beautiful rug. I visited the workshop of master artisan, Jacobo Mendoza, whose work has been recognized both nationally and internationally. I had the joy of meeting Jacobo and his wife María Luisa. They warmly invited my mom and I into their workshop and took the time to walk us through their entire process, from how they prep the wool, what plants they gather to create their dyes, how they make the natural plant dyes, and the weaving process itself. They are the loveliest people and they created such a beautiful experience. Candle making is also another craft that can be found in this village. I visited Casa Viviana, the workshop of renowned master artisan, Viviana Alavez Hipolito. Sadly, I didn’t have the chance to meet her as she was not in the workshop during my visit. My biggest tip if you want to visit the workshops of any master artisans is to contact them and set an appointment.

Mitla

30 minutes from Oaxaca City, you’ll find the ancient city of Mitla, one of Mexico’s most important archaeological sites. Mitla functioned as a religious center for the Zapotec civilization, which predated Christ by centuries, and later for the Mixtec people, who ruled the area until they were conquered by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century. More mesmerizing than its age is its beauty. Fragments of brightly painted frescoes and elaborate geometric designs made of mosaics of small stones, decorate the walls, archways, and pillars.

Hierva el Agua

Located 44 miles east of Oaxaca City is the stunning freshwater infinity pools of Hierva el Agua. Bring your bathing suite and your camera. The views are breathtaking. Getting here is a bit of an adventure if you take public transportation (bus to Mitla and then take a camioneta to Hierva el Agua). Although easy, it’s time consuming but the most cost effective. 

Centro de Artes de San Agustín (CaSa) | Av. Independencia s/n, Vista Hermosa, 68247 San Agustín Etla

40 minutes north of Oaxaca City lies this spectacular arts center. In the 2000’s, renowned Oaxaca artist, Francisco Toledo, beautifully restored this early-20th-century textile mill. CaSa is comprised of 2 main halls. The lower hall is used as a gallery for craft or art exhibitions; the upper one is used for concerts, conferences and other events. The center also hosts courses workshops, and artist residencies. The building and grounds are absolutely stunning. Take your time to stroll through the entire complex. While in San Agustín Etla, I also visited Taller Canela, a contemporary ceramics studio run by Maestro Claudio Jerónimo López. If you love contemporary art and sculptures make sure to make an appointment to visit this workshop.

San Bartolo Coyotepec 

Located 30 minutes outside of Oaxaca City, San Bartolo Coyotepec is home to the famous Oaxacan barro negro (black clay) pottery. During my visit to this town, I had the privilege to meet and visit the workshop of master artisan, Carlomagno Pedro Martinez. I also visited the Museo Estatal de Arte Popular de Oaxaca (MEAPO), a small but excellent modern folk art museum.  academia de beisbol

San Martín Tilcajete | Calle Olvido #9, San Martín Tilcajete

Located 14 miles from Oaxaca City, San Martín Tilcajete is the home to the famous brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures, known as alebrijes. I visited the showroom and workshop of Jacobo and María Angeles. Husband and wife, Jacobo and María, are renowned for their artistry. So much so, that Disney worked with their workshop to develop the alebrije characters for the movie Coco. A visit here not only allows you to see their breathtaking pieces but you’ll also get a full tour of the workshop, see their team at work, and learn about the process of creating this craft.  

Mercado Tlacolula | 70400 int mercado municipal, 70400 Tlacolula de Matamoros

This famous Sunday market is located 45 minutes outside of Oaxaca City. While now a popular tourist hot spot, the market stays true to its origins. You can find everything imaginable from produce to artisan crafts, all produced by local indigineous communities. The food is another big reason to visit - make sure to try the barbacoa.

More Resources

Want more recommendations? I highly recommend checking out "My Oaxaca Favorites", a list of Bricia Lopez's favorite places to eat, drink, and see in Oaxaca. As a native of Oaxaca, co-owner of La Guelaguetza in Los Angeles, and partner in Mama Rabbit, a mezcal bar soon to open in Las Vegas, her recommendations are gold.

If you're looking for an immersive, hands-on experience, I recommend Thread Caravan. Founder Caitlin Ahern, will take you to artisan villages where you'll learn how to naturally dye fabrics, weave rugs, and the art of making ceramic wares directly with the artisans.

If you're looking for an incredible tour guide to the best artisan workshops, places to eat, and mezcal experiences you have to contact Oaxacking. Omar Alonso is a Oaxaca native and has built beautiful relationships with artisans, mezcal producers, and so many incredible people that make Oaxaca's food scene so rich.