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Best things to do in Oaxaca City, Mexico

Article by GVI


Posted: January 18, 2023

Oaxaca City, Mexico is a great destination for travellers who are looking for a mix of culture, history, and fun experiences. The city is located in the southern state of Oaxaca and is easy to get to by flying into the Xoxocotlán International Airport. Once you’re there, the best way to explore the city is by walking around the historic centre, where you’ll find many of the main attractions. Taxis and buses are also available if you need them. The weather is warm and dry, with temperatures usually around 26 degrees C (80 degrees F) during the day and dropping to around 15 degrees C at night (60 degrees F). The best time to visit is from September to November when the weather is mild and there are fewer crowds. It’s important to remember that Oaxaca City is home to many indigenous communities, and it’s respectful to be mindful of their customs and traditions while visiting. 

From ancient ruins to delicious traditional food, this southern city has something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some of the top things to check out while you’re there:


Visit the Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban

This ancient city, which dates back to around 500 BC, offers stunning views of the surrounding valley and is a fascinating glimpse into the history of the Zapotec civilization. The site includes several plazas, temples, and tombs, as well as an impressive observatory that was used for astronomical purposes. Visitors can also learn about the Zapotec civilization at the on-site museum. It’s a great way to understand the history and culture of the region.

Take a stroll through the historic centre

Oaxaca City’s central square, or zócalo, is surrounded by beautiful colonial-era buildings and is a great place to people-watch and take in the local culture. The square is surrounded by several historic buildings, including the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, which dates back to the 16th century. In the evenings, the square comes alive with street performers and vendors selling traditional crafts and food. It’s a perfect spot to get a feel of the local culture.

Sample traditional Oaxacan cuisine

The city is known for its delicious traditional dishes, such as mole negro (a rich, chocolate-based sauce), tlayudas (large, crispy tortillas), and mezcal (a type of agave-based spirit). Some of the best places to sample these dishes include local markets, such as the 20 de Noviembre Market, and traditional restaurants, such as Casa Oaxaca. You’ll be able to taste all the delicious flavours of Oaxaca, and maybe even learn how to make a dish or two!

Visit the Rufino Tamayo Museum

This modern art museum features works by the famous Oaxacan artist Rufino Tamayo, as well as other contemporary Mexican artists. The museum also regularly hosts temporary exhibitions, so be sure to check the schedule when planning your visit. It’s a great way to learn about the local art and culture.

Explore the nearby Tule Tree

This enormous cypress tree, located just outside of the city, is over 2,000 years old and is considered one of the oldest and largest trees in the world. Visitors can walk around the tree and take in its massive trunk and branches. It’s an interesting and unique experience that you can’t miss.

Visit the Santo Domingo Church

This magnificent baroque-style church, built in the 17th century, is one of the most impressive buildings in Oaxaca City and features beautiful frescoes and gilded altarpieces. The church is also home to the Museo de Arte Colonial, which houses a collection of colonial-era art and artefacts. It’s a great way to learn about the history of the city and see some beautiful art.

Take a cooking class

Learn the secrets of Oaxacan cuisine with a cooking class, which will give you the opportunity to learn about traditional ingredients, techniques, and recipes. Many local cooking schools offer classes in traditional Oaxacan dishes, such as mole and tamales. It’s a fun and interactive way to learn about the local cuisine.

Shop for handmade crafts

Oaxaca City is known for its vibrant craft scene, and there are numerous markets and shops selling everything from woven textiles to pottery and hand-carved wooden figures. Some of the best places to shop for crafts include the 20 de Noviembre Market, the Mercado de Artesanías, and the many shops and studios found in the historic centre. You’ll be able to bring a piece of Oaxaca home with you!

In conclusion, Oaxaca City, Mexico is a fantastic destination for any traveller looking for a mix of culture, history, and fun experiences. From ancient ruins to delicious traditional food, this southern city has something for everyone to enjoy. 

And for those who want to take their travel experience to the next level, consider joining GVI in Puerto Morelos. Their sustainable and responsible volunteer, internship, research fellowship and professional apprenticeship programs allow you to not only explore the local culture and history, but also make a positive impact in the local community. You’ll have the opportunity to work with local organisations and communities to support sustainable development initiatives, immerse yourself in the local culture, and even go scuba-diving in the crystal-clear waters of the Caribbean. With GVI’s marine conservation programs you’ll get to learn about the marine ecosystem and contribute to research and conservation efforts, such as coral reef monitoring, mangrove conservation, marine debris removal and more. It’s a great way to give back and make a real difference while having an adventure. Overall, it’s a perfect way to travel with purpose and awareness, and make the most of your time in Oaxaca City.

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