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Oaxaca Downtown: 15 Things To Do and Places to Visit

Oaxaca de Juárez is a destination that has many things to offer and is also a perfect place to base yourself if you want to see other things in the state of Oaxaca. Here we will share with you how to enjoy the City and Downtown Oaxaca.

For us it was a magical place where we were surprised by the high consumption of grasshoppers and Oaxacan clothing, here we met the Tlayudas and some impressive natural beauties.

There are so many things I want to tell you about the city of Oaxaca that it’s making me want to go back, the good news is that all the information you need is below.

What you need to plan your trip

🏨 Find your accommodation here

✈ Find the best flight here

🌎 Find the best tours here

🚌 To arrive by Bus look for your tickets here

15 Things to do in Downtown Oaxaca

There are many places to visit if you travel to this destination; however, after having visited it we have been able to make a list of those tourist places that you cannot miss if you travel to Oaxaca de Juárez.

Here is a list of the best things to do in Oaxaca City. Let’s start from the back to the front to leave the best at the top:

15. Take a guided tour of Oaxaca

Oaxaca de Juarez

To get to know downtown Oaxaca we highly recommend taking the guided tour of Oaxaca.

This tour allows you to learn about the history of downtown and the most important places in the city of Oaxaca.

14. Enter the Museum of Oaxacan Painters.

One of the recommendations on the internet about what to do in Oaxaca is the Museo de los Pintores Oaxaqueños.

This museum was created with the purpose of making known the works of Oaxacan artists as well as linking them and the people to the artistic works of other parts of Mexico and the world.

13. Oaxaca Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO)

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located in an old house built at the end of the 17th century and it seems that the building is an attraction in itself.

During our visit to Oaxaca, we found the MACO without exhibitions, since both the exhibitions and the workshops are usually temporary, so we cannot recommend it based on our experience.

If you are interested in going, we recommend that you check out their website or, if you are nearby, take a tour to see what’s on offer.

12. To admire the monuments and historical sites.

Former Convent of St. Catherine of Siena
Washing places of the Ex-Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena

In Oaxaca Centro you will find a lot of historical precincts, stopping to appreciate their architecture is something you should consider doing. These are the places worth visiting in Oaxaca Centro:

  • Admire the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption: Beautiful inside and out, it is an example of ecclesiastical beauty.
  • The Macedonio Alcalá Theater: It is named after the artist and composer of the song “God never dies“On one side of the theater there is a box office with information about plays and theater presentations in case you want to go to one and get to know the theater from the inside.
  • Ex Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena: What used to be a convent today is a hotel that has its doors open to tourists who want to visit it. It is impressive how well preserved the walls and ancient paintings of the former convent are. In its time this place was renowned for its excellent hydraulic system, it is a visit that will not last more than 10 minutes but it is worth it if you have the time.
  • Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad: This minor basilica is another of the points you can visit in downtown Oaxaca. Both the exterior and interior are beautiful.

To learn about the history of the place and the historical monuments, we highly recommend using this tour: Guided tour of Oaxaca.

11. Eating a snow at the Plaza de la Danza

Outside the Basilica is the dance square where pre-Hispanic dances used to be performed around the Guelaguetza.

Today it is crowded with Oaxacan ice cream stands. So, if you are already there, I recommend you try the classic tuna with burnt milk.

10. Philatelic Museum

In this museum you will find a huge collection of stamps and stamps that had a postal use. If you like to see large collections this place is for you.

There are different themes. You will be able to see the first postage stamp called Penny Black, the besibol collection, the one commemorating the centennial of Mexico’s independence, and others from different countries.

This museum is probably not for all travelers; I (Danny) liked it quite a bit and could have spent hours looking at the different stamps; however Hector did not find it as intriguing.

9. Benito Juarez Market

Another of the things to do in downtown Oaxaca is to visit the Benito Juarez Market. Everything a person could need is sold here. From the classic vegetables, seeds and fruits, plastic bags, handicrafts, souvenirs, small souvenirs, umbrellas, everything!

Let the Oaxacan Mexican folklore envelop you in this place.

8. Enter the Casa Juarez Museum

The Casa Juarez Museum is another of the things to do in downtown Oaxaca. Here you will find six rooms decorated with furniture and ornaments similar to those of the time in which reference is made to the life of Benito Juarez.

We asked Mr. Luis an aspect of the life of Benito Juarez and he very kindly did not tell us his whole story; so if you want and agree with him, you can ask him some questions.

Free on Sundays or with INAPAM card, student or teacher.

7. Textile Museum of Oaxaca

Textile Museum of Oaxaca
Textile Museum of Oaxaca

Another of the main activities to do in downtown Oaxaca is to enter the Textile Museum of Oaxaca. There are two floors dedicated entirely to textiles, approached from different areas: pigment, technique or a specific trend.

The exhibitions change every four months so we recommend you to visit their web page in case you wish to consult the themes prior to your visit.

Admission to the museum is free and on Wednesdays they have a guided tour that costs $10 per person (Oct 2019).

6. Taste Mezcal

Oaxaca is the ideal place to try this Mexican drink, the variety of mezcals that you can find in this region of Mexico is impressive, in a few words it is the cradle of mezcal.

One of the things you should definitely do is to try different flavored mezcals during your stay in Oaxaca. How do I explain that you can even find scorpion and cannabis.

If you are interested in tasting mezcal and learning about the elaboration process of this typical drink, we recommend this activity: Tule+ Teotitlan + Mezcal Factory.

5. Visit the Handicrafts Market

If you fell in love with the colors and the oxaqueñas garments (and I assure you that you will) you have to go to the handicrafts market. Here you can buy typical Oaxacan shirts, huipiles, shirts with classic embroidery, skirts, shawls, and shoes.

EYE! If you want to buy real clothes, made by artisans and help the people of the area, make sure you buy them at the handicraft market or directly from the workshops, so you don’t buy imitations.

4. Eating at the November 20th Market

One way to get to know the folklore and live directly with the locals is to go to a market.

One goes to this market exclusively to eat. Everywhere you turn you will find typical Oaxacan food in all its presentations. Pan de yema, chocolate water, tlayudas, mole negro, coloradito, tasajo, as well as the classic “comida corrida”, tacos, antojos and guisados.

This place is ideal to learn about Oaxacan gastronomy.

November 20th Market
Danny at Mercado 20 de Noviembre

3. Stroll along the Andador Turístico

From the zocalo, you can walk down Dr. Aurelio Valdivieso Street which becomes Macedonio Alcalá Street which is purely pedestrian. In this tourist walkway you will find stores, cafes, restaurants and some weekends people selling their handicrafts.

Walking along the tourist walkway is a way to let yourself be enveloped by what Oaxaca is all about.

To make the tour worthwhile, we suggest including this activity in your tour of downtown Oaxaca: Guided tour of Oaxaca.

Visit the Santo Domingo Cultural Center

Temple of Santo Domingo Oaxaca
Temple of Santo Domingo

The Santo Domingo Cultural Center is another of the places to visit in downtown Oaxaca, probably one of the most important.

This cultural complex is located in what was one of the most important convents of the colony. At the entrance you will see a model that will give you a great idea of how big this establishment is.

It contains five important things within itself:

Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzman

Declared a World Heritage Site, this 17th century temple is decorated on the inside with gold leaf and endless curved details that, with the play of light, give the impression of shining in the eyes of the beholder.

Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca

The Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca has 14 rooms in which the history of Oaxaca from pre-Hispanic times to the Conquest can be seen through objects and explanatory texts.

Its star room is the one with the treasure found in tomb 7 of Monte Albán. Your eyes won’t believe the amount of gold and rhinestones this place has.

It is one of the activities to do in Oaxaca Centro, however, you have to be ready to stand for a while.

Admission is free on Sundays.

Ethnobotanical Historical Garden

This garden, which can only be accessed at certain times and with a guide, shows and explains the relationship between people and plants through time and the importance of their care and conservation.

We did not enter the garden because it was not in our budget so we cannot make a recommendation based on experience.

Visiting hours are Monday through Saturday at 10:00, 12:00 and 17:00 for $50 (Oct 2019).

Fray Francisco de Burgoa Library

Entering the former convent of Santo Domingo, you will find the old Fray Francisco de Burgoa library.

Access is free so you can peek in, read fun facts and imagine: what was the world like without the internet? how did they learn? how did they have access to the information?

Public Newspaper Library

For a book fan like me, this place is ideal. Here you will find newspaper volumes bound by year and printer.

You can see them and even order some volumes to read.

We flipped through a 1937 newspaper and saw everything from an ad for a Yo-yo contest with Mickey Mouse to news of the installation of electric lights in one of Oaxaca’s villages.

It is very interesting if you like books, antique objects or gossiping about the past.

1. Attending the Guelaguetza


This event is unique and impressive. It only takes place 2 days a year and is one of the most important festivities in Mexico and Oaxaca. If you have the opportunity to attend, it is 100% recommended that you visit Oaxaca when this event is held.

To attend

Extra: A gift for you

While looking for what to do in Oaxaca, I found out that we should go to the “Casa donde murió Macedonio” (House where Macedonio died).

After knowing its location we went and what do you think? Today it is a shoe store with a plaque outside that reads “Aquí murió Macedonio Alcalá” (Macedonio Alcalá died here).

Now you know; you’re welcome.

What to do in Oaxaca Centro Video

Check out our video to see what there is to do in downtown Oaxaca👇

6 Places to visit near Oaxaca Centro

We are going to share with you some tourist places that are not exactly in the city of Oaxaca but that are easy to visit from there due to the variety of tourist services that exist.

It is an excellent idea to stay in Oaxaca City and use it as a base to visit these places from there:

San Martin Tilcajete

Boiling Water Oaxaca

Mitla Oaxaca and Guide for your visit

Best places to visit in Downtown Oaxaca

If we have to summarize the list of tourist attractions and you ask us what is priodrity. This would be our definitive list of what to visit in Oaxaca Centro:

  1. Monte Alban
  2. Boil Water
  3. *Downtown Oaxaca (We recommend the guided tour, check it out here)
  4. The Mezcal Tour(Check it out here)

*We highly recommend the guided tour in downtown Oaxaca because although you can get to know the center on your own, this activity is much more valuable when you have someone to explain the history of every corner. The activity also includes Santo Domingo, the tourist walkway and the markets (the most important of downtown Oaxaca).

From our point of view these are the places and activities that should be a priority in your trip if you don’t have time to do everything.

6 things to do in Downtown Oaxaca

If you decide to use tours to get to know downtown Oaxaca, these are the 6 activities you should consider:

🌎 If you want to search for tours in Mexico we recommend you to do it here 🌎

Where to stay

These are our recommendations:

Quinta Real

Hotel Quinta Real Oaxaca

La Quinta Real is a colonial style hotel ideal for travelers looking for a luxurious hotel.

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Life Hotel Oaxaca

Life Hotel Oaxaca

A quality hotel at an excellent price. Although it is somewhat removed from the center, it is a great option for families and friends.

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Selina Oaxaca

Selina Oaxaca

This hotel is suitable for all types of travelers. We recommend it for couples and/or backpacker travelers.

The location is perfect and the price is excellent.

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🏨 If you need accommodation, we recommend looking here 🏨

Tips for traveling to Oaxaca City


The weather in the city of Oaxaca is usually warm, it could be said that a tropical climate predominates; however in winter time the night can feel cold and in the months between June and August it can rain.

Rainfall is usually light and of short duration, so it is not a major problem.

Clothing to be used

Oaxacan clothing, you arrive and buy something Oaxacan and that is what you are going to wear, in Oaxaca Centro they are proud of their clothing and that is why you should join them wearing their beautiful clothes.

Casual clothes are enough.


Oaxaca City is quite safe, we even used public transportation between towns near the city and never felt there were any security problems.

Best time to travel

The best time to visit Oaxaca if you are looking for good weather is between late February and mid-May.

Now, it is also advisable to visit during 2 of the most important dates in Mexico: Day of the Dead (last week of October, November 1 and 2) and the Guelaguetza( the two Mondays after July 16).

How many days are needed to get to know Oaxaca de Juárez?

The truth is that Oaxaca is a place with a great variety of tourist attractions, experiences and things to do, so from my point of view you will need more than just a weekend.

Tourist Rhythm (Fast)

4 days: It will not be enough to get to know the city of Oaxaca, but you will be able to visit important places in the center of the city and its surroundings.

Traveling rhythm (Medium)

8 days: To get a great taste of Oaxaca City I would consider 8 days to tour downtown Oaxaca at your leisure and visit some of the surrounding towns.

Nomadic Rhythm (Slow)

10 days onwards: You know how I think, I like to go easy and enjoy every detail. After 10 days you will be able to leave quite calmly.

Other destinations in Oaxaca you may be interested in