Looking for things to do in Oaxaca, Mexico? I’ve got you covered.

things to do in oaxaca

1.     Eat a late night tlayuda

Oaxaca is well known for its street food, and tlayudas in particular. You can find tlayudas at any time of the day across Oaxaca City but it’s when I’ve stumbled out of the club that tlayudas are the most satisfying. Thin and crispy tortillas are slathered with bean paste, salad, and either chorizo, tasajo (a thin strip of steak), or cheese. Delicious, whichever topping you choose. Tlayudas Libres at Libres #212 is open until 4am, so that’s a safe bet for the late night munchies.

tlayuda oaxaca

2.     Take in breath taking sights at Hierve El Agua

In my opinion, this is Oaxaca’s most stunning attraction. It appears to be a waterfall but it is actually a petrified waterfall made of stone. And on-site, there are also natural pools that you can splash around in. There are many tours that go to Hierve El Agua, but I prefer to make my own way there so I can spend a good few hours lying in the sun and swimming in the pools. It’s a couple hours outside of Oaxaca’s centre.

hierve el agua

3. Drink mezcal until you drop

It is no secret that Mexicans love to drink, and in Oaxaca, there is only one drink that you need to part with your pesos for – mezcal. This is made from the agave plant, just like tequila, but it’s much softer and smokier, and in my opinion, easier to drink. If straight mezcal is too much for you, head to In Situ mezcaleria and drink their incredible coconut based mezcal cocktail (my favourite drink in the city!).

4. Shop at Tlacolula’s Sunday market

I love a market, and in Oaxaca, you have countless markets to choose from. Surrounding the actual city, there are tonnes of smaller pueblas that each have their own market day. The biggest of the bunch is Tlacolula’s Sunday market. The market is the one of the oldest in all of Mesoamerica – and it’s intimidatingly huge, but so much fun. One of the culinary specialties of Tlacolula is barbacoa, or stewed goat meat, so don’t leave without trying it.

5. Watch a political demonstration in the city

Oaxaca has such a unique culture –it is proud of its indigenous roots, but it’s also extremely forward thinking and progressive, and I would definitely describe the people here as political. Head to the zocalo (the main square) on any day of the week and you’ll be able to witness some kind of political demonstration.

6. Enjoy a Oaxacan hot chocolate

There are certain parts of Oaxaca City where a dense smell of sweet chocolate permeates the air. If you have a sweet tooth, you will love this city’s commitment to all things chocolatey, and you can grab a delicious hot chocolate in many shops and stalls throughout Oaxaca. The chocolate here has a really unique taste – it’s kind of crumbly and has a hint of cinnamon.

7. Stare at Santo Domingo Cathedral for hours

I might have a wee bias because I love Oaxaca so much, but I really think that Santo Domingo is the most beautiful church I’ve ever seen. While living in Oaxaca, I have been trying to write a book, and often I would perch myself in front of the church for a few hours with my pen and paper, looking up at the church intermittently to give myself an extra boost of motivation. There is also a museum of Oaxacan history inside, which is well worth exploring.

santo domingo oaxaca

8. Take a tour of the botanical gardens

Oaxaca is a pretty peaceful place, but nowhere more so than in the city’s botanical gardens. The best way of experiencing the gardens is with a guided tour, and there are a few times in the week when it’s possible to experience the tour in English (Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 11am)

9. Eat tamales from the street

Tamales are my favourite kind of street food in a city where there is absolutely no shortage of incredible street food. This corn mush can be filled up with all kinds of delicious ingredients – meats, cheeses, and different salsas and moles. Just do yourself a favour, and eat as many as you possibly can while you are in Oaxaca. My favourite spot to grab a tamal is from a seller on the corner of Armenta y Lopez and Colon.

tamal de oaxaca

10. Hang out with expats at the Oaxaca Lending Library

The place where expats (mostly retirees in fairness) tend to gravitate towards is the Oaxaca Lending Library. Over the last few months, it’s been a wonderful place where I have been able to get some work done, to see what’s going on across Oaxaca on the noticeboards, and of course, to rent some English books.

11. Catch a free movie at Café Central

Café Central is one of the best chilled out hang-out spots in the city. At night, there is music and dancing, but in the evenings there are often totally free film screenings from right around the world. It’s pretty great to be able to chill out here and just watch a movie once you have filled your boots with museums and mole.

12.Visit the Stamp Museum

Stamp Museums are not usually so high on my agenda, but this place is actually really cute. This museum has more than 200,000 items related to the postal service and it’s situated in a stunning building. Definitely worth a visit on a rainy afternoon in the city.

13. Consume the 7 kinds of mole

The food that Oaxaca is most well known for is mole. Mole sauces are made from all kinds of ingredients – chillies, chocolate, nuts, fruits, herbs, spices, and the list goes on. In Oaxaca, there are 7 kinds of mole, ranging from the deep flavours of mole negro to the sharp and citrusy notes of mole verde. Why not attempt to try them all while you are in Oaxaca?

4240610987_4e32c8e4b9_bMole negro. Image source.

14. Learn about pre-hispanic art at Museo Rufino Tamayo

When I first visited this museum in the centre of Oaxaca city, I was incredibly impressed. Rufino Tamayo was a guy who collected huge amounts of pre-hispanic art, and his collection is spread across a museum in Mexico City and this museum here in Oaxaca. The collection is comprehensive and I learned a lot on my visit.

15. Purchase some original barro negro pottery

Oaxaca is still home to may indigenous groups of people who are all committed to keeping their traditions alive. This means that it’s possible to find some incredible handicrafts in Oaxaca and the surrounding areas. If you want something truly original for your home, head to San Bartolo Coyotopec, where the locals are experts at making a kind of black pottery called Barro Negro. The locals here have produced pottery for centuries and continue to do so.

16. Visit a gay strip club

When you think of Oaxaca, you are more likely to think of street food and indigenous culture BUT there is also a gay strip club in the city called La Costa – amazing! And, of course, I paid a visit on my first weekend in the city. The place is a whole lot of fun with reasonably priced drinks, drag queens, and strippers of course.

la costa gay oaxaca 2

17. Join in the Guelaguetza festivities in July

The month of July is the most important month of the year for Oaxaquenos. This is the time of the Guelaguetza, when the indigenous cultures located across the whole state are celebrated. You’ll encounter street parades, a mezcal festival, a mole festival, theatre performances, and countless parties. If you can visit Oaxaca at one time of the year, I recommend July because of the Guelaguetza.

oaxaca guelaguetza 1

18. Enjoy an ice cream at Nieves La Soledad

What kind of fool doesn’t love ice cream? Well, the ice creams in Oaxaca are extra special. They sit somewhere between an ice cream and a sorbet, and one of the best places to eat them is outside a church nicknamed Nieves La Soledad where there are ice cream sellers galore. The classic flavour combination to experience in Oaxaca is leche quemada (burned milk) with tuna (a kind of fruit, not the fish).

nieves oaxaca

19.Visit the organic El Pochote market

If you want the street food experience but aren’t sure about committing to greasy tacos on the street, the El Pochote organic market is for you. There are tonnes of typical Oaxacan dishes served here – all using organic ingredients, of course. This isn’t a hectic market, but a place where you can sit and relax, so take a load off and enjoy some Oaxacan treats at this market found at Rayon #411.


20. Enjoy Menu Del Dia at one of Oaxaca’s amazing restaurants

In my humble opinion, Oaxaca is the foodie capital of Mexico. The street food is great but sometimes you want to relax inside a restaurant and peruse a menu. Fortunately, this doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg, even at some of the nicer restaurants in town. Check out La Biznaga on Garcia Vigil, which serves a Menu Del Dia for 100 pesos, and La Olla, which serves Menu Del Dia for 115 pesos (or 130 pesos if you fancy a glass of wine with your meal).

21. Take in Oacaxa’s Street Art

Oaxaca is a city that attracts writers, artists, and photogrpahers. You can get a taste of how artistic this city is simply by walking the streets and taking in view of incredible street art everywhere you go.

oaxaca street art 8

Tell me – what is your favourite thing to do in Oaxaca?


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