How to Spend 1 Day in Oaxaca City
Compact and walkable—particularly in the historic downtown—Oaxaca City is a great destination for food and culture lovers on a time budget, but half the battle is deciding where to begin. Rest assured though: whether you’re looking for traditional street eats, art museums, or handicraft markets, here’s how to experience Oaxaca City in just one day.
Morning: Sightseeing and Shopping
Start your day with a Oaxacan bean coffee at the zócalo (plaza) in the heart of the historic downtown. Alongside the impressive green-stoned Oaxaca Cathedral, you’ll also find plenty of street food vendors dishing up breakfast, like tamales oaxaqueños. Then it’s time to sightsee—try a short guided city tour for some local insight and visits to spots such as the 20 de Noviembre and Benito Juárez markets. Browse for hand-embroidered shirts and mole sauce, among other Oaxacan items.
Afternoon: Museum Hop or Explore Beyond the City
To maximize your afternoon, choose activities tailored to your tastes. Dedicate your time either to picking up some skills at a traditional cooking class or to visiting the city’s museums—such as the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca, entry to which you can book in advance. Alternatively, head beyond Oaxaca for further exploration. Monte Alban makes for a popular half-day trip, but don’t waste time waiting on public transport; instead, book a flexible shuttle service or visit on a guided tour with transportation and skip-the-line entry. Other half-day trip options include villages like San Martín Tilcajete, where you can learn about alebrijes and other handicrafts.
Night: Street Food and Mezcal
Even if you didn’t have time to squeeze in a trip to a mezcal distillery, you can still sample Oaxaca’s most famous spirit in the heart of downtown. Stop by a traditional cantina or mezcalería (mezcal bar) for a taste of the smoky spirit made from agave plants—just remember to sip rather than shoot. Afterwards, round out the evening with a streetside tlayuda. Sometimes known as Mexican pizzas, these huge, crispy tortillas, topped with meat, cheese, sauces, and vegetables will leave you full until morning.