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10 Top Things To Do In Oaxaca, Mexico (see, Eat, Stay)

Matt Kepnes standing next to a mural in Oaxaca, Mexico

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From the moment I first arrived, Oaxaca held a special place in my heart. Its energy and mine just synched. I’ve only grown to love the destination more with each subsequent visit. I even ran tours there.

Matthew Kepnes in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is a city of colorful buildings, scenic rooftop restaurants and bars, ornate murals and street art, historic colonial churches, and picturesque parks. It’s also one of the gastronomic centers of Mexico and a hub for mezcal. 

As you plan your own visit to Oaxaca, this travel guide will help you see the best sites, do the best activities, and eat at the best restaurants.

Things to Do in Oaxaca

1. Wander the historic downtown

People walking down a street in Oaxaca, Mexico surrounded by buildings
Explore on foot

This is the perfect place to explore iconic landmarks like the Zócalo (the plaza in front of the National Palace), the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption, and the Santo Domingo Cultural Center.

Spend some time wandering to take in the vibrant colors and historic architecture of all the buildings.

2. Explore Mercado 20 de Noviembre

This covered market, one of the biggest in town, is home to all kinds of delicious street food as well as local produce. Be sure to try some of the amazing grilled meats here (a local favorite).

3. See Monte Albán

View of a sunset from a stone steps
View from Monte Albán

The pre-Columbian UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monte Albán, located just 15-minutes outside Oaxaca city, was founded in the sixth century BCE.

The must-see historical and archaeological attraction is one of the top places to visit in Oaxaca and full of ancient Zapotec pyramids that span several miles. Be sure to get a guide, since there’s not any signage here. 

4. Try a street-stall hamberguesa

The hamberguesa is a delicious, must-eat meal here. I know it’s weird to suggest “eating a hamburger,” but this a quintessential Oaxacan invention (meaning it’s not made for tourists) and is more than just a burger.

It’s a burger topped with a hot dog, sliced cheese, Oaxaca cheese, ham, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, and jalapeño! Cangreburguer near Santo Domingo sells one of the best.

5. Learn about Mezcal

Oaxaca is the main center of mezcal production in the world. If you want to learn more about this popular drink, Rambling Spirits runs the best tours in Oaxaca. Its guides have deep knowledge and good connections, so they can take you to places the bigger tours…

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