Oaxaca City is a vibrant cultural hub in Mexico that offers endless possibilities for adventure. There are just so many things to do in Oaxaca! To make your trip to Oaxaca memorable, we’ve compiled 10 great ideas for a family-friendly Oaxaca City itinerary.
From wandering the markets and ancient ruins, to indulging in delicious food and learning about traditional art, there is something for everyone in Oaxaca City. And it’s also a great budget travel destination for families. So get ready to experience all the city has to offer!
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The city of Oaxaca, known officially as Oaxaca de Juarez, is the capital city of Oaxaca state. It’s situated near the Sierra Norte mountains, in the middle of the state. The city has a population of 715,000 people and is one of the safest cities in Mexico for travel.
Before you head to Oaxaca, take some time to orient yourself with some basic information about Oaxaca. Read the sections below for some useful travel tips for your Oaxaca City itinerary, including the best time to go to Oaxaca, how to get there, where to stay, and where to eat.
Also buy these books about Oaxaca to prepare for your Oaxaca vacation:
The Food of Oaxaca: Recipes and Stories from Mexico’s Culinary Capital
Oaxaca: Home Cooking From the Heart of Mexico
Oaxaca Stories in Cloth: A Book About People, Identity, and Adornment
Average temperatures in Oaxaca range from high 40s to low 80s (Fahrenheit) in the winter and high 50s to low 90s in the summer. The driest and clearest times of the year are the months of November to March, so this is the best time to visit Oaxaca City.
The hottest time of year in Oaxaca is mid-March to mid-May. And the rainiest time of the year is June to September, so try to avoid visiting Oaxaca during that time. The weather in Oaxaca in August is rainy and muggy. And the rain may cause delays during your Oaxaca City itinerary. Oaxaca in September is also rainy and muggy.
Oaxaca has a small international airport. Most incoming and outgoing flights are domestic. But you can also find some international flights going to Dallas, Houston, and Guatemala City.
The drive from Oaxaca airport to city center will take about 30-40 minutes by taxi, as it’s located 11 km away from the city center. You can also get a rental car from the airport to use during your Oaxaca trip.
If you’re traveling by bus, you can get to Oaxaca from Mexico City via the ADO bus. This is a great way to combine a Mexico City and Oaxaca itinerary. The ride takes roughly 7-8 hours, so be sure to take that into account in your Mexico City Oaxaca itinerary.
Once in Oaxaca, you can get around during your Oaxaca City itinerary by taking taxis or public buses, known as colectivos. If you’re staying near Centro, downtown Oaxaca City, you’ll find that the city is very walkable.
If you’re looking for the best neighborhoods in Oaxaca City, you’ll want to find a place as close to Centro as possible. This gives you easy access to all your Oaxaca City itinerary activities. Just north of Centro is Santo Domingo, which is also a great choice due to its proximity to Centro.
To the east of Santo Domingo is Jalatlaco, which is known for its street art. And to the north of Santo Domingo is Reforma, where you can find many family-owned restaurants. Be sure to include these in your Oaxaca trip itinerary!
South of Centro is Zocalo, the historic center, where you’ll have access to some of the best markets in Oaxaca. And to the southeast of Zocalo is La Noria. It’s a quiet residential area, so it’s the best neighborhood to stay in Oaxaca for families.
For hotel options near Centro, check out these highly rated hotels:
Hotel Boutique Parador San Miguel
Oaxaca has no shortage of amazing restaurants. You can find many of the best places to eat in Oaxaca along Calle Macedonio Alcala or around Zocalo (the historic center).
Here are a few suggestions of the best places to eat in Oaxaca during your Oaxaca City itinerary:
Oaxaca is a city rich in culture and history. To really get to know the city and understand its soul, taking a tour, class, or activity is a great way to help you learn.
These top things to do in Oaxaca City are the perfect way to make your Oaxaca City itinerary meaningful and enjoyable.
The city of Oaxaca is known all throughout the world for its food. Dishes like tamales (stuffed corn dough steamed in a corn husk or banana leaf), memelas (fried or toasted cakes made of masa) and tlayudas (oversized corn tortillas stuffed with a filling and toasted on a grill) are staples in Oaxacan cuisine. You also shouldn’t miss tasting handmade Oaxacan cheese, which is similar to mozzarella. And the region is also known for its mole, a sauce made from smoked chiles that’s an icon of the culinary world.
Taking a Oaxaca City cooking class is a fun activity to include in your Oaxaca City itinerary. Cooking classes on Oaxaca food give families an opportunity to dive deeper into Oaxaca’s culture and learn about the region’s indigenous roots.
Book this cooking class in Oaxaca for your Oaxaca City itinerary:
Flavors of Oaxaca: Cooking Class
If you’re not able to include cooking classes in your Oaxaca City itinerary, the next best things are Oaxaca culinary tours. Oaxaca has an abundance of amazing restaurants, as well as street food, and a culinary tour will help introduce you to some of them.
If you’re planning to venture out after your culinary tour and try some restaurant on your own, be sure to brush up on some Mexican food phrases. You’ll especially need to know how to say “please” (por favor) and “thank you” (gracias), as well as “more, please” (mas, por favor).
Book this tour, one of the top-rated Oaxaca culinary tours, for your trip:
Monte Albán is an amazing archaeological site. This archeological site is a must-see for anyone interested in learning about the history of Oaxaca. And it’s nearby, too! The distance from Oaxaca City to Monte Alban is just 10 km.
For over a thousand years, Monte Albán was the social, political, and economic center of the Zapotecs, one of the prominent indigenous groups in Oaxaca. Today, the site is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a great Oaxaca excursion to include in a Oaxaca City itinerary.
Taking a guided tour while you’re visiting Monte Albán is a great way to understand the history and significance of one of the unique world heritage sites of Mexico. Book this Monte Albán guided tour for your Oaxaca excursion.
Monte Alban Guided Half Day Tour
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The city of Oaxaca is brimming with art - from its vibrant street art to its unique art galleries. No Oaxaca City itinerary would be complete without a dive into the artistic culture of Oaxaca.
Part of the reason for Oaxaca’s rich artistic culture is its diversity. The region is home to 16 indigenous groups. These groups’ folk art often influence artists in the city.
There are several art museums worth including in your Oaxaca City itinerary to appreciate Oaxacan art. Museo de las Pintores Oaxaqueños and Museo Textil de Oaxaca are amazing museums to visit.
To experience more Oaxacan art, book this Oaxaca walking tour:
Another archeological site worth visiting during your Oaxaca City itinerary is Mitla, located 56 km southeast from Oaxaca. It was a sacred burial site for the Zapotec, and the site is known for its intricate freezes and geometric designs.
A visit to Mitla is a great option for a day trip from Oaxaca as the site is located within the town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla, which has artisan markets filled with crafts.
Book this day trip from Oaxaca to incorporate a visit to Mitla during your Oaxaca City itinerary.
Mezcal, an alcoholic beverage derived from distilled agave. The drink is distinct from tequila because the agave plant is roasted before being crushed for its liquid.
There are many mezcal distilleries, known as palenques, you can visit during your Oaxaca City itinerary. A visit to a palenque gives you a chance to see the technique and process that goes into making mezcal: cultivation, roasting, crushing, and distilling.
To experience one of the top-rated Oaxaca mezcal tours, book this one for your Oaxaca City itinerary:
Mezcal Tours Oaxaca: A Day in the Life
Oaxaca is surrounded by amazing artisan villages. For example, the town of Teotitlan del Valle is known for its handcrafted wool rugs. The hand-combed raw Merino wool is dyed from natural materials.
And in the town of San Bartolo Coyotepec, artisan families create shiny black pottery, made from the black clay found in this region. This type of pottery, known as barro negro, is distinct because of its black color and intricate carved patterns on the clay. Artisans also use a special technique to give the pottery its distinct sheen.
Taking Oaxaca private tours to these towns, and many other artisan villages, is an excellent way to experience the culture of Oaxaca at your own pace. Book this private tour for your Oaxaca City itinerary.
Oaxaca has an abundance of local food markets. The Oaxaca City markets are where local chefs and food vendors get the ingredients that make Oaxacan cuisine so special and delicious!
Mercado de la Merced is one of the best markets in Oaxaca on the eastern side of the city. It’s full of fondas (food stalls) where you can sample Oaxacan cuisine. But it’s also filled with rows and rows of vendors selling fresh produce and sundries. Mercado Benito Juarez and Mercado 20 de Noviembre are also great local markets to visit.
For organic cuisine, visit Mercado Orgánico La Cosecha. This is the best market in Oaxaca for organic produce, but it also has food stalls that sell local cuisine. You can also buy artisanal products and specialty drinks too.
For some top-rated Oaxaca city tours of the local markets, book one of these tours for your Oaxaca City itinerary.
Eating at the Markets With a Local
Authentic Oaxaca Street Food Tour by Locals
Alebrijes are Mexican folk art sculptures known throughout the world. They are often fantastical-looking animals, decorated with colorful patterns and shapes.
These sculptures were originally created in Mexico City in the 1930’s by an artist named Pedro Linares. They were originally made of paper. In the Oaxacan town of San Martin Tilcajete, alebrijes are made from carved wood, and many families have passed this artistic tradition from generation to generation.
For a hands-on cultural experience during your Oaxaca City itinerary, book this tour where you can paint your own alebrije to take home! It’s one of the top-rated Oaxaca experience tours!
While the city of Oaxaca is full of amazing things to see and do, you also want to make sure to include some Oaxaca day trips into your Oaxaca City itinerary.
The city of Oaxaca is situated near the Sierra Norte mountains. If you have time during your Oaxaca City itinerary, book this tour of the Sierra Norte mountains. The tour includes a 10-15 km hike through the mountains, which will take approximately 3-6 hours.
Hike through the forest of the Sierra Norte de Oaxaca
Another natural wonder to see is the Hierve el Agua. This is made of calcium deposits that look like waterfalls. This tour takes you hiking around this natural area, located about 70 km from Oaxaca.
Tule, Hierve el Agua & Mezcal Experience
If you’re looking for a day trip that’s a little closer to Oaxaca, head to Santa Maria del Tule. There, you can see a 2,000 year old Moctezuma cypress. It’s the oldest and widest tree in Mexico!
Biking to The Ancient Tree of El Tule
A one or two day Oaxaca itinerary is truly not enough time to spend in Oaxaca! You really need to spend a month in Oaxaca to get a complete experience of the city.
Besides the activities listed above, here are more activities to include in your Oaxaca City itinerary:
Add Puerto Escondido to your Oaxaca Mexico itinerary!
If you’re asking yourself, “how many days do you need in Oaxaca?”, the answer is too many to count! To really understand the heart and soul of Oaxaca, you really need to spend a month in the city. A few days is truly not enough time to spend in Oaxaca to get a complete experience!
However, if you only have 2-5 days to spend in Oaxaca, take a look at some of these Oaxaca City itinerary suggestions to make your trip as memorable as possible. And if you’re trying to create a Oaxaca itinerary 7 days experience or a Oaxaca itinerary 10 days experience, then you can also include the other suggestions mentioned in the sections above.
If you only have 2 days in Oaxaca, make the most of your time by experiencing as much of the city as you can. Spend your first day doing a market tour and a cooking class. On the second day, take the art tour and visit the many museums around the city.
Suggestions for 2 days in Oaxaca:
For a Oaxaca 3 day itinerary, use one of the days to take a day trip to Monte Alban. You’ll want to give yourself a lot of time during your Oaxaca itinerary 3 days experience. That way you can really appreciate the beauty of the archeological site. The other two days can be the same as the 2 days in Oaxaca suggestions listed above.
Suggestions for 3 days in Oaxaca:
If you have 4 days in Oaxaca to spend for your vacation, you can include more day trips from Oaxaca City. Visiting the archeological site of Mitla and the surrounding town of San Pablo Villa de Mitla is a great option for a second day trip.
Suggestions for 4 days in Oaxaca:
For families with 5 days in Oaxaca, a visit to the artisan villages is a must. It’s a great opportunity to bring back locally woven rugs and beautiful barro negro pottery home with you! Be sure to include these experiences in your Oaxaca itinerary 5 days experience.
Suggestions for 5 days in Oaxaca:
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Oaxaca City is an incredible place to visit with kids, especially if you enjoy learning about new cultures and trying different foods. The city is full of history and there are plenty of things to pack into your Oaxaca travel itinerary, whether you're interested in market tours, cooking classes, or visiting archaeological sites.
Be sure to add some (or all!) of these activities to your Oaxaca City itinerary the next time you're in Oaxaca. You’re sure to have a trip to remember. So is Oaxaca worth visiting? Absolutely!
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