Located in southwestern Mexico in a valley surrounded by craggy mountains, Oaxaca has been inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous Zapotec and Mixtec peoples. Today, it’s a center for food, mezcal production, and artisan textiles and pottery, and features a rich history, owing to places like Monte Albán and Mitla.
Take all that history, food, and drink, and package it in a place brimming with colorful buildings, scenic rooftop restaurants and bars, unique street art, and picturesque parks.
While in downtown Oaxaca, don’t miss stopping in this complex, which features a 17th-century Baroque Roman Catholic church, a cultural museum, and a botanical garden. Originally used as a Dominican church and monastery, this photogenic site was later used as a barracks and military building during Mexico’s revolution (1910–1920) all the way into the 1990s.
While here, see the Museo de las Culturas, which is home to all kinds of religious and pre-Columbian artifacts. The “Treasures of Monte Albán” exhibition showcases over 400 relics from a Mixtec tomb that is one of the most important burial sites in Mesoamerica, including a skull covered in turquoise, carved bone objects, weaving tools, and jewelry made of gold and jade. It is by far one of the best things to do in town. Expect to spend a couple of hours in the entire complex.
C. Macedonio Alcalá S/N. The Museo de las Culturas is open Tuesday-Friday 10am-3pm. Admission to the church is free, while the museum is 85 MXN.
Wander the city and admire the street art
Oaxaca has a wealth of street art, ranging from political pieces commenting on social issues to murals focused on indigenous culture and history. The areas of Xochilmilco and Jalatlaco are two of the best for murals. You can also join a street art bike tour offered by Coyote Aventuras (850 MXN) for an even more in-depth look.
Try a street-stall hamburguesa
After a busy day of exploring, feast on an hamburguesa for dinner. It’s a burger topped with a hot dog, sliced cheese, Oaxaca cheese, ham, pineapple, lettuce, tomato, and jalapeño.