Food in Oaxaca City

Why I Fell In Love With Oaxaca City, Mexico And Why I Think You Will Too!

10 mins read

A laid-back, blossoming cultural and culinary capital filled with elegant colonial buildings, tree-lined streets, vibrant markets, top museums and artists and artisans galore, Oaxaca is one of Mexico’s most captivating and creative cities. Our writer Gaby lived in Oaxaca for a while and while there, fell head over heels for the city, here are her reasons why she thinks you’ll love it too…

I personally think Oaxaca City, Mexico and the state it is home to are truly magical! Full of vibrant culture, traditions, art, ancient textile techniques, mezcal, the Pacific coast and of course the amazing culinary scene. But first, let’s get the pronunciation of Oaxaca down, WA-HA-KA, it is a tricky-looking word that trips a few people up!

During my year spent in Oaxaca City, I tried to immerse myself into the culture to learn and experience as much as I possibly could. Living abroad is like an intensive course in another country and around every corner, there is something new to see and soak up! 

1. The Incredible Food Scene!

Food in Oaxaca City

El Destilado Oaxaca City

When it comes to dining out in Oaxaca City, I would say don’t miss the cool and contemporary spot El Destilado! These guys are a step ahead of every other restaurant in town, I have zero hesitation in saying that. They take Oaxacan cuisine to the next level with their always innovative and evolving tasting menu, showcasing fresh local produce and pairing it with kick-ass beverages.

Take a seat at the chef’s table and be delivered plate after plate of incredibly creative dishes by super knowledgeable staff who can answer all of your culinary and mezcal questions.

If you are looking for high-quality mezcal (which they bottle themselves), insanely delicious food and great service in a very cool setting, look no further. There were so many exciting things happening in this little powerhouse and I couldn’t wait to see what they came up with next!

2. You can be your own tour guide

Oaxaca City Tour

There are many types of tours on offer around the city, and if you stroll through the Zócolo I am sure you will be bombarded with flyers like I was. There are a couple which I think are worth your time though, for example, the Chocolate Tours, here are super interesting and delicious.

But my favourite tours are the ones I take on my own, there are so many artists workshops, photography exhibits, markets and textile workshops to explore and of course, are free! So, I would recommend packing your bag, putting on some comfy shoes and exploring! 

3. Experiencing ancient Temazcal Rituals

Ceviarem Temazcal

Another unforgettable opportunity I would highly recommend is to get a deep insight into the spiritual side of the Meso-American culture by visiting a Temazcal.

A Temazcal in an ancient sweat lodge (pictured above) has been used throughout time to cleanse warriors after the battle and to help women give birth among many other uses. You will be guided through your experience by a Shaman and every detail will be explained so you get the most out of your visit.

The Temazcal I have regularly visited during my time here is Cervariam Temazcal, a husband and wife duo with generations of experience and knowledge of ancient practices.

4. Exploring Zapotecan Towns – filled with artisans

Local Artisans Oaxaca

For those wanting to take a peek at Zapotacan culture (Indigenous peoples of Oaxaca) I highly suggest a trip out to Teotitlan De Valle to see the community and their incredible rug weaving techniques.

Their rugs and weavings are renowned worldwide for the impressive implication of ancient techniques using natural dyes and serious beauty.

5. Hierve El Agua – stunning natural infinity pools

Hierve El Agua Pool

Hierve El Aguajpg

The natural infinity pools at the top of petrified waterfalls called Hierve el Agua, blew my mind with their beauty! In my opinion, both of these places are worth a day trip and are easily accessed by public transport or you can jump on a tour.

6. Monte Alban – Ancient Ruins

Monte Alban Ancient Ruins

So many adventures and so little time. There are tons of attractions close to the city and throughout the state, and it feels impossible to pick the best ones. In my opinion, if you are in the city you can’t pass up the opportunity to visit the ancient ruins of Monte Albán.

7. Puerto Escondido and the Pacific Coast – cool beach towns

Puerto Escondido

If you are spending a chunk of time in Oaxaca, take the opportunity to head down to Puerto Escondido, on the Pacific Coast. Puerto Escondido and the surrounding beach towns of Mazunte and Zipolite are little paradises on Earth.

Puerto Escondido is home to the Mexican Pipeline and drags surfers from around the globe to attempt the giant swells that frequent Playa Zicatela. If you enjoy the ocean, yoga, surfing and palm trees, then I think Puerto is a must-visit! 

Shuttle buses run regularly to and from Oaxaca City, leaving multiple times daily from terminals south of the Zócolo and for those wanting to avoid the long travel time of the shuttles, I would recommend catching a little plane down there with a 20-minute flight with Aero Tucan or one of the local pilots! 

8. The Local Artisans – hand-created rugs

Artisans in Oaxaca City

From all over the 8 regions of Oaxaca there are incredible masters of their arts. From hand-created rugs, delicately embroidered huipils (Mexican blouses) woven bags, baskets and everything in between. Families for generations have practised their arts and every little detail has a story and purpose.

9. The Friendly and Hardworking People

Oaxaca City People

Every morning walk I would pick up a fresh juice from a mother and son duo at Parque el Llano, my partner would grab an empanada from another lady on the corner of our street every other day and the multiple markets and hardworking fruiters who were up and working before the sun has even risen.

The work that goes on behind every street stand is immense and all I have is respect for the people who are out in the daily grind with the biggest smiles on their faces daily.

There are so many more restaurants, bars, attractions, workshops and adventures I could list off in this piece but these are my all-time favourites. I would suggest starting with the top picks and then begin working your way through this addictive city one empanada and mezcal at a time! 

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