OAXACA TRAVEL GUIDE
Places to Stay - Click here for price key
For a moderately priced hotel with free parking (not common in the center of the city), reserve a room at Maela ($$, Calle Constitución #206 between Juárez and Reform, tel. 951/516-6022), with cable TV and room safe. Wi-Fi reaches some of the rooms as well as the inexpensive and pleasant restaurant. A good find; nice people.
Casa de Siete Balcones ($$$$, Av. Morelos 800, tel. 951/516-0133, www.casadesietebalcones.com) is a lovely hotel in the city center. Rooms have cable TV, a/c, and ceiling fan, and the property offers valet parking, restaurant, and room service.
Offering a variety of rooms of different styles and sizes, and a wonderful, huge swimming pool, Hotel Victoria ($$$, 951/502-0850, www.hotelvictoriaoax.com.mx) also has a restaurant with 24-hour room service, tennis court, bar and many more amenities. Rooms have Wi-Fi, laundry, and massage service. It’s a bit of a hike uphill, but there’s parking, and for those without a car, free bus service several times a day into downtown Oaxaca.
Formerly the Camino Real, Quinta Real ($$$$, Calle Cinco de Mayo #300, tel. 951/501-6100, www.quintareal.com) is one of Oaxaca’s fanciest hotels. Within a refurbished colonial convent, it has a bar, restaurant, a weekly dance performance, and the usual offerings of a five-star hotel. Right in the center of Oaxaca.
Places to Eat - Click here for price key
For an inexpensive meal where locals eat, try the small restaurants in el Mercado 20 de Noviembre (Calles Flores Magón at Calle Minas).
Outdoor-indoor restaurants face the main plaza on three sides, offering nonstop action and entertainment. Most people have their favorite; mine are Terra Nova, on the east side of the zocalo and El Jardín, directly across the plaza.
Ke-Ken ($--$$, Calle Pino Suárez #511, cel tel. 951/236-7356) has a chef owner trained in the States. Prices are inexpensive and the tacos, tostadas, and comida corrida (set lunch specials) are good. Closed Sundays, no dinner.
I had an excellent, light, tasty lunch special at Pombo ($$, Calle Morelos #601 between Calles García Vigil and Porfirio Diaz, tel. 951/516-2673). The price included fruit drink, soup, pasta, main dish, and dessert. There’s a small bar at the front if you want a snort of mescal.
El Quinque ($$, Calle Macedonio Alcalá at Xolotl) is known for their burgers, but all their food is great, and prices are very reasonable. Open for lunch through early dinner. Many people go exclusively for comida corrida (fixed lunch specials).
Los Danzantes ($$$, Calle Macedonio Alcalá #403-4, Casa Vieja, tel. 951/501-1187, www.losdanzantes.com) is a more upscale place with excellent food and great atmosphere.
Serving contemporary Oaxaca cuisine, Casa Oaxaca ($$$$, Garcia Vigil at Calle Constitución, south side of Santo Domingo, tel. 951/154-4173) is one of Oaxaca’s best restaurants. Their drink menu is extensive, including many fine mescals and the famous house drink, mezcalinis (martinis made with mescal). Waiters are polished and professional. Views of Santo Domingo from the rooftop patio are excellent. A must-try for foodies.
Cafés & Pastries
For delish pastries and artisan bread, stop at Pan & Co. (Calle Allende #113 at García Vigil, tel. 951/501-1672).
Next to Teatro Macedonia Alcalá, La Organización (Calle Armenta y López #101, near the corner of Independencia and Cinco de Mayo, closed Sunday) is a lovely, modern, Internet café that sells gelato, croissants, salads, and sweets. They have comfortable chairs and friendly service.
Things to Do
There are so many excellent museums, galleries, and things to do in Oaxaca City that I could write a book on this subject alone. Fortunately there is also a lot of printed tourist information listing their descriptions, locations, and maps. Also most fold-out tourist maps show the many small towns and villages outside of Oaxaca, whose handcraft showrooms, weekly markets, and lovely churches make for excellent day trips. Listed here are some of my favorite things to do in the city, but there are many others.
Plan to spend plenty of time at the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (Ex-Convento de Santo Domingo, Calle M. Alcala at Gurrión). In addition to excellent exhibits of pre-Hispanic and colonial art and cultures, they also have a botanical garden, a great gift shop, and a library where scholars can review ancient texts in various languages.
Housing the private collection of its namesake, the Museo Rufino Tamayo (Calle Morelos #503, tel. 951/516-4750, closed Tuesdays) has a nicely presented collection of pre-Hispanic art and artifacts.
Museo de Arte Oaxaqueño (Avenida Independencia #607, across from Alameda Park, tel. 951/516-5645, closed Monday) shows Oaxacan painters, sculptors, and graphic artists in temporary and permanent exhibits.
Museo de Textiles de Oaxaca (Calle Hidalgo #917 at Fiallo, tel. 951/501-1104, ext. 110, closed Tuesday) has excellent examples of Oaxaca textiles.
Specialists may want to visit the stamp museum, contemporary art museum, the graphic arts institute, and the Manuel Alvarez Bravo photography museum, among others.
The Oaxaca Lending Library (Pino Suarez #519, tel. 951/518-7077, www.oaxlibrary.org, open Monday through Friday 10 to 2 and 4 to 7) is a good place to make connections (see their bulletin board) and read books about Mexico..
In a restored former monastery, Centro Académico y Cultural San Pablo (Independencia #904, tel. 951/501-8800) has changing exhibits and a space for cultural events, as well as restaurant and café.
Oaxaca is heaven for shoppers, offering tons of quality indigenous-inspired clothing, jewelry, and handcrafts. Many galleries offer fine art by up-and-coming Oaxaca artists and established masters.
Visit Mercado Juárez (Calles 20 de Noviembre and Las Casas) for clothing, fruits and vegetables, and other useful items. A map at the front of the market, on the main entrance on Las Casas, shows the location of stalls by ethnic group, which is handy and informative. Many of Oaxaca’s excellent handcrafts can be found at this market. The surrounding streets also have things for sale, including gold and silver jewelry, coffee, and chocolate.
Behind Mercado Juárez, Mercado 20 de Noviembre sells hot food and fresh bread. Worth a visit if you want to eat with the locals.
In the churchyard of Xochimilco’s temple, Mercado Pochote has organic food (cooked and fresh) on Fridays and Saturdays, as well as some artisanal handicrafts.
There’s a nice weekly market at Parque El Llano, AKA Parque Benito Juarez, on Fridays for practical items, food (cooked food and produce), clothes, and just hanging out with the locals.
The enormous, bustling Mercado de Abastos is Oaxaca’s largest market, and selling and buying here goes back to pre-Hispanic times. The main market day is Saturday, but it’s happening every day of the week.
For jewelry, Oro de Monte Albán (M. Alcalá #403, among other locations, tel. 915/514-3813, www.orodemontealban.com) sells excellent reproductions of jewelry found in tombs in Monte Albán, mostly the same designs but in updates styles.
Casa de las Artesanias de Oaxaca (Matamoros #105, tel. 516-5062) is a massive co-op of more than 50 excellent artisans from Oaxaca and neighboring towns. You’ll find jewelry, lots of woven and embroidered clothing, fine and inexpensive rebozos (shawls) in a variety of materials, handicrafts of straw and clay, and pretty much everything else.
We like to support MARO, or Mujeres Artesanas de las Regiones de Oaxaca (Calle 5 de Mayo #204, tel. 951/516-0670), a women’s co-op of crafts from throughout the state.
Pájaro del Sol (Calle Macedonio Alcalá #303, tel. 951/516-7302) has alebrijes (fanciful wooden animals and monsters) painted with natural pigments as well as smaller, less expensive ones in acrylics; lovely jewelry and painted tin animals and figures.
Amate (Calle Macedonio Alcalá #307, tel. 951/516-6960) has a great selection of books and magazines mainly in English, but also in Spanish.
La Plaza (Calle Matamoros #103, tel. 951/514-0450) has quality clothing, ceramics, and other handcrafts from throughout the state.
There are tourism kiosks throughout the historic center, including a well-stocked one at Santo Domingo Plaza and another in Alameda Park near the cathedral. The municipal tourism office is found at Matamoros #102, tel. 951/516-6822, extension 106. The state tourism office is at Avenida Juárez #703, at Teatro Juárez, across from El Llano Park.
Getting Here, Getting Around
The following airlines serve Oaxaca’s Benito Juárez International Airport, located 8 km (5 mi) south of town in Xoxocotlán: Aeromexico and Interjet (via Mexico City); Aerotucán and Aerovega (to Puerto Escondido and Huatulco); Volaris (to/from Tijuana); Viva Aerobus (via Monterrey, N.L., Mexico); and United Express (Houston).
Oaxaca is 265 km (165 mi) north of Puerto Escondido, on the coast. It’s 5--6 hours by car on highway 131 via Sola de Vega. The two-lane, undivided road is older but serviceable. Or take the somewhat less lonely but equally windy road from Oaxaca to Pochutla, Highway 175 via Miahuatlán, which takes about the same amount of time. Use the Pochutla route if going to Huatulco, about an hour farther southeast from that junction.
The quickest way to Mexico City and points north is via Puebla on a good highway. The trip to Puebla takes about four hours. To get to Chiapas, go through the Isthmus of Tehuantepec on the Panamerican Highway, Highway 190.
By Bus and Shared (Colectivo) Taxi
The first-class bus station (called el ADO, pronounced Ah Day Oh, for the main bus line) is found on the Calzada de Niños Héroes #1036, tel. 951/513-0529 on the north side of town. First-class bus lines serving Oaxaca are for the main bus line ADO GL (www.ticketbus.com.mx), Primera Plus (www.primeraplus.com.mx), Estrella del Valle and ETN (www.etn.com.mx). The second-class bus station (Prolongación de Trujano at el Periférico, tel. 951/516-1218), located near Abastos market, is the place to get a bus to smaller towns in Oaxaca State, including crafts towns Santo Tomás Jalietza and San Bartolo Coyotepec.
Colectivo taxis go to Etla, Vistahermosa, San Agustín, and the smaller pueblos to the west. Look for them parked on the side streets just north of Mercado Abastos and the second-class bus station. Cram yourself in and save money over a regular taxi.