Our List of 25 Fun Things to do in Oaxaca City | Nomadic AF

Our List of 25 Fun Things to do in Oaxaca City | Nomadic AF

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Still deciding if you want to add Oaxaca City to your travel bucket list? We say “go for it!”. We’ve been in Oaxaca city for 3 months now and we’re loving it. There are so many fun things to do in Oaxaca City that you’d be hard pressed to fit it all in.

Between the food, culture, and activities we feel that there is something for everyone in Oaxaca City. Check out our list below of our 25 favorite things to do in Oaxaca City.

Natasha in Oaxaca
Natasha in Oaxaca

But First – How to Pronounce Oaxaca

This is pretty important if you plan on interacting with anyone in Oaxaca. Before our trip, neither one of us were pronouncing it correctly. The correct pronunciation of Oaxaca is wa-HA-kah.

And Secondly – Is Oaxaca Safe?

We’ve been in Oaxaca for a few months and have never had a problem. In those three months we:

  • have drank in the local bars without any problems.
  • have hung out in the public squares at night safely.
  • walk to our apartment at night which is well out of the tourist areas.
  • take public transportation all over town.

Never once have we felt we were in any danger. As far as we’re concerned Oaxaca is as safe, or safer than our home town in the states.

Oaxaca City - Safe and Clean
Oaxaca City – Safe and Clean

And now, on to our List of 25 Fun Things to do in Oaxaca City

Out of these 25 activities we have personally done 24. By the time the night group bike ride begins we’re too many beers or mezcals in to ride safely. Our neighbor swears by the ride though so we added it on his recommendation.

Oaxaca Tip
Have you booked your flights to Oaxaca yet? If not check out our blog post on finding the cheapest flights possible to Oaxaca.

1. Lucha Libre (one of the most fun things to do in Oaxaca)

The Lucha Libre is, by far, the most fun we’ve had anywhere. As you can hear in the video below we laughed nearly the entire two hours. Literally, our faces were sore the next day from laughing so much. Lucha Libre; it’s cheesy, campy, slightly dangerous, and so much fun.

The Lucha Libre matches don’t seem to have any set weekly schedule. The best thing to do is to like the Facebook pages Sabados De Lucha Libre en Oaxaca and Lucha Libre Oaxaca. They update their Facebook pages when new fights are coming up.

Our suggestion; spend the extra dollar for front row seats. As you can see below, you won’t regret it.

 

Want more Lucha Libre pics?

2. Food & Walking Tour of Oaxaca City

We’re such food snobs. Honestly, the food in Oaxaca is one of the reasons we first decided to come here. And I promise you, this town won’t let you down. Oaxaca is the culinary capital of Mexico and the food here is unbelievably good.

Not sure where to start on your culinary adventure in Oaxaca? We suggest the food and walking tour provided by Oaxaca Eats. On this 4-hour tour, you’re going to try around 20 different types of Oaxacan food prepared by 5 different family-owned restaurants. You’ll also be tasting some of the local drinks, as well as mezcales.

If you’re a foodie, this is one of the things to do in Oaxaca we recommend you try.

Food tour in Oaxaca
Food tour in Oaxaca

3. Take in a Baseball Game

Baseball games are so much fun to go to in Mexico. Which is odd for us because I’m not sure we would ever consider going to one in the States. If you’re a baseball fan, or just looking to kill a few hours doing something fun, we recommend taking in a baseball game while in Oaxaca.

The local team in Oaxaca is Los Guerreros de Oaxaca and they play just north of centro in Estadio Eduardo Vasconcelos. The stadium is a quick walk from centro or just grab a taxi for 50 pesos ($2.50usd)

Not only are these games a lot of fun, but they’re also super inexpensive. Cheap seats in the outfield start at around $1.50usd. The most expensive seats, first row behind home plate, will only set you back $7usd. The food and beers are also reasonably priced.

GUERREROS DE OAXACA
GUERREROS DE OAXACA

4. Zocalo for Shopping, Eating, and People Watching (if you’re looking for chill things to do in Oaxaca)

Even though we’ve been in Oaxaca a few months, we never get tired of hanging out in Zocalo. Zocalo is a large public square that has been used as a gathering place for Oaxacans for hundreds of years.

The square is surrounded by craft markets, mezcal shops, and restaurants. You’ll also find roaming salespeople selling everything from peanuts to clothing to bedframes.

Our favorite part of the evening is to grab a chair at one of the many restaurants, order a few beers, and watch the hustle and bustle. It’s a great way to wind up the day.

guitar players serenading a table in Zocalo
guitar players serenading a table in Zocalo

5. Crash a Wedding

No seriously. It’s cool, everyone does it. On Saturdays and Sundays, there will be numerous wedding parties dancing, drinking and having a blast on their walk from Santo Domingo to Zocalo.

Feel free to dance, sip shots of tequila, and stroll along with them. We’ve done it a couple of times and it was a fun way to kill an hour. Below is a video we took of one wedding passing by as we were eating day-drinking at one of our go-to restaurants.

6. Jaguar Sanctuary

The Jaguar Sanctuary, just outside of Oaxaca City, is such a cool place to visit. It’s located about 40 minutes outside of Oaxaca City. You can get there in a taxi or hop in a colectivo heading to Tlacolula (they’re clearly marked on the windshield). Just tell the driver to stop at the sanctuary. The ride in a colectivo should only be around 30 pesos ($1.50) per person.

The sanctuary houses numerous types of animals from turtles to bears to jaguars. All of these animals have been rescued from private owners. The goal is to rehabilitate each animal so that they can be released back into the wild. If rehabilitation isn’t possible the animals are eventually transferred to a zoo to make room for new rescues.

Jaguar Sanctuary from the road
Jaguar Sanctuary from the road

The Jaguar Sanctuary is open every day except Monday from 10-5. The tours are guided and start at 10:30am and go every hour until 4:30 (admission is 100 pesos $5usd). If you’re late to the tour you’ll have to wait for the next one. All tours are in Spanish, but if you’re not fluent it’s still a fun trip.

Check out our video below of them retraining the jaguars to hunt so that they can be released back into the wild.

 

Want more Jaguar Sanctuary pics?

7. Monte Alban

Monte Alban is a pre-Columbian archeological site that sits high above Oaxaca City. The site dates back to 500 B.C. and was continuously populated for the following 1000 years. Monte Alban is a must-see site if you’re visiting Oaxaca City.

At the site, you will find the ruins of the once great city of Monte Alban. There is also an ancient ball court, many smaller structures, as well as a museum of artifacts found at the site. The site is open every day from 8am-4:30pm. Admission at the time of writing cost 70 pesos ($3.50usd).

Getting to the site is fairly easy and only takes about 20 minutes from centro. You can have your hotel set up a shuttle or just grab a taxi to the site for around 100 pesos ($5usd).

Things to do in Oaxaca City - Monte Alban
Things to do in Oaxaca City – Monte Alban
Want more Monte Alban pics?

8. Tule Tree

The Tule Tree (Arbol del Tule) is a nice way to kill a couple of hours. This attraction is a quick 15-minute trip from Centro. Here you will find the oldest and largest tree in the world. Dating back 2000 years and measuring in at 164 feet around, this is definitely an impressive tree to check out.

Admission is 10 pesos ($0.50usd) and for an additional few pesos the local kids will point out the ancient carvings in the tree for you. We ended up paying them as there was no way we could pick all of the carvings out.

There are a few different ways to get to the Tule Tree.

  • Taxi – Just flag down any taxi and they will take you there for around 70 pesos ($3.50usd).
  • Bike Ride – Every Sunday at 9am there is an organized bike ride from Santo Domingo to the Tule Tree. Bike rental is available for 50-70 pesos ($2.50-$3.50usd).
  • Tours – The Tule Tree is grouped in with many of the different tours that are offered around the city.
Oaxaca Tour Tip
If you want to make the most out of the day you can combine numbers 8-12 on this list. There is a tour company located just off of the Zocalo that offers air-conditioned transportation to these 5 attractions.

The cost is around 350 pesos ($18usd) which does not include admission to the sites or the buffet lunch that they stop at. This is an all-day tour that starts at the Tule Tree and ends at the Hierve de Agua. The tour is in both English and Spanish.

Things to do in Oaxaca - Tule Tree
Things to do in Oaxaca – Tule Tree
Want more Tule Tree pics?

9. Artisanal Rug Workshop

When we booked the tour that I mentioned just above I thought to myself, “the artisanal rug workshop sounds kind of boring. I’ll probably just zone out during that part of the tour”. I was definitely wrong on that one.

During this tour, the master rug maker will explain to you how they get the wool for their rugs and how they make the all-natural dyes that color the wool. He’ll go through the process of turning a white mold on a cactus into a red dye and use flowers to create yellow.

After the tour of the different dyes, the rug maker will bring you into his studio so you can see the labor-intensive process he uses to create his rugs. Each rug, he explained, takes about three months to make. You’ll have a chance to check out the finished product and even purchase one if you’re interested.

Things to do in Oaxaca - Fabric Dying
Things to do in Oaxaca – Fabric Dying
Want more Rug Workshop pics?

10. Mezcal Tour

Mezcal? Um, yes, please. If you’re a fan of alcohol and aren’t familiar with mezcal, boy do we have a treat for you. Mezcal, like tequila, is made from the agave plant. That’s where the similarities end though as mezcal tastes nothing like tequila. Think of it this way…

Tequila = Whiskey & Mezcal = Single Malt Scotch

I’m sure die-hard mezcal lovers may find that a bit simplistic, but…there it is.

On this mezcal tour, you’ll learn all about the agave plant; how it’s smoked, then ground-up, then distilled. You’ll also learn how the subtle flavors are imparted in each type of mezcal. At the end of the tour, there will be a mezcal tasting and the opportunity to buy from the distillery.

Things to do in Oaxaca - Mezcal Tasting
Things to do in Oaxaca – Mezcal Tasting
Want more Mezcal Tour pics?

11. Mitla

Mitla is an amazingly preserved 2000-year-old pre-Columbian building which sits around 27 miles outside of Oaxaca. It is a beautiful piece of architecture created from 1000’s of pieces of trachyte rock. Some of the rocks weigh up to 18 tons and others are as small as the tip of your finger. Amazingly all of this stone was put together so perfectly that no mortar was needed.

Even after daily earthquakes for the past two thousand years, the site still stands and attracts up to 500 visitors a day. Mitla is the second most important archeological site in the state of Oaxaca. We consider this another must-see attraction on your trip to Oaxaca.

Things to do in Oaxaca - Mitla
Things to do in Oaxaca – Mitla
Want more Mitla pics?
Check out our Mitla album on Flickr.

12. Hierve el Agua (Petrified Waterfall)

If you decide to take the guided tour I mentioned above, Hierve de Agua will be the last stop on that tour. These “petrified” waterfalls are created when the mineral-rich water above drips over the edge of the cliffs and deposits its minerals on the rock. The dried calcium and other minerals give the rocks the look of petrified water, hence the name.

On the top of the cliffs, there are 2 artificial pools and numerous natural pools where you can cool down in the mineral-rich waters. This is the perfect ending to the day-long tour I mentioned above.

Hierve El Agua Pools
Hierve El Agua Pools

13. Sunday Concert in Zocalo

As I mentioned above, Zocalo is one of our favorite spots to chill out and people watch. Zocalo on Sundays though is even more fun. Every Sunday a huge stage is set up for various performers. One Sunday you may find traditional woodwind music, the next a full-blown brass band.

Areas are marked off for seating and dancing, and it seems as if the whole of Centro comes out for the festivities. If you’re looking for something to do on a Sunday afternoon or evening, head on over to Zocalo for the festivities.

14. Botanical Gardens

The state of Oaxaca is considered to be the most biodiverse state in the country of Mexico. And there is no better place than the Botanical Gardens in Oaxaca City to witness this diversity. In this beautifully laid out garden, you will find plants used for ceremonial and medicinal purposes as well as traditional vegetable and herb plants native to the state.

Oaxaca Tip
If you’re a little short on time you can easily combine numbers 14-16 on this list.

The Botanical Gardens, Santo Domingo, and the Cultural Museum are all part of the same complex, and all can be visited on the same day with plenty of time left over for other attractions.

The Botanical Garden was designed to be free of signs, so in order to know what plants you’re looking at, you’re going to need a guided tour. Luckily, there’s no need to schedule a tour in advance. Just show up 15 minutes before the scheduled tours below:

  • Tours in English – Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday at 11am. Cost is 100 pesos ($5usd).
  • Tours in Spanish – Monday-Saturday at 10am, 12 noon, & 5pm. Cost is $50 pesos ($2.50usd).
  • Tours in French – Tuesdays at 5pm. Cost is $100 pesos ($5usd).
  • Tours in German – Wednesdays at 5pm. Cost is $100 pesos ($5usd).

The Botanical Gardens are located on the grounds of the Santo Domingo church and the entrance to the garden is at the corner of Reforma & Constitucion.

Botanical Gardens in Oaxaca City
Botanical Gardens in Oaxaca City

15. Santo Domingo de Guzman

Just six blocks north of Zocalo you will find the most famous church in the state of Oaxaca; El Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman (referred to simply as Santo Domingo). Construction on this stunningly beautiful church began in 1552 and took over 100 years to complete. 

Santo Domingo is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Oaxaca, and for good reason. The architecture is stunning, both inside and out, with the interior decorated with over 60,000 sheets of 24-carat gold leaf. Santo Domingo is another not-to-miss attraction while in Oaxaca.

In addition to seeing the church, you will most likely encounter a wedding procession, a gathering of indigenous dancers in traditional dress, or any number of festivals which use the church as a starting point.

Santo Domingo church in Oaxaca City
Santo Domingo church in Oaxaca City

16. Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (The Oaxacan Cultural Museum)

If you’re at all interested in the history of Oaxaca there is no better place to visit than the Oaxacan Cultural Museum. This museum houses artwork, artifacts, and books that span 10,000 years of Oaxacan history. The Cultural Museum consists of the following sections:

  • Millennial Cultures – Covering the span of 10,000 BC – 200 AD
  • Thriving Times – From 200 – 900 AD
  • Treasures of the 7th Tomb
  • The Ladies – From 900 – 1521 AD
  • Contact and Conquest – The 16th century
  • Spiritual Conquest of the Past – 16th and 17th centuries
  • Indigenous Answers – 16th – 18th century
  • Matter and Spirit – 16th – 18th century
  • Emergence of the New Nation – Late 18th – mid 19th century
  • Order and Progress – 1876 – 1911
  • Images of the Twentieth Century
  • Indigenous Communal Life – 21st century
  • Redefining Community Circle – 21st century
  • Santo Domingo: History and Discoveries – 16th – 20th century

The Oaxacan Cultural Museum also houses the Fray Fransisco Library. This library consists of over 30,000 books which were brought here from all over the world. Some of which were brought here to protect them from being burned during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Oaxacan Cultural Museum, as well as the library, are open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-7pm. Admission is 60 pesos ($3usd).

Things to do in Oaxaca - Cultural Museum
Things to do in Oaxaca – Cultural Museum
Want more Oaxacan Cultural Museum pics?

17. Learn to Cook Oaxacan Food

As we mentioned earlier, Oaxaca is the culinary capital of Mexico. The food here is made fresh, with local ingredients, and is delicious. You will most definitely miss it after you leave. If only there was some way to learn how to cook Oaxacan food so that you can enjoy it after you leave the city.

Well, you’re in luck. There are numerous cooking classes to be found in Oaxaca City. In these classes, you will learn exactly how to prepare some of Oaxaca’s favorite foods.

A small example of the foods you will learn to cook are:
  • Cheese – This is one of the classes we took and it was really cool. We all met at a dairy farm outside of town. We used the farm’s milk to make quesillo (the famous Oaxacan string cheese) and a ricotta-like cheese that we made cheesecake from.
  • Tamales – Tamales are a staple food in Mexico. Oaxacan tamales are delicious and actually quite a bit different from tamales in the rest of Mexico. In this course, you’ll learn to make the masa dough, learn what fillings and sauces work best, and the various methods used to cook the tamales.
  • Tortillas & Salsas – Everyone loves salsa. It even outsells ketchup in the States. Now you can wow your friends at your next potluck with traditionally made Oaxacan salsas. These salsas will be the hit of the party.
  • Moles – This is another of the classes we took and I can not recommend it enough. If your time is limited, this is the class I recommend. In it, you will learn how to make each one of the 7 Oaxacan moles, from scratch. After preparing the moles, tortillas and chips will be available to taste your creations.

Classes vary in price and location. Some classes you’ll be on a dairy farm and others you’ll be in someone’s kitchen. Transportation is sometimes included in the price, other times not. The best way to keep up with what classes offer what is to check out the Oaxacan calendar of events here.

Oaxacan string cheese
Oaxacan string cheese

18. Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Mexican markets are a great place to kill a few hours. There’s produce, prepared foods, arts & crafts, musicians, fresh juice stalls, and so much more. El Mercado 20 de Noviembre is one of the better Mexican markets we’ve been to. No trip to Oaxaca would be complete without a quick (or not so quick) trip to this market.

Not only can you get all of your grocery and souvenir shopping done here, but this is also the place to try out all of the traditional Oaxacan food you can think of. There are numerous mole restaurants, hot chocolate bars, soup stalls, and restaurants specializing the delicious tlayudas. And, if you’re a meat eater, there is the “meat hall”, where numerous stalls grill up various types of meat, which is a must.

19. Visit a Local Mezcal Bar (one of our favorite things to do in Oaxaca)

We’ve already covered going to a mezcal distillery. Now it’s time to sit back in a proper bar and sip on various mezcales while listening to music and hanging out with the locals. Our favorite place to do this is Casa de Mezcal which is just outside of Zocalo, on Calle Flores Magon (just across the street from Mercado Benito Jaurez).

This is mostly a locals bar, but every now and again a small group of tourists will wander in. Everyone is extremely friendly here, the beers and mezcales are very inexpensive, and the jukebox plays Mexican and American music at a volume that can only be described as “11”. Definitely worth a visit just for the murals and intricate woodwork inside.

Mural in Casa de Mezcal
Mural in Casa de Mezcal

20. Art Galleries on Calle Alcala

We have walked Calle Alcala, which runs between Zocalo and Santo Domingo, roughly a billion times since we’ve been here (a slight exaggeration). Calle Alcala is a pedestrian-only street lined with stores, food carts, craft vendors, and local art galleries.

Chances are if you spend any time in Oaxaca City you’ll find yourself walking this route. Don’t just consider it a way to get from one attraction to another though. There is actually a lot to see on this walkway. Lined up and down both sides of the street are numerous art galleries that are free to browse. Be careful though, photography is strictly forbidden in most of them.

Art scene on Calle Alcala
Art scene on Calle Alcala

21. Group Night Bike Ride

The only activity on this list we haven’t participated in is the group night bike ride. It sounds fun and all, but by the time 9pm rolls around, we’re just not up for it. We’re either chilling out in a bar with a beer and a mezcal or watching Netflix with a beer and a mezcal. Our neighbor swears by it though and goes at least once a week, so we have decided to include it in the list.

The group night ride is every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It starts in front of Santo Domingo church at 9:00pm. The ride takes you throughout centro and returns at 10:30pm. Bikes are available for rent at the church.

Group night bike ride in Oaxaca
Group night bike ride in Oaxaca

22. Yagul

The Yagul archeological site (also called Puebla Viejo by local residents), just outside of Oaxaca City, deserves a little more attention than it gets. On the day we went, we only saw 4 other tourists at this site.

I’m not really sure why it’s not on the radar yet as far as Oaxacan tourist attractions go. Yagul is much smaller than Monte Alban, but this site still has a lot to offer. The ancient ball court is amazingly well preserved, as are the numerous “patio” structures.

Yagul was first occupied in 500BC and was continually occupied until the residents were relocated by the Spanish to nearby Tlacolula in the 1520s. The descendants of Yagul still live in Tlacolula today.

There isn’t a lot of info at the site, so it’s best to find a guide to walk you through and explain the structures to you. You can take a colectivo from Mercado Abastos to Yagul. The site is open to the public every day from 8am-5pm.

Yagul Ball Court
Yagul Ball Court

23. Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehistoric Art

The Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehistoric Art sits just a few blocks outside of Zocalo in Oaxaca Centro. The museum houses Rufino Tamayo’s private collection of pre-Columbian artwork.

We’ve been to numerous historical museums throughout Latin America. While the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehistoric Art is considerably smaller than most other museums, the quality of the collection rivals even the better-funded museums in Mexico City or Bogota, Colombia.

Admission to the Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehistoric Art is around $5usd. Somewhat higher than most tourist attractions in Oaxaca, but we feel it was worth the price. The museum is open the following hours:

  • Monday – 10-2 & 4-7
  • Tuesday – Closed
  • Wed-Sat – 10-4 & 4-7
  • Sunday – 10-3

As I mentioned, the museum is fairly small and you’ll probably only need an hour or so to see the whole thing. 

Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehistoric Art Exterior
Rufino Tamayo Museum of Prehistoric Art Exterior

24. Free Language Exchange

Every Saturday morning, from 10am until noon, the Oaxaca Lending Library sponsors a free English\Spanish exchange for adults. Tourists looking to brush up on their Spanish are teamed up with locals who are looking to improve their English. It’s a very informal setting and a great way to meet new people and improve your Spanish.

We’ve been to a couple of these language exchanges in Oaxaca and found them very helpful. We also met our current landlord at the exchange who gave us a great deal on our apartment. This is definitely a great way to kill a couple of hours on a Saturday morning.

Oaxaca Language Exchange
Oaxaca Language Exchange

25. Find a Festival

There is always something fun going on in Oaxaca. There are nearly weekly festivals, poetry readings, art displays, and various other activities. The best way to keep up with everything going on in Oaxaca is by checking out the daily activities that are posted on the OaxacaEvents.com website.

I wish we had found this website sooner as I know we missed out on a lot of cool events. We stumbled across the website one day only to find out on it that there was a huge “Carnival” parade later that day. We had a blast at the parade that we otherwise would have known nothing about without this website.

If you’re planning any time at all in Oaxaca, definitely consult the OaxacaEvents website so that you don’t miss out on what’s going on in this vibrant city.

Carnival Festival we found on OaxacaEvents
Carnival Festival we found on OaxacaEvents

There are so Many Fun Things to do in Oaxaca City

As you can tell, we’re really big fans of Oaxaca City. Between the awesome food, the interesting culture, and all of the fun things to do in Oaxaca City, we definitely recommend visiting the city. Whether you have only a couple of days or are here long term, we’re certain you’ll have a great time in Oaxaca.


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