5 In North America

A Self-Guided Walking Tour of Oaxaca City, Mexico

In March, I spent a week in Oaxaca City. I met up with my sister Sarah, who was in Mexico for a photography workshop. The majority of my days were full of nothing but free time (and sunshine – lots of sunshine) to explore this colorful city.

Self-Guided Walking Tour Oaxaca City
The rainbow streets of Oaxaca City

I love walking in new destinations. Not only does it avoid stress and sometimes discomfort (sweaty subway ride, anyone?) but it allows you to see more along the way. 

It’s also much more conducive to going at your own pace and taking unexpected detours whenever you feel like it.

For these reasons, I was super excited that Oaxaca is so walkable. 

Oaxaca City Streetscape

After a week spent enjoying as much wandering as my New York temperament could physically handle (we don’t see many 95-degree days here), I’ve put together this self-guided walking tour of Oaxaca City. You can tackle it all in one go or break it up into sections to better fit your plans. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy a variety of the city’s most celebrated landmarks, museums, markets, gathering spaces and more.

This route is a big loop, so you can essentially start anywhere on the list that you’d like and you’ll finish back where you began.

Oaxaca En Una Taza | A Gurrión 108

First things first: fuel up for the day at Oaxaca En Una Taza. This centrally located café has a cozy and relaxing interior. I didn’t have any pastries, but they get rave reviews. So do their cups of both hot and cold Mexican chocolate, along with their locally made chocolate bars in more than a dozen flavors.

Oaxaca En Una Taza
Colorful details at Oaxaca En Una Taza
Oaxaca En Una Taza
Paper cranes at Oaxaca En Una Taza

Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, & the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca | Calle Macedonio Alcalá s/n

Next up, you’ll find yourself at one of the city’s most iconic locations: the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán.

Templo de Santo Domingo Oaxaca
Oaxaca’s Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán

In addition to being beautiful on its own, this church is adjacent to a former monastery, now home to the stunning Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca. Also next door is the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, an expansive botanical garden.

Templo de Santo Domingo Oaxaca
Inside the beautiful Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden Oaxaca
A view of the Ethnobotanical Garden from the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

Read more about visiting Oaxaca’s Ethnobotanical Garden in my post here.

Stepping inside, the church’s interior is elaborately adorned with gold leaf. On the exterior, don’t miss the blue- and white-checked domes sitting pretty atop the structure – I loved them!

Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
A view of the Templo de Santo Domingo from the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

The plaza in front of the complex is a popular meeting point that’s buzzing with activity morning, noon and night. Street performers, loved ones spending time together, souvenir stands offering plush Frida Kahlo dolls, and food vendors selling local favorites like paletas and esquites all come together to create a festive atmosphere.

Oaxaca paleta
Enjoying a paleta, or ice pop, in front of the Templo de Santo Domingo

Between the church, the cultural center next door and the ethnobotanical garden (whose entrance is just down the street), you could easily spend a few hours, if not an entire day, in this corner of the city.

El Llano | Corner of Calle de Berriozábal and Dr. Liceaga

El Llano is a big leafy park just northwest of the Santo Domingo complex. You’ll find more food vendors, plenty of locals enjoying the green space, and maybe a rollerblader or two.

Parque El Llano Oaxaca
El Llano

This wasn’t my favorite part of the city, largely due to how busy the streets surrounding the park were; however, continuing east along Zárate or San Martin will lead you to the beautiful Jalatlaco neighborhood, full of colorful homes and character.

Jalatlaco Oaxaca
The colorful streets of Jalatlaco

Step into the courtyard of the Hotel City Centro at Aldama 410 for some pretty in pink mid-century vibes.

Hotel City Centro Oaxaca
The courtyard of the Hotel City Centro

Mondo Café | Reforma 904-B

Are you ready for another coffee yet? The iced mochas are amazing at the tiny but welcoming Mondo Café.

Mondo Cafe Oaxaca
Mondo Café

La Cosecha Mercado | Calle Macedonia Alcalá 806

Heading southwest from Mondo Café and walking through the Jardín Conzati will lead you toward the city’s main pedestrian street: the Calle Macedonio Alcalá. We’re just going to take a quick detour onto it for now, but continuing south would take you back toward the starting point of our walk by the Templo de Santo Domingo.

La Cosecha Oaxaca
La Cosecha

La Cosecha Mercado is an organic food market offering about a dozen food, drink, dessert, and craft vendors. This is a great spot to sample tejate, a traditional local beverage made with maize and cacao.

Trying a sample of tejate

Plaza de la Cruz de Piedra | Calle de Manuel García Vigil

This small but beautiful square is bursting with color. Café el Volador is another great coffee spot. If you’re interested in pottery, check out Colectivo 1050.

Plaza de la Cruz de Piedra Oaxaca
Peaceful Plaza de la Cruz de Piedra
Cafe el Volador Oaxaca
Cafe el Volador

You can also see the start of the arquitos here: the “little arches” that are the remains of the 18th-century Xochimilco Aqueduct.

Los Arquitos de Xochimilco Oaxaca
Los Arquitos

Rainbow Fish Street Art | Rufino Tamayo 802

At the arquitos, take a right turn onto Rufino Tamayo. Just a few houses down, you’ll see one of the most beautiful pieces of street art in the city. I was so mesmerized by this painting, I came back multiple times to enjoy it.

Rufino Tamayo 802 Oaxaca

Rufino Tamayo 802 Oaxaca

Pan Con Madre | Calle Porfirio Díaz 808-2

I absolutely loved this tiny and beautiful bakery. Over a couple of visits, I tried the croissants, pains au chocolat, and palmiers. So delicious.

Pan Con Madre Oaxaca
Pan Con Madre’s welcoming storefront

They also accept card, which is not often the case in Oaxaca. This helped me get my pastry fix even when I was low on pesos!

Mercado Sánchez Pascuas | Calle Porfirio Díaz 509

I made a short visit to the city’s main tourist markets: Mercado Benito Juárez and the Mercado 20 de Noviembre. I was instantly overwhelmed by both of them: the size, the choices, and the crowds were all a little too much for me.

Mercado Sanchez Pascuas Oaxaca
Outside the Mercado Sanchez Pascuas

The Mercado Sánchez Pascuas is a much smaller market if, like me, you have a hard time navigating the ones above. I’ll share a few details about another great option, the Mercado de la Merced, soon.

Espacio Zapata | Calle Porfirio Díaz 509 

Oaxaca is home to a number of graphic art and printmaking collectives, and Espacio Zapata is a prominent fixture in this scene. Step in to browse the art and pick up a map of other nearby studios you can visit.

Espacio Zapata Oaxaca
Inside Espacio Zapata

As with many of the collectives in Oaxaca, Espacio Zapata focuses on disseminating pieces with political and revolutionary undertones. Their work often highlights issues of inequality and conflict and is created above all for public consumption.  

To learn more about Espacio Zapata, its founders, and other printmaking collectives in Oaxaca, click here.

Oaxaca City Street Art
The facade of another printmaking collective directly across the street from Espacio Zapata

Boulenc | Calle Porfirio Díaz 207

Boulenc seems to be a little bit of everything: bakery, brunch spot, coffee shop, pizza place, and bar. Whatever occasion you find yourself there for, I have a feeling you’re going to love it.

Check out their menu here, which features breakfast dishes until 1 pm, sandwiches and salads all day, and wood-fired pizzas from 2 pm on. 

Boulenc Oaxaca
Mornings at Boulenc

If you’re not ready for a snack or meal at this point in your walk, don’t worry – just keep Boulenc in mind for later and be sure to experience it at least once while you’re in Oaxaca.

Boulenc Oaxaca

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad & Jardín Sócrates | Av. de la Independencia 107

The Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude is a 17th-century church dedicated to the patron saint of Oaxaca. Next to the church is the Plaza de la Danza. The steps serve as a seating area and the open stone expanse is used for cultural gatherings throughout the year.

Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad Oaxaca
Enjoying some shade outside the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad

Next door you’ll find the Jardín Socrates, where a handful of stands sell nieves oaxaqueñas: Oaxacan ice cream.

Jardín Socrates Oaxaca
Jardín Socrates

I tried leche quemada con tuna, or burnt milk with tuna, but don’t worry – no fish was involved in the making of this ice cream. Tuna is prickly pear cactus fruit, and it is delicious!

Nieve Leche Quemada con Tuna
Nieve leche quemada con tuna from a stand in the Jardín Socrates

Cathedral of our Lady of the Assumption & the Zócalo | Av. de la Independencia 700

A five-minute walk along the Avenue de la Independencia will lead you to another important place of worship: the city’s cathedral. The plaza in front of it is called the Alemeda de León.

Oaxaca Cathedral
Oaxaca Cathedral

Standing directly in front of the cathedral, the Zócalo will be on your right. One of the main gathering places in Oaxaca, the Zócalo is lined by shops and cafés and is full of vendors. It’s also home to the State Government Palace.

Side note: if you’d like to visit the Benito Juarez and 20th of November markets, mentioned above, they are both located a short walk south of the Zócalo, so this would be a good time to check them out.

A highlight of my trip was visiting the Zócalo on Wednesday night to watch local couples partake in the danzón, a weekly dance gathering to live music. This is free to watch, or even participate in if you dare! 

Muss Café & Casa Antonieta | Miguel Hidalgo 911

Forgive me for including so many coffee shops on this walking tour, but Oaxaca is a great city for them! I ordered a delicious latte at Muss Café and asked if I could enjoy it in their courtyard. The super friendly staff was a little hesitant, but said yes. I didn’t understand what the pause was for until I realized the courtyard is not actually part of the coffee shop, but a hotel: Casa Antonieta.

Casa Antonieta Oaxaca
The courtyard at Casa Antonieta behind Muss Café

Either way, the coffee was great and the quiet courtyard was a welcome atmosphere change to my overwhelming market experience that morning. I also had a great conversation with the Casa Antonieta concierge, who was very welcoming despite the fact that I wasn’t actually a guest there!

Museo Textil de Oaxaca | Miguel Hidalgo 917

Oaxaca’s Textile Museum is free to visit and is comprised of just a few small rooms, so it doesn’t take much time or cause museum fatigue. Plus, the exhibits are stunning!

Museo Textil de Oaxaca
The courtyard of the Textile Museum

Mercado de la Merced | y del Privada Morelos San Pedro de los Baños

This market is a little bit out of the way, so if you’ve already gotten your market fix, you can skip this one.

That said, I loved it here – and by “out of the way,” I mean it’s a half-mile walk from the Textile Museum – so nothing too crazy!

Mercado de la Merced Oaxaca
Outside the Mercado de la Merced

I enjoyed a vegetarian order of chilaquiles from Fonda Rosita while listening to a trio of musicians perform and doing a whole lot of people watching.

Chilaquiles from Fonda Rosita

I also picked up 10 pesos worth of chapulines, or grasshoppers. Chapulines, often sprinkled with chili, are a popular snack in Oaxaca. Somehow I actually summoned the courage to try one!

10 pesos worth of chapulines from the Mercado de la Merced

Calle Macedonio Alcalá & Café Brujula | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 104

A straight shot west along the Av. José María Morelos will lead you back to the Calle Macedonio Alcalá: the city’s main pedestrian thoroughfare. We visited this street briefly earlier in the tour, but this time we’re going to walk along it for a while.

Calle Macedonio Alcalá Oaxaca City
Walking along Oaxaca’s main pedestrian thoroughfare

What’s that you say? You couldn’t possibly have another coffee?! Totally fair, my friend. But just in case you’re a total bean fiend, turn left and you’ll immediately find Café Brujula. This organic roastery has a great courtyard and also does coffees to go à la USA.

They also have another location further north along the alcalá across from the Templo de Santo Domingo.

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 202

I did not get a chance to visit this museum while in Oaxaca, but I’m including it here because you’re going to pass right by it on your way to our next stop.

I love this line from the museum’s Facebook page: “The MACO, besides being a space for the celebration of beauty, freedom and imagination, is defined as an educational institution whose purpose is to stimulate reflection, analysis and discussion in order to enrich community life.”

Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca
A glimpse of a MACO exhibit from the alcalá

Amate Books | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 307

Amate is a great English-language bookstore that specializes in books about Mexico. They also have a variety of handcrafted items if you’re looking for a gift or a piece of Oaxaca to take home.

Amate Books Oaxaca
Amate Books

Centro Fotografico Manuel Alvarez Bravo | Calle de Manuel Bravo 116

A quick detour from the pedestrian street, this is a great stop for photography lovers. My sister’s workshop was based at this space.

Centro Fotografico Manuel Alvarez Bravo
The entrance to the Centro Fotografico Manuel Alvarez Bravo

Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca | Calle Macedonio Alcalá 507

This art school and extensive art library was founded by Francisco Toledo, a Oaxacan painter, sculptor and graphic artist. Toledo’s work has been displayed around the world and he had an instrumental role in the development of several art institutions in Oaxaca, including the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO) mentioned above.

The building also has a beautiful plant-filled courtyard.

Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca

Once you’ve pulled yourself away from the plants, step outside and look across the street… you’re right back where you started!

Well, almost. You’re back at our second stop, the Templo de Santo Domingo, just steps away from where we began at Oaxaca En Una Taza.

Plaza Santo Domingo Oaxaca
Standing in front of the church and enjoying a view of the Plaza Santo Domingo building

How are your feet feeling?!

This entire loop clocks in at just under five miles. You can definitely break it up into different sections depending on how much time you’d like to spend at the different stops along the route. There are also a couple of detours that you can cut out to trim the length: removing the side trips to Jalatlaco and the Mercado de la Merced automatically shaves off ~two miles.

Oaxaca City Streetscape

Your Self-Guided Walking Tour of Oaxaca City

Here are all of the stops laid out on a map that you can save for later. They’re listed in the same order that they’re shown in here, starting with Oaxaca En Una Taza and ending with the Instituto de Artes Gráficas de Oaxaca.

Have you visited Oaxaca City before? What did you think? Did I miss any of your favorite spots?

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self-guided walking tour oaxaca city mexico

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  • Reply
    Clare (Suitcases and Sandcastles)
    June 13, 2019 at 1:34 pm

    I do love your photos, Caity, and I love this colourful walking tour. I’ve wanted to visit Oaxaca for years – I hear the chocolate is amazing there – but it’s the colourful buildings, beautiful plants and wonderful coffee shops that are now calling my name thanks to your lovely post. Thanks for inspiring me on #farawayfiles

    • Reply
      Caity Pfohl
      April 24, 2020 at 9:59 pm

      Thanks so much, Clare! In hindsight I don’t think I ate enough chocolate, but what I did have was amazing! I agree 100% though – the colors, the coffee, and the plants were all so beautiful and made the city so much fun to explore. Very different from where I live in upstate New York, that’s for sure!

  • Reply
    Rhonda Albom
    June 20, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    The colourful buildings and architecture would draw me here. Your walking tour gives a lot of options for photos. I don’t know if I would brave a spicy grasshopper (or even one that was not spicy).

    • Reply
      Caity Pfohl
      April 24, 2020 at 9:58 pm

      Right before I ate it, I was having some major doubts. In the end it was not too bad! I probably won’t be craving one anytime soon, though. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashok Singh
    September 23, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    Great Post!

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