Oaxaca is a confluence of the best Mexico has to offer, particularly if all inclusive resorts aren’t your thing all the time. Finding things to do in Oaxaca isn’t as hard as you would think as there are loads of new experiences to be had- particularly if you have three days in Oaxaca city.
Brimming with indigenous culture, colorful buildings, gorgeous mountain vistas, and an unbeatable art scene that has made it the cultural capital of Mexico, this cozy town has a soul of its own and that’s not even mentioning the Oaxaco beaches that take your breath away. If you’re looking for a taste of authentic Mexican culture, you’ll definitely find it here!
While there are so many things to do in Oaxaca city because this lively city is one of the best places to stay long-term and explore, don’t fret if you only have a few days.
Here the best things to do in Oaxaca if you only have 3 days to spend!
Santo Domingo Temple
Santo Domingo is Oaxaca’s most emblematic building. With a baroque facade and thick stone walls, this church is considered the most beautiful in the country and should be one of the first things to do in Oaxaca.
Today, the rooms of its former monastery are home to the Cultural Center of Oaxaca. This museum boasts an incredible collection of items excavated from Monte Albán as well as other important artifacts from the pre-Columbian period.
If you’re planning on spending a Saturday in Oaxaca, head to Santo Domingo cathedral around 7 P.M. You might be able to catch an authentic Oaxacan-style wedding celebration there! Oaxacan chinas weave their way through the guests and bystanders performing traditional dances wearing ethnic dresses and flowers on their heads.
Right behind Santo Domingo sits a unique botanical garden that homes plants native to the state of Oaxaca. The name of the garden blends the words “ethnic” and “botanic” because all the plants found at this urban jungle were carefully chosen for their cultural value to the many ethnic groups of Oaxaca.
Tour printmaking galleries
Oaxaca brims with creative spaces, and a favorite venture for local artists is printmaking!
With dozens of independently-owned galleries garbled all around, it’s hard to name them all, but a few that stand out are Hoja Santa, La Fábrica Woodcut, Cooperativa Gráfica, La Huella Gráfica, and Siqueiros.
Dine at the Zócalo
Not sure what to do in Oaxaca city in the evening? Our vote goes to Zócalo.
The main zócalo is the perfect place to grab a bite, people-watch, and soak up Oaxaca’s lively atmosphere while sitting at the many sidewalk restaurants shaded by gorgeous arcades. This is where we suggest ending your first day.
Start your day heading to the ruins of Monte Albán which are situated 10 kilometers outside of the city. Flaunting a 1300-year-old history, Monte Albán was originally constructed by the Zapotecs to act as an observatory. Centuries later, it was abandoned and taken over by the Mixtecs.
Monte Albán is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in Mexico and the most significant Zapotec ruins, and one of the best things to do in Oaxaca.
Casa de las Artesanías de Oaxaca
This casa is a small indoor market where artisan-made items from all over Oaxaca are sold. You’ll find exquisite textiles, ceramics, woven baskets, jewelry, and more.
Xochimilco Aqueducts & Quarter
Dating back to the 16th century, this set of aqueducts was built to bring fresh water from the hills that surround Oaxaca.
If you follow the trail marked by the aqueducts over a gorgeous cobblestone street, you’ll wind up at Xochimilco, a colorful quarter home to weaving artisan workshops and cozy little cafés.
Explore Art Museums
Oaxaca is considered Mexico’s art capital. It’d be silly to visit a city whose core is its artistic importance without getting lost for a few hours in its art museums.
While options for a museum crawl abound, the most renowned in the city are Museum of Contemporary Art (MACO), Museo Textil de Oaxaca, and Museo de Artes Gráficas.
Try mezcal at La Mezcalerita
Mezcal is an alcoholic beverage made from the heart of the agave plant and handcrafted using centuries-old techniques in Oaxaca.
While it’s not everyone’s cup of (alcoholic) “tea”, a visit to Oaxaca is never complete without a glass of this crafted drink.
On Wednesdays, Fridays, and weekends at 9 P.M., Mundo Ceiba (Calle de Berriozábal 109, Ruta Independencia, Centro), offers nocturnal bike tours around the city and its surroundings.
Sundays are market days in Tlacolula, a small town not far from the city. If you’re interested in indulging in a non-touristic market experience, then a visit here is a must! Artisans, weavers, and farmers from surrounding villages gather to sell their products at this lively colorful little market.
While most think of the Oaxaca beaches when putting together their lists, there is so much more to do and see in this wonderful city.