2023 Oaxaca City Mexico Travel Guide

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Hello friends!

If you are planning on a trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico, I got you! Last year I stayed more than one month in Oaxaca City. It had became my second home. From best vegetarian restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops to art classes. This blog post covers it all. I even recommend a place for you to get your hair done. Let’s get real, sometimes you need to cut and style your hair when you are on a vacation, too.

Best Street Food

Growing up in China, I love street food! This is one reason why I enjoyed Latin America so much. There is no shortage of street food here. The only thing is to be aware of street tacos. Almost every traveler I knew got sick from eating street tacos. If you want a safer option, order a vegetarian burger at the burger stand instead. They will use Oaxaca cheese and often pineapples. They are so yummy!

If you are in Oaxaca, you HAVE TO try Tejate. Tejate is a non-alcoholic maize and cacao beverage traditionally made in Oaxaca, originating from pre-Hispanic times. It is so rich and delicious! I was getting one every morning at some point until I had to stop myself. Haha.

Last but not least, try some baked goods at a local joint. What is so unique about Oaxaca is it rejects corporations, big department stores and famous chains. So you would see a lot of little stores everywhere.

Best Places to Eat

I think I tried almost all the vegetarian and Asian restaurants in Oaxaca City. The below are my absolute favorites. While I am not a vegetarian, I ate pretty much vegetarian food while I was in Mexico. Because I have a very sensitive stomach from previous food poisoning. I get sick easily from eating meat. I hope these recommendations save you some time. Because I have tried so many places, these are the ones with best food and most reasonable prices.

#1 Calabacitas Tiernas

This is hands down my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Oaxaca city. The food in Calabacitas Tiernas is amazing! The price is very reasonable. There is a dope bookstore when you go into the restaurant as well. You have to check out this bookstore! It is a radical bookstore with books you wouldn’t find anywhere else.

They also have live music, poetry reading and other events regularly at the restaurant. The people working there are very friendly.

#2 Etnofood

This is my second favorite vegetarian restaurant in Oaxaca City. Again the food is so good and the price is reasonable. They also host cooking classes where they take you to local markets to get fresh ingredients and walk you through the whole process. In the end, you have a nice meal. I never took their cooking classes. But I saw the people who did enjoyed themselves very much.

#3 Dururu Korean Restaurant & Bakery

I tried many Asian restaurants in town, Japanese, Indian, Thai, Chinese, you name it. Unfortunately, most Asian restaurants are on the pricer end. In terms of flavor, proportion and price, I think Dururu is the best of all. I love their Dandan mian. They let you know which dishes they can make vegetarian for you on the menu as well.

#4 Chepiche Cafe

That’s my friend Azomalli.

Chepiche Cafe has such a nice atmosphere and great selection of food and drinks. It’s the perfect place for brunch and hanging out with friends. It’s at a different part of town. So it can be a good opportunity for you to venture out of downtown area.

#5 Fonda Florecita

I have to confess that I didn’t like Mexican food. But I have to give one recommendation if you want to try some authentic Oaxaca food. This place was actually recommended to me by a local. It’s a joint that is a bit far from downtown. But I think it is absolutely worth the walk.

La Florecita is located in Mercado de la Merced. Once you are in the market, you can find it by asking around. There you can have the famous Oaxaca mole and many other authentic Mexican food.

#6 Boulenc

Boulenc is not a restaurant, but a bakery. Their vegetarian pizzas are so delicious. You have to try it while you are there. Again this place was recommended to me by a friend who used to live in Oaxaca. It surely didn’t disappoint. I think the old blue building it is in is so cool. I just love this place.

Best Coffee Shops

This is my favorite part of this post. I’m sure many of you are just as excited as I am. I’m always on the hunt for the best coffee shops wherever I go. Oaxaca City has so many cute coffee shops. Just when I thought I had seen them all, I found more. The below are my favorites.

#1 Muss Cafe

The atmosphere here is lovely! The drink can be a bit pricy. It is to be expected for such a tourist spot. My friend taught me how to make a notebook from scratch at Muss Cafe. It’s a great cafe for hanging out and passing out time.

#2 Gudelia Cafe – Galeria

I love this spot. The hot chocolate there is bomb. The place is so cute! They provide you with colored pencils and cool illustrations to color with. I think this is a must if you are in Oaxaca city. You will love it!

#3 KUN Cafe

I love this coffee shop. It has a very nice atmosphere. I became friends with the barista Azomalli. She was the sweetest and so helpful in helping me with my Spanish. So why not get a coffee and practice your Spanish with my lovely friend? Haha.

#4 Coyote, Maestro Tostador Coyote

What is so special about Coyote is that it has decaf!! You heard me, decaf!! It is so rare to find decaf coffee in Oaxaca or Latin America in general. The thing is I am very sensitive to caffeine. Usually I can only have a cup of hot chocolate. But at Coyote, I could have a decaf latte and it was so good!

#5 Pataxte

This spot is easy to miss because it is more to the side of the town. They have a nice selection of art work at the cafe. I think for that alone, it’s worth checking out. It’s a very artsy place.

Best Art Classes

While you are in Oaxaca, you would see the incredible vibrant art science here. I have traveled to many places in the world, yet I think Oaxaca presents the most radical art of all. The street art here incorporates traditional Native American motifs with modern techniques to tell bold political messages. While it is cool to check out the street arts and shop in the galleries, I highly recommend that you take an art class.

I actually went to check out a list of studios listed on Google map to inquire about art classes. Most of those studios were not even open. But don’t worry, with my two below recommendations, you should be good!

#1 Subterraneos

If you are in Oaxaca, you MUST take a woodcut print class at Subterraneos. It doesn’t matter if you have any background in art or not. I couldn’t draw at all when I went there. But the class there is such an eye opening experience.

The classes are held both in English and Spanish. Before you go, you should pick what you want to draw already, ideally not too complicated. When you are there, you draw on the wood board first, then you ink it before carving it.

I confess that I was obsessed with woodcut print and stayed in Oaxaca City longer just for that. By the end of my 5-6 classes, I was acting like a teacher’s assistant. Alberto could tell you all about it. If you have the opportunity to work with Alberto, you would get not only the techniques but also the spirit behind the art.

Subterraneos is an art collective. You would see many members working on their pieces as well when you are there. Everyone is so friendly. The atmosphere is always chill with a wide range of music playing in the background. It is an experience that will enrich your stay in Oaxaca greatly.

My first woodcut print, guided by Alberto.

#2 Ishuakara House Studio

If you are interested in learning about other subjects like drawing, painting, pottery and book binding. This place offers it all. I stayed for two weeks to learn about drawing and painting. Armando offers a package deal that is so reasonable. I honestly feel Oaxaca is an artists’ heaven. Don’t miss out the opportunity to take some of these classes if you have a chance.

Best Day Tours

Besides the walking tour every traveler takes every city they go, I think the below day trips are worth the time and money. If you have already gone this far, you should go to these two places, too.

#1 Mounte Alban

I admit Teotihuacan near Mexico City is away more impressive. But I think Mounte Alban is still cool to check out. Located only half an hour outside of Oaxaca City, Mounte Alban are the ruins from ancient Zapotec and Mixtec culture.

If you want to DIY your trip to Mounte Alban, go to Hotel Rivera Del Angel. There’s a shuttle(car) that can take you along with other people. This is the cheapest way to go to Mounte Alban.

2. Hierve el Agua

This tour usually includes Arbol del Tule, Mitla and Hierve el Agua. Bring swim suits if you want to soak in the springs. The view from the pool is gorgeous. It’s a great spot for photos.

I don’t think you should book this tour online, which tends to be away more expensive than if you find a tour in person. Just go to the Zocalo while you are in Oaxaca, you would see many tour representatives selling this tour.

Arbol del Tule. It has the widest tree trunk in the world.

Where to Stay in Oaxaca City

I highly recommend Paulina Youth Hostel. This is the best hostel I have stayed in my 5 months in Latin America. I love how spacious the dorm is. Each dorm has its own bathroom. The staff kept this place spotless. Breakfast is included in the price. If consists of toasts, scrambled eggs, juice, coffee and tea.

The staff is very friendly. Mayra helped me with my Spanish a lot during my stay. I felt very much home there.

Best Hair Salon

As I promised, I would recommend one hair salon. It is Santo Color. I had my hair cut, bleached and dyed here. The owner did a fantastic job. I can’t recommend this place enough. See the below photo for result.

If you need a photographer in Oaxaca, contact @gusnigenda. I did a photo shoot with him, the photos turned out great.

Bonus Tip

Go to Frozen Kisses Gelateria. Once you get to this area, you would see more cool street arts, vintage shops and galleries. See pictures below.

That’s a wrap. I hope you have fun in Oaxaca City and enjoy all the recommendations I provided here. I’m sure you will!

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