Oaxaca city is one of those cities where doing a city guide comes natural, because almost every single place is 100% recommendable. The city with the funny name (pronounced Wa-ha-ka; you just have to learn it and then it’s easy) is truly something. From the beautiful buildings in all colours of the rainbow to the trees along almost every street, to the many galleries and small boutiques, specialty coffee shops, the deep artisanal traditions in clay and weaving, the delicious pastry shops, restaurants, the mountains surrounding the city…. I could go on. Oaxaca really has everything we love, which also includes a top-notch gym (not a regular thing to look for when planning a trip, but as we travel long-term it’s important).
We spend 12 days in Oaxaca and loved it. There are plenty of parks and playgrounds for kids to play and I would definitely recommend everyone coming to Mexico to pass by this charmer of a city. Doesn’t matter if you are a solo traveller, a couple or a family. Oaxaca has it all and everything is within walking distance. Oh, and the temperature? Nice warm sunny days and chilly nights (perfect combination and we slept like babies!).
We tried to make a routine there by going out exploring in the morning, coming home for Julian’s nap, where we would work a bit and then go to a playground in the afternoon followed by dinner at home. We mostly went to the gym in the evenings and I went to the newly opened Selina Co-Work one day.
Oaxaca City Guide
We stayed in an Airbnb the Reforma neighbourhood. It was nice and it’s like an upcoming hipster area of the city. It took around 15 – 20 minutes to walk to the city center. However, I would recommend people visiting for a few days to stay in Centro. I would usually never recommend anyone to stay right in the city center of any city as it’s often where the tourist crowds are biggest and the restaurant prices double. But not in Oaxaca – unless you go directly to Zócalo (main square), then yes, it’s touristy.
There are bunches of nice boutique hotels, which will come in a separate post in a few days. For now I’ll just stick to a more general city guide to Oaxaca.
Food & drinks
Volador is a nice little café on one of the most charming little squares I’ve ever seen. Apparently the square and surrounding streets are also the favourites of fashion photographers, because when we went J.Crew was shooting a campaign right in front of us. Absolutely stunning.
Pan con Madre
Pan con Madre is a little bakery with only two tables or so. They have delicious bread, pastries and little quiches. They sell the bread and pastry from the day before at reduced prices; a concept I love and something other cafés should do more as well (unless they donate the leftover food to homeless people of course!).
Cafeto y baristas
Oh, I really enjoyed my coffee at Cafeto & baristas. This was our first very good coffee in around 6 weeks (our time in Puerto Escondido lacked great coffee. Read about it here and here) and it was lovely. It’s a little specialty coffee shop and they know their stuff. Their croissant with chocolate and blackberry filling was also much appreciated.
Healthy breakfast bowls, salad bowls, juices and avocado toasts. Local 215 is the typical hipster-healthy place and it’s very good. They made pasta with pesto for Julian even though it’s not on the menu. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Restaurants that are flexible in meeting the customers’ needs are doing just right!
Sabina Sabe is a great great option for lunch or dinner. We went for lunch right when they opened at 13.00 (as we always do with Julian) and had an exceptional experience. Friendly and professional waiters and amazing food. They made a special jalapeño dip for me without onion (I have allergy) and really went out of their way to accommodate us.
We had grasshopper tacos (Lasse is really into grasshoppers on this trip), a citrus salad, tuna tartare, coconut-lentil soup for Julian and some delicious soft bread baked with butter (very rare in Mexico). Lasse and Julian had lemonades and I had a glass of wine. Lastly we shared two desserts. The bill ended at 800 pesos / 38 €. Very reasonable!
At Muss café you can find cinnamon buns like in Denmark and Sweden (if you have never tried them, then please do, it will change your life forever, haha). It’s a café located in connection with a little hotel and courtyard. It was one of our absolute favourites in Oaxaca.
There are various Pan:am outlets in Oaxaca. It’s a combination of breakfast and lunch place with bakery. The bakery has a nice selection of bread, pastries and quiches.
Boulenc is probably the most Instagrammed and most famous bakery/café in Oaxaca. It seems like everyone who has an Instagram account and visits Oaxaca make their way to Boulenc.
And we did too. We tried to go twice, but the line was just too long. On our third attempt we were lucky to come on a less crowded day. BUT, when we had been served our drinks and were ready to order our super delicious lunch (around 12.00), we were told that only breakfast and sandwiches were available at that time… Our disappointment was huge as we had just laid our eyes on a certain salad and another mouth-watering dish. You know those days, when you set up your mind for something and then really cannot change you mindset?
So we paid our drinks and left. It’s totally fine of course that they set a certain hour for breakfast and a certain hour for lunch, but then dear restaurant: Do not give us a menu where the front page is full of delicious stuff that we cannot order yet! (Yeah, yeah, we later saw a tiny tiny text in the corner of the menu saying: These dishes are served from 1 pm. Please restaurants: make your information clear to the guests!).
I am sure that Boulenc is great and I am sure it’s worth the hype (honestly it looked amazing), but we just arrived with bad timing. And that happens. We’ll go there again next time we’re in Oaxaca for sure.
Sirilo Ceviche & Taco
Sirilo is a local seafood and taco shop in Reforma. You can tell that it’s one of those places that attract the young and creative crowd of Oaxaca. We had a quick dinner there once (well, quick because it was one of those days where we waited a bit too long to go out for dinner and Julian ended up super tired and annoyed, so we ate the fastest we could) and the food was very good. It would have been nice to have time to enjoy it a bit more though. I just saw that they are joining Uber Eats, so an option could also be to order it home. Nice and smooth.
Cho & Cho
We passed by Cho & Cho by coincidence one day and it was a pleasant surprise near our Airbnb. A little café with great coffee ad homemade paninis and pastries.
Casa Oaxaca is one of those up-scale restaurant where the Oaxaqueños will go on weekends to have breakfast/lunch. And so did we. A Sunday morning around 11 am while Julian napped in the stroller we enjoyed a very delicious traditional upscale Mexican breakfast with huevos rancheros, pastries, fruit and cottage cheese. And coffee and juice. A very nice experience, where we sat in between Mexican families who had all dressed up for sunday. I believe we were the only non-mexicans there that morning.
Things to do
Many museums in Mexico are free and this also includes Museo Textil in Oaxaca. It’s a tribute to the long tradition of making textiles in the region. I didn’t have time to truly get into it as Julian walked right into a pillar and got quite annoyed (understandable!). If you’re in Oaxaca, you should definitely pass by. There is a great kids section, which Julian did enjoy before he, yeah, walked into that pillar and we decided to go out for a cocoa instead.
This is a fun one: If you have ever looked into visiting Oaxaca, you’ll might have seen pictures of the incredible cactus passage in the botanical garden. Like any other fan of nice aesthetic I also wanted to see that beautiful passage.
BUT, it turned out that you can only access to see it on a guided tour… And so we did. But our guide kept talking and talking about the flora and fauna and it wasn’t until an hour later that we were allowed to see the famous passage and take pictures (a young couple tried to escape the tour and literally ran away to get to the cactus passage, but our very determined tour guide stopped them). So in case you’ll ever see a dreamy Instagram post saying something like ”enjoying a morning by myself here bla bla bla” then it’s totally not true. They have been doing the tour and then stand in line to take pictures, one by one. Haha, real life vs. social media!
Anyway, it was a nice visit (a bit too long though) and we met a group of other travellers who we had a coffee with afterwards (Julian slept in the stroller). All in all a nice experience, but they should really do two different tours; one for guests who just want to see the passage and one for guests interested in the flora & fauna. That would make everyone happier.
Hit the gym
We bought a 10-times pass to the local gym to share between the two of us. The gym was a chain named Calipso. We used the one in Reforma. I attended classes in the evenings and Lasse worked out by himself. I really enjoyed the classes which were like a cultural meeting with locals for me as I the only non-mexican attendee.
Enjoy the parks
Oaxaca has various parks to soak in the atmosphere. In the mornings we saw elderly people doing their morning stretch, during the day we saw students from the schools close by do projects and in the afternoons the parks boomed with families and vendors selling popsicles and other snacks.
There are various nice tours to do from Oaxaca. I would have loved to go to Hierve El Agua, which are some petrified waterfalls. But as it was an almost 2 hour drive each way, we decided to save it for the future, because it wouldn’t be fun for Julian at all and this trip is meant to be fun for everyone, so…next time!
There’re also the pyramids of Monte Alban to visit and a sunset visit there must be stunning!
We found this incredible little natural beauty store by coincidence and ended up going there twice. It has everything you need for your beauty/hygiene routines and the store is incredibly beautiful. I bought natual shampoo bars, a cream blush and a cream concealer. Oh, and a vegan nail polish.
La Chicharra Cerámica
Back in Mexico City we fell in love with some ceramics at a restaurant. It turned out that it was made in Oaxaca and that the owner had driven all the way down there to purchase it for the restaurant. Of course we passed by their showroom to make a few purchases when we were in Oaxaca.
La Chicharra showroom is a bit out of the way and our taxi driver couldn’t find it, so we spend 30 minutes on the way there and only 15 minutes on the way back.
They sell selected items in some shops in the city, so you might just call them and ask where to buy it in the city instead of driving all the way to the showroom.
Anyway, we bought some bowls and espresso cups (we really had to limit ourselves as it will be my mom who will bring it home for us!).
A little textile shop with handmade clothing right next to the Santo Domingo cathedral. They have no website, but when standing in front of the church, it’s located of the right hand side half way down the side of the church. It is in a little corner on a small square.
We quit our jobs by the end of 2018 to travel and work online. Read about the decision here