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Best Things To Do in Oaxaca

Oaxaca contains a lot of what you'd expect from a city vacation – a bustling square with coffee shops, restaurants and bars (the Zócalo), gorgeous churches (Templo de Santo Domingo) and interesting museums (Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca). But on top of these, Oaxaca offers travelers the chance to visit a UNESCO World Heritage site at Monte Albán and the infinity pool to beat all infinity pools at the Hierve el Agua

How we rank Things to Do.

#1

#1 in Oaxaca

Free
Oaxaca's main square – formally referred to as the Plaza de la Constitución de Oaxaca, but colloquially called the Zócalo – is a must-see. Skirted by cafes and eateries and bounded by the Palacio de Gobierno (the State Government Palace) on its south side, the Zócalo is a prime spot for people-watching, picking up a souvenir or two and watching day fade into vibrant night. Thanks to its leafy landscaping and many trees, it's also a relaxing place to cool off in the shade. Plus, the Mercado Benito Juárez sits just minutes from the square. 
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
The Zócalo
Oaxaca's main square – formally referred to as the Plaza de la Constitución de Oaxaca, but colloquially called the Zócalo – is a must-see. Skirted by cafes and eateries and bounded by the Palacio de Gobierno (the State Government Palace) on its south side, the Zócalo is a prime spot for people-watching, picking up a souvenir or two and watching day fade into vibrant night. Thanks to its leafy landscaping and many trees, it's also a relaxing place to cool off in the shade. Plus, the Mercado Benito Juárez sits just minutes from the square. 
... more

#2

#2 in Oaxaca

Free
Dating back to 1555, the Templo de Santo Domingo acted as a convent and church before being used as military barracks in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the convent portion of the building contains the Santo Domingo Cultural Center's Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca and botanical garden. But the real feast for the eyes is the church itself, which is outfitted in baroque design, applied in gold leaf and other rich materials. And don't forget to look up: The domed ceiling is covered in medallions featuring Catholic martyrs. 
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Templo de Santo Domingo
Dating back to 1555, the Templo de Santo Domingo acted as a convent and church before being used as military barracks in the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the convent portion of the building contains the Santo Domingo Cultural Center's Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca and botanical garden. But the real feast for the eyes is the church itself, which is outfitted in baroque design, applied in gold leaf and other rich materials. And don't forget to look up: The domed ceiling is covered in medallions featuring Catholic martyrs. 
... more

#3

#3 in Oaxaca

The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca is a regional culture museum that walks visitors chronologically from ancient times all the way to modern-day Oaxaca. Other halls are thematic, featuring Oaxacan medicine, music, language and pottery – and show that much of the cultural traditions have endured. One of the museum's real gems is the "Treasure of Tomb 7," a cache of delicate gold jewelry, precious stones and carved bone discovered in a Monte Albán tomb. Keep in mind that the museum's signage is in Spanish, though there are audio tours available in English. Visitors should also take some time to visit the museum's gift shop, which contains a diverse collection of books on Oaxacan architecture and art.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca is a regional culture museum that walks visitors chronologically from ancient times all the way to modern-day Oaxaca. Other halls are thematic, featuring Oaxacan medicine, music, language and pottery – and show that much of the cultural traditions have endured. One of the museum's real gems is the "Treasure of Tomb 7," a cache of delicate gold jewelry, precious stones and carved bone discovered in a Monte Albán tomb. Keep in mind that the museum's signage is in Spanish, though there are audio tours available in English. Visitors should also take some time to visit the museum's gift shop, which contains a diverse collection of books on Oaxacan architecture and art.
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#4

#4 in Oaxaca

Monte Albán, literally "White Mountain," contains the preserved ruins of a Zapotec city. Travelers will find pyramids, temples, plazas and more atop this mountain, which rises 1,300 feet above the floor of the Oaxaca Valley. For a deeper understanding of the city, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, travelers can book a tour guide on-site. Keep in mind that the official licensed guides will wear a badge from the Mexico Secretary of Tourism.  
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Hiking Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Monte Albán
Monte Albán, literally "White Mountain," contains the preserved ruins of a Zapotec city. Travelers will find pyramids, temples, plazas and more atop this mountain, which rises 1,300 feet above the floor of the Oaxaca Valley. For a deeper understanding of the city, which became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, travelers can book a tour guide on-site. Keep in mind that the official licensed guides will wear a badge from the Mexico Secretary of Tourism.  
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#5

#5 in Oaxaca

Hierve el Agua – Spanish for "the water boils" – are natural mineral springs located on a clifftop, about a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca City. Along with swimming in the warm springs, visitors can hike on paths above and below Hierve el Agua's petrified mineral falls. 
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Natural Wonders Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Hierve el Agua
Hierve el Agua – Spanish for "the water boils" – are natural mineral springs located on a clifftop, about a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca City. Along with swimming in the warm springs, visitors can hike on paths above and below Hierve el Agua's petrified mineral falls. 
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#6

#6 in Oaxaca

Free
The Andador de Macedonia Alcala or Calle Macedonio Alcala, as it's sometimes known, is a pedestrian-friendly street that connects the Templo de Santo Domingo and the Zócalo. This north-to-south route is a great way for travelers to orient themselves with the city, especially since many of the top things to do are located in close proximity to it.
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Sightseeing Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Andador de Macedonia Alcala
The Andador de Macedonia Alcala or Calle Macedonio Alcala, as it's sometimes known, is a pedestrian-friendly street that connects the Templo de Santo Domingo and the Zócalo. This north-to-south route is a great way for travelers to orient themselves with the city, especially since many of the top things to do are located in close proximity to it.
... more

#7

#7 in Oaxaca

Free
To get a taste of Oaxaca, visitors should head to the Benito Juarez Market (Mercado Benito Juárez). Different stalls purvey everything from crickets and mole to grilled meats and homemade tortillas to mezcal and cheeses. Stalls also contain handicrafts and souvenirs. 
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Shopping Type
Less than 1 hour Time to Spend
Benito Juarez Market
To get a taste of Oaxaca, visitors should head to the Benito Juarez Market (Mercado Benito Juárez). Different stalls purvey everything from crickets and mole to grilled meats and homemade tortillas to mezcal and cheeses. Stalls also contain handicrafts and souvenirs. 
... more
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