3 Days In Oaxaca City: Everything You Need To See, Eat And Drink

Oaxaca City is the perfect destination for a short and sweet Mexican getaway, with colorful colonial architecture, world-renowned cuisine, a vibrant artistic community, and a comfortably sized city center, 3 days in Oaxaca City is the perfect amount to get a taste of what this beautiful city has to offer.

If you have more days to spare you can easily fill them with day trips from Oaxaca City and fun activities, but if 3 days is all you have, fear not, you can still have a great time in Oaxaca City. So let’s dive in.

3 Days In Oaxaca City: Everything You Need To See, Eat And Drink

Where to stay in Oaxaca City? 

First things first, where to stay in Oaxaca City? The city is not too big, but since you only have 3 days here, you will want to stay in the city center to guarantee you can make the most of each day.

Also, staying in the Oaxaca City center guarantees that you will have access to Uber since it only works in the most central area of town.

And if safety is one of your concerns, Oaxaca is a very safe city, but to take the extra precaution the city center is the best option due to its well-lit streets.

With all of that being said, when I visited Oaxaca City I stayed in this beautiful boutique hotel just a couple blocks outside the city center, and loved it!

AYOOK is a beautifully designed small hotel just at the edge of the Historic Center, with Mexican-contemporary minimalistic rooms, and the best hotel breakfast I ever had—even my Mexican mother was impressed by their chilaquiles!

I know I just said to stay in the city center, but I fell in love with the look of this hotel and I didn’t mind the extra steps to the city, and if it got dark before we got back to the hotel we took a short Uber ride back.

Where to stay in Oaxaca City Center:

If you would rather stay closer to Oaxaca City Center here are some other beautiful options.

3 Days in Oaxaca City: Day 1

A busy day in the city center

The first day in Oaxaca City will be a super productive one—but not rushed—, including visits to the must-see attractions, such as an iconic church and a gorgeous garden, a leisurely stroll along the main pedestrian avenue, trying delicious local cuisine, and much more.

Breakfast at Boulenc

Start your day right at one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City, Boulenc, a spacious and airy cafe-bakery serving delicious artisan bread, pastries, and some of the best breakfast in Oaxaca.

The menu consists of brunch classics, such as pancakes, Croque Monsieur, the most beautiful fruit and granola bowl I have ever seen, but if what you want is true Mexican brunch, then opt for the delicious molletes; toasty sourdough bread topped with a layer of beans sprinkled with cheese, accompanied by pico de gallo.

The restaurant offers an industrial chic atmosphere, excellent coffee, and the perfect location to kickstart the day’s adventures.

Reserve a tour spot at Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca

Right after breakfast—if it’s close to 10 am, the Garden’s opening hour—head over to the Jardín Etnobotánico to reserve a spot for their 11 am English tour.

The only way to visit the garden is with a guided tour, a measure implemented to protect the plants, and one that is very convenient for the curious traveler since for a small fee you get admission to the gardens and a very informative guided tour.

This garden is where you will get to see the massive cacti that are all over Instagram, plus plenty of other unique Mexican plants.

The price for the tour is 100 Mexican pesos, around 6 USD, and according to the official Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca website, it lasts around two hours.

Sip Oaxaca’s famous hot chocolate at “Oaxaca en una Taza”

If you arrive at the Jardín Etnobotánico at the opening hour that means you probably have some time to kill before your tour begins, to use this time wisely, go across the street and stop by Oaxaca en una Taza, a little cafe known for its delicious Oaxacan hot chocolate.

The cafe also offers coffee and pastries, but their true specialty is the chocolate, you can order it milk or water-based, with milk one being my favorite for a creamier frothier finish.

Shop various local brands at Marias Arte & Diseño

While you are in the area make sure to stop by Marias Arte & Diseño, a beautifully curated store that showcases works from all kinds of local artists and craftspeople.

Here you can find the most beautiful ceramics, adorable postcards crafted by local artists, handmade clothing items, books by local writers and artists, and so much more.

Marias Arte & Diseño is the perfect place to get high-quality souvenirs to add a little Mexican folklore to your home.

Visit the iconic Templo de Santo Domingo

Your next stop will be the unmissable Templo de Santo Domingo, which you walked past on the way to the garden.

This New Spanish Baroque-style Dominican temple is one of the main architectural attractions of the city, with one of its most noticeable features being the fact that it is green-ish.

The distinctive color of Templo de Santo Domingo comes from its main element: massive pieces of green Cantera, a unique Mexican rock that gives the building its attractive minty glow.

  • Optional activities: Sign up for a tour of the inside of the church, or visit the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca.

Traditional Oaxacan food in a modern venue at Zandunga Sabor Itsmeño

For lunch make your way to Zandunga Sabor Itsmeño, a beautifully designed modern Mexican restaurant with elevated, yet authentic, Oaxacan cuisine.

Zandunga came highly recommended to me by locals as one of the best restaurants in Oaxaca City for incredible local cuisine, and in a gorgeous venue—it’s the perfect restaurant for foodies and design lovers.

Don’t worry we will also get down and dirty with street food carts and visits to local markets later in the trip, but I think Zandunga is the perfect place for your first day in the city.

While visiting I tried their highly raved-about tamal de mole, and I just have to say that the reviews were not wrong, it’s so freaking good! I also ordered a Tlayuda and was blown away, so so good!

So I hope you are hungry because there is so much good stuff to try on their menu.

Leisurely stroll along the Andador Turístico

If you eat your body weight in mole, that’s alright, you can walk it off after lunch at the colorful Andador Turístico, the main pedestrian avenue that cuts through Oaxaca City center.

The Andador Turístico is lined with brightly painted colonial-style houses, each housing adorable local shops and cafes, perfect to explore at a leisurely pace.

This main road is also used by locals to gather for town festivities, you might even find yourself in the middle of one without warning.

This happened to us, we ended up following a marching band around the city and ended up at an improvised dance party in a plaza—you know, your average Tuesday in Oaxaca City.

Coffee stop at Café Brújula Alcalá

If you are in need of a little afternoon cafecito, Café Brújula is the place to go.

Café Brújula is Oaxaca City’s original specialty coffee shop, so you know you are getting an excellent cup of coffee, and because it’s Oaxaca, you know the brand design is also beautifully folkloric, but with a modern twist.

The pioneering coffee shop offers a few locations around Oaxaca City, with Alcalá being the closest one to you while exploring Andador Turístico.

This particular location also has a charming courtyard where you can slow down, hang out, and enjoy your coffee.

Visit the quaint Zócalo square

At the end of your Andador Turístico walk you will end up at el Zócalo of Oaxaca City, also known as Plaza de la Constitución, a typical Mexican picturesque square with musicians, balloon-sellers, shoe-shiners, vendors, and locals hanging out in the afternoon.

A cute spot to sit down for a bit and see the pace of local Oaxaca City life all around you.

A quick museum stop at Museo Textil de Oaxaca

After admiring the charming liveliness of Plaza de la Constitución make your way to Museo Textil de Oaxaca, a small museum dedicated to the textiles of the region, something Oaxaca is known for.

The museum is very modest, so it’s a quick visit, it has free admission, it is open until 8 pm, and it has a beautiful interior courtyard that is worth checking out.

Delicious dinner at Tacos Roy

For dinner make your way back to the direction of the Zócalo and head straight to Tacos Roy.

Tacos are not necessarily a meal that Oaxaca is known for, however, something Oaxaca is famous for is its unique corn, and the corn tortillas used in Tacos Roy are out-of-this-world good!

I would recommend their tacos al pastor, but whatever you choose, just make sure you get the corn tortillas.

Evening drinks at Mezcalogia

In Mexico, we have a saying that goes “Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, también”, which translates to “for everything bad mezcal, and for everything good as well”, and it is time to follow that Mexican wisdom.

Arrive at Mezcalogia, a snug mezcal bar serving—you guessed it—an extensive menu of mezcal to be enjoyed by itself, but if straight mezcal is a bit too hardcore for you, you can opt for one of their delicious cocktails—all mezcal-based, of course.

The space has a friendly and intimate atmosphere, perfect for a drink or two at the end of the night.

3 Days in Oaxaca City: Day 2

Day trip to the archeological site of Mitla, the iconic Hierve El Agua, and more

The best thing to do for your second day in Oaxaca City is to take a day trip out of the city to explore some of the many towns and unique activities there are to do just a short drive away.

The best way to do this efficiently is to book a tour, even I as a Mexican opted for this option last time I was here to keep planning stress-free.

When looking for day trips from Oaxaca you will notice that most of the tours have very similar itineraries, with almost the same activities and stops along the way, so it might be hard to narrow it down.

This Oaxaca day trip tour is a great option, it comes highly reviewed, and it includes almost all the same stops I did last time, such as a visit to the historic Tule tree, the archeological site of Mitla, a mezcal tasting, and a trip to the one-of-a-kind Hierve El Agua petrified waterfalls.

The great thing about booking a tour like this is that you will get picked up at the door of your hotel, you get transportation throughout the whole day of adventures, and you get a better understanding of every stop and experience through your guide’s shared wisdom.

One thing I will highly recommend you do when taking a day trip with any of these tours is to pack your own lunch, any street food stand around your hotel will definitely have better food than the overpriced mediocre buffets most tours stop by.

  • TIP: Don’t forget to carry some cash, preferably in smaller denominations, you will need it to pay the entrance fee to all attractions which can vary from 20-90 Mexican pesos, equivalent to 1-5 USD, but you definitely need it in local currency. It will also come in handy for making smaller purchases, and tipping tour guides.

With a duration of approximately 10 hours, this tour will take over most of your day, arriving back in Oaxaca City somewhere around six to seven in the evening.

For dinner stop by Levadura de Olla Restaurante, an Oaxacan restaurant with a focus on indigenous recipes and local ingredients that came highly recommended to me by locals.

3 Days in Oaxaca City: Day 3

Short day trip to Monte Albán, visiting colorful Barrio Jalatlaco and more

Morning day trip to Monte Albán

Oaxaca has so much to offer, and another iconic site in the area that you shouldn’t miss is the archeological site of Monte Albán, an ancient Zapotec metropolis.

This historically important location tends to be included in long day trip tours from Oaxaca City, which I don’t think are the best option for the last day here, luckily I found this unique Monte Albán tour that only focuses on visiting this ancient gem.

This tour is the best of both worlds since it helps you tick this must-visit spot off the list without wasting all day, and lasting only three hours and a half it leaves you plenty of time to explore other important areas of Oaxaca City.

Authentic Oaxacan lunch at Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Ideally, you managed to schedule the Monte Albán tour in the morning so you are back in Oaxaca City at noon and hungry for lunch.

For one of the best and cheapest meals of your life head over to Mercado 20 de Noviembre, a bustling traditional market packed with fresh produce stalls and casual street food stands frequented by locals—so you know they are good.

My strategy walking into this busy market was to follow the crowds and go where the locals go, and when I found a construction crew sitting at one unassuming stand I knew I found the right place.

I paid 50 Mexican pesos, around 3 USD, for three decently sized chorizo memelitas, a thicker-than-a-tortilla corn disc smothered with beans, cheese, and chorizo, and as simple as that sounds, it was hands down the best meal I had on this trip!

Make sure to also wander through the market where you could pick up some delicious bread or Oaxacan chocolate to take home as a souvenir.

Visit the artistic Jalatlaco neighborhood

The beautiful Barrio de Jalatlaco was my favorite thing I discovered when visiting Oaxaca City, and that is why I think that it should definitely make it to your itinerary even if you are only spending 3 days in Oaxaca City.

This charming neighborhood is a short and safe walk from the Oaxaca City center, packed with unique and intricate murals covering business walls as well as residential houses, this quaint barrio looks like the most folkloric open-air museum you have ever seen.

Barrio de Jalatlaco is one of the oldest parts of Oaxaca and has recently been given the title of Barrio Mágico, or magical neighborhood, a badge that honors a combination of factors such as history and culture in an area that makes it unique and unrepeatable.

Tlayudas for dinner

To finish off the day you have to try tlayudas, a typical Oaxacan street food that you will surely find around every corner, the strategy is the same as at the Mercado 20 de Noviembre, go where the locals go, look for the busy street food carts.

However, if you prefer a fixed plan instead head over to the highly rated Tlayudas las Ánimas for a delicious last meal in Oaxaca City.

With its charming colonial buildings, renowned culinary scene, thriving art community, and comfortably sized city center, Oaxaca City is the perfect choice for a quick Mexican getaway.

As shown by this post, there is so much you can squeeze in during your 3 days in Oaxaca City without feeling rushed or missing out on any big checklist items.

So I hope this post helps you enjoy your 3 days in beautiful Oaxaca City to the maximum. Have you been to this beautiful Mexican destination yet? What are you most looking forward to?

For more ideas of things to add to your itinerary check out our 10+ best things to do in Oaxaca City for first-time visitors.

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