A Complete Guide to Mexico's Culinary Capital: Oaxaca
Food & Wine
You know that place that you've been to that you just can't get out of your head? Maybe it's an unforgettable meal you ate, memory you created, adventure you had. Maybe it's all three. For me, that place is Oaxaca. A buzzy travel destination in 2023, Oaxaca had been calling me for a while after checking off other highly recommended Mexican hotspots (Mexico City, Valle de Guadalupe and San Miguel de Allende). Finally, after making it to the proclaimed "Food and Drink Capital of Mexico," I'm here to unequivocally accept that title and compel you to make Oaxaca your next bucket list travel destination.
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Where to stay in Oaxaca
Hotel Escondido Oaxaca
A dreamy mix of old and new in the heart of Oaxaca, with a coworking space, rooftop pool and bar, and streetside Piedmontese eatery.
$100 hotel credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
Grand Fiesta Americana
Luxury hotel with a relaxed vibe, centrally located in Oaxaca.
$100 hotel credit.
Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.
A Cultural Kaleidoscope Celebrating the Heart and Soul of Mexico.
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Things to do in Oaxaca
Food Tour with Omar Alonso, Founder of Oaxacking
This is a must-do in Oaxaca. Omar is a legend of the city's food and drink scene and to experience the highlights of this gastronomically-gifted city through his eyes is equally soul-soothing and belly-filling.
Oaxaca is the home of Mezcal, so don't leave before getting the chance to visit the mezcal distilleries themselves to learn about the production of the ancient (and magical) alcohol.
Just 5 miles to the west of Oaxaca City lies one of Mexico’s best-preserved and most culturally rich archaeological sites. Start your day here to beat the crowds (and the Oaxacan sun).
Hierve el Agua
Located about 1.5 hours from Oaxaca City, Hierve el Agua is a set of mineral springs and white mineral formations resembling frozen waterfalls. This is one of the most popular day trips from Oaxaca.
Local Artisan Shopping
Make your way through downtown Oaxaca and find the perfect handmade textiles to bring back home at shops Huizache and Los Baules de Juana Cata. Discover *pottery goals* at Cooperativa 1050 and La Chicharra Cerámica. Good luck staying on your pre-determined budget!
Oaxaca isn't big on museums, but this one is a great afternoon activity if you're still stuffed from lunch and want to check out the wide range of textile collections on display. Killer giftshop, too.
Check local visiting hours for this centrally located botanical gardens. Guided tours available in both English and Spanish.
Places to eat & drink in Oaxaca
Boulenc - A trip to Oaxaca would not be complete without a stop at Boulenc. I hope you don't have as much trouble restraining yourself from ordering every pastry on the menu like I did. (Pro Tip: Stop by Suculenta, Boulenc's charming grocery and craft market next door, on your way out to pick up a jar of homemade jams or salsas from the restaurant.)
Sagrado Filemón I Pan y Café - Just down the street from the Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzman, this neighborhood coffee shop serves up a mean flat white with homemade non-dairy milk. There's a cozy rooftop terrace to enjoy your drink and soak in some Vitamin D.
Muss Café - Located inside the boutique Casa Antonieta hotel, this cute coffee shop is an excellent morning stop on your way to exploring the Zocalo or other sites within Oaxaca City limits.
Tacos Del Carmen - When you think of Oaxaca, you think of places like this. A standout food truck that serves up breakfast tacos so good you'll cancel all other brunch plans for the rest of your trip. Try the Chorizo or Chicharron.
Levadura de Olla - Thalia Barrios García's standout Oaxacan restaurant is all the rage, and rightfully so. Every dish is a must-try, from the delightfully bright and Instagram-worthy tomato salad with beet puree and mint vinaigrette, to the "Moles de Mayordomia," a combo of mole negro (black) with chicken and mole rojo (red) with pork that will simultaneously fill your heart and stomach with every bite.
Alfonsina - If Oaxaca is the food capital of Mexico, Alfonsina must be one of the best restaurants in the country. Located in the small town of San Juan Bautista la Raya, take a 30 minute cab from your hotel to this local standout for either a 1pm or 2pm lunch to be booked ahead of time. Also open for dinner seating at 7pm.
Onnno Lonchería - A little off the beaten path, this dual breakfast/lunch spot serves up some killer coffee drinks and excellent sandwiches. Their blackberry-jam is a must-try.
Casa Oaxaca el Restaurante - Alejandro Ruiz's restaurant of critical acclaim, this one should be on everyone's list of spots to hit while in Oaxaca.
Criollo - Enrique Olvera of Pujol fame brings his unique brand of Mexican cooking to Oaxaca in the form of a hyper-local, seasonal, seven-course tasting menu that changes daily. Make sure you reserve a spot in the garden.
CRUDO - A mind-bending culinary adventure fusing a traditional Japanese Omakase sushi experience with a Oaxacan flare.
La Mezcaloteca - The place to be if you want to learn about mezcal. Choose between 3, 4, or 5 tastings. A great way to start (or end) your night, and a perfect place to grab a bottle your friends at home to claim to love mezcal certainly won't have.
Sabina Sabe - Recently ranked the 22nd best bar in North America, mezcal is the specialty at this uniquely Oaxacan cocktail destination. Small bites offered as well, so make sure you ask about the kitchen's signature taco that rotates daily.
Selva - I tasted cocktail perfection at Selva when I ordered their namesake cocktail, the Selva (mezcal, hoja santa, lemon, agave honey, chilli liquor, quesillo and basil, juniper bitters). Don't leave Oaxaca until you've tried one for yourself.
El Hijuelo Mezcalería - My list of can't-miss places in Oaxaca would not be complete without El Hijuelo, a local watering hole run by Bogar, an absolute gem of a human, who will show you his own version of a Mezcal heaven. Pull up a chair, get yourself a big pour and feel the magic of Oaxaca as you sip the night away with your travel partners.
La Atolería - Pull up a seat, grab a pastry next door and try a warm mug of atole, a corn and cacao-based beverage that has nourished the Oaxacan people for generations.
Need to Know
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Melissa Franco’s guide, The Heart of Mexico: 5-Day Itinerary to Mexico City & Oaxaca.
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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Oaxaca.