Oaxaca City, Mexico travel guide

Oaxaca City, Mexico is the indigenous cultural center of Mexico. The architecture was beautiful, the food was excellent, and it is definitely a place to revisit! | via The Spirited Violet

Yesterday my plane landed back in Atlanta after a 9 day trip to Oaxaca City, Mexico and Mexico City, Mexico with a study abroad group!  While I have been out of the country before, I have never been in one where I did not speak the language (I do understand a lot of spoken Spanish though because of this).  It was both humorous and anxiety-inducing when I was in the airport and the ticket booth lady couldn’t understand how I was even saying Oaxaca.

WHERE WE STAYED

First of all, our hotel in Oaxaca City was absolutely beautiful!  We stayed at Parador San Miguel hotel which was only about 2 blocks from the city center which included cute markets, beautiful churches, and really nice restaurants!  The town square also had ginormous trees that were truly amazing!  The hotel had rooms that faced an open courtyard full of beautiful song birds and exotic plants.  House keeping always left cute animals made out of towels on our beds and the hotel’s restaurant was excellent.

Parador San Miguel hotel in Oaxaca City, Mexico. A charming hotel with an open courtyard, exotic birds, and an amazing restaurant! Only 2 blocks away from the city's central markets and cathedrals. | via The Spirited VioletA city view of Oaxaca City, Mexico from our hotel: Parador San Miguel. A charming hotel with an open courtyard, exotic birds, and an amazing restaurant! Only 2 blocks away from the city's central markets and cathedrals. | via The Spirited VioletParador San Miguel hotel in Oaxaca City, Mexico. A charming hotel with an open courtyard, exotic birds, and an amazing restaurant! Only 2 blocks away from the city's central markets and cathedrals. | via The Spirited VioletParador San Miguel hotel in Oaxaca City, Mexico. A charming hotel with an open courtyard, exotic birds, and an amazing restaurant! Only 2 blocks away from the city's central markets and cathedrals. | via The Spirited VioletA beautiful exotic plant on the upstairs patio of our Oaxacan hotel: Parador San Miguel. A charming hotel with an open courtyard, exotic birds, and an amazing restaurant! Only 2 blocks away from the city's central markets and cathedrals. | via The Spirited VioletParador San Miguel hotel in Oaxaca City, Mexico. A charming hotel with an open courtyard, exotic birds, and an amazing restaurant! Only 2 blocks away from the city's central markets and cathedrals. | via The Spirited Violet

WHAT I LOVED

Something I was really amazed about on this trip is how colorful and beautiful Mexico is.  I didn’t realize how many mountains were in the area, and I found myself reminiscing a lot about my time living in Utah and visiting my husband’s childhood home of Arizona.  The weather is pretty arid, the altitude is high, and even though I had concerns about the Zika virus initially… I didn’t really see any bugs the whole trip (I still bug sprayed though).  March ended up being an ideal time because the weather wasn’t too hot, and I felt very comfortable the entire trip.  

I was pretty amazed by all of the artisan touches in Mexico from all of the crafts to the murals that showed up everywhere.  My favorite art was probably a building that had corn and beans placed into concrete to make a beautiful mosaic of women.

The people were very patient in Oaxaca with my Spanish.  It was a really easy place to practice, and I definitely haggled over prices in the market.  Numbers were definitely hard to get sometimes when people were speaking, but people readily wrote numbers on their hands to help with the buying process.  

A travel guide to Oaxaca, Mexico. Ever thought about visiting? Pin now, read later | via The Spirited VioletA beautiful mural found on Universidad Autonoma "Benito Juarez" De Oazaca." Many murals in Oaxaca, Mexico also expressed messages about political freedom. | via The Spirited VioletThe city square in Oaxaca Mexico. The square was lined with huge trees, historical churches, and beautiful cobblestone roads. Definitely a must see! | via The Spirited VioletThe city square in Oaxaca City, Mexico is full of street vendors and delicious street food! | via The Spirited VioletA historical building in Oaxaca Mexico that faced our hotel: Parador San Miguel in Oaxaca City, Mexico. | via The Spirited VioletColorful and bright buildings in Oaxaca City, Mexico! | via The Spirited VioletA beautiful mural found on Universidad Autonoma "Benito Juarez" De Oazaca." | via The Spirited VioletDecorative plant pots seen on the streets in Oaxaca City, Mexico. | via The Spirited Violet

WHAT WE ATE

My favorite part of Oaxaca City, Mexico was hands down the food.  Something I observed the whole trip (not just exclusive to here) is that every time you order a drink, it comes bottled.  Refills aren’t automatic so I often found myself ordering 2-3 bottles of mineral water every time I ordered my food; I knew I would need more than one bottle to drink.  Something else I learned is that if you ask a waiter to bring a dessert later, you will have to order it again because the waiters don’t actually bring it out later (this happened to me about 3 times).  The food though was extremely good in Oaxaca and the portion sizes are huge- I began sharing meals with people there.  (Edit: 4/6/2016: I asked some students in my classroom why this happened with the desserts and they explained that “later” was a polite way of rejecting the dessert.  So noted!)

I don’t drink alcohol for religious reasons, but a huge export from Oaxaca City, Mexico is Mexcal alcohol which is made from the agave plant (the same plant that makes tequila too).  My friends said it had a very smoky flavor and it burned a lot going down.  Oaxaca cheese, the yummy whitish yellow cheese that comes with your chips at Mexican restaurants, also comes from Oaxaca.  A feature I really loved about Oaxaca is the open courtyards in restaurants, our hotel, and buildings; it made for some pretty romantic settings and I definitely wanted Devin there with me more than once :).  This would be such an adorable place for a honeymoon!

An open air restaurant market experience in Oaxaca City, Mexico. The food was delicious! | via The Spirited VioletAn open air restaurant market experience in Oaxaca City, Mexico. The food was delicious! | via The Spirited VioletViews from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited VioletViews from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited VioletViews from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited VioletViews from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited Violet

CULTURE SHOCK MOMENTS

While in the markets, my group was targeted, and I had my phone (which I had been using as my camera) stolen in the market; I ugly cried because I lost some of my favorite pictures of the trip and the $200 to replace the phone, but people in my program were nice enough to share a lot of photos for the blog (@AshleyEkers on instagram- look her up!).  I will be sharing some general travel tips I learned for future trips to Mexico that I think will help other people too in a future post!

The first day, it was really shocking to me how people would follow us around to buy things.  I would be polite and engage, but I found that it seemed to lead people on so I began just saying “no gracias” without any eye contact and kept moving.

Also, not going to lie, the first few days of watching driving in Oaxaca City was not for the faint of heart.  The driving style is very different and has a lot weaving.

Views from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited VioletViews from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited VioletViews from the streets of Oaxaca City, Mexico | via The Spirited Violet

As a study abroad group, we visited Oaxaca because it is extremely linguistically diverse which is pretty interesting stuff as an Applied Linguistics graduate student :)!  There are over 16 indigenous languages spoken in Oaxaca and that doesn’t even include the languages’ dialects.  It was amazing to see the architecture and warmth of the people.  Even with my experience in the market, I found people extremely kind to tourists and very helpful.  Most people in our study abroad group said that Oaxaca was their favorite place we visited because it really was incredibly charming!

I’m looking forward to sharing more of my trip and getting back to regular blogging programming!  In the mean time, viva Mexico!

  • Oaxaca City looks awesome! Thanks for the guide!

  • Oaxaca City looks awesome! Thanks for the guide!

  • Katie-Bug Bethinator

    Wow, what a trip! It looks wonderful. A pity you had your phone stolen though. That you could have done without. But it looks like a very fun, mostly friendly and interesting place to visit one day 🙂 Thanks, Katie

  • Katie-Bug Bethinator

    Wow, what a trip! It looks wonderful. A pity you had your phone stolen though. That you could have done without. But it looks like a very fun, mostly friendly and interesting place to visit one day 🙂 Thanks, Katie

  • Wow, what a cool experience! I know what you mean about it being intimidating to travel somewhere where you don’t really speak the language–I’ve really never done that before, besides being in Thailand as a kid, all my other travel has been in Chinese-speaking countries and that helps me be more confident that I can get around. We’re going to Japan this summer and that will be a whole different ball game because I do not speak Japanese!

    Sorry your phone got stolen, that’s a big bummer. It’s hard to be constantly vigilant when you’re out in a new place with so many distractions–there’s always that risk of theft when we travel. My biggest fear is losing my passport–Angel usually keeps in in the innermost pocket of his backpack to keep it less vulnerable, because you never know.

    • I have actually been shopping around for ways to hide money etc. on my person when I travel next time. I don’t want to be around with a purse. I’m so happy my passport wasn’t stolen either. I had my phone across my stomach and my purse OVER my phone in my other hand.

  • Wow, what a cool experience! I know what you mean about it being intimidating to travel somewhere where you don’t really speak the language–I’ve really never done that before, besides being in Thailand as a kid, all my other travel has been in Chinese-speaking countries and that helps me be more confident that I can get around. We’re going to Japan this summer and that will be a whole different ball game because I do not speak Japanese!

    Sorry your phone got stolen, that’s a big bummer. It’s hard to be constantly vigilant when you’re out in a new place with so many distractions–there’s always that risk of theft when we travel. My biggest fear is losing my passport–Angel usually keeps in in the innermost pocket of his backpack to keep it less vulnerable, because you never know.

    • I have actually been shopping around for ways to hide money etc. on my person when I travel next time. I don’t want to be around with a purse. I’m so happy my passport wasn’t stolen either. I had my phone across my stomach and my purse OVER my phone in my other hand.

  • Oaxaca City looks gorgeous! We’ve been to Mexico before, though mostly on the southeastern coast near the Yucatan peninsula–I definitely need to expand my horizons on our next trip there. Your pictures are so, so pretty!

    • I would love to know where you went and what places were your favorite. I definitely want to go back to sight see!

  • Oaxaca City looks gorgeous! We’ve been to Mexico before, though mostly on the southeastern coast near the Yucatan peninsula–I definitely need to expand my horizons on our next trip there. Your pictures are so, so pretty!

    • I would love to know where you went and what places were your favorite. I definitely want to go back to sight see!

  • Oh Autumn, how annoying that you had your phone stolen! I’m so glad though that the rest of your trip was amazing.

    I cannot wait to go to Mexico. I do want to brush up on my Spanish though. I took it for a semester in uni but I can’t remember a lot of it as I don’t use it enough. It looks so vivid and full of life; me gusta, me gusta mucho!

    • Oaxaca is a nice place to practice because people are so patient! I know have a phone again with service and it is such a great feeling. I didn’t realize how much of my brain was on my phone!!

  • Your photos are beautiful! They really capture how vibrant Mexico is, both in the architecture and the way of life!

  • Oh Autumn, how annoying that you had your phone stolen! I’m so glad though that the rest of your trip was amazing.

    I cannot wait to go to Mexico. I do want to brush up on my Spanish though. I took it for a semester in uni but I can’t remember a lot of it as I don’t use it enough. It looks so vivid and full of life; me gusta, me gusta mucho!

    • Oaxaca is a nice place to practice because people are so patient! I know have a phone again with service and it is such a great feeling. I didn’t realize how much of my brain was on my phone!!

  • Your photos are beautiful! They really capture how vibrant Mexico is, both in the architecture and the way of life!

  • I love this! I can’t wait to read more about your trip, Autumn!

  • I love this! I can’t wait to read more about your trip, Autumn!

  • It looks like it was such a wonderful trip! Let’s both go back to Mexico, ok? 😉

  • It looks like it was such a wonderful trip! Let’s both go back to Mexico, ok? 😉

  • Mommy At Last

    How absolutely beautiful!!! Sorry your phone got stolen too. But it can be replaced right? You still got some amazing pics!! Great post!!
    Take care and God bless!!
    Valarie

    • Thanks for reading along! 🙂 My phone had the first 2 days of all of my photos, but people in my program were kind enough to let me share some of theirs for future posts.

  • Mommy At Last

    How absolutely beautiful!!! Sorry your phone got stolen too. But it can be replaced right? You still got some amazing pics!! Great post!!
    Take care and God bless!!
    Valarie

    • Thanks for reading along! 🙂 My phone had the first 2 days of all of my photos, but people in my program were kind enough to let me share some of theirs for future posts.

  • Looks so beautiful and colorful! Sorry again about your phone, the main thing though is that you didn’t get hurt. You can always go back for pictures 😉

  • Looks so beautiful and colorful! Sorry again about your phone, the main thing though is that you didn’t get hurt. You can always go back for pictures 😉

  • Veronica Pototska

    I would love to explore this city! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photography with us

  • Veronica Pototska

    I would love to explore this city! Thank you for sharing your beautiful photography with us

  • Tara Berries

    Oaxaca City, Mexico looks gorgeous! Your photography is on point. I love how old everything is and it looks like you had a fun time.

  • Tara Berries

    Oaxaca City, Mexico looks gorgeous! Your photography is on point. I love how old everything is and it looks like you had a fun time.

  • Wow, love these pictures and descriptions! Even though I live in Texas and can speak conversationally in Spanish, I’ve never been to Mexico…. I really want to visit. Thanks for this post!

    • Being able to really speak Spanish will give you such a leg up! I can understand Spanish, but I can’t speak very well.

  • Wow, love these pictures and descriptions! Even though I live in Texas and can speak conversationally in Spanish, I’ve never been to Mexico…. I really want to visit. Thanks for this post!

    • Being able to really speak Spanish will give you such a leg up! I can understand Spanish, but I can’t speak very well.