Historic Centre of Oaxaca

Historic Centre of Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico (A)

Oaxaca city is the epicenter of Mexican culture and tradition. Originally founded by the Aztec warriors the city was taken over by the Spanish conquerors. In 1987 the UNESCO declared the city of Oaxaca a historical landmark due to its beautiful historic colonial buildings, churches and temples. This tour will take you to the most important historical and cultural sites in the city centre.
How it works: The full article is featured in the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" on Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Download the app to your mobile device to read the article offline and create a self-guided walking tour to visit the sights featured in this article. The app's navigation functions guide you from one sight to the next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Sights Featured in This Article

Guide Name: Historic Centre of Oaxaca
Guide Location: Mexico » Oaxaca
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Article (A))
# of Attractions: 10
Tour Duration: 2.0 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 2.5 Km or 1.6 Miles
Author: Tracy Gaudreau
Author Bio: My name is Tracy Gaudreau and I am from Canada but have a huge passion for Latin America. Afer working in the travel industry and backpacking for several years I lived in the city of Oaxaca Mexico where I ran a hostel and wrote for an English newspaper. I fell in love with the city and hope to help other people do the same
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Casa de Benito Juarez
  • Iglesia de Santo Domingo
  • Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca
  • Jardin Ethnobotanico
  • Museo Belber Jimenez
  • Casa de Las Artesanias de Oaxaca
  • MACO (Museo del Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca)
  • Cathedral of Oaxaca
  • Park Alameda De Leon and Zocalo
  • Mercado Benito Juarez
Casa de Benito Juarez

1) Casa de Benito Juarez

Benito Juarez the most famous Mexican president who is originally from the village of San Pablo Guelatao outside of the city of Oaxaca lived in this house. He was born to an indigenous family in the mountains where he spent most of his childhood and only spoke Zapotec. He found work with a book binder Antonio Salanueva and lived with him in this house. He studied law and politics and married a wealthy woman named Margarita Maza. He became Mexico’s only indigenous President and completely reformed the country. This house is a replica of a 19th century upper class Oaxacan home, the binding shop is preserved along with pictures and memorabilia of Juarez. Hours of operation: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00am to 5:00pm Sunday 10:00 to 6:00pm, Mondays closed.
Iglesia de Santo Domingo

2) Iglesia de Santo Domingo

The Santo Domingo church is the city's spiritual center as well as its tallest building. Construction began in 1572 by Dominican friars and completed over 200 years later. It was originally a Dominican monastery and it’s the best example of Baroque style in Mexico. It has functioned as a place of worship, a museum and even as military barracks for both sides during the reform wars and revolution. It has stood for over 400 years despite Oaxaca's many earthquakes. The interior has gilded stucco cover the ceiling and walls. The massive gilded alter was built in 1959 by local artists and workers. It’s one of the most elaborate and expensive of its kind. On the low ceiling just inside the entrance is the painted family tree of St. Dominic de Guzman who the church is named after and who was the founder of the Dominican order of Preachers. The church is lit up by candle light in the evenings and has many religious celebrations and concerts. On weekends you can sit outside the church and watch wedding celebrations with massive 3 meter high puppets and mariachi bands.

The church is open daily 7:00am until 2:00pm then 4:00pm until 11:00pm, closed on Monday and free to enter.
Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

3) Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

The Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca is located next door to the Santo Domingo church in the ex convent. It was converted into a museum in 1972 and is the best museum show casing Oaxaca’s history and culture. It takes you through Oaxaca's historic past up to present day. The first four rooms in the museum focus on the pre-Hispanic period, the next four to the colonial period and then to Oaxaca’s independence and after. The last room you will see is devoted to the history of the Santo Domingo Monastery. The prime attraction however is the treasures extracted from tomb 7 in Monte Alban. It has one of the best assortments of Zapotec artifacts ever found. You can also see the grounds of the Jardin etnobotanico from the many arched windows of the museum. All the explanations in the museum are in Spanish but you can rent an audio guide in English for about 50pesos.

Hours of operation; Tuesday to Sunday 10:00am – 6:00pm. Mondays closed 50pesos entrance, free to Mexican nationals on Sundays.
Jardin Ethnobotanico

4) Jardin Ethnobotanico

This place is a garden and a plant lover’s paradise. The ethno botanical garden is located in the grounds behind the Santo Domingo church. This garden was the creation of local and well known artists Luis Zarate and Francisco Toledo along with ethno biologist Alejandro de Avila. Being Artist and proud of Oaxaca’s rich culture they didn’t just want to create a garden they wanted to tell the story of Oaxaca and its people through plants. You need to take a guided tour to enter this beautiful garden. Tours are offered in both English and Spanish and the guides are very knowledgeable about Oaxaca’s rich bio diversity and uses of plants and their place in the Mexican culture. This tour isn’t just for plant lovers; if you are into traditional medicine and Mexican culture then this is a great an opportunity to get some firsthand knowledge. Oaxaca doesn’t have enough water to supply its population especially during the dry season so the garden has a buried reservoir so it can be independent, although most plants do not need much watering. The garden has a number of areas including tropical plants and a wide variety of cacti. A lot of plants now growing all over the world actually originated in Oaxaca State.

Tours are given in Spanish Monday–Saturday for 50 pesos at 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. and on weekdays there is an additional tour at 5:00 p.m. English tours are on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11:00 for 100pesos
Museo Belber Jimenez

5) Museo Belber Jimenez

The Museo Belber Jimenez opened in 2008 in a beautiful 17th century building. The Museum show cases the private collection of Federico Belber Jimenez an Oaxaca native who is a world renowned jewellery designer. Federico a Mixtec Indian was born in the village of Tututepec on the Oaxacan coast. Oaxaca being the second poorest state in Mexico combined with being an Indian meant Federico grew up in poverty. He was able to overcome this obstacle through education. He studied anthropology and later moved to the United States where he found his calling in jewellery design. His designs can be spotted on celebrities walking the red carpet. In his museum you can discover pieces he has collected throughout his life including Jewellery, textiles, folk art and pre-Colombian objects found in his native village. Federico acquired one of Frida Kahlo necklaces which was given to her by Diego Rivera the piece is displayed in the museum showing the engraved word “amor”. The museum is unique and dedicated to the people of Oaxaca as a tribute for helping Frederico escape poverty. An English and Spanish guide book is available to use which describes each exhibit.

Hours of operation; Monday-Fri 10:00am to 2:00pm and 4:00pm to 6:00pm Saturday 10:00am to 2:00pm and Sunday closed. Entry is free.
Casa de Las Artesanias de Oaxaca

6) Casa de Las Artesanias de Oaxaca

Giant puppets greet you outside of this colonial building where artisans from across the region come together to sell their products. Oaxaca City is surrounded by small villages in the countryside and each village is known for a different craft. This particular cooperative has about 80 family workshops and craft organizations working together. If you are unable to take a trip to the villages this is the best place to see what they have to offer. Check out the Alebrijes. These small brightly painted wooden creatures were developed less than 20 years ago by Manuel Jimenez Ramirez from toys that Oaxacans had been carving for centuries for their children. You can also find Mexican rugs or tapestries the Zapotec community of Teotitlan del Valle is world famous for. The rugs are handmade and can take up to 300 hours of labour to make. They get the dye for the rugs from local plants and insects including the insect you can find on the Agave plant. Another of the many items to check out is the black clay pottery from the town of San Bartolo De Coyotepec. You can also ask to take a tour of the back rooms where some artist work and create the massive puppets used for festivals, parades and weddings. The prices are all in Mexican pesos and are fixed because it is a cooperative it is not the place to bargain.

Hour of operation: Monday to Saturday 9:00am to 9:00pm, Sunday 10:00am to 6:00pm
MACO (Museo del Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca)

7) MACO (Museo del Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca)

Oaxaca is famous for its talented artists and the museum of Contemporary art or the MACO is the best place to get to know prominent artists such as Francisco Toledo, Rodolfo Morales, Rodolfo Nieto and Rufino Tamayo. The museum is housed in an impressive 17th century building on the main pedestrian street in the city. The director that took over the museum in 2008 is looking to put it on the world scale. The MACO has changing temporary exhibits from Oaxaca and around the world. If you are around for an art opening check it out anyone is welcome, it’s a great social atmosphere and a way to meet the artistic community. There is a fantastic gift shop where you can find books on Mexican art and culture, postcards, music and magazines.

Hours of operation: 10:30am to 8pm closed Tuesdays
Image Courtesy of El Ágora.
Cathedral of Oaxaca

8) Cathedral of Oaxaca

Cathedral of Oaxaca Sight Description: The proper name of the Cathedral of Oaxaca is the Cathedral of the Virgin of the Assumption. It sits on the north side of the Zocalo and on the eastern side of the park Alameda. The Cathedral hasn’t had very good luck in the past. Construction began on it in 1553 a fire and several earth quakes have destroyed it over the years and was rebuilt many times, that is why it now has such thick walls and is not the green colour of a lot of the historic buildings in the city. The interior was ransacked during the reform wars so it is not ornate as the Santo Domingo. It does however hold a collection of paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries. The clock mounted on the south tower was added later as a gift from the King of Spain. There are 14 chapels inside and the most famous is dedicated to "El Señor del Rayo." The cross hung in this chapel was the only object left amongst the ashes after a lightning bolt struck the church. Outside the Cathedral is always a lively atmosphere with clowns, vendors selling balloons, concerts and festivals.

Hours of operation: 7:00am to 9:00pm Daily Free to enter
Park Alameda De Leon and Zocalo

9) Park Alameda De Leon and Zocalo

The Park Alameda De Leon adjacent to the Zocalo and the Cathedral it is one of the oldest parks in the city. A statue stands in the centre to commemorate General Antonio De Leon the Governor who created the park in 1843. On the one corner of the park you will find the city’s main post office. This park blends into the zocalo which is the city’s main square shaded by trees and surrounded by restaurants and cafés. This has also been the site of many demonstrations as the former government palace is located on the south side of the Zocalo. The Palace is famous for a mural that depicts famous Oaxacans including Benito Juarez and his wife Margarita Maza, Jose Maria Morelos and Profirio Diaz. One of the demonstrations that took place here was the Tamale wars. McDonalds was trying to open up a franchise in the city centre but the locals weren’t having any of it over 500 people took over the Zocalo setting up Tamale stands and eating large quantities of the corn flour delicacy. The Zocalo is a hub of activity all year long from the many festivals and markets that set up to the Noche de Luces (entertainment and firework display) once a month. There is live music every Sunday afternoon and on any given day you can sit and watch life whirl around you.
Mercado Benito Juarez

10) Mercado Benito Juarez

The Benito Juarez market is the town's oldest market inaugurated in 1893. This market which takes up an entire block is a great place to buy crafts and souveniers. This place is a fantastic maze of piñatas, spices, food and crafts. If you are looking for a nice Mexican blanket or piece of clothing stick to the outside edges where you will also find leather shoes and handbags. However a person can come and buy just about anything here; there is a fruit, vegetable, meat and flower section as well clothes and sports appeal. Ladies upon entering will try to sell you tamales or Chapulines; fried grasshoppers an Oaxacan delicacy. This is where you can do your bartering for your Mexican crafts. I recommend the market bags that have famous images from Oaxaca on them.

Hours of operation: 8:00am to 7:00pm daily (craft vendors usually come later around 10:00am)

Walking Tours in Oaxaca, Mexico

Create Your Own Walk in Oaxaca

Create Your Own Walk in Oaxaca

Creating your own self-guided walk in Oaxaca is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Oaxaca Introduction Walking Tour

Oaxaca Introduction Walking Tour

Oaxaca City, or Oaxaca de Juárez, is the capital of the eponymous Mexican state in the southern part of the country. Oaxaca is often lauded for its cultural richness – a place where the colors of Mexico mix in an attractive palette of both Indian and Spanish elements.

The region had been inhabited by numerous indigenous groups, primarily the Zapotecs and Mixtecs, for thousands of years...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles

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