Oaxaca Introduction Walking Tour, Oaxaca

Oaxaca Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Oaxaca

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 before the Europeans. The city itself was founded by the Spanish in 1532 on the site of a fortified Zapotec settlement. Oaxaca flourished under the Spanish rule as a commercial and agricultural hub. It has been the site of numerous political and social movements throughout Mexico's history, notably during the Mexican War of Independence and the Mexican Revolution. Today, it remains a vital center for Mexican culture and heritage, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1987.

The name "Oaxaca" comes from the Nahuatl word "Huāxyacac," which referred to a type of tree found in the area. In Spanish, it was eventually pronounced as "Oaxaca."

A bustling plaza in the heart of the city, called Zocalo, is the place to experience local life. On the northern side of the Zocalo stands the impressive Baroque-style Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption). Another notable church, the 17th-century Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude), is dedicated to Oaxaca's patron saint, the Virgin Mary, and houses a revered statue of Her.

Oaxaca's gastronomy is often praised with a saying: "Oaxaca es comida" ("Oaxaca is food"). This is a testament to the city's reputation as a culinary paradise, famous for its mole sauces, tlayudas, and other delights. To taste some of them, one may wish to explore Mercado Benito Juarez (Benito Juarez Market) which offers everything, from local food to textiles to crafts, thus offering a good slice of the local life.

Another place to immerse yourself in Oaxaca's rich heritage is Andador de Macedonia Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Street), a pedestrian thoroughfare, lined with boutiques, art galleries, and historic colonial buildings.

Whoever visits Oaxaca, always returns ("Quien visita Oaxaca, siempre regresa"), people say. To experience the magnetic allure of this gem of a city more fully, consider taking our self-guided walking tour. And when you do, make sure to get your camera ready, too, for every facade and street corner here is primed and ready for some serious Instagram content.
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Oaxaca Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Oaxaca Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Mexico » Oaxaca (See other walking tours in Oaxaca)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 9
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.4 Km or 2.1 Miles
Author: nataly
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Zocalo (Main Square)
  • Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption)
  • Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude)
  • Mercado Benito Juarez (Benito Juarez Market)
  • Teatro Macedonio Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Theater)
  • Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Textile Museum)
  • Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden)
  • Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman and Museum of Oaxacan Cultures
  • Andador de Macedonia Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Street)
Zocalo (Main Square)

1) Zocalo (Main Square) (must see)

Zócalo (Main Square) is a historic and vibrant public space located in the heart of Oaxaca. It is a significant gathering place that holds cultural, historical, and symbolic importance for the city and its people.

The Zócalo has a rich history that dates back to pre-colonial times. In the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan, the square served as the main ceremonial center. However, during the colonial period, it was renamed Constitution Square (Plaza de la Constitución) in honor of the Cádiz Constitution, which was signed in Spain in 1812. Despite the formal name change, the square continued to be referred to as the Zócalo.

The Main Square has witnessed numerous significant events throughout history. It has been the site of traditional Mexican ceremonies, the swearing-in of viceroys, royal proclamations, military parades, and Independence celebrations. Over the years, it has also hosted various religious events, including the festivals of Holy Week and Corpus Christi. The Zócalo has welcomed foreign heads of state and remains a central venue for national celebrations and protests.

Today, Main Square continues to be a vibrant hub of activity, drawing locals and tourists alike. The square's open space is adorned with beautiful gardens, fountains, and benches, providing a tranquil respite in the midst of the bustling city. It is surrounded by notable buildings, including the Oaxaca Cathedral, the Government Palace, and the Palacio de Gobierno.

The Zócalo serves as a meeting point for social gatherings, political demonstrations, and cultural events. Its lively atmosphere is complemented by food stalls, street vendors, and outdoor cafes offering a wide array of delicious Mexican cuisine. Visitors can immerse themselves in the local culture, enjoy live music and dance performances, and explore the nearby artisan markets showcasing Oaxaca's renowned crafts.
Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption)

2) Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) (must see)

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption (Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) serves as the main church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Antequera, Oaxaca.

Initially, the construction began in 1535, and the Temple of San Juan de Dios acted as the temporary cathedral church for the diocese. However, in 1640, the cathedral was established, and the diocesan seat was transferred to Our Lady of the Assumption. Over the years, due to earthquakes in the 16th and 18th centuries, the cathedral had to undergo several reconstructions. The most recent reconstruction started in 1702 and was completed in 1733.

The cathedral's facade is crafted from green Cantera stone, a common material used in the construction of buildings in Oaxaca. Its interior follows a Neoclassical style. Inside, the altar is adorned with a statue of Our Lady of the Assumption (Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) created during the Porfirian era in Italy. This statue represents the Virgin Mary and is accompanied by a bronze sculpture crafted by Italian sculptor Adamo Tadoini and brought from Europe.

Although the original towers of the cathedral no longer stand, having been destroyed in the 1931 Oaxaca earthquake, there are notable features to be found within the structure. The south wing houses a clock gifted to Oaxaca by King Fernando VII. Additionally, the last chapel on the left is home to the Lord of Lightning, while the second chapel on the right preserves the remains of the Cross of Huatulco. Along the western wall of the choir, an intricately designed baroque pipe organ, partially dating back to 1711-1712, and restored in 1997, stands tall.
Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude)

3) Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad (Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude)

The Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude (Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad) is a significant Roman Catholic sanctuary located in the beautiful city of Oaxaca. Constructed between 1682 and 1690, this magnificent church stands as a tribute to Our Lady of Solitude, the patron saint of Oaxaca.

The construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude commenced in 1682 under the guidance of Father Fernando Méndez. Bishop Sariñana y Cuenca consecrated the edifice in 1690, marking its completion. Subsequently, between 1717 and 1718, with the assistance of Bishop Angel Maldonado, the current facade was added to enhance the splendor of the church.

Designed in the shape of a Latin cross, the Basilica of Our Lady of Solitude showcases the elegance of Baroque architecture. To ensure its durability in earthquake-prone regions, the builders intentionally opted for low spires and towers. The structure's utilization of green Cantera stone, a material commonly found in Oaxaca, adds to its distinct appearance and complements the surrounding landscape.

Inside the basilica, visitors are captivated by the grandeur of the west gallery, which houses a remarkable baroque pipe organ dating back to 1686. After restoration work in 2000, the organ regained its ability to produce beautiful melodies, enhancing the spiritual experience for all who visit.

With its exquisite Baroque architecture and careful consideration of seismic resistance, the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de la Soledad has become a notable landmark within the Historic Center of Oaxaca City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
Mercado Benito Juarez (Benito Juarez Market)

4) Mercado Benito Juarez (Benito Juarez Market) (must see)

Benito Juarez Market (Mercado Benito Juarez), located in the vibrant city of Oaxaca, is a bustling and colorful marketplace that offers a unique and authentic experience for locals and visitors alike. Named after Benito Juarez, a prominent figure in Mexican history and a native of Oaxaca, this market is a hub of activity and a reflection of the region's rich cultural heritage.

As you enter the market, you are immediately greeted by a symphony of sights, sounds, and aromas. The market is a maze of narrow passageways and stalls filled with a dazzling array of products, ranging from fresh produce and spices to traditional crafts and souvenirs.

One of the highlights of Benito Juarez Market is its diverse selection of fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Colorful piles of ripe mangoes, avocados, and papayas catch your eye, while aromatic herbs such as cilantro and epazote fill the air with their delightful scents. Local vendors proudly display their harvest, often sourced from nearby villages and farms, showcasing the region's agricultural bounty.

As you venture further into the market, you'll discover a myriad of food stalls offering traditional Oaxacan cuisine. Tantalizing aromas waft through the air as vendors prepare mouthwatering dishes like tlayudas (large crispy tortillas topped with beans, cheese, and various toppings), tamales, and empanadas. You can also savor a steaming bowl of rich and flavorful mole, a signature sauce that Oaxaca is famous for.

Benito Juarez Market is not only a culinary delight but also a treasure trove for those seeking unique artisanal crafts. Skilled local artisans display their craftsmanship through intricate weavings, pottery, textiles, and vibrant hand-embroidered garments. You can find beautiful rugs and tapestries, intricately carved wooden figurines, and colorful alebrijes (fantastical creatures carved from copal wood and brightly painted).

Benito Juarez Market is more than just a place to shop—it's a vibrant meeting point where locals gather to socialize, exchange stories, and celebrate their cultural identity. The lively atmosphere, accompanied by the sounds of merchants haggling and musicians playing traditional tunes, creates an immersive experience that truly encapsulates the spirit of Oaxaca.
Teatro Macedonio Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Theater)

5) Teatro Macedonio Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Theater)

The Macedonio Alcala Theater, situated in the heart of Oaxaca, is a remarkable cultural establishment. Erected in 1909, it showcases the splendid art nouveau architectural style and holds immense significance as one of Mexico's foremost theaters.

The planning for its construction began in 1903 and culminated six years later, in 1909. On August 4, 1904, the construction of the Macedonio Alcala Theater commenced under the supervision of Rodolfo Franco Larrainzar, an engineer employed by the state government at that time.

The theater's grand inauguration took place on September 5, 1909, exhibiting the essence of modernist design with notable French influences, reminiscent of the Porfiriato era. Originally known as the Luis Mier y Terán Casino Theater, it was subsequently renamed General Jesús Carranza during the revolutionary period. In the 1930s, it acquired its current name, Macedonio Alcala, in tribute to the renowned Mexican musician and composer of the 19th century.

The majestic entrance of the theater features three doors adorned with elegant arches crafted from green stone. Upon entering, one is captivated by the opulent foyer, exuding a distinct French aesthetic, reminiscent of the Louis XV style. The white marble staircase and the ceiling adorned with a remarkable allegorical representation of the Temple of Art, depicting the triumph of Fame and Reward, add to the grandeur of the space.
Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Textile Museum)

6) Museo Textil de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Textile Museum)

The Oaxaca Textile Museum (Museo Textil de Oaxaca) is situated in the heart of the Historic Center of Oaxaca. It finds its home in a building called Antelo House (Casa Antelo).

Originally, Antelo House was a part of the orchard belonging to the Santo Domingo Soriano Convent, which was later known as the San Pablo Convent. The convent was established back in 1529. The farm where the museum currently stands was first owned by Miguel de Bustamante.

Between 1764 and 1771, Bustamante built a one-story adobe house. Later, Antelo y Bermúdez acquired the land and replaced the house with a new two-story building. In the 19th century, the building became the Hospital de Bélen. In 2008, the building was purchased and renovated by the Alfredo Harp Helú Oaxaca Foundation. The restored space now houses the Textile Museum of Oaxaca.

The museum promotes the exploration of textiles, including design, texture, techniques, and creative processes. It connects tradition with the contemporary era and showcases shared characteristics of weaves from Oaxaca and other cultures through temporary exhibitions. Visitors discover parallels between diverse cultures and Mexican artistry.

The museum houses an impressive collection of approximately 7,000 textile pieces. These items are divided among nine permanent private collections, including those dedicated to Oaxacan, Mexican, and global textiles. The oldest textiles in the collection date back to the 19th century. Noteworthy pieces include the tlàmachtēntli, a fragment of a huipil crafted with feathered thread, as well as sashes, girdles, and embellishments from various regions across the country.
Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden)

7) Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca (Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden)

The Oaxaca Ethnobotanical Garden (Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca) is a botanical garden spanning 2.3 hectares. It is under the administration of the Government of the State of Oaxaca and is affiliated with the Ministry of Culture.

A significant development took place on November 10, 1994, when an agreement was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation. This agreement involved the transfer of the old Santo Domingo Convent in Oaxaca to the State Government. The purpose was to allocate a 2.3-hectare area for the creation of a botanical garden.

The Ethnobotanical Garden showcases a rich collection of live plant species, all of which are indigenous to Oaxaca. These plants originate from various regions within the state, encompassing both arid and humid climates. They represent the diversity of Oaxaca's landscapes, including lowland tropics, temperate areas, and cold mountainous regions.

The garden is situated within the Santo Domingo Cultural Center, which occupies the historical convent constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries for Dominican friars. The garden's land was once part of the convent's orchard. Over the years, the space served different purposes, such as barracks from the mid-19th century until 1994. It was equipped with dormitories, parking lots, sports fields, and other military facilities.

During the colonial era, the garden area was utilized for various activities related to the convent's daily life. Evidence of this can be observed within the garden, including irrigation and drainage canals, ponds, lime kilns, laundry rooms, a ceramic oven, and a paved road used for supplying food and fuel with wagons.
Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman and Museum of Oaxacan Cultures

8) Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman and Museum of Oaxacan Cultures (must see)

The Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, also known as the Temple of Santo Domingo, is situated in the vibrant city of Oaxaca, Mexico. It stands as a remarkable example of New Spanish Baroque architecture. The initial construction endeavors for this edifice can be traced back to 1551 when the City Council of Antequera de Oaxaca generously allocated twenty-four plots of land to the Dominican Order for the establishment of a convent in the city. However, it wasn't until 1608 that the convent complex of Santo Domingo was officially inaugurated.

Throughout its storied past, the Convent of Santo Domingo has witnessed numerous significant events in the history of Mexico. It has served as a military warehouse and a stable, and during the era of Jacobin secularism brought about by the Reform War, it was temporarily closed to Catholic worship. Eventually, it was restored to the Church under an agreement made by Porfirio Díaz. In 1979, the esteemed Catholic pontiff, John Paul II, paid a visit to the convent, which further added to its historical significance. Later, the site, along with the entire Historic Center of Oaxaca, was bestowed the honor of being designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The former quarters of the convent now house the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures (Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca). This remarkable institution was established with the support of the talented artist Francisco Toledo, who hails from Oaxaca. The museum boasts an impressive collection of pre-Columbian artifacts, including the contents of Tomb 7 from the nearby Zapotec site of Monte Albán. The once-monastic garden has been transformed into an ethnobotanical garden, showcasing a diverse array of plants indigenous to the region.

The museum offers a combination of English and Spanish explanatory material, although the majority is presented in Spanish. Additionally, visitors can explore a delightful book and souvenir shop, as well as a captivating on-site library housing an impressive collection of 30,000 titles in multiple languages. Some of these extraordinary books even date back to the 15th century.
Andador de Macedonia Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Street)

9) Andador de Macedonia Alcala (Macedonio Alcala Street)

Macedonio Alcala Street (Andador de Macedonia Alcalá) is a vibrant and culturally rich street in the heart of Oaxaca City. This pedestrian street is named after Macedonia Alcalá, a prominent 19th-century Mexican poet and writer, who was born in Oaxaca.

As you stroll along Macedonio Alcala Street, you'll be captivated by the architectural beauty of the buildings that line the street. Many of these structures date back to the colonial period, featuring colorful facades, intricate wrought-iron balconies, and ornate details that showcase the region's rich cultural heritage. The vibrant colors of the buildings create a picturesque setting, providing ample opportunities for memorable photographs.

The street is also renowned for its vibrant cultural scene. Art galleries, craft shops, and boutiques are scattered along the street, offering an array of traditional Oaxacan handicrafts, including intricate textiles, pottery, and hand-carved wooden sculptures. Local artists often display their works on the sidewalks, creating a lively open-air art exhibition.

Food lovers will find themselves in a gastronomic paradise, as the street is home to numerous traditional Oaxacan restaurants and cafes serving mouthwatering delights. You can indulge in authentic Oaxacan cuisine while enjoying the vibrant ambiance and street performances that frequently take place.

Throughout the year, Macedonio Alcala Street hosts various festivals and celebrations that showcase the region's rich cultural heritage. The Day of the Dead, Guelaguetza (a folkloric dance festival), and the Night of the Radishes are just a few examples of the vibrant events that bring the street to life with color, music, and traditions.

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