For the Love of Oaxaca
by Sarah Persitz
A Three Day Itinerary for the World’s Number One Travel Destination
Visiting Oaxaca City feels like stepping into a fantastical landscape of colors and textures, delicious tastes and smells. Voted by Travel + Leisure as the world’s number one city to visit in 2020, its rich history has given way to a city that balances ancient culture and modernity with ease, honoring the legacy of artisan goods and craftsmanship indigenous to the area, while making way for new gastronomical treasures found around every corner.
Photos by @casaantoineta
Mexico is home to a rich history of handicrafts, with Oaxaca being the most celebrated region for legacy crafts and artisan goods. This is in part due to the fact that Oaxaca has an abundance of natural and raw materials, but also because of a fierce commitment to maintain its indigenous roots. This fact allowed the region to remain largely autonomous in the face of different waves of colonization, encouraging traditional crafts to flourish, producing a lineage of quality artisanship that continues today.
Given our love of this city, and our deep appreciation for its artisan roots, we put together a three day itinerary to guide you on a multifaceted tour that weaves together the best of history, gastronomy, culture and art.
Photos by @oaxtravel and @casaantoineta
Start your first day with a slow morning and a delicious breakfast at Boulenc, an artisanal panaderia known for freshly baked pastries and an eclectic menu housed in a bohemian oasis. Walking through the arched entryways you’re welcomed into a designer's dream with high ceilings and colorful aesthetic in an open garden filled with luscious green plants in every nook and cranny.
Photos by @boulencpan
After breakfast, get lost in the colorful streets as you make your way to the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca to take a walk through Oaxaca’s history. As you wander your way through this historical monastery building, you are invited to learn about the multifaceted history of Oaxaca as the exhibit shows the thread of continuity between ancient and contemporary culture, particularly as it relates to food, medicine and crafts in the region.
Photos by @museodelasculturasoax
Next, take a short walk to the Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca, a project that pays homage to the unique botanic diversity and cultural connection to plants in the region. It’s a pleasantly intoxicating landscape of unexpected shapes and colors that make for perfect insta-worthy backgrounds. The garden is open year round with English guided tours available on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Spanish tours available daily.
Photos by Jardín Etnobotánico de Oaxaca
For lunch, we recommend Sabina Sabe. The restaurant doubles as a hub for artistic expression highlighting Mexican artists in each of its rooms. Described as a “love letter to Mezcal”, they’re known to have some of the region’s best mezcals from artisan distilleries. But you’ll find more than mezcal as their menu is filled with traditional Oaxacan dishes highlighting local produce, inviting you on a journey through the senses at this local favorite.
Photos by @sabinasabeoaxaca
If you’re still hungry for culture, make your way to the Textile Museum of Oaxaca where you'll bear witness to some of the region's most beautiful lineage of handicrafts. Then, as the sun begins to set, enjoy a drink at Selva where you can find botanical cocktails inspired by the flavors of Oaxaca. The interior space is a stunning project, designed by architect Claudia Turrent, environmentalist Martina D’Acosta, Jaime Munoz and bartender Alexandra Purcaru. After a photo-op inside, try to squeeze a table on one of their small patios to have a birds eye view as the colorful streets below shift from day to night.
Photos by @museo_textil and @selvaoaxaca
When you’re ready for dinner you can pop downstairs to Los Danzantes for jungle themed vibes in the heart of the city. Known for their collaboration with local farmers, their menu is a delicious mix of traditional Oaxacan cuisine and contemporary flavors.
Photos by @danzantesoaxaca
After a good night’s rest you’ll be ready for breakfast at Masea Trigo y Maiz where Chef Olga Cabrera Oropeza’s menu pays homage to the land with a focus on preserving the legacy of Oaxaca through ancient grains.
Photos by @maseatrigoymaiz
While it requires some advanced planning, a trip to Oaxaca isn’t complete without meeting local artisans, so set up a custom macrame workshop with Daniel Chinas of Daach, or learn to make candles with living legend, Maestra Viviana.
If you’re not feeling so creative, but want to take in some of the stunning local designs, schedule a private studio visit with Javier Reyes, where you’ll find colorful rugs and home textiles, earthy ceramics and unique pieces from their palm collection.
Break for lunch with one of the best views of the city at Casa Oaxaca, one of the most well-known and celebrated restaurants in Oaxaca City.
Photo by @casaoaxacaelrestaurante
Continuing your journey through Oaxaca’s deep artisanal roots, we suggest booking a private tasting at Mezcaloteca where you can learn about the rich craft of distilling mezcal while tasting some of the most artisanal brands, most of which aren’t sold out of Mexico.
Photos by @mezcaloteca
Afterwards, take a taxi to Criollo for their tasting menu that highlights the diversity and richness of local, seasonal ingredients. Housed within a bohemian UNESCO heritage house, it’s the perfect ending to an artisan focused day.
Photos by @criollo_oax
You can’t leave Oaxaca without experiencing the plethora of delicious street foods available throughout the city. With so many options we encourage starting your day with a food tour with Oaxacking tour guide Omar Alonso who will take you on a foodie focused excursion through the city where you’ll meet with food vendors who will welcome you like family.
Photos by @oaxacking
After a five hour tour you may need an easy afternoon, making Casa Antonieta’s Rooftop Bar a perfect spot to take in the afternoon rays of the sun with a view of the city. It’s also a boutique hotel with a beautifully minimalist aesthetic inspired and designed by local artisans, so if you’re not staying there, it’s worth a visual tour.
Photos by @casaantonieta
Finally, for dinner, enjoy an epicurean meal at El Destilado, where they offer a choice between a six or nine course tasting menu highlighting an elevated twist on traditional Oaxacan dishes with a commitment to serving the best local and seasonal ingredients.
Photos by @eldestilado
As for where to stay, there are plenty of incredible options at every price point in Oaxaca City, but two of our favorites include Casa Antonieta and Grana B+B.
Casa Antonieta is housed in one of the very first buildings in Oaxaca, built in 1529, making it a true architectural gem. Steeped in tradition, the hotel is inspired by combining simplicity and the hospitality of a Oaxacan home, making for a warm and welcoming environment for your stay.
Photos by @casaantonieta
Grana B+B is set in an 18th century mansion in the heart of the city, offering traditional Mexican breakfasts at a communal table in their stunning colonial courtyard. With earth toned décor and multiple room offerings, this bed and breakfast welcomes travelers at every price point.
Photos by @alison__wu and @granabnb
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