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Oaxaca : capital
 Page updated on 03.10.2015
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The city of Oaxaca and its valleys are worth a 5 or 6 day visit. You can also combine the visit of the markets and ruins.

Today, the city of Oaxaca has been protected by UNESCO as the Cultural World Heritage since 1987 : .

It is located 488 km (303 miles) from Mexico City, 363 km (225 miles) from Puebla. It is easily reachable by land or air transport. The beautiful highway Mexico-Oaxaca crosses wonderful landscapes.

Lets start by the historic center :

église de la Compagnie The main plaza (plaza of the Constitution, ex-plaza de Armas), the Zócalo, is the center of the city. From there, the streets draw a griddle. Unlike the other colonial cities, only the Palace of Government, built at the beginning of the nineteenth century, faces the plaza.

In the corner of the plaza, there is the Church of the Company, built at the seventeenth century. The Jesuits started the construction of this church in 1579. It was consecrated to San Francisco Javier. The convent was built around four rectangular patios surrounded by arches supported by Doric columns. Because of the decree of secularization of 1867, the building was abandoned for more than 30 years, then sold to private interests. The building was declared a historic monument on May, 4th, 1933. Look at the different quaint niches in the main altar piece of the church. There are images of the de la Conception Immaculée, images of the Virgin’s parents, San Joaquin and Santa Ana.

     Right picture : church of the company

The Cathedral, dating from the sixteenth century, stands on the little plaza Alameda de León that leads into the Zócalo. On a side note, the State Governor, Antonio General de León, lived in this little plaza. In a conversation with his secretary, Benito Juárez, he got the idea of converting it into a garden. The project ( a smaller exact copy of the Alameda of Mexico City) was realized in 1840. It was inaugurated on October, 13th, 1843 and named "Alameda de León" to honor its founder. The potters market takes place there. On the opposite side of the plaza, there is the Museo del los Pintores Oaxaqueños, small art gallery with paintings dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century (ave.Independencia # 607 and Garcia Vigil, open 9 AM-6 PM, Tue-Sun, $22).

The Palace of Government was built at the nineteenth century on the south side of the Zócalo, in a neoclassical style. It was rebuilt in 1938 with cantera verde. Two murals by Arturo García Bustos decorate the inside of the palace. The history of Oaxaca is told on the fresco of the main stairs. In the middle, there are the portraits of Benito Juárez and Porfirio Diaz, former governors of the state, former Presidents of the country and key personages of the history of Mexico. There are also other personages such as José María Morelos and Ricardo Flores Magón. Look also at the east stairs that illustrates the cosmogony of the indigenous cultures of the region.

The Cathedral (open daily 10 AM-8 PM): the construction started in 1535 but ended only at the eighteenth century. Several earthquakes damaged it as well as other buildings in the city. The last important reconstruction was done from 1702 to 1733. It owns a nice baroque façade flanked with two thick clock-towers. The facade displays a profusion of vegetal motives and bas-reliefs. Inside, admire the imposing organ, a collection of paintings from the eighteenth century and the images and vestiges contained in the 14 lateral chapels.

The Zócalo
The Zócalo was laid with cobblestones during the colonial time and a marble fountain was set in 1739. In 1857, this fountain was removed and replaced by the first kiosk that was itself replaced in 1901 by a art-nouveau kiosk. The Zócalo is always well decorated during the many celebrations held in the city, especially for on December, 23rd (the night of the Radish Festival), on December, 24th (Christmas Eve) and on September, 15th (Independence Day).

Have a drink at the terrace of one of the many bars and restaurants located under the arches ("portales"). You will enjoy looking at the clowns and listening to the many musicians. You will be surrounded by many itinerant ice-cream vendors, balloons vendors and shoe polishers.

Pedestrian street M. Alcalá Walk north on the pleasant pedestrian street M. Alcalá, with cantera cobblestones and beautiful mansions housing shops, cafés, restaurants and galleries. Here you will find the church and ex-Convent Santo Domingo. This street has been closed to traffic since 1985.

Left picture : Pedestrian street M. Alcalá

On your way, stop at # 202 to visit the beautiful Museum of Contemporary Art of Oaxaca (MACO), set in Cortès House (but Cortès never lived there because the construction dates from the eighteenth century). There are temporary expositions with paintings, sculptures and photographs. The museum is open from Wednesday to Monday, 10:30 AM-8 PM, $10, free on Sundays. Despite modifications done during the twentieth century, the museum kept its original layout on the first floor with nice rooms organized around three internal patios. It displays works by Oaxaca artists such as Tamayo, Toledo, Nieto and Aquino.
The drawing of the building respects the traditions commanded by the Oaxaca High Society (influence of the Andalucía houses). One of the important architectural elements of the house is the masonry carved work of the facade, especially above the main entrance.

At # 507, the Instituto Artes Gráficas - IAGO - (open 10 AM-8 PM, Wed-Mon, $30), displays engravings by Mexican and foreign artists. It is housed in a mansion dating from the seventeenth century by the side of a art library (open 9 AM-9:30 PM, daily). It is located close to the church of Santo Domingo Guzmán. It was founded by painter Francisco Toledo, native of Juchitán, in Oaxaca State. It was inaugurated on November, 25th, 1988. It contains about 500 engravings of graphic art and more than 25,000 books about everything in art. These engravings cover several periods of history and have been displayed since the opening of the Institute. These engravings were made by famous people such as Albert Gaultiere, Francisco Goya, Salvador Dali, Mariano Fortuny Carbo and Henry Moore. Some are by the Mexican graphic art pioneers such as Manuel Manilla, Guadalupe Posada, de Francisco Goitia and the three great muralists: José Clemente Orozco, Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
Currently, the Institute has four rooms dedicated to one artiste for shows during two months. The other rooms are occupied by the library. The library has mainly books about the history of art, museums, painters, folklore art, craft and architecture. You can sit in the comfortably set patio.

ex-convent of Santo Domingo Keep walking : you arrive at the most interesting buildings : the church and ex-convent of Santo-Domingo dating from the sixteenth century. It houses the magnificent Regional Museum (open 11 AM-8 PM, Tue-Sun, $51, free on Sundays and Holidays for Mexicans) that preserves the Mixtec treasures of the Tomb of Monte Albán. The fourteen golden wood altars of the church were destroyed in 1869 when the church was converted into a stable.

     Right picture : ex-convent of Santo Domingo

Behind a cactus garden, you discover a beautiful religious architectural ensemble made of Oaxaca green stone. It is a masterpiece of Mexican baroque. The construction of this Dominican edifice started in 1575 and ended in late seventeenth century. The Chapel of the Rosary was added one century later. The convent was long used as a caserne by the Mexican army (until 1994).

The church is open daily from 7 AM to 1 PM and from 5 to 8 PM. Free entrance.

In the façade of the church, San Hipolito and San Domingo are represented holding a small church protected by the Holy Spirit depicted as a dove.

church of Santo DomingoThe interior gives you a dazzling and breathtaking vision. At the entrance, the vault is covered with Santo Domingo de Guzmán genealogical tree. This tree is made of golden stucco, and polychrome paintings. The busts of the Guzmán (founder of the order) family emerge from interlaced designs of vegetal and fruits. The ramifications end in an image of the Virgin, added at the late nineteenth century. The vault of the main nave is also spectacular with thirty-six paintings representing passages from the Old and New Testaments. The Oaxaca artists rebuilt the splendid golden baroque altar piece in 1959. You will be fascinated by the rococo altar, richly decorated with gold leaf. The Chapel of the Rosary (annexed to the church) is an architectural jewel consecrated to the Virgin. One can find paintings of the Virgin and the Christ. The happy, painful and glorious "mysteries" of the Rosary are represented on the walls of the church and on the ceiling of the choir. The chapel dates back to 1724

Left picture : church of Santo Domingo




church of Santo Domingo




Right picture : church of Santo Domingo







"The ex-convent has access to the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo. This beautiful museum, carefully restored, is interesting because of the building for the ex-convent as well as the museum and the objects displayed. The well marked tour is calendared and classified by themes.

There are 14 rooms arranged from the Pre-Hispanic culture to modern Mexico. In the first two rooms, there is a rapid panorama of the cultures from 10,000 B.C. to 200 A.D. and from 200 A.D. to 900 A.D. through different themes as food, ceramic, conception of universe, the funeral rites, calendar....

gold from the Tomb VII
The third room displays the Mixtec treasures from the Tomb VII of Monte Albán : jade and turquoise collars, goldsmith’s art (golden diadems and feathers), carved and chiseled jaguar bones showing the importance of funeral art during the Pre-Hispanic time.
Continue the visit of the other rooms to the very end, running through the different époques from 900 A.D. through the Fall of the big Cities, the Conquistadors, the Spiritual Conquest, the Indigenes, the Spirit, the Order, the Progress, the New Nation, the Modernity.....The last ethnographic rooms are consecrated to the cultural plurality of the State of Oaxaca.

     Photos : on right, gold and on left, jade from the Tomb VII.

jade from the Tomb VII







ethno botanic garden


On the side of Constitución and Reforma Streets, the ethno botanic garden is part of the Centro Cultural. Multi form and size cacti, as well as plants providing natural dye used in local craft, are grouped over more than 2ha (4 acres). The garden is open from 10 AM to 6:15 PM.

     Right picture : ethno botanic garden

In this neighborhood, look at the house were Juárez was a servant from 1818 to 1828. It was converted into the Museo Casa de Juárez, Garcia Vigil #609. It is consecrated to this great patriot. (Open10 AM-7 PM, Tue-Sat, 10 AM-5 PM, Sun, $37, free on Sundays for Mexicans).
The museum faces the church del Carmen Alto. It is the place where the waters of the aqueduct were stored. There is a small and friendly typical market by the church (Mercado Sánchez Pascuas).

Two blocks up, there are the Arquitos, vestiges of an aqueduct dating from the eighteenth century. Some arches house the entrances of modest lodgings.

one of Oaxaca street Walking down towards the Zócalo, you will pass the Ex-Convento de Santa Catalina converted into a luxury hotel called “Camino Real". The internal patios are worth the detour with a former wash house and a Chapel. There are also some remains of original fresco.

If you keep walking west on Morelos Avenue, you will reach the Tamayo Museum. It is worth the visit. It was inaugurated in 1974. There are many archaeological pieces from the different cultures of the Meso-America, without forgetting the Zapotec and Mixtec cultures and the private collection of painter Tamayo (1899-1991). Tamayo donated his collection to the State in 1975. It is open from 10 AM to 2 PM, from Wednesday to Monday and from 10 AM to 3 PM on Sundays, $30, Morelos Avenue # 503).

Left picture : one of Oaxaca street

The city of Oaxaca has 27 churches. Some, noticeable because of the richness of their decoration, can be visited : La Soledad, sanctuary of Patro Saint of the city, Our Lady of Solitude, San Felipe Neri Church as well as San Juan de Dios (between the markets "Benito Juárez" and "20 de Noviembre"), San Francisco and San Agustin (more modest).

If you keep walking west from the Tamayo Museum, you will reach the plaza of the Danza, vast esplanade paved with rock stones. It was built for the folklore manifestations. Admire the façade sculpted as a baroque altar piece of the Basilica de la Soledad, built in late seventeenth century. The inhabitants still ask graces to the Virgin and organize processions, especially for the end of the year celebrations. Its museum is worth seeing. Look at the offerings left by the faithful. Right now, the ex-convent houses the Municipal Government of Oaxaca City.
You can come back on Independencia Avenue to visit the San Felipe Neri Church, baroque church dating from the thirteenth century, attractive because of its numerous golden carved wood altar pieces. The one on the master altar is a beautiful example of churrigueresque style, with the innumerable extipites (baroque columns). Benito Juárez was wed here!

 "20 de Noviembre" market Walking down Miguel Cabrera Street, you will reach the markets "Benito Juárez" and "20 de Noviembre" that are always a source of joy to the visitors. The first one is consecrated to food and craft. You can find everything you can think of: food, local specialties, good vegetables and exotic fruits as well as ceramics and nice fabrics.
The second one is a huge popular restaurant. You can buy the famous moles and chapulines (grilled grasshoppers). To be tried !

Left picture : "20 de Noviembre" market

You can also go to the Mercado IV Centenario, attractive because of the variety of the craft and the presence of many fruits and flowers stalls. You can savor many typically Oaxaca dishes in this market. (Calle de Independencia, corner División Oriente).

Indian women weaving Two blocks south from this "20 de Noviembre" market, there is the craft market - mercado de artesanías - corner J.P Garcia and Zaragoza – open daily- 9 AM-8 PM.
123 stores sell the products from different regions of the state, especially in textiles and potteries. There are nice pictures to be taken of the Indian women weaving (right photo). It is a little bit more expensive but of better quality than the two other markets.

The center ARIPO (Organismo Publico Descentralizado Artesanías e Industrias Populares del Estado de Oaxaca), displays a panorama of the craft of the State in a nice colonial mansion. The objects are of good quality. It is expensive too. The center is located north of the Museo Casa de Juárez, Garcia Vigil # 809, open daily 9 AM-8 PM except Sundays 10 AM-1 PM. You can easily export your purchases !

The Association of Craft Women MARO (Mujeres Artesanías de las Regiones de Oaxaca): 5 de mayo # 204, open daily 9 AM-8 PM. There are many local crafts of good quality.

FONART Store : Crespo # 114 – there are nice craft pieces, a little bit expensive - open daily 10 AM-7 PM.

Casa de las Artesanías, Matamoros # 105, corner Garcia Virgil (open 9 AM-9 PM, Mon-Sat and 10 AM-6 PM on Sundays) : this a family association of 80 workshops. It is worth the detour.

The lovers of tianguis need to go to the Mercado de Abastos, a huge market located close to the 2nd class Bus Terminal (market only on Saturdays). The vendors come from the surrounding villages and display blankets, jackets, scarves, tablecloths, ponchos, sarapes, etc... Their wives wear the rebozo, the hand-embroidered Indigenous blouse; they carry everything to sell on their head. The place is also full of children who will try to sell you lottery tickets or jewelry that they make or want to shine your shoes. A firm "no" or a gesture will make them disappear. The goldsmith is a specialty of Oaxaca. Most of the jewelry is excellent copies of Mixtec pieces found in the tombs of Monte Albán. It is a craft market where you can find the craft from the surrounding villages of Oaxaca. If you have no time to visit these villages, this market will be an excellent choice for your purchases.

"20 de Noviembre"market

Left picture : "20 de Noviembre" market

Like every other colonial city, Oaxaca has many old houses with flower patios and small shaded plazas such as the Zócalo. In the center of the Zocalo, there is a music kiosk that makes the public happy on concert days.

If you have time, go to the Teatro Macedonio Alcalá (twentieth century) of French inspiration. It offers dance and theater shows. Visit the State public Library (eighteenth century) and the stamp collecting museum (Museo de Filatelia) in the Centro Cultural Santo Domingo..

The Casa de la Cultura Oaxaqueña organizes a cultural program every month (expositions, dances, music). You can read the information on their blog or on a small monthly edited flyer (it is located González Ortega # 403, corner Colón) :

masks in the Regional Museum



     Right picture : masks in the Regional Museum




Information about the capital :

The history of Oaxaca state :

Map of Oaxaca city :

Map of the state :

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