Oaxaca is one of Mexico's most treasured cities with both a thriving creative and culinary scene. This colonial city its filled with baroque churches, lush courtyards, a bustling city center of Z?calo and some of the best craft markets in Mexico. Come along with me as I sample the best of what this charming city has to offer!
The delicate smell, understated and cool architecture, and boho boutiques of Oaxaca gave me a unique sense of peace and excitement -- I immediately knew I was in a special place. The bustling food stalls and quirky art galleries were casually scattered throughout the alleys. The imposing Baroque churches, lush courtyards, and tree-lined plazas perfect for people watching were all alluring.
I started my day with a caf? con leche, pan de yema (sweet egg bread) and Oaxaca?s famous hot chocolate in the busy Z?calo Square, where I took in the scene of street vendors and touts selling everything from balloons to antique dolls. Tourists and locals alike strolled hand in hand seeming just as mesmerized with the Z?calo as I was.
I walked downtown to Mercado de las Artesanias, an artisan market where you can find local crafts like textiles, tapetes (wool rugs), pottery, alebrijes (hand carved and painted wooden figures). I weaved in and out of the captivating handcrafted gems filling this market to the brim. Next up was Galeria Fe y Lola, where husband and wife team Federico Chavez Sosa and Dolores Santiago Arrellanas of Teotitlan del Valle use only natural dyes to color their beautiful selection of wool rugs.
Mercado de las Artesanias: J.P. Garcia, Oaxaca, Mexico. Galeria Fe y Lola: (951) 524 4078, Av. Cinco de Mayo #408, Oaxaca Centro Historico, cellular 044 (951) 243 1657. Usually open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily except Sunday.
I knew I had to see the "Big Tree", so I took a car to El Arbol Del Tule, a huge tree located in the church grounds in the town center of Santa Mar?a del Tule. This tree trunk is the stoutest trunk of any tree in the world ? it has a circumference of 137.8 ft (42 m)!
I returned back to Oaxaca and walked downtown to Mercado 20 de Noviembre, the culinary heart of the city. Surrounded by the chaos and the family-run food stalls, I sat on a short stool and ate chicken mole at a long table with other locals and tourists. It didn?t stop there ? I snacked on chilaquiles with guajillo, omelets with huitlacoche, and mole empanadas.
Next, I wanted a post-lunch cocktail ? and there was no other place to look than Mexico?s favorite liquor, Mezcal. I visited a pelanques (mezcal distillery) to get a glimpse on how this smoky beverage is made. La Mezcaloteca is run by a pair of chic Mexico City expats -- this signless speakeasy-style mezcal bar is the perfect way to unwind in the late Oaxacan afternoon. My favorite flavors are the coffee and pineapple, and they say the Mezcal with the worm in the bottom has the best flavor. I had to try it, it was delicious!
Reforma No. 506, Col. Centro, Oaxaca de Ju?rez, Oaxaca, Tel.: (52) 01 951 5140082.
After returning to my hotel to freshen up and relax, it was finally bike riding time. Every weekend, the city hosts a vibrant night bike ride ? police block off the streets and hundreds of local bike riders pour through the city blowing whistles and cheering. The streets can be hilly, so while it?s not the most leisurely bike ride, it is a must-have experience.
To finish up the day, I had a long, late dinner at Maria Bonita, an intimate local restaurant with an extensive traditional Oaxacan menu. The walls are filled with exaggerated artwork and the clientele is particularly favorable of the soup to start, with many tables sipping on sopa X?chitl (squash, squash blossom and sweet corn).
Maria Bonita: Calle Macedonio Alcal? 706 B, Centro, 68000 Oaxaca, Mexico, +52 951 516 7233