Travel Guide: Oaxaca
Diego Rivera once said that Mexico was in its markets. That may be the case, but Oaxaca is in its streets and courtyards. Generally speaking most Latin American cities have not been able to retain much of their charm as urbanisation and the 70s and 80s were not kind to them. Not so in Oaxaca. To walk along the streets and drink a coffee in the many courtyards is to be taken back to Nueva España. The colonisation of Latin America was a one way street in favour of the Spanish, but every once in a while you come across gems like Oaxaca that the Spanish left behind.
Mercado de Artesanias - This market is your classic handicraft markets with goods from all over Mexico. Haggle as this is very much a tourist destination.
Mercado Benito Juarez - This was by far my favorite market in Oaxaca. You can get anything from handicrafts to mezcal to chillies here. Take your time and trawl the stalls.
MARO - This is a co-op of female artisans from the Oaxaca region. You can probably get the same things in the markets, but they have a good selection of blouses and huipils which you can try on. Rugs and hammocks are also available.
ARIPO - The Oaxacan Institute of Handicrafts has a selection of high quality handicrafts a cut above what you will find elsewhere. The sales people are also very knowledgeable on the product and can give you detailed explanations of the process as well as the artisans. I bought a huipil here for 500 USD. I know, expensive, but it is a work of art.
Quinta Real - The Mc Daddy of hotels. Housed in a 16th century convent, this is where the Spanish Royals stayed when they came to visit. Very atmospheric. If I were Mexican I would get married here. They have this incredibly hall (for lack of a better word) which looks straight out of a medieval movie set.
Casa Oaxaca - A beautiful boutique hotel. Very nicely decorated, modern clean lines mexican style. Note: Most rooms in colonial houses in Latin America are quite dark. This is the result of the structures being built to remain cool despite the heat. If you are looking for bright airy rooms I am afraid you will have to look for modern hotels.
Pitiona - Allende 108 - Mexican with a modern twist. Chef José Manuel Baños Rodríguez worked at El Bulli in his previous life. Very nice decor as well.
Casa Oaxaca Restaurant - Constitución 104-4 - Beautiful terrace overlooking the main churches. The service was impeccable. The food was of the local variety but with a modern twist. I bought a bottle of the house Mezcal to take home. It was that good.
Catedral - Calle García Vigil 105 - Av. Morelos - Set in a courtyard with red walls, blue plates and fountains you really feel like you are in Mexico. The octopus was incredible.
Gozobi - General Manuel García Vigil 504- Great rooftop terrace for evening drinks.