So you decided to spend two days in Oaxaca’s historic capital, Oaxaca de Juárez (Oaxaca City), huh? Great choice, might I say!
That’s wonderful because Oaxaca City rarely ever disappoints its visitor. I mean, how could it?!
Famous for its world-renown gastronomy, centuries-old architecture, and ancient Zapotec ruins, Oaxaca City is delightful to discover.
While 2 days in Oaxaca isn’t nearly enough to fully explore this wondrous city, it’s plenty enough to dive head-first into dishes of mole, shots of artisanal mezcal, and see the 1200+ registered historic sites speckled throughout the city.
And don’t worry—even if you could spend two months in Oaxaca as I did, you still would have a lot of activities left over on your ‘things to do in Oaxaca City’ bucket list!
If you are ready to see the best of Oaxaca City in just two days or in one weekend, I’ve got the perfect, detailed itinerary right here. Read more below and drop me your comments at the end of this post!
How to Spend 2 Days in Oaxaca, Mexico
Before we get into the juicy bits of this 2-day itinerary, here is a brief overview of what you can expect to do and see during your short time in Oaxaca City.
Seeing as 48 hours isn’t that much time (including the time it takes to arrive/depart), I suggest combing through my other Oaxaca travel guides at some point to decide on your activity preferences.
And by that, I mean, do you want to explore Oaxaca’s street art scene, historic sites and museums, or food and spirits?
If you said yes to all three, you’re in luck!
In my itinerary, you will get to see a bit of everything, including the artsy neighborhoods, the archaeological sites, (some) museums, and, of course, the main local markets to immerse in Oaxaca’s incredible food and textile cultures.
Of course, feel free to customize the below itinerary to find what piques your interest the most!
Bookmark these Oaxaca guides for later:
- 🚶♀️ Best DIY Self-Guided Walking Tours of Oaxaca City
- ✨ The 12 Cutest Boutique Hotels in Oaxaca
- 🗺 How to Spend 4–5 Days in Oaxaca City Itinerary
- 🌵 3 Days in Oaxaca City, Mexico (Itinerary)
- 🎒 9 Best Backpacker Hostels in Oaxaca City
Day 1 in Oaxaca: The Centro Histórico
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No matter how much time you have to spend in Oaxaca, it’s always best to start in the heart of the city center.
And in Oaxaca City, the heart is centralized around the Zócalo (main square).
The Zócalo is interesting for its atmosphere and bounty of restaurants, shops, and attractions perched around the square blocks which are easy to reach on foot.
One of the places to visit here is the bustling Alameda de Léon square connected to the main park on its northwest corner.
While you’re here, don’t miss stepping inside the ornate, 16th-century Catedral Metropolitana de Oaxaca.
To see more beautiful, historic buildings, head one block right to see the regal Teatro Macedonio Alcalá. You can simply pass by it to marvel at it or check their Facebook to see if there are any opera or theatre events going on while you’re in town.
From this point, you can make an easy circle to get back to the Zócalo while checking out the historic San Pablo Cultural Center and the free Regional Textiles Museum of Oaxaca.
Local Tip: You can actually cross from Av. de la Independencía street to Miguel Hidalgo street by passing through the cultural center’s colorful, umbrella-strewn plaza. Once on the other end, duck inside Muss Café—one of our favorite cafés in Oaxaca City—for a delicious coffee or lunch break.
From here, head down Miguel Hidalgo toward the Zócalo again.
Once you reach the back of the cathedral, turn right and follow the pedestrian-only street through the heart of Oaxaca’s city center.
If you are on a car-free, cobbled street covered in colorful flags and lined with shops, restaurants, and more on either side, then you’ve made it to the Anador Túristico.
On your way up the Andaor Túristico, there are countless hole-in-the-walls to discover.
From bookstores to cafes to galleries to one of my favorite hidden places to visit—the Atemporal Design Market.
If you enjoy trendy/artsy jewelry, clothes, and crafts (and even fancy gelato), then come here.
Explore at your own pace for the next four blocks north until you reach the Santo Domingo Plaza which opens up to the immense and iconic Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán.
Once you reach Santo Domingo, you will feel pulled in all directions!
Around this big and beautiful plaza are independent art studios, rooftop bars, artisanal boutique stores, swanky restaurants, tattoo shops, and more.
I recommend stepping into a few that attract your eye, but don’t linger too long! Plenty more activities await you on your first day in Oaxaca.
For example, the cathedral itself is a must-visit! While it’s open daily, you will probably have the most luck visiting in the afternoon. So you might need to come back for this.
In contrast, the Jardín Etnobotaníco (Ethnobotanical Garden) which is connected to the back gardens of the temple, one block down, can only be visited during the morning with a tour guide (for English tours, that’s at 10 am, 11 am, or 12pm and costs $100 MXN pesos).
If you don’t decide to do the ethnobotanical garden tour, you can take advantage of your available time and continue visiting the historic center beyond the temple.
More Places to Visit
Beyond the temple, there are a few more points of interest to visit in the vicinity (within a couple of blocks) which you may/may not have time for depending on your schedule.
- The House-Museum of Benito Juárez
- La Cosecha Organic Market
- Aqueducts (Arches) of Xochimilco
- The oldest neighborhood of Oaxaca, Xochimilco
- Mercado Sánchez Pascuas (local food/produce market as featured in a Netflix episode)
You might need to bookmark some of those locations to come back and visit if you have more time on day two.
Speaking of, here’s what your second day in Oaxaca could look like!
Day 2 in Oaxaca: Monte Albán & Jalatlaco
On your first day in Oaxaca, you got to explore the heart of the city center. Now for the second day, I recommend visiting/doing three things:
- Monte Albán — a Zapotec archaeological ruins site
- Markets — including 20 de Noviembre and Benito Juárez
- Jalatlaco — an artsy, old Zapotec neighborhood
If you decide to visit Monte Albán, expect it to take the entire morning (and it’s best to get there early before the sun really comes out).
The archaeological site is well worth your time.
It was once the thriving capital of the Zapotec Indians, but it also saw the tide and influence of the Olmecs and Aztecs before the city was abandoned several centuries ago.
You can read my guide linked above for the full details, but the easiest way to get there is to hop in a DiDi or local taxi. It’s better if you can split the cost with someone.
Otherwise, if you’re on a tight budget, there are local buses.
Since Monte Albán will take up a good chunk of your morning, you can expect to get back to Oaxaca City in time for lunch.
This is when I recommend heading to the 20 de Noviembre market.
Mercado 20 de Noviembre
The local food here is delicious and, if you are a meat-lover, you will especially appreciate the famous, smoky “Meat Aisle.”
For vegans/vegetarians, don’t worry!
There are other things you can eat at the market, and you don’t need to visit the meaty section of the market if you are sensitive to the site or smell of hanging raw meat.
Recommend Oaxaca Food Tours:
- 🦗 Eat Like A Local Authentic Oaxaca Food Tour
- 🌮 2x Oaxaca Markets Street Food Tours by Locals
- 🌽 Earth, Corn & Fire: The Roots of Oaxacan Cuisine
The market is easy to reach on foot from the Zócalo, just head south two blocks.
Across the road from the Mercado 20 de Noviembre is the big and sprawling Benito Juárez Market.
Here, you can find everything from produce to crafts to souvenirs to crispy crickets, and more!
Once you’ve wrapped up at the market, either walk or DiDi to the entrance of the Jalatlaco neighborhood.
In this artsy, old neighborhood you will be enamored with the colorful street art and quaint cafes, restaurants, and independent art galleries/studios that have taken up residence inside the historic converted buildings.
My best advice to end your second day in Oaxaca City is to simply get lost in the maze of Jalatlaco.
There is the cute San Mátias Temple to see, plus a handful of cute shops, studios, and cafes. For yummy food, head to Santa Hierba.
See where Jalatlaco takes you, and then navigate back to your accommodation for the night before you pack up and head out!
While two days in Oaxaca is quite short, this itinerary packs quite a bit into it!
I hope that you’ll get to see and do everything that was on your bucket list. If not, you’ll just have to plan your trip back! Please let me know your thoughts below, and have a safe trip!
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