One Day in Oaxaca: The Ultimate 24-Hour Itinerary for a First Time Visit


How to spend 1 Day in Oaxaca: The Best Itinerary + Where to Stay

You’re planning to spend 1 day in Oaxaca during your trip to Mexico?

Great idea!

In order to help you plan your stay, I have prepared for you the perfect itinerary to visit Oaxaca in one day.

I’m here to guide you through a day packed with culture, history, and local flavors that will leave you enchanted by this vibrant Mexican city.

In addition to the best places to visit and things to do for each stage of your itinerary, I will also give you all my best tips and accommodation suggestions depending on your budget.

So, what are the best things to do in Oaxaca in a day? Where to stay?

Let’s find out!

1 Day in Oaxaca Itinerary

A. Morning at the Church of Santo Domingo

Your journey begins at the Ex-Temple of Santo Domingo complex, a stunning example of Oaxaca’s historical architecture and spiritual heart.

This complex houses the Santo Domingo Temple, the Museum of Cultures, and the Ethnobotanical Garden. You should allot your morning to explore these sites thoroughly.

  • Ethnobotanical Garden: This garden is a testament to Oaxaca’s biodiversity. Each plant has a story tied to Oaxacan culture, from the sacred to the medicinal. The guided tour is a revelation—I was amazed to learn about the uses of plants I’d never even heard of before!
  • Santo Domingo Temple: This is not just a church; it’s an architectural marvel. The gold-leaf interior will leave you breathless, and the tranquil atmosphere invites you to reflect. I always take a moment here to just sit and soak in the serenity.
  • Museum of Cultures: Adjacent to the Santo Domingo Temple, this museum stands as a top highlight for a one-day visit to Oaxaca. You’ll find artifacts spanning centuries, including treasures from Monte Albán. This museum’s blend of history and art is absolutely enthralling, making it, unquestionably, my top museum choice in Oaxaca!

My Advice
Keep in mind that you can only visit the ethnobotanical garden with a guided tour (at 10 am, 11 am and 12 pm) and there are no reservations, so you will have to queue up with enough time.

If you prefer not to wait, fortunately the museum of cultures offers a great view of the garden! 

santo domingo de guzmán oaxaca
Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Oaxaca
The Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca
The Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca

B. Mercado Exploration

After immersing yourself in the cultural depth of the Ex-Temple, walk down the pedestrian street Macedonio Alcala to reach the bustling markets of Oaxaca!

  • Mercado Benito Juárez: From local cheeses to handmade chocolates, and chapulines (insects) if you’re adventurous, this is where you can sample a bit of everything that makes Oaxaca unique. The vendors are friendly and love sharing their knowledge, so don’t hesitate to ask questions. I always make sure to pick up some Oaxacan cheese (quesillo) to bring a taste of my travels back home.
  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre: Right next door to the Benito Juárez Market, the Mercado 20 de Noviembre beckons with its culinary delights. Although, as you’ll see in my next point, I’m an avid advocate for a lunch feast at the Pasillo de Humo, this market also serves up some of the best tlayudas in Oaxaca.

Eating at Mercado 20 de Noviembre
From personal experience, a word to the wise: the portions here are generous, so unless you’re sharing with a couple of friends, it might be a culinary overload to tackle both the sumptuous grilled meats and a tlayuda in one sitting! 😅
tlayuda oaxaca
Tlayuda in Oaxaca

C. Lunch at Pasillo de Humo

When lunchtime beckons, head to the Pasillo de Humo of the 20 de noviembre Market.

The name ‘Pasillo de Humo’, or ‘Hallway of Smoke’, is quite literal and comes alive as you walk through this vibrant section of the market. The air is fragrant with the aroma of meats being grilled over open flames.

Here’s how it works: first, you pick your meats – tasajo (thinly sliced beef), cecina (spiced pork), and chorizo (spicy sausage) are all great choices.

After selecting, you’ll be directed to a shared table where you sit down. It’s here that you order the extras—don’t skip the handmade tortillas and grilled vegetables, they complement the meats perfectly. And for drinks, a local beer or an ‘agua de horchata’ (rice water drink) can be very refreshing.

This place, in my opinion, offers the best eating experience in Oaxaca. It’s not just about the food, which is delicious and offers excellent quality for the price, but it’s also about the atmosphere—it’s buzzing with locals, which is always a good sign.

My Advice
Remember though, it’s a popular spot with limited seating, so arrive early to secure a place.

Depending on the time you arrive, another savvy option is to start with a meal at the Pasillo de Humo before wandering through the vibrant stalls of the markets.

Trust me, it’s worth adjusting your schedule for!

pasillo de humo mercado 20 de noviembre
pasillo de humo mercado 20 de noviembre
Chorizo, cecina and tasajo at Pasillo de Humo, Oaxaca

D. Afternoon in Zócalo and Cathedral Visit

After a filling lunch, make your way to the Zócalo.

This vibrant square is always alive with energy: vendors selling crafts, kids playing around, and locals catching up. It’s framed by the grand cathedral, an impressive sight that adds to the square’s charm.

After you’ve taken in the cathedral’s grandeur, treat yourself to a hot chocolate at El Mayordomo. If you find you still have room, pair it with a pan de cazuela, a chocolate bread that’s my favorite!

zocalo oaxaca
Oaxaca Zocalo
chocolate oaxaca mayordomo
Chocolate at Mayordomo

E. Jalatlaco Neighborhood

In the golden light of the late afternoon, perfect for your one-day itinerary in Oaxaca, a stroll through the Jalatlaco neighborhood is an unmissable experience.

Jalatlaco, characterized by its vividly painted walls and bohemian atmosphere, feels like entering a living artwork. Its cobblestone streets, lined with radiant buildings and street art, create a picturesque paradise for photographers.

Take your time here to explore; the murals tell stories of Oaxaca’s culture and the locals are often seen enjoying the tranquility of the day’s end. It’s easy to see why this quarter is cherished by many—it has a charm that captures the essence of Oaxaca’s artistic soul.

As you walk, each turn offers a new tableau, perfect for those keepsake photos or a quiet moment to simply enjoy the ambiance of one of the city’s most picturesque neighborhoods.


F. Evening at the Bars

With the evening upon you and Oaxaca’s nightlife awakening, it’s the perfect time to dive into the world of mezcal.

The city’s bars, such as Mezcalogia, Sabina Sabe, and La Selva, welcome you with open arms for a night of relaxation and discovery.

Here, you can sample exquisite mezcals, whether you prefer them straight to savor the full experience or in a crafted cocktail.

sabina sabe cocktail oaxaca
Cocktail at Sabina Sabe, Oaxaca

Maximize Your Oaxaca Experience: One-Day Itinerary Map

This map mirrors the itinerary in the article, showing you the best route to see all of Oaxaca’s highlights in one day, as I’ve detailed.

My Best Tips for a Perfect One Day itinerary in Oaxaca

By planning your day in advance and having a clear idea of what you want to see and do, you can ensure a truly fulfilling experience.

Here are my best tips to help you make every moment count and fully enjoy your one-day trip to the vibrant city of Oaxaca:

  1. Start Early: Begin your day early to experience the Ex-Temple of Santo Domingo complex without the crowds. Mornings are quieter and more conducive to appreciating the site’s beauty and tranquility.
  2. Prioritize Must-Sees: With just one day, focus on Oaxaca’s highlights. After Santo Domingo, head straight to the bustling markets for a glimpse into local life and crafts.
  3. Leave the car: find a parking spot, then explore Oaxaca on foot. The city center is walkable, with attractions like the Zócalo and Jalatlaco close by. Skip the traffic and scarce parking—comfortable shoes are all you need to discover Oaxaca’s charms.
  4. Accommodation: Book your accommodation near the city center. This saves time and you’re more likely to catch early openings and beat the lines at popular spots.
  5. Expect the Unexpected: Even with a tight schedule, be flexible for unforeseen delights or delays. Oaxaca is full of surprises, and a serendipitous moment could become the highlight of your visit.

Is 1 day enough to visit Oaxaca?

While one day in Oaxaca gives you a taste of its vibrant culture and beauty, honestly, it’s just not enough to fully embrace all that this region has to offer!

It’s certainly better than not experiencing Oaxaca at all, but I strongly recommend spending more time if possible. With extra days, you can explore the surrounding wonders like Monte Alban, Mitla, the numerous artisan villages, and the breathtaking Hierve el Agua.

Even lingering in Oaxaca City itself, wandering at a leisurely pace, offers a whole different experience.

To help you extend your stay, check out my other itineraries:

And for a comprehensive exploration, don’t miss my Full Guide to the 32 Best Things to Do in Oaxaca!

The archaeological site of Monte Alban

Where to Stay in Oaxaca for a One-Day Visit – Top Hotels for Easy Exploration

  • Andaina Youth Hostel: Located in the heart of Oaxaca, only 300 meters from Santo Domingo Church and 800 meters from the Zocalo. Cozy and colorful dormitory or private room with shared bathroom, from 16 $usd per night, breakfast included. Strong points: the friendly atmosphere, the rooftop terrace, the free activities and tours. This is my choice for a budget-friendly hotel in Oaxaca!
  • Casa Barroco Oaxaca: Elegant room with balcony, just a few steps from the main square in a listed colonial house, with two beautiful patios, from 89 $usd per night. Strong points: the beautiful colonial-style building, the charming garden, the helpful staff.
  • Casa de Sierra Azul: Located in the historic center of Oaxaca, 200 meters from Santo Domingo Church and 600 meters from the Zocalo. Classic and cozy room with private bathroom, from 140$ usd per night. Strong points: the central location, the bicycles available for guests, the free parking, the delicious breakfast.
  • Quinta Real Oaxaca: Located in a former convent from the 16th century, 500 meters from Santo Domingo Church and 700 meters from the Zocalo. Elegant room and romantic atmosphere, from 260 $usd per night. Strong points: the stunning architecture, the outdoor pool, the gourmet restaurant. This is my choice for a luxury stay in Oaxaca!

Rent a car in Mexico

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Oaxaca and make the most of your stay!

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

How to find a cheap flight to Oaxaca

The airport in Oaxaca is also called Xoxocotlán International Airport. This airport receives both domestic and international flights from locations such as Mexico City, Tijuana, Guadalajara, Dallas/Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Cancun, Merida, Guatemala City, and others.

If you want to find a cheap flight to Oaxaca I suggest you use our flight comparison tool in partnership with Skyscanner. It will get you the best deal for sure!

My tip
Once you arrive in Oaxaca, you can rent a car, take a cab, or book an airport transfer to your hotel 
Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

You’re using Pinterest? Here is the picture to pin!

best places to visit in Oaxaca in 1 day


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

Leave A Reply