things to do in oaxaca
15 Best Free Things to Do in Oaxaca City, Mexico

Nestled within the embrace of the southern highlands of Mexico lies Oaxaca City. A cultural haven where history, art, and tradition converge to create a unique tapestry. As travelers seek authentic experiences that go beyond the tourist brochures, Oaxaca City offers a wealth of opportunities for exploration without denting your budget. In this extensive guide, we will delve into the 15 best free things to do in Oaxaca City. Also, it will provide a roadmap for those eager to immerse themselves in the city’s rich cultural heritage.

Best Time to Visit Oaxaca, Mexico

The best time to visit Oaxaca depends on your preferences for weather, events, and activities. Oaxaca City enjoys a temperate climate, but there are distinct seasons that can impact your experience. Here’s a breakdown of the different seasons in Oaxaca to help you decide the best time for your visit:

1. Dry Season (Late October to April):

  • Weather: This period is characterized by warm and dry weather, making it the most popular time to visit. Daytime temperatures are pleasant, ranging from 70°F to 85°F (21°C to 29°C).
  • Activities: Outdoor activities, sightseeing, and cultural events are enjoyable during this time. It’s also the season for Oaxaca’s traditional festivals and celebrations such as Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) in late October and early November.

2. Rainy Season (May to September):

  • Weather: This season brings warmer temperatures and afternoon showers. While daytime temperatures can still be comfortable, humidity increases. Nights are cooler.
  • Activities: The rainy season is a great time for nature lovers, as the landscape becomes lush and green. However, outdoor activities may be interrupted by rain showers. The Guelaguetza Festival, a major cultural event, takes place in July.

3. Shoulder Seasons (May, September, October):

  • Weather: These months mark the transition between the dry and rainy seasons. May can still be relatively dry, while September and October see an increase in rainfall.
  • Activities: While there might be occasional rain, the shoulder seasons offer a balance between the lush landscapes of the rainy season and the more predictable weather of the dry season. Prices for accommodation and flights may also be more favorable during these months.

4. Winter Holidays (December to January):

  • Weather: December and January are part of the dry season, offering pleasant temperatures during the day and cooler nights.
  • Activities: This is a festive time in Oaxaca, with Christmas and New Year celebrations. The city is adorned with lights and decorations, and you can enjoy a mix of cultural events and holiday traditions.

Considering your preferences for weather, cultural events, and outdoor activities, the best time to visit Oaxaca is typically during the dry season from late October to April. However, each season has its own unique charm, so the best time for you depends on your personal interests and priorities.

Free Things to do in Oaxaca

1. Wandering Through the Historic Center:

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Begin your Oaxacan journey by traversing the heart of the city—the Historic Center. This UNESCO World Heritage Site invites visitors to step back in time as they navigate cobblestone streets lined with well-preserved colonial architecture. The vibrant plazas and bustling markets add to the charm, creating a living museum of Oaxacan culture.

2. Zocalo and the Cathedral:

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The beating heart of Oaxaca, the Zocalo, serves as a vibrant gathering place for locals and visitors alike. This main square encapsulates the spirit of the city, surrounded by cafes, shops, and the impressive Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption. Dive into the atmosphere, absorb the energy, and marvel at the architectural grandeur of this 16th-century masterpiece.

3. Visit Santo Domingo Church and Cultural Center:

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While the museum within the Santo Domingo complex may have an entrance fee, the exterior and the outdoor spaces are free for exploration. The intricate Baroque architecture of the church and the serene courtyard provide a glimpse into the historical and cultural richness of Oaxaca.

4. Benito Juarez Market:

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Step into the sensory wonderland of the Benito Juarez Market, a bustling hub of activity where the colors, smells, and sounds of Oaxaca come to life. While it’s a shopper’s paradise, you can relish the lively ambiance without spending a single peso. Engage with local vendors, sample regional delicacies, and witness the dynamic energy of Oaxaca’s market culture.

5. Street Art in Jalatlaco:

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Venture into the neighborhood of Jalatlaco to uncover Oaxaca’s vibrant street art scene. The narrow streets are transformed into an open-air gallery, adorned with murals and graffiti that reflect the city’s artistic spirit and serve as a canvas for political expressions. Explore this dynamic outdoor exhibition that captures the contemporary pulse of Oaxaca.

6. Explore the Andador Macedonio Alcalá:

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The Andador Macedonio Alcalá is a pedestrian street flanked by shops, cafes, and galleries. It invites you to take a leisurely stroll through the heart of Oaxaca City. Immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere, engage with street performers, and explore the myriad craft stores showcasing the artistic prowess of Oaxacan artisans.

7. Cultural Events and Festivals:

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Oaxaca City’s event calendar is a treasure trove of free cultural experiences. From traditional dances in the plazas to music festivals echoing through the streets, immerse yourself in the vibrant cultural tapestry woven by the city’s events and festivals. Whether it’s the captivating Guelaguetza Festival or local celebrations, these events offer an authentic glimpse into Oaxacan traditions.

8. Monte Albán Archaeological Site:

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While the main archaeological site may have an entrance fee, the surrounding hills offer free access to panoramic views of Monte Albán against the picturesque Oaxacan valley. Embark on a hike to designated viewpoints and relish in the ancient beauty that unfolds before your eyes. Also, it provides a unique perspective on Oaxaca’s rich history.

9. Llano Park:

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Escape the urban hustle and bustle at Llano Park, a spacious green oasis nestled in the heart of the city. Ideal for a leisurely picnic or a relaxing afternoon, the park often hosts free events and activities. Often it provides an opportunity to unwind amidst the tranquility of nature.

10. San Felipe del Agua:

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Experience the charm of the suburb of San Felipe del Agua, a haven of tranquility just outside the city. Stroll through quiet streets, visit the local church, and savor the peaceful ambiance of this picturesque neighborhood, offering a delightful contrast to the lively energy of Oaxaca City.

11. Viewpoints at El Fortín:

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For a breathtaking perspective of Oaxaca City, ascend to El Fortín. This elevated vantage point offers panoramic views, allowing you to marvel at the cityscape and surrounding mountains. Whether capturing the essence of Oaxaca in a single photograph or basking in the natural beauty during sunset, El Fortín provides a serene escape.

12. Free Walking Tours:

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Leverage the expertise of local guides who are passionate about sharing the history and culture of Oaxaca City. Free walking tours provide valuable insights into the city’s hidden gems and lesser-known stories, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of the cultural landscape.

13. Laguna de la Soledad:

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Venture beyond the city limits to explore the natural beauty surrounding Oaxaca City at Laguna de la Soledad. This tranquil lake, just a short distance away, offers a serene escape and the opportunity to observe local flora and fauna. Immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of the Oaxacan countryside.

14.Templo de Santo Domingo de Guzmán:

While the museum within the Santo Domingo complex may have an entrance fee, the exterior of the Templo de Santo Domingo is a masterpiece in its own right and can be admired for free. Marvel at the ornate facade, adorned with intricate details and symbolic carvings. The exterior serves as a testament to the craftsmanship of the Oaxacan artisans who contributed to the construction of this historical and religious landmark.

15. Artisan Markets and Workshops:

Dive into Oaxaca’s rich artisan culture by exploring the myriad of markets scattered throughout the city. While purchasing handmade crafts may incur costs, wandering through these markets is an artful experience in itself. Observe artisans at work, carving intricate wooden sculptures, weaving vibrant textiles, and molding traditional pottery. Engage in conversations with the craftsmen, gaining insights into their techniques and the cultural significance behind each piece. Many artisans are more than willing to share their passion, creating a dynamic exchange that goes beyond the transactional.

In conclusion, Oaxaca City, with its kaleidoscope of history, art, and culture, beckons budget-conscious travelers to unlock its charms without compromising their wallets. From the historic center to vibrant markets, serene parks, and panoramic viewpoints, the city offers a diverse range of free activities that capture the essence of this Mexican jewel. So, pack your curiosity, set forth on a journey through the charming streets, and immerse yourself in the cultural treasures of Oaxaca City—all without spending a peso. Whether you’re captivated by the historic architecture, the vibrant street art, or the natural beauty that surrounds the city, Oaxaca invites you to experience its authenticity without breaking the bank.

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