Tourists flock to Oaxaca for the city’s world-renowned food, colonial architecture and rich historical and cultural traditions. Expats move to Oaxaca for the same reasons, but also for its low cost-of-living and year-round temperate climate.
The cuisine in Oaxaca is celebrated in Mexico and beyond. Known to some as “the land of the seven moles,” it is well-known for the complex mole sauces made with as many as 30 ingredients, many of which include chocolate. Fried grasshoppers with chile, called chapulines, are another signature Oaxacan food. And if you are a chocolate lover, the city has something special for you: hot chocolate like you have never tasted before. In Oaxaca, chocolate flavored with cinnamon, almonds and sugar is warmed in milk and served in a large coffee cup. If you are a foodie, the city has some of the world’s best five-star restaurants in Mexico, most of them relatively affordable.
Oaxaca is also a favored destination for history buffs who enjoy the many local archeological sites, a legacy of the Zapotecs and Mixtecs and other indigenous people. Monte Albán was named a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1987. Oaxaca also has at least 20 historic churches that were built in the 16th and 17th centuries, including the Basilica de la Soledad, which was constructed in 1690.
While Oaxaca is rich in historical sites, they are not the only activity available. The city also hosts many festivals, including the Night of the Radishes, a city tradition that is held each December 23rd. Farmers compete for prizes by showing their skill in carving radishes. The biggest event of the year, though, is the Guelaguetza, a month-long cultural festival that features Oaxacan dance, music and a beauty pageant for indigenous women.
The Zócalo, or Plaza de la Constitución de Oaxaca, is Oaxaca’s main square, a place you can relax with a drink and watch the world go by. The Mercado Benito Juárez is just a few minutes away.
For culture vultures, the Templo de Santo Domingo, which was built in 1555 as a convent and church, is now a cultural center: the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca and botanical garden. Another must-see is the Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca, a regional culture museum that traces the history of the area from ancient times to modern-day Oaxaca.
Of course, Monte Albán, which translates as the “White Mountain,” is the best-known cultural attraction in the area. Very close to the city, it provides visitors with a look into the past Zapotec civilization. Its pyramids, temples and plazas sit 1,300 ft. above the floor of the Oaxaca Valley.