Things to do in Oaxaca

Oaxaca is the culinary capital of Mexico. This historical town (designated a UNESCO World Heritage site) is found in the heart of the country, 6 hours drive or a short flight from the country’s capital, Mexico City. Oaxaca is known for its charming colonial buildings and colourful murals, which depict scenes from the region’s history. We spent a few days discovering the food and culture of the area, tasting street food and local specialities and travelling out of the town to nearby sights and natural wonders.

Oaxaca

To Stay

Quinta Real Oaxaca – Quinta Real hotel is found in the centre of Oaxaca historic town. The atmospheric building has a long and intriguing history, built in 1576 as the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena. We were in a spacious ground floor room, a cool and calm place to rest after a busy day exploring.

Oaxaca

To Eat

Boulenc – The ultimate breakfast spot in Oaxaca. This stylishly rustic bakery has an array of fresh pastries every morning, or if you want something more substantial head to the cafe where they serve a menu of irresistable brunch dishes. We visited twice to get our morning coffee and croissant fix, I can highly recommend pain au chocolat and the hot-cakes (gluten-free pancakes with banana, citrus butter, whipped cream, berry sauce, basil and house granola) from the cafe.

Casa Oaxaca – There are two Casa Oaxaca restaurants in town, both are run by the same company, but I recommend heading to the larger ‘El Restaurante’, not the hotel eatery, as there is more choice and you have beautiful views over the town. Star chef Alejandro Ruiz serves up traditional dishes with a creative twist, we enjoyed the crispy duck tacos, rack of lamb with mole, and the vibrant salsa which the staff make for you at the table.

Pan:Am – This fun, neighbourhood bakery serves all-day brunch and bakes wonderful bread and pastries. We visited one morning for their hearty baked eggs and fresh juice.

Casa Taviche – For a reasonably-priced dinner, head to local restaurant Casa Taviche. The colourful eatery is homely and welcoming and the service is very friendly. At lunchtime it is especially cheap… you can get a three course set lunch for £3. For dinner we had comforting sweetcorn soup and pork ribs with red mole, washed down with homemade lemonade.

Criollo – For a special meal in Oaxaca head to Criollo, by Pujol chef Enrique Olvera, who aims to return to his Mexican roots with this beautiful eatery.  There is no a la carte so you have to opt for the tasting menu, 7 courses for £27. The dining space is minimalist and stylish and the food is exciting and delicious, firmly rooted in the traditions of Oaxacan cuisine.

Oaxaca

To Drink

La Mezcaloteca – This unique bar offers in-depth Mezcal tastings and teachings. La Mezcaloteca is dark and intimate, and the staff’s expertise is immediately obvious. Book ahead and sit at the bar for an hour session trying three hand-picked craft mezcals.

Cafe El Volador – Cafe El Volador is a little speciality cafe that serves the best espresso in Oaxaca. Sit at one of the few tables and soak up the atmosphere while getting your caffeine kick.

Sabina Sabe – Head to Sabina Sabe for delicious cocktails, food and a fun evening. We tried a couple of great cocktails – the Trinidad and Pequeño Gigante – and a strong but alluring Mezcal Old Fashioned. Vegetarian Talyudas and Chicarrones were the ideal accompanying snack.

Oaxaca

To Do

Jardin Etnobotanico de Oaxaca – Located in the centre of town, beside the church of Santo Domingo, this stunning and large garden features plants from Oaxaca state. My favourite was the dramatic alley of cacti. Guests can only visit these beautiful botanic gardens on a guided tour – costing £4 per person. There are English tours on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 11am, and they also run daily tours in Spanish.

Alvarez Bravo Photographic Centre – Born and raised in Mexico City, Manuel Alvarez Bravo (1902-2002) was one of Latin America’s most important 20th Century photographers. This small gallery space exhibits the work of promising current Mexican and international photographers. Entry is free.

Museo Textil de Oaxaca – Get an insight into Mexico’s tradition of textiles at this calm and colourful museum. Entry is free, but be sure to take some money to spend in the great shop.

Oaxaca

To Shop

Colectivo 1050 – This collective of artists and artisans produce handmade ceramics to celebrate Oaxacan pottery in a contemporary style. The pretty shop has a wide range of special and unique items.

Tienda Q – A high-end concept store selling Mexican clothes, accessories and homeware. The collection is carefully curated and beautifully presented. Look out for the amazing set of coloured wax candles.

Miku Meko Atelier – Get lost in this emporium of lovely things. The shop was opened by Alelí Hernández as a place for female artisans to work independently and sell in a group space. Pick up a one-off ceramic piece, exceptional textiles or a handmade gift to take home.

Lanii Gifts – Lanii concept shop is best known for its woven bags, but you can find so much more in this stunning tiled boutique. Set up by three friends – Sara, Michelle and Sophia – Lanii promotes Oaxacan crafts through a range of colours, textures, materials and dyes. I wanted everything in this chic store.

Oaxaca

To Escape

Hierve el Agua – These natural pools and waterfalls are a 90-minute drive from Oaxaca. Surrounded by stunning scenery, it is best experienced early in the morning before the crowds arrive. Swim in the natural pools, and don’t miss a hike up to the viewpoint.

Mitla Archaeological site – Mitla (meaning ‘underworld’ in Zapotec) is one of Mexico’s best known ruins. There are five groups of buildings to see, look out for the rare tiled structures and don’t miss the eerie underground tombs. Tickets cost £3 per person, and tours are available for those who want a more in depth understanding of the ruins.

Gracias a Dios Mezcal factory – Santiago Matatlan (an hour East of Oaxaca) is known as the world capital of Mezcal. There of hundreds of distilleries in the area, but I recommend a tour and tasting at Gracias a Dios. This charming artisan maker is one of the smaller factories and has been run by the same family for four generations. They produce a range of handmade, double-distilled mezcals, that you can see being made and then taste. Our favourite was the award-winning Espadin Reposado, which is aged for four months in American Oak and has woody taste not dissimilar to bourbon whiskey.

Atzompa – This tiny town is known for its green glazed pottery and tiles. Just a 20 minute drive from Oaxaca, we bought a collection of 12 miniature dishes for just £4.

Monte Alban – This famous archaeological site is the historic capital city of Oaxaca. Dating back to the 8th century, this important collection of ruins consists of pyramids, plazas, underground passageways and tombs. Wander round and take in the panoramic views.

Things to do in Mexico City

Mexico City is vibrant in every sense of the word. You can find colour, art, food and culture in rich abundance in every neighborhood, and there is an infectious sense of fun. We spent an action-packed few days museum hopping, admiring giant murals and sampling the unique cuisine, from street stalls to fine dining restaurants. Despite its reputation, we found the city safe and the people friendly, and it is easy to explore on foot or by the efficient taxi/uber system which is conveniently cheap. If you have more time, travel outside of the city where there are plenty of ancient wonders to discover and explore.

Mexico City

To Stay

Nima Local House – This charming boutique hotel is located in the buzzy Roma district. There are just 4 bedrooms, each decorated in a luxurious and eclectic way, with modern amenities and thoughtful touches. The stylish communal spaces are a quiet and calm place to relax if you need a break from sightseeing.

Airbnb art deco flat – If you are looking for something more thifty, there are plenty of beautiful Airbnb flats in Mexico City to suit every budget. We loved our art deco flat in the Santa Maria la Ribera district.

Mexico City

To Eat

Pujol – Often named as Mexico’s best restaurant, chef Enrique Olvera’s Pujol reopened at a spacious new venue in 2017. This dynamic fine-dining restaurant offers a magical insight into the country’s best loved flavours and dishes. Guests enjoy a seasonal tasting menu that includes speciality signatures like the ‘Mole Madre’ which has been aged for over 1,000 days. Earlier this year Olvera opened Molino el Pujol, a small taco shop which gives people the chance to try his inspired cuisine without the high pricetag.

El Moro – Churros is a popular snack that is eaten at any time of the day in Mexico. El Moro is a churros institution in Mexico City, the pretty tiled venue sells super light and sugary churros which is paired with chocolate, Dulce de leche or condensed milk dips.

Contramar –  Contramar is the place to go in Mexico City for super fresh and creative seafood by Gabriela Cámara. Expect to wait in line before getting a seat in the stylish marine eatery. Order the raw tuna tostadas washed down with a beer in a salt rimmed glass.

Taqueria los Cocuyos – Often voted as the best tacos in Mexico City, this street stall is unmissable if you are on a quest to try the finest street food on offer. Wait in line and order several of the 50p beef brisket (Suadero) tacos. Taqueria los Cocuyos also do tongue, eye, tripe and cactus. All the fillings are cooked together in a big pot, so the flavour is wonderfully intense.

Lardo – This Condesa restaurant is very popular with both locals and tourists. The menu focusses on Mediterranean small plates, highlights of our lunch were Burata and Nduja Pizza, Zucchini Flowers, and Toasted Lardo bread with capers.

Neveria Roxy – This iconic retro ice-cream venue has several parlours in Mexico City. The first Neveria Roxy opened in the Condesa district in 1946, with a mission to introduce artisan ice-cream to Mexico City. Don’t miss the two most traditional Mexican flavours ‘Mamey’ and ‘Chico Zapote’, both delicious, unusual and refreshing in the summer heat.

Lalo – Everyone seemed to recommend this quirky brunch spot to us. The eatery is named after the wife of owner and acclaimed chef Eduardo Garcia, and the walls are decorated with colourful drawings by Belgian graffiti artist Bue the Warrior. Visit early for a comforting breakfast of Chilaquiles con huevos and Huevos con Chorizo.

Rosetta – This refined restaurant opened in 2010, housed in a spectacular, foliage-filled townhouse in Roma. Rosetta is renowned for its relaxed Italian by Chef Elena Reygadas. We enjoyed flavoursome homemade pasta dishes, matched with special wines. Skip dessert, and head next door to Helados Cometa for their sensational green tea & raspberry ice-cream.

Panaderia Rosetta – The sister venue of Rosetta restaurant, this bakery is without a doubt the best place to buy pastries in Mexico City. We stocked up on croissants and guava & ricotta rolls from Panaderia Rosetta before embarking on a 6 hour coach journey to Oaxaca.

Mexico City

To Drink

Macchiato at Forte – This hip and relaxed little café serves a range of snacks along with great coffee and tea. The industrial minimalist décor is understated and chic, it is a lovely place to relax after a morning of sightseeing.

Buna 42 – This cute coffee shop in the Condesa neighbourhood serves delicious speciality coffee and appetising brunch dishes. Buna roast their own beans and use a high tech Modbar espresso machine.

Tierra Garat – If you are craving hot chocolate in Mexico City there is one place you need to know about. The Tierra Garat café space aims to be authentically Mexican and the team are obsessive about finding the best quality product. The hot chocolate is thick and indulgent, but for something more refreshing they also make sodas in house.

Licoreria Limantour – Licoreria Limantour has won the title of Latin America’s Best Bar three years in a row, thanks to it’s innovative craft cocktail list. The two-storey art-deco inspired space feels international and exciting. We ordered a couple of drinks -– the Margarita al Pastor and the Mezcal Stalk – which were both tasty and unusual.

Cafe Avellaneda – Most people visit the Coyoacan area to visit Frida Kahlo’s blue house and learn about her legacy, but this charming part of town is also home to many coffee pioneers. Café Avellaneda is tiny, with a quaint facade and only a few seats inside. They roast their own Mexican beans and make wonderfully velvety and intense coffee. The master baristas will pour your coffee however you like it, ensuring you get the perfect caffeine kick. Nearby coffee shops Cafe Negro and Cafe El Jarocho are also worth visiting.

Blom Cafe – This hip coffee shop was one of my favourites in Mexico City. The artistic space serves aromatic and flavoursome coffee and small bites, I loved the avocado & pistachio biscuits. Peek into the bathroom to see the creative mural.

Mexico City

To Do

Casa Estudio Luis Barragan – This former residence of renowned Mexican architect Luis Barragan is a feat of modern architecture, recognised by UNESCO World Heritage for its significant use of colour, light, shadow, form and texture. Book 2 months in advance to avoid disappointment, tickets cost £15 pp plus an extra £20 if you want a photography pass.

Museo Tamayo – An inspiring contemporary art museum located in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park. The museum showcases painter Rufino Tamayo’s own work along with his personal innovative international collection, housed in a magnificent brutalist building.

Cooking class – If you want an insight into Mexican cuisine I highly recommend booking onto this brilliant class with chef Raja. The knowledgeable and friendly chef and his wife offer a fun hands-on class. You will visit the local market to pick up ingredients before returning to their home to make your own Tacos al Pastor.

Frida Kahlo Museum – The vibrant blue house (Casa Azul) where renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo lived is now Mexico City’s most visited museum. Marvel at Frida and husband Diego’s beautiful and unusual possessions and get an intimate insight into their life together. There is also a collection of Frida’s artwork on show as well as a wardrobe of her elaborate dresses and corsets. (Book your ticket in advance to skip the queues). For a further insight into the lives of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera visit the Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, to see their studios.

Lucha Libre – Get an introduction to Mexican wrestling at a Lucha Libre show. These are usually held at the Arena Mexico and tickets cost between £2-20 each. Choose a character to support and join in with the chanting and cheering crowd.

Secretary of Public Education – The grand Secretary of Public Education is home to many fantastic Diego Rivera frescoes. It is free to enter, just show your passport or driving licence to gain access.

Mexico City

To Shop

Lordag & Sondag – Visit the Lordag & Sondag workshop/studio to discover some of the most design-conscious bags and accessories in Mexico. With amazing view of Palacio de Bellas Artes, this hidden gem of a studio is home to a creative team who will guide you round the beautiful array of desirable items. We particularly liked the signature felt canvas backpack.

Que Bo! – Que Bo was started by the young Mexican chef Jose Ramon Castillo. He trained in France before returning to Mexico City to open this chocolate emporium. The artisan chocolates are striking and flavoured with unique and special ingredients like passion fruit and cardamom.

Xinu Perfumes – I instantly fell in love with Xinu Perfumes’ shop and story. This high-end niche perfume brand has made four powerful and particular fragrances inspired by key Mexican ingredients like Mezcal and vanilla. The discreet shop is a magical museum and the bottles of perfume are works of art.

Balmoria – This local Mexican skincare brand is found in many of Mexico City’s best hotels and restaurants. Balmoria products are attractively packaged, nourishing for the skin and filled with delicious ingredients… I couldn’t resist buying a couple of products to make my flat in London smell of Mexico.

IKAL Concept Store – This concept store is located in the smart Polanco part of town. The shop floor has a clean and ordered aesthetic featuring a range of Mexico’s most inspiring and interesting local designers. I loved the collection of Yakampot clothing, particularly the ornate cotton crop tops.

Mexico City

To Escape

Pyramid of the Sun – This incredible cultural site is just an hour outside of Mexico City and makes for a great day trip. The Pyramid of the Sun and Pyramid of the Moon at Teotihuacan were built in about 200 CE by the Aztecs, an important site within the within the Teotihuacan society. Although none of the paintings remain today, visitors can climb the pyramids that offer panoramic views of the beautiful surrounding area. Either book onto a tour or take a taxi to explore solo, which we found easy and unrestrictive.

Become an Airbnb Host

My husband and I bought our first flat together three years ago… a small but characterful home on the outskirts of Peckham. We were pleased to find a two-bed we could just afford in a unique white art-deco block of flats. At the time the second bedroom felt like an added bonus, perfect for additional storage, or to be used as a small office perhaps.

Airbnb

We both travel a lot and use Airbnb often when we are staying in a city abroad. After so many positive experiences as a guest in other people’s homes, we considered the role of hosting for our second bedroom. I was pessimistic about the set-up process but it couldn’t have been simpler, uploading a few nice photos and adding in essential details. It is easy to add in preferences dependant on your needs… strict or lenient cancellation policy, instant booking or not, singles or couples… it is totally up to you so you only get guests that suit your property and your lifestyle.

Airbnb

We set the availability dates and within hours we had our first enquiry! A chef from Ireland was coming to work at one of London’s top restaurants for a month and needed a place to stay. We checked his previous reviews and had a brief conversation about his trip to London. He seemed very similar to us in age, interests and living style. We pressed accept, tidied the spare bedroom and awaited his arrival.

Airbnb

Before our Airbnb guest arrived I ensured everything was ready to go and clean in the bedroom – fresh sheets, new towels, plenty of hangers in the cupboard for clothes. To make his stay more comfortable I placed a small vase of flowers on the bedside table and offered a small travel set of toiletries that I had picked up on my travels. A few days later our guest arrived. After showing him around the flat we chatted a bit about our favourite places to eat in London… me being a food writer and him a chef, we had a lot in common! The next few weeks passed in a flash, he was a conscientious and quiet guest. Very hard-working and sociable, he was rarely in the flat and was exceptionally quiet the rest of the time. It was a very easy pot of money to make!

Airbnb

I have now hosted several guests from all over the world in my spare bedroom and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is very fulfilling to use an empty room that would otherwise be left unused and to give likeminded people an affordable place to stay in London. Best of all it gives my husband and I a bit of extra cash over the summer period. We have set-up a new account for our airbnb earnings and have agreed to use the money we collect on home improvements… starting with new tiles in the bathroom and velvet curtains for our bedroom!

Airbnb

If you are considering becoming an airbnb host I urge you to take the plunge and give it a go… anything you are worried about can be answered on the website. Most importantly you will always be in control of choosing who your guests are… so you only have guests staying you feel happy with.

More information on becoming an Airbnb host here.

This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Airbnb.