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l’a travels | oaxaca

l’a travels | oaxaca

travel guide and tip sheet for oaxaca city, mexico. The best restaurants, bars, shopping and design minded places in Oaxaca.

Our city ‘cheat sheets’ are versions of the notes I send to friends when they are going to a city I know and love. x laura aviva

Updated: November 2021


My hands down favorite meal on my most recent trip (and on many more to come, I’m sure) was at LEVADURA DE OLLA. Chef Thalia García prepares ancestral food from the south of the state of Oaxaca. This is unfussy food without any pretention—just straight up delicious. They do various seatings throughout the day—go for breakfast or an early lunch or a late lunch… Just go. It’s a bullseye.

ITANONÍ Casual breakfast and lunch just to the north of the center. They make the best heirloom corn tortillas there on their comal — and use that same heirloom corn to make tetelas and memelitas and tamales and quesadillas and more. The setting has gotten a wee bit more worn down recently, but it’s no reflection on what they are serving.

CASA OAXACA (HOTEL); Really lovely very quiet spot to sit and eat… especially breakfast.

Baked goods: My favorite is PAN CON MADRE—it’s all really delicious. I also think that just about everything at BOULENC bakery is pretty great. (I’m less in love with the adjacent restaurant/patio space than I used to be, especially if there’s a long wait like there so often is now—but the space is really pretty). Inside Boulenc also sit shelves dedicated to the beautiful jarred food stuffs from SUCCULENTA which make great take-home gifts. PAN AM also has really good baked goods, and an open courtyard space

CASA OAXACA, El RESTORANTE Eat/reserve on the roof terrace. Especially great for a Sunday lunch.
CABUCHE A great, easy lunch spot, straight-forward plays on traditional street food.

ALFONSINA sits outside the city, past the airport, in the home/garden of the chef’s mother (who also cooks). They serve a pretty extensive parade of dishes from a 5-course set menu.

20 de NOVIEMBRE (MERCADO) Misc. stalls/booths. And there’s also a passageway (pasillo de humo) where they grill meats to order and set down in front of you at communal tables along with radishes and tortillas and scallions and more, a simple grilled feast.


Alejandro Ruiz’s (Casa Oaxaca) also has two restaurants outside of the center.

OAXACALIFORNIA is seafood-focused and delicious. It’s not in the most charming location (outside the center in a mini-mall), but the space itself is lovely and welcoming.

And newer is PORTOZUELO, which sits on an organic farm that supplies produce to his restaurants and where traditional food is cooked over the fire is served on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in Zimatlán.

casa oaxaca restaurant, best outdoor patio brunch spot in oaxaca, mexico.
CRIOLLO The space is incredibly gorgeous. An ex-Pujol chef. Lunch, dinner, long Sunday lunch…

I really loved CRUDO on my most recent trip (much more than I thought I would). Japanese-inflected dishes incorporating Oaxacan ingredients, all pulled of pretty seamlessly. (The chef’s brother has Criollo, where he also cooked for some years). Omakase, served in set seatings for 5 people at a time.

LA TECA Food from the Isthmus (comida istmeña), in the owner’s home. Lovely outdoor patio space.
EL SON ISTEMEÑO Also food from the Isthmus.
CABUCHE restaurant in oaxaca city, mexico.
EL LECHONCITO DE ORO, on the corner of Libres and Independencia, is the best late night spot for pork-fest tacos (tacos with lechón and chicharron).
THE CART ACROSS THE STREET FROM LA POPULAR is a sure-bet spot for quesadillas and more from afternoon through late night.
DOÑA NORMA sets up camp in front of the Trinidad de las Huertas Church and makes the best memelitas in town on her portable comal.

SELVA is a newish bar from the Los Danzantes crew (it sits tucked away a floor above the restaurant). It’s really beautifully done, with a bit of an elaborate cocktail list.

SABINA SABE Great spot for mezcal sipping and cocktails (with some good bites, as well).

IN SITU MEZCALERÍA The best place to get schooled and sip mezcal… in flights, or in cocktails, or…

MEZCALOTECA Bar, tastings… they bottle their own mezcal (from a bunch of different individual producers that they work with, and then they private label it). There’s a huge range, and the tasting is super informative, perfect for mezcal nerding-out.

LA POPULAR Crowded little spot that’s good to sip a drink and for very basic eats. Musicians some- times walk through, and it’s most fun when a little dance party breaks out.
LA SANTÍSIMA FLOR DE LUPULO For sampling local beers.
20 de NOVIEMBRE and BENITO DE JUÁREZ (inside the city center), ABASTOS (huge and sprawling, outside of the center)

ZAACHILA on Thursdays

OCTOLÁN on Fridays

TLACOLULA on Sundays – this one’s a must. It’s my favorite-ever market.

THE BOTANICAL GARDENS Designed by Francisco Toledo (although this one with a caveat: you used to be able to meander through, which was ideal. They now require you to go with a tour, and it’s looooooong and kind of a drag, truly), and visit SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH which is adjacent.
MACO (The Museum of Contemporary Art)
Also great: LA SEÑORA, an arts space that is the public-facing component of Jess Chrastil’s Pocoapoco residency program, featuring a series of exhibitions/installations and workshops and public programs.
SANTO DOMINGO CHURCH and the Cultural Center of San Pablo.
HIERVE EL AQUA otherworldly calcified waterfalls/hot springs with incredible views - a quick day trip outside of Oaxaca.
THE GRAPHIC ARTS INSTITUTE in oaxaca has a courtyard in the center with Francisco Toledo designed tiles.
SAN JERÓNIMO TLACOCHAHUAYA The super beautiful 16th century church in Tlacochahuaya with walls and ceilings covered in insanely gorgeous floral frescos.
HIERVE EL AGUA Otherworldly calcified waterfalls/hot springs with incredible views.
MONTE ALBAN, MITLA + YAGUL for Zapotec ruins. Monte Alban is the most elaborate, Mitla has great Zapotec carvings, and Yagul you might have all to yourself (and there’s a labyrinth!). If you are ambitious, you can conceivably squeeze in a visit to all three in a few hours.
CENTRO DE ARTES SAN AGUSTÍN (CASA) Dynamic exhibition space and residency program from Francisco Toledo – in San AgustÍn Etla. (There’s also handmade paper ‘factory’ accessible via a hidden stairway and winding path, with a store that’s open first part of the day).
HACIENDA SAN ANTONIO Charmed spot for a mini-escape, a boutique hotel (and spa and temezcal) about 40 minutes outside the center.
TEOTITLÁN DEL VALLE for rugs, and the Zaptoec restaurant TLAMANALLI.

LOS BAÚLES DE JUANA CATA The most beautiful clothing, caftans, etc. – highest quality (with prices to match).

ARIPO is a pretty good bet for one-stop crafty shopping.

MIS MEZCALES for small batch mezcal shopping.

TIENDA Q Locally-vibed (if not locally made) clothing and jewelry-focused boutique (think: lots of dresses from Dosa).
MADDA STUDIO My dear friend Madda has a somewhat secret little spot adjacent to her studio, with a selection of her gorge natural-dyed kaftans and scarfs and pillows and small rugs on offer… And you can set up an appointment to visit by emailing
GUBANI ARTESENALI Really well done colorful plastic wire-coated furniture and accessories.

For an opportunity to dip in to a rural Oaxacan experience in the form of a day (or multi-day) trip, privately or with a small group—and most especially around mezcal—contact my friend Andrea, who has the company MEZCOUTING. She’s lovely and engaging and knowledgeable and connected… Peek at her Instagram (@mezcouting) and message her there, or send her a note at

If you’re arty and attracted to doing a [primarily month-long] residency, check out POCOAPOCO (@pocoapocoapoco), an arts and cultural organization started by Jess Chrastil.

TEOTITLÁN DEL VALLE and Andares Arte Popular are great shops in Oaxaca for something more than a tourist gift.
ESCONDIDO OAXACA New from Grupo Habita, developed by Bosco Sodi (the Mexican artist and developer who is also behind the group’s Hotel Escondido in Puerto Escondido and the adjacent Tadao Ando-designed Casa Wabi). Architect is Alberto Kalach.
EL DIABLO Y LA SANDIA (two locations: BOCA DEL MONTE, and LIBRES) A pair of B&Bs owned by my friend Maria – lovingly restored spaces – homey, friendly. (Boca de Monte is my favorite).
hotels and bed and breakfasts in Oaxaca City.

CASA ANTONIETA 6-room boutique space on the ground floor of a family-owned building next to the textile museum. Beautifully designed spacious rooms and interior courtyard space.

LOS AMANTES From the Los Amantes mezcal people, good-looking in a Mexican Ace Hotel kind-of-way, with a really nice rooftop terrace. But with a BIG CAVEAT – it can be insanely noisy, and must absolutely only book on upper floors.
CASA OAXACA My longtime favorite, it’s an super beautiful space/setting. The rooms could use a bit of touch-up/refresh, but it’s still a really charmed spot.
EL CALLEJON Overall boho-vibe with modern interiors in a great location.
stone onyx and marble wall sonces in neutral colors , black, white, travertine. traditional lighting.

onyx + marble sconces and semi-flush ceiling mounts

handmade black ceramic barro negro table lamps

black clay lighting

glass pendant light cluster with metal brass finishings.

handblown glass lights

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