Whether you are seeking to be in the center of the action or away from the crowds, we’ve listed the best places to stay in Oaxaca along with suggested sights, eats, and excursions.
Situated in the Central Valley region of Southern Mexico, Oaxaca is a bright and bustling metropolitan that continues to honor its history and heritage going back thousands of years.
Both the city of Oaxaca and its encompassing valley are designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with plenty for travelers to see and do during their visit.
Oaxaca is an ideal walking city, and many of its most vibrant neighborhoods are located within a short distance of one another. Bring comfortable shoes and have your camera ready!
From the lively cultural center of Zócalo to the quieter, more residential barrios Xochimilico and Jalatlaco, here is everything you need to know about finding the best areas to stay in Oaxaca, and all they have to offer.
Where to stay in Oaxaca: 9 best areas
1. Centro-Zócalo, where to stay in Oaxaca for first time
Formally called Plaza de la Constitución de Oaxaca but more often referred to as Centro-Zócalo, this is the central heart of the city and one of the best places to stay in Oaxaca, especially for newcomers.
Not only is Zócalo a wonder of 18th century architecture and lively gathering place for shopping, socializing, dining, and relaxing, but a helpful point of reference for travelers still finding their feet in the city.
Centro-Zócalo is punctuated by the Palacio de Gobierno or State Government Palace to the south and majestic Cathedral of Oaxaca or Catedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción to the north.
The main square is dotted with cafes, restaurants, and local shops interwoven with shady trees and portales, making it a prime locale for cooling off and people-watching.
By night the plaza fills with lights, live music, vendors, and social gatherings, and guests are invited to enjoy the nightlife like a true local.
The smaller connecting Alameda de Leon Plaza is a pleasant place to enjoy a coffee, browse the clothing stalls, and take in a street performance (you will no doubt recognize it by the monument dedicated to General Don Antonio de Leon).
For visitors looking to get outside the city for the day, there are quite a few day tours that depart from Centro-Zócalo.
One notable excursion takes guests to Monte Alban or White Mountain, the ancient Zapotec capital and celebrated archaeological site offering unforgettable views of the landscape.
Due to its enviable location and accessibility, there are a number of hotels, hostels, and private apartment rentals to choose from in the Centro-Zócalo area.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN CENTRO – ZOCALO
2. Santo Domingo, where to stay in Oaxaca for nightlife
Comprised of the northern half of the Centro district, Santo Domingo is an idyllic page out of time.
Famed for its cobblestone streets, baroque architecture, and plethora of not-to-be-missed historic sites, Santo Domingo is a not-to-be-missed sojourn during your stay in Oaxaca.
Guests are encouraged to stroll at their leisure through the grounds of the Oaxaca botanical gardens, which are devoted to the preservation and exhibition of native plant life.
The gardens are ideal for relaxing, picnicking, and enjoying a bit of shade, and conveniently located in close proximity to other attractions.
The Temple De Santo Domingo is a gem of the region, drawing thousands of visitors each year from all over the world. This Baroque complex was constructed in 1552 over the grounds of the former convent.
Guests can explore the decadent interior, as well, as the cloisters, courtyards, and monastic quarters, with the attached Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca (or Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca) located inside the former 17th century monastery.
The walk between Centro-Zócalo and Santo Domingo is peppered with museums and points of interest, with the excursion a treat unto itself thanks to the collection of galleries and local artisan shops along the route.
The Graphic Arts Institute of Oaxaca and MACO Museum of Contemporary Art are recommended stops, as well as the Museum of Pre-Hispanic Art, Museo de Los Pintores Oaxaqueños, and Museo De La Filatelia Mufi.
Located behind the Plaza de la Danza to the west, the Basílica de Nuestra Señora de la Soledad is a must for lovers of both history and architecture.
Built in the 17th century, the elegant structure is a wonder to behold, and just a short walk from Socrates Garden.
Due to its central proximity to the best in dining, nightlife, and shopping, there are a number of lodging options available in Santo Domingo, from private guesthouses to luxury hotels, as well as more budget-friendly hostels.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN OAXACA IN SANTO DOMINGO
- ($$$) Quinta Real Oaxaca
- ($$) Holiday Inn Express Oaxaca – Centro Historico, an IHG Hotel
- ($) Yabanhi Hostel
3. Jalatlaco, cool neighborhood to stay in Oaxaca
A modest barrio formerly inhabited by the region’s pre-hispanic tribes, Jalatlaco has since earned a well-deserved place of honor among the most recommended places to stay in Oaxaca.
Located just 20 blocks from Zocalo, Jalatlaco is both a place out of time and absolutely of the moment. With its winding cobblestone streets and colorful buildings, Jalatlaco has retained much of its Colonial heritage.
Don’t be fooled by the serenity of the neighborhood however, as there are plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants to enjoy.
Jalatlaco’s culinary scene is legendary in the foodie world, with some of the best traditional Oaxacan cuisine and street food to be found in the city.
The Temple of San Matías Jalatlaco is a special attraction, believed to have been constructed in the early 17th century although a finite date has yet to be established.
The church is simple in style, containing only a single nave with neither a dome nor typical cross-pattern. The church additionally contains a bell tower featuring the work of indigenous artisans.
Due to its growing popularity among tourists, Jalatlaco has a number of boutique hotels, hostels, and picturesque guesthouses to choose from. If you’re looking to lodge where some of the best eats can be found, look no farther than Jalatlaco.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN JALATLACO
4. Xochimilco, where to stay in Oaxaca´s oldest neighborhood
Located just north of Centro-Zócalo (about a 20 minute walk), Xochimilco is the city of Oaxaca’s oldest neighborhood.
This quiet area has maintained much of its colonial era allure, with foot traffic frequently passing beneath an historic 18th aqueduct that is also a beautiful spot to picnic and rest.
Visitors are encouraged to explore Xochimilco’s local cemeteries, craft studios, and handful of art galleries, as well as stop by one of the traditional restaurants and bars for a true taste of the region.
Xochimilco additionally boasts some of the city’s most spectacular street art, and will surely provide for some spectacular photography.
Due to its growing tourist appeal and convenient proximity to Centro, Xochimilco has seen a number of boutique hotels and private rentals pop up in recent years.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN XOCHIMILCO
5. Reforma, where to stay in Oaxaca for shopping
Younger than historic Oaxaca, the sprawling neighborhood of Reforma is where you will find an abundance of restaurants, bars, boutiques, galleries, and specialty shops dedicated to everything from wine to local wares.
While Reforma may not feel like traditional Oaxaca by way of architecture or prominent historic sites, its size and sophisticated bustle make it a welcome draw for visitors and locals seeking a more global vibe.
Only a short walk and even shorter taxi ride from the more familiar areas of Centro and Santo Domingo, Reforma may be worth a few hours of your stay in Oaxaca, especially for shopaholics!
Due to its international appeal and consumer convenience, many travelers prefer to seek lodging in Reforma during their stay in Oaxaca, and can find plenty of hotels, hostels, and private rentals in the area.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN OAXACA IN REFORMA
- ($$) Villa Santa Julia Hotel Boutique
- ($$) Casa los Cantaros Hotel Boutique
- ($) Hostel Frida Bed & Breakfast
6. Santa Maria del Marquesado, outdoor-friendly setting and science-minded attractions
Located northwest of Centro-Zócalo and running along the southwest side of the Estatal Cerro del Fortín ecological park, the residential suburb of Santa Maria del Marquesado is primarily known for its outdoor-friendly setting and science-minded attractions.
Boasting a sweeping park featuring a planetarium, observatory, and countless trails ascending a wooded hill offering some of the best views of the city.
Santa Maria del Marquesado is an idyllic spot for families, hikers, and those who prefer to stay away from the crowds.
Santa Maria del Marquesado contains an array of residential shops, restaurants, and cafes, as well as an assortment of budget-friendly hotels.
Guests seeking a more peaceful environment with plenty to do and see outdoors will no doubt feel at home in the neighborhood.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SANTA MARIA DEL MARQUESADO
7. La Noria, where to stay in Oaxaca for families
Guests looking for a central but relatively quiet neighborhood should look no further than La Noria, which is less than 15 minutes by foot from Zócalo but a world apart in its own right.
Catering largely to its residents, La Noria is home to some of the best family-owned restaurants and shops in the area, as well as a series of markets including Mercado de Artesanías de Oaxaca, Mercado 20 de Noviembre, and Benito Juárez.
Foodies and lovers of local crafts won’t want to miss the opportunity to stroll, taste, and learn more about Oaxaca’s rich culture at one (or all!) of La Noria’s famed markets.
With multiple types of cuisine and dining choices available, travelling families or parties with picky eaters may find La Noria especially appealing, and you won’t find a better barrio for seafood.
Thanks to its convenient location but calmer pace, La Noria is ideal for families, with a number of hostels, hotels, and holiday rentals to ensure the most comfortable stay in Oaxaca.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN OAXACA IN LA NORIA
8. Universidad, the University district
The university district covers much of the south from Centro, and is itself comprised of several smaller communities.
While the university campus covers much of the area, Universidad, like many college neighborhoods, has its fair share of eating and shopping options, as well as museums and student attractions.
The university frequently hosts exhibits and events that are free to attend, and the campus grounds offer a pleasant reprieve from the crowds.
Due to its proximity to the city center and attractions but relative removed from the noise and tourist traffic, Universidad is quickly joining the list of recommended places to stay in Oaxaca, particularly for families and travelers on a budget.
Despite its proximity to Centro, lodgings are typically on the less expensive side in the Universidad area.
There are a number of hotels located to the north, bordering Centro, which provide optimum comfort and convenience for those on a limited time frame or budget.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN UNIVERSIDAD
9. San Agustin de las Juntas, where to stay in Oaxaca near the Airport
Located beside the Oaxaca International airport, San Agustin de la Juntas is a small residential town and frequent lodging choice for visitors wishing to stay close to the airport terminal during their stay in Oaxaca.
San Agustin de las Juntas directly connects to downtown Oaxaca via Route 175, and is just minutes by car or cab.
The town serves mostly locals rather than tourists, though guests may find the selection of restaurants, bars, and shops a welcome chance to enjoy a bit of local suburbia.
Visitors to or those staying in San Agustin de las Juntas have the view of the Atoyac River and a sprawling park just on the other bank, with a small wooded area perfect for relaxing and picnicking in.
Lodgings in San Agustin de las Juntas are fairly standard, with modest amenities and pricing, while the more luxury or mainstream hotels can be found closer to the Oaxaca International Airport itself.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SAN AGUSTIN DE LAS JUNTAS
Traveler’s Tips to stay in Oaxaca: Know Before You Go
Although it boasts an efficient bus and taxi system, Oaxaca is an ideal walking city, with most of the popular tourist areas and points of interest within a 15-20 walk.
If you don’t mind a bit of a stroll, walking to your destinations throughout Oaxaca is sure to reveal some of the city’s hidden gems and local insights.
Oaxaca hosts many time-honored arts & cultural festivals throughout the year, and guests are encouraged to book accordingly if possible to take full advantage of the incredible festivities. These include:
- The Guelaguentza Festival (last two Mondays in July)
- The Oaxaca Film Festival (October)
- The Day of the Dead or festival of Dia de los Muertos (October 31st – November 2nd)
- The Night of The Radishes (December 23)