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Neighborhood — North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico, Oaxaca City, Oaxaca

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Even though the streets north of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo are part of the Centro, a short ten-minute walk from the Zócalo, their ambiance is slower and quieter, offering a convenient respite, if needed, from the more hurried and noisy downtown. And even though there is little here in the way of tourist attractions, it is a good place for walking, taking in the rhythm of the city, wandering among the remnants of the 18th-century stone aqueduct and the surrounding cobblestone streets, strolling beneath the high, broad-canopied trees of El Llano and Conzatti parks, people watching, or maybe just sitting next to one the parks’ fountains and lazing away the afternoon with a good book, before rallying for a late lunch in one of the many fine cafés and restaurants nearby.

And yet, why stop there? May as well follow the aqueduct north across the busy four-lane Niños Heroes into the peaceful Barrio de Xochimilco, ambling along its cobblestone streets, listening to the rhythmic thumping of the handlooms as the weavers labor; or head east, instead, into the Barrio de Jalatlaco, walking along its narrow, cobblestone streets, potholed and rutted, lined with low-slung colonial buildings, before turning north into the quiet, middle-class Colonia Reforma, its streets lined with a mishmash of nondescript modern homes, shops, and office buildings, bringing the mind into the present, capturing glimpses of ordinary moments of day-to-day life in the city.


NotesPickCheckMark.png 100% Natural   Vegetarian     $$-$$$     (H)
It' hard enough to find a decent health food restaurant back home, much less while traveling abroad. This place, even though it's a national chain, is an exception, modeling its entrées, appetizers, and drinks after Western-styled health food, and pulling it all off. Though mostly vegetarian, the menu does have some meat and seafood dishes on it, so vegetarians should be careful when ordering, and don't hesitate to request substitutes.

For breakfast, try a stack of the excellent multigrain hotcakes, a real bargain at 55 pesos. Be sure to specify miel de maple, though; otherwise, a jar of honey just may materialize on the table instead. After that, for comida or dinner, there's long list of familiar entrées to choose from. For specifics, check the menu online.

  • Dr. Liceaga 115, across the street south side of El Llano Park;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  daily 7 am - 11 pm;  Mex$50 - 200;  Most major credit cards;  phone 951-132-4343;  www.100natural.com.mx.  

Marco Polo   Seafood Restaurant     $-$$$     (D)
There are two Marco Polo restaurants in the city, one set in the historic center of the city, the Centro Histórico, across the street from El Llano park, where patrons dine in a large garden overflowing with ferns and other tropical plants, the second restaurant, with similarly lush outdoor dining, located in the middle-class Reforma neighborhood, about a thirty minute walk north of the Zócalo. Open for breakfast and comida only, both locations bake and grill some of the finest seafood in the city, drawing in a steady stream of customers throughout the day. The comida specials always feature a fresh fish of the day, usually red snapper, baked outdoors in wood-fired adobe brick ovens. In addition to seafood, the menu has some traditional Oaxacan dishes, including (budget travelers take note) breakfast specials for 49 pesos, which come with unlimited refills of coffee and, if requested, a basket full of warm, filling corn tortillas.

  • Pino Suárez 806, across the street from El Llano park;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Daily 8 a.m. - 6:30 p.m.,  closed Tue;  MX$49 - 200;  Most major credit cards;  phone 951-513-4308;  www.cocinadelmar.com;  tocagz@yahoo.com.mx.  

El Escapularío Restaurant   Oaxacan Restaurant     $-$$     (C)
From its second-story perch in a weary-looking old colonial building, this Centro Histórico Oaxacan serves up large portions of authentic Oaxacan food for a mere pittance. For breakfast, the regional egg dishes are an especially good deal, with most costing less than 50 pesos. As for comida and dinner, the specialties of the house, large plates of rich, spicy moles poured over pollo or some other carne, are fine, inexpensive choices as well. And, of course, everything comes with a basket full of warm corn tortillas. This is also a good place to try chapulines for the first time, the tiny red grasshoppers that are a local delicacy. A word of advice, however: Drowning the crunchy critters in a thick mole sauce will help make them go down easier.

  • García Vigil 617, corner Quetzalcoatl;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Daily 8 a.m. - 10 p.m.;  MX$35 - 110;  phone 951-516-4687.  

La Casa del Tío Güero   Oaxacan Restaurant, Vegetarian, Cooking Classes     $$-$$$     (B)
With an eclectic interior aesthetic bordering on kitschy, this place serves mostly traditional Oaxacan grub, as well as a decent selection of vegetarian entrées. The chef also offers weekly cooking classes for MX$400. Call or stop by to reserve a spot in class.

  • García Vigil 715, one block north of Quetzalcoatl;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Sat 7:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.,  Sun 8 - 5 p.m.;  MX$50 - 120;  phone 951-516-9584.  

María Bonita   Oaxacan Restaurant     $$-$$$     (A)
Perhaps it is the dining room, airy and bright, filled with natural light, the floors tiled and polished, immaculate, the white walls adorned with colorful paintings, creating a feeling of lightness. Or maybe it's just the cooks doing more with less. But this place somehow manages to create lighter versions of traditionally heavy Oaxacan classics without compromising on flavor.

  • Alcalá 706-B, southeast corner of Alcalá & Humboldt;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Sat 8:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.,  closed Sun;  MX$60 - 120;  Most major credit cards;  phone 951-516-7233.  

Cocina Económica Isabel   Oaxacan Restaurant     $-$$     (E)
In an interior patio lined with red bricks and overflowing with tropical plants, Cocina Económica Isabel serves up large portions of traditional Oaxacan food for next to nothing, making it a dream come true for budget travelers. For the best deals, stick with the multi-course económica breakfast (8:30 a.m. - 1 p.m., 35 pesos) or the afternoon comida corrida (1 - 5 p.m., 50 pesos). Be sure to ask for a basket full of warm, filling corn tortillas; otherwise, you may end up with white bread and margarine as a side.

  • Cosijoeza 200, east of Los Libres;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Sat 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.,  closed Sun;  MX$35 - 70;  phone 951-515-5210.  

Café Arabia   Café     $-$$     (K)
Cooled in the afternoon by the spillover shade from Conzatti Park, this neighborhood café, with its starkly modern interior, is yet another place in the Centro churning out a fine cup of brew. In the kitchen they like to mix it up, serving standard Oaxacan breakfasts, as well as some travel favorites, such as waffles, croissants, muffins, baguette sandwiches, and salads.

  • Corner of Reforma and Jacobo Dalevuelta;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Sat 8:30 a.m. - 10 p.m.,  closed Sun;  Mex$40 - 100;  phone 951-515-9886.  

Casa del Ángel   Vegetarian Restaurant, Yoga     $-$$     (C)
Located in the rear of the building, the studio offers yoga classes daily except for Sundays, along with meditation, dance, and tai chi on selected days. The full schedule of classes is posted online. Up front, in the quiet courtyard, the tiny café serves from a rotating menu of Indian, Méxican, and European cuisines, depending on the day. Everything is all natural and vegetarian, of course.

  • Jacobo Dalevuelta 200, just east of Reforma;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Café open Mon - Fri 9 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.;  MX$40 - 100;  phone 951-518-7167;  www.casadelangel.com.mx.  

Mandala   Teahouse     $     (G)
Xólotl is the wide, traffic-free pedestrian street connecting Alcalá and García Vigil.

  • Xólotl 118, corner Félix Díaz;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Daily 8 a.m. - noon,  5 - 9 p.m.;  MX$12 - 40.  

Pizza Rústica   Italian Restaurant, Pizza     $$-$$$     (R)
There are three Rústicas in town — one named La Rústica, and the other two Pizza Rústica. They all serve from the same menu and charge the same prices. Of the three, however, La Rústica has by far the best cooking and service, along with the more refined dining.

Conveniently located in the Centro Histórico, at the intersection of Murguía and Alcalá, La Rústica is housed in a beautiful old building, its front entrance opening to a spacious vestibule, two stories high, upstairs the dining room, its ceiling held high by arches, Italian opera softly playing in the background, evoking the Italy of old. The best seats in the house are the balcony-front tables with views of cobblestone Alcalá below, though they accommodate only two. As expected, the waiters are attentive, but not overly so. And yet, even though this place has all the makings of fine dining, the kitchen somehow manages to muck it up with uninspired, but still edible, pastas and pizzas — which, come to think of it, more or less describes the culinary accomplishments of all the Italian restaurants in the city. One last point: the wine list of mostly Italian and Spanish vintages is sparse, but at least there is one.

As for the two Pizza Rústicas, one is in the middle-class Reforma neighborhood, about a thirty minute walk north of the Zócalo, and the other one, just like La Rústica, is on Alcalá in the Centro Histórico, though a couple of blocks north of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo. The Reforma Rústica, with its hand-made wooden furniture and low-slung Spanish tile roof, has a downscale, rustic Mediterranean vibe to it. The cooking, however, falls short of even La Rústica, although anyone who happens to be in the neighborhood and is jonesing for a slice, or even a whole pie, should have no compunction about dropping in. The same cannot be said for the Rústica north of the Iglesia de Santo Domingo, because even though the cooking is more or less the same, the dining area is hot and stuffy and generally unpleasant. So, except for quick slice para llevar, it is best to steer clear of this one, especially with La Rústica a short five minute walk away.

  • Alcalá 803, half-block north of Humbolt;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Sat 1 - 10:30 p.m.,  closed Sun;  MX$90 - 200;  Most major credit cards.  

Trastévere   Italian Restaurant, Pizza, Wine     $$$-$$$$     (F)

  • Díaz Quintas 117, corner Margarita Maza;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Daily 1 - 11 p.m.;  MX$100- 200;  Most major credit cards;  phone 951-512-9252;  Reservations recommended.  



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NotesPickCheckMark.png Los Arquitos   Colonial Stone Aqueduct     (A)
In the early 1500s, the first Spanish settlers, needing a reliable source of water, tapped the ample spring at the base of the mountains to the north, now the suburb of San Felipe del Agua, and channeled the water to the city in a crude canal. In mid-1700s, the city replaced the canal with a more permanent stone aqueduct, known as Los Arquitos. The aqueduct supplied water to the city until 1941, when steel pipes were laid to replace it.

Today, long strips of the aqueduct remain wholly intact, along with shorter, partial fragments. The most impressive surviving strip begins three blocks northwest of the Santo Domingo Church, running north along cobblestone García Vigil Street (which turns into Rufino Tamayo) for about three hundred meters, and ends abruptly at the busy six-lane Niños Heroes highway. Here, the aqueduct is a series of arches facing east, hence the name Los Arquitos, its channel inlaid along the top of the arches, well overhead and not easily seen.

Across Niños Heroes lies the tranquil Barrio de Xocomilco, its streets filled with the thumping of wooden handlooms — the rhythmic sounds of weavers working. Here, other, smaller fragments of the aqueduct have survived, mostly for about a kilometer along quiet cobblestone José López Alavés Street (due north of Rufino Tamayo), including the northernmost fragment in the barrio, an intact piece of the aqueduct spanning the Jalatlaco River, held up by a series of arches.

Continuing north along José López Alavés, that’s it for the next kilometer or so until the street ends where Porfirio Díaz turns into the main road to San Felipe del Agua. From there, for the next couple of kilometers, long, intact strips of the aqueduct line the road to San Felipe del Agua, ending just south of the San Felipe Apóstol Church.

  • Southernmost remnant begins on García Vigil, a half-block north of Humboldt;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico.  

Templo de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio   Colonial Church     (M)
The exact origin of this church is a mystery. Historical sleuths date its construction at the end of the 18th century, their best clue a nearby church drawn on a map of the city dated between 1794 and 1797. That church no longer exists — it was likely destroyed in an earthquake in 1795. But another map dated 1803 has the present church on it, the thinking being the destroyed church was rebuilt at this location.

From the 1850s on, the church’s had a rough go of it — it’s been renovated, expropriated, renovated again, hammered twice by major earthquakes, and then abandoned for about fifty years, until finally it was restored to its current condition, which is still pretty dilapidated. Today, it sits across the street from El Llano park, looking hapless, the southern tower missing its belfry, mangled wrought iron left in its place, as if something immense had reached out and ripped it from its moorings.

  • Pino Suárez, corner Zárate;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico.  



Instituto Oaxaqueño de las Artesanías   Arts & Crafts     (K)
Located in a restored colonial house at the southern end of the remnants of the colonial aqueduct, this State-run shop sells a nice selection of arts and crafts from the region.

  • García Vigil 809, just north of Cosijopí;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Fri 9 am - 8 pm,  Sat 10 am - 5 pm,  Sun 10 am - 1 pm;  phone 951-514-4030951-514-0861.  

Spanish Language Schools

Instituto Cultural Oaxaca   Spanish Language School     (L)
The Institutes's campus is a former 19th century mansion where classes are sometimes held outside on its spacious, landscaped grounds and arched terraces. Their multilevel (beginner, intermediate, advanced) general Spanish language program is ambitious, with seven hours a day of instruction, conversation, and cultural workshops. For the less hardcore, programs with fewer hours are available. Additionally, they offer a full curriculum in Spanish of specialized courses in business, health care, and teaching Spanish as well as a course in Spanish for children. Extracurricular activities and workshops include intercambio, day trips, Oaxacan and Méxican history, music, film, ceramics, cooking, textile weaving, painting, kites, masks, piñatas, and salsa and merengue dancing. Homestays, posadas, and apartments are available.

  • Benito Juárez 909, southwest corner Niños Heroes De Chapultepec;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  office hours Mon - Fri 9 am - 6 pm,  Sat 9 am - 1 pm;  15/20/35 hrs wk,  USD$115/130/160 wk,  includes instruction material,  registration USD$55;  phone 951-515-3404951-515-1323;  fax 951-515-3728;  www.icomexico.com;  info@icomexico.com.  

Oaxaca Spanish Magic   Spanish Language School     (W)
Offers beginner and advanced conversation-based general Spanish language courses, as well as Spanish language classes for children and Spanish specialty courses in business, medicine, and law. Extracurricular activities include intercambio, day trips, Oaxacan cooking, and arts & crafts. Homestays and apartments available.


El Llano   City Park     (M)
Covering two city blocks, shaded by a high canopy of trees, and sporting two large spouting fountains, El Llano Park is a fine place for lazing away the afternoon with a good book or just watching people, always alive with a constant stream of folks, the health conscious, circumambulating the park's perimeter, some walking, some jogging, young people practicing marshal arts, Sunday mornings dance aerobics, teenage couples meeting up secretly, children skating, and people of all ages hunched over their laptops, availing themselves of the free wifi.

  • North of Berriozabal and east of Benito Juárez;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico.  

Jardín Conzatti   City Park     (N)
Located several blocks north from the bustle of the city center, this small, tranquil, shady park, much less busy than the Zócalo and El Llano parks, is a great place to retreat to, lazing away for an hour or two with a good book or just sitting and people watching.

  • South of Jacobo Dalevuelta and west of Reforma;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico.  


Canadian Consulate   Canadian Embassy & Consulates     (R)
Honorary Consul is Frances May. For after-hour emergencies, Canadian citizens should contact the consulate at 01-800-706-2900 or call Ottawa toll-free at 001-800-514-0129.

HSBC, Pino Suárez   Bank, ATM     (S)
Major international currencies and traveler's checks exchanged, Western Union agent.

  • Pino Suárez 700, across the street from El Llano park;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Fri 9 am - 5 pm,  closed Sat & Sun;  phone 951-515-2515;  www.hsbc.com.mx.  

Farmacias del Ahorro, Benito Juárez   Pharmacy     (T)
After hours, call (951) 515-5000 for free 24 hour home delivery.

  • Benito Juárez, corner Humbolt;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  daily 7 am - 11 pm;  www.fahorro.com.mx.  

Centro de Protección al Turista   Emergencies     (U)
If you are the victim of crime or in an accident, contact the Center for the Protection of Tourists (CEPROTUR).

  • Benito Juárez 703, across the street from El Llano park;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  Mon - Fri 8 am - 4 pm,  closed Sat & Sun;  phone 951-502-1200 x1595.  

Teatro Juárez   Theater & Concert Hall     (V)
Large indoor venue for live concerts. Look for bills of events posted around town.

  • Benito Juárez 703, across the street from El Llano park;  North of Iglesia de Santo Domingo, Centro Histórico;  phone/fax 951-502-5476;  contacto@teatrojuarez.org.  

Turismo El Convento   Tours     (K)
Provides airport pickup service, half- and full-day tours of the city and the valleys, and private group tours. Drivers and guides who speak English, French, German, or Italian are available upon request.

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