In the high desert of the Sierra Madre mountains, Oaxaca (pronounced wuh-haa-kuh) is a vibrant Mexican city filled with buzzing markets, rainbow-hued architecture, and some of the world’s best street food. Just walking down the street can feel like you’re part of a daily festival—the mariachi bands floating between outdoor restaurants, taco stands packed with local families, and fireworks that are always popping off.
This UNESCO-recognized city is great for remote workers looking for a high dose of culture and is just six hours from Mexico City and six hours from the coast. The state of Oaxaca is home to 16 distinct indigenous groups, creating a rich tapestry of traditions surrounding food, music, art, textiles, and holidays throughout the city. Foodies flock here for good reason, too: Oaxaca is the land of the seven moles and the birthplace of mezcal.
In addition to the low cost of living that attracts digital nomads, the city is located at a high altitude close to the equator, meaning it enjoys dry, warm weather year-round. With a charming mix of friendly locals, fiesta energy on every street, and the reprieve of nature close by, it’s no wonder why the city wins over so many remote workers. If you’re on your way to Oaxaca City, here’s what you need about working and living in the city’s many digital nomad-friendly neighborhoods.
In the heart of Oaxaca lies the aptly-named Centro neighborhood. From the colorful colonial architecture to the litany of street food stalls, Centro is bustling with traditional Oaxacan culture and makes the perfect home base for digital nomads who like to be right in the action.
In your spare time, there’s no shortage of things to do and see in Centro. Rooftop bar-hop around the Santo Domingo Church, where you’ll find teeny upscale mezcal bars, live music hotspots, and nightclubs alike. You can always work off the drinking at one of Mundo Ceiba’s weekly group bike rides—every night, the bike rental and cafe hybrid leads participants in a bike tour from 9 to 10:30 p.m. On the weekend, run or rollerblade around El Llano Park, or just grab a coffee at one of the food trucks and people-watch.
For those who prefer coworking spaces, your best bet in Centro is Selina Oaxaca. The boutique co-living and coworking chain operates out of a charming bright pink building set just a few blocks from the Santo Domingo church and is surrounded by rooftop restaurants and bars. As for work-friendly cafes, the crowd favorite is Cafebre, a hip coffee joint with a quiet courtyard perfect for working. Make sure to get their signature cold brew while you’re there, which is mixed with local Oaxacan chocolate. Other popular options include the cafe and bookstore hybrid La Jícara Librespacio, and the airy Cafe Los Cuiles.
As soon as you arrive, you’ll want to make your reservation to dine at one of the best restaurants in the city: Casa Oaxaca. For a last-minute dinner, you can’t beat the laid-back eats at Sur a Norte’s rooftop, Sabina Sabe, or La Olla. When it’s just drinks, you can grab a table at the tiny Mezcalogia or Nueva Babel for mezcal and live music, or head to Mezcalerita to enjoy some of the cheapest rooftop cocktails Oaxaca has to offer. Arrive early—they fill up quickly! As the night goes on, those looking for a tropical cocktail can head to Oaxaca’s very own tiki bar, Aloha, while those keen to party will want to check out Txalaparta.
One of the oldest neighborhoods in Oaxaca, Jalatlaco is in no shortage of charm. From the cobblestoned streets to the colorful papel picado flags flapping in the breeze, Jalatlaco is the perfect neighborhood for digital nomads who want to be near the hustle and bustle but not directly in it. Here you can enjoy the simple things like visiting the historic San Matias church or grabbing an artisanal ice cream from one of the many street vendors parading in the area, while admiring the abundant street art and murals.
You’ve got a few places to work to choose from in Jalatlaco. Centrico Jalatlaco offers a modern coworking space with hammocks for lounging. E2 Office Center provides a no-frills work environment, and Convivio is set to reopen its coworking space in Jalatlaco in the spring of 2023. For cafes, you can’t miss Coffee Shop The Pleasure, which is in one of Jalatlaco’s most iconic buildings. Or try ME Brew Bar, which has the best iced coffee in Oaxaca.
As for restaurants and bars, Jalatlaco has plenty of options for traditional Mexican food, like Las Chimoleras and El Biche Pobre, and Las Tlayudas Antojeria Oaxaqueña. Cocktail lovers will dig Sagrado Primitivo, while those who prefer a local watering hole should belly up to La Poblanita for cheap beers and snacks.
Just south of Centro lies the Zócalo neighborhood. Used to describe a Mexican town square, Oaxaca’s “Zócalo” dates all the way back to 1529. The neighborhood surrounding this central plaza is a lively one: it’s where you’ll find the two most popular markets in Oaxaca as well as a bevy of restaurants, bars, and shops.
While the Zócalo neighborhood is home to just one coworking space—the charming Co404 Oaxaca, which also offers coliving—there’s no shortage of great work cafes to choose from. Plug in at Muss Cafe, Cafe Rustiko, or Cafe Brujula, which has some of the strongest coffee you’ll find in Oaxaca. I’d recommend also lingering for a while at one of the restaurants along the square while sipping a beer, people-watching and listening to the mariachi bands and street performers who walk around playing music for tips from patrons.
Mercados Benito Juárez and 20 de Noviembre are two markets that are conveniently located right next to each other in the Zócalo neighborhood. The former houses everything from produce and specialty Oaxacan ingredients to clothes and souvenirs, while the latter is the place to go for bread, chocolate, and food stands.
If you’d prefer to eat in a standalone restaurant, grab a table at the French bakery-inspired Boulenc, or Cabuche for their outstanding pozole (a rich Mexican soup made from hominy, meat, and traditional spices). Other great spots include La Red for seafood and Origen for upscale Oaxacan fare. And for a drink, opt for La Cueva if you’d like a romantic and charming bar with live music, or La Casa de Mezcal for a tempting selection of mezcal options.
Reforma is a popular choice for those traveling with children and what it may lack in charm, it makes up for in ease, safety, and comfort. It’s got more of an American suburb vibe, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find great food, culture, and plenty of things to do on the weekend in this upscale neighborhood located north of Centro. When you’ve got some time off work, you can wander over to the Xochimilco area to the west of Reforma to window shop and cafe hop. Or if you’re up for an adventure, head north to hike through the hills of Oaxaca’s outer reaches in the Parque Nacional Benito Juárez.
As for coworking, you can choose between Psicowork and Centro de Imaginación Oaxaca, or if you’re happy working from cafes, you can’t go wrong with Cafe Criollo, Cafe Brujula Reforma, and Pan:am Reforma. As for after work drinks, AlPunto offers cocktails in a sleek lounge setting, while Consejo Cervecero provides a wide range of craft beer options in a spacious courtyard.
When you’re ready to grab a bite to eat, head over to Los Chavales de la Barriada for Argentinian fare surrounded by charming interiors. Or, opt for La Cevicheria Oaxaca for some of the freshest seafood in the city. If street food is more your thing, be sure to grab tacos at any of the local joints that line the main drags in Reforma. Locals flock here for the al pastor tacos, and every person will swear by their own secret spot so make sure to ask around.
La Noria is the best spot for nomads who like an under-the-radar neighborhood with a little grit. It’s the sort of place where you’ll find hole-in-the-wall mezcalerias selling bottles without labels and tamale stands with irregular hours that make walking by while they’re open feel like winning the lottery.
La Noria is home to two coworking spaces: Startup Mexico Campus Oaxaca, which is geared more towards local entrepreneurs, and Centrico, which is located in a renovated colonial building and has a collaborative and friendly atmosphere. The neighborhood has lots of cute cafes perfect for getting a little work done while enjoying fresh baked goods, including Sorbo Cafe, Obscuro Brebaje, and Nuevo Mundo.
If you’ve got a craving for authentic Korean food, you need to check out Dururu. For a lazy weekend brunch in La Noria, head to Rayón Pochote Organic Market. The nearby Sabor Antiguo serves up traditional Oaxacan food in a rustic setting, while Tlayudas La Chinita is the place to go for the very best tlayudas in Oaxaca—they were even featured on Netflix’s Street Food in Latin America special. In the evening, swing by La Giralda for a fresh michelada.
When you’ve got some free time, visit La Noria market. While more humble than the likes of Benito Juárez, this market has great produce as well as quart-sized green juices freshly made for just 30 pesos (a little over $1.50 USD). Or, take a short 20-minute drive to visit nearby Monte Alban, Zapotec ruins from the 6th century BC that are accessible from the highway just south of La Noria.
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