Colours, costumes and chocolate in Oaxaca

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Colours, costumes and chocolate in Oaxaca

To the south-east of hectic Mexico City, Oaxaca de Juárez charms as much with its architectural treasures – it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site – as with its gentle way of life.

Colours, costumes and chocolate in Oaxaca

Getting to the heart of history

A six-hour drive south-east of Mexico City, Oaxaca, or Oaxaca de Juárez as it is sometimes called, is full of charm. It does not take long to fall for its colourful streets and markets, the plethora of colonial-era monuments and, of course, its unique archaeological treasures. It proves to be the perfect place for those who simply like to take their time and enjoy a cultural and gourmet break. So, take advantage of the mild temperatures between November and January to get to know this mythical city.

As you wander around the streets of Oaxaca, and especially down the famous pedestrianised Calle Alcalá, do not miss the Santo Domingo Cultural Centre. Santo Domingo de Guzmán church is part of this huge architectural complex. Flanked by two 35 metre high towers, each crowned with a cupola made of blue and white ceramic tiles, it is a symbol of its own importance. When you step through the door, you are struck by the contrast between the simple facade outside and the splendid, exuberant Mexican Baroque style inside. You will not manage to count them all, but almost 60,000 pieces of gold leaf were used inside the church! Then, look up at the ceiling in the nave to see 36 paintings representing scenes from the Old Testament. This building, constructed in the 16th century, has had a glorious past; for a time, it was the most imposing religious complex in Mexico, comprising a Dominican convent, vast gardens and umpteen patios. Paying due respect to its past grandeur, an extensive renovation campaign got underway back in 1993.

Today, you can also visit the Francisco de Burgoa library with works dating from the 15th to 20th centuries. Do not forget to take a walk in the Ethnobotanical Garden: the collection of Mexican plants and cacti is simply wonderful. Finally, put time aside to visit the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures. This is where Zapotec treasures discovered in the archaeological sites of Monte Albán are displayed, the highlight being the superb Mixtec stash from Tomb 7, discovered in 1932. It provides a fascinating journey to the very heart of pre-Hispanic civilisations.

Santo Domingo Cultural Centre
Macedonio Alcalá s/n
68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Mexico
+52 (951) 516 9741
https://www.facebook.com/pg/Centro-Cultural-Santo-Domingo-177190954302/about/?ref=page_internal

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Colours, costumes and chocolate in Oaxaca

A taste for celebration

You stroll along cobbled streets, admire trees in full bloom, see colourful buildings with thick walls. Everything seems so quiet and peaceful… Then suddenly, you come across a small group of people dressed in fabulous traditional costumes as brightly coloured as the walls of their homes. Here, the locals love to put on a show to express their happiness and pride when celebrating an important family event, such as a wedding or christening.

If you are staying in Oaxaca over the Christmas period, something festive will be going on almost every day. The oaxaqueños share the joy of Advent by decorating the streets and meeting up in the evening in the city centre decked out with Christmas lights. As the children are on holiday at this time of year, there is even more of a party atmosphere.

After these lively nights out on the town, you come back to the peaceful surroundings of your hotel, the Casa Oaxaca, located a stone's throw from the Zócalo. This boutique hotel, with just seven rooms, occupies a beautiful 18th-century colonial residence which has been completely renovated and decorated to create an uncluttered, contemporary feel. You will love the contrast of vibrant colours, the carefully selected works by local artists and the central patio, a typical feature of these houses, profusely decorated with pots of cacti cleverly placed here and there. It is perfect for reading a book, having breakfast or just relaxing, unless, of course, you prefer one of the hammocks up on the roof terrace. From there, the view over the two towers of neighbouring Santo Domingo church is superb.

Casa Oaxaca
Calle de Manuel García Vigil 407
68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Mexico
+52 (951) 514 4173
https://casaoaxaca.com.mx

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Colours, costumes and chocolate in Oaxaca

Oaxaca's gourmet treasure

The city is also home to a treasure of quite a different kind which you are just going to love. Legend has it that the best hot chocolate in the world is right here in Oaxaca. It is true that Mexico is the historic birthplace of cocoa. The Aztecs knew how to enjoy the tasty qualities of the famous bean with its slight hint of bitterness, long before the arrival of the Europeans led by Hernán Cortés. Most often, it is cultivated in Chiapas and then brought to Oaxaca for roasting. Calling chocoholics of all ages… head to Calle Mina where you will find Mayordomo, La Soledad and Guelaguetza chocolate shops. Here, chocolate is everywhere in all its forms: as chips, it melts delicately in your mouth; as squares, you bite into it with a big crunch; as powder, it is mixed with boiling water or milk for a marvellous chocolatey drink. Our advice is to ask for almonds, vanilla or even cinnamon to be added to your preparation, in place of the original chilli pepper. In that way, you walk out with your own customised chocolate! You can also opt for artisan chocolate made in one of the many workshops, such as Fantasía en Chocolate in Calle Xicoténcatl.

For a fitting end to your gourmet break, make your way to Benito Juárez market. Once there, head to La Toñita. A frothy hot chocolate arrives just the way you like it, giving off a delicious aroma. Quiet please, we are savouring the moment… Do you want to recreate the same ‘moustache' effect when you get back home? Then consider buying a molinillo, a wooden utensil that whisks up that famous frothy creaminess. If you have a bit of time to spare, wander up and down the aisles of the market; you will find local crafts and also some very tasty specialities, such as quesillo (string cheese) and tasajo (dried beef). The more adventurous among you might even like to try chapulines (grasshoppers)!

Chocolate Mayordomo
Francisco Javier Mina 219
Centro
68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Mexico
+52 (951) 516 1619
https://chocolatemayordomo.com.mx/

La Toñita
Benito Juarez market
68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Mexico

Fantasía en Chocolate
Xicoténcatl 416C
Zona Feb 10 2015
Centro
68000 Oaxaca de Juárez
Mexico
+52 (951) 145 0157