The City of Oaxaca is distinguished by the beauty and harmony of its colonial architecture. It has received many names like: "Ciudad de Jade" (City of Jade) and "La Verde Antequera" (The Green Antequera) because the majority of its buildings are made of green stone, hand carved by Oaxacan crafts people.
Many churches and houses can be seen lining the streets in the center of this beautiful colonial city. The main square or "Zocalo", aside from being one of the most beautiful in the country, is the vibrant heart of the city. A few steps away is the Macedonio Alcalá Mall, a pedestrian street, home of the Contemporary Art Museum, the Oaxaca Public Library and other art and cultural centers, colonial houses, shops, galleries, restaurants and the most distinguished jewelry and hand crafts stores. At the top of the Alcalá street mall is Santo Domingo de Guzmán .
The Temple of Santo Domingo de Guzmán stands out as an example of the splendor of Mexican Baroque style architecture. Its main altar and interior decoration are covered with gold leaf. The Santo Domingo Cultural Center, which occupies the ex-convent of Santo Domingo, may be the largest colonial building in the world and is considered the most important project of its kind in the country. It houses the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, the Fray Francisco de Burgoa Library of antique books, the Historical Ethno-botanical Garden, and areas set aside for conferences, congresses, conventions, seminars, exhibits, courses, concerts and other cultural activities.
To the north of the Zocalo is the Cathedral. Built at the end of the 16th century it houses a beautiful 17th century pipe organ in the nave and a functioning 18th century clock with wooden works in its tower.
The Soledad Basilica is another important temple, built in the 17th century and dedicated to the Virgin of Solitude, the patron saint of Oaxacans.
On the street of 5 de mayo is the Santa Catalina convent, this building began in 1576 being the second convent founded in Mexico by the religious order of the Dominican Monks. As a consequence of the Mexican Reform Laws in 1862 this convent was closed down. Over the next decade, the Santa Catalina convent was used as municipal offices for the Oaxacan government, a jail and two different schools. In 1873, it was once again taken over by the church. A walk through this property, which currently is operating as a renowned hotel, reveals beautiful gardens, authentic murals and paintings, antique colonial furniture and a chapel. These historic treasures can be visited daily from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Camino Real Oaxaca Hotel Chronicles invite you to revive the memories, taking the guided tours on wednesday, thursday or friday at 5:00 PM, in the lobby of the hotel. Duration approximately 40 minutes, free of charge.
The colorful markets put the visitor in contact with the indigenous world, which conserves its native vigor over 500 years after the arrival of the first Westerners. Everything the indigenous people grow and create can be found there expressed in a great variety of hand crafts such as, shawls, rag dolls, wooden combs, cane baskets, green and black pottery made in villages dedicated almost exclusively to their creation. One can also find almost any everyday item one can imagine.
On the street of García Vigil is the Museum "Casa de Juárez", where documents from the War for Independence, The Reform and the French Intervention share exhibit space with some personal belongings of the "Benemérito de las Americas" (Benito Juárez). On this same street we find an endless number of old colonial houses, sheltering galleries, hand crafts and jewelry stores in their cool, high ceilinged corridors and patios.