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Shopping in Oaxaca Markets, Handicraft Shops and Art Studios

Updated: Apr 3

The best two things about traveling for me are shopping and eating. Shopping in Oaxaca is probably the best thing a girl could do and by flying in on AeroMexico I got to bring all the bags I could want to bring home souvenirs. I got to bring my trusty wine suitcase for mezcal purchases and I finally got to wear my Frida Kahlo pencil dress out in the wild. My bags were empty and ready to be filled.

So here's where to go and what to buy at all the best markets in Oaxaca and neighboring towns. I've also included tips on tours, workshops and classes you can take to really immerse yourself in the art and culture of the Oaxacan people.

Note: Always Pack Tissues represents many tried and tested travel sites as what is called an 'affiliate' partner. That means if you click on my ads I may get a commission from a resulting sale.

clay pigs for sale at a market stall

In this article you will find:

Tips for Visiting Oaxaca Markets

Bring Lots of Cash

Bring plenty of cash, since all exchanges will be made in cash. Don't know how to get Mexican pesos in advance? I've detailed how to get cash abroad here.

Have an Idea of What to Buy in Oaxaca

Shopping is always more fun when you are on the hunt for something. Some of the best things to buy in Oaxaca include:

  • Handicrafts like purses and embroidered blouses

  • Textiles like rugs, trivets or placemats

  • Ceramics and serveware including salt cellars, serving dishes, salsa bowls and other kitchen items

  • Cups made from fruit shells, similar to a coconut husk - these are often used for drinking Mezcal or for serving peanuts and small snacks

  • Woven items like tortilla baskets

  • Alebrijes, which are carved and painted figurines (learn more below)

  • Mole mix or other spices

  • Black or green pottery (learn more below)

Don't forget to leave room in your suitcase for bringing home a bottle or two of mezcal!

Haggle...a Little

Just about every little pueblo has their own marketplace, most selling the same items from vendor to vendor. Be sure to browse slowly, don't jump on the first good price you see, and be prepared to haggle as needed.

Haggling, although pretty common throughout Mexico, was not really too necessary in Oaxaca as we found prices to be fair and well marked. You can always haggle or negotiate prices down based on quality of an item (maybe you found a chip in some pottery) or make a deal based on buying several items in bulk.

Practice Your Spanish

Remember words and phrases like,

"Tiene cambio por cien?" = Do you have change for 100 (pesos)?

"Cuanto cuesta por esto?" = How much does this cost?

"Tiene un tamaño mas grande?" = Do you have a larger size?

"Que es esto?" = What is this?

"Quisiera probarlo"= I would like to try it

Using your Spanish language skills will take you a long way in Mexico. Practice using DuoLingo before your trip, and you can always rely on Google Translate where necessary. If you are unfamiliar with how to use Google Translate when you travel, I've written up a handy guide at the inline link.

Parking at Oaxaca Markets

This was my top concern when visiting markets in Oaxaca. As it turns out, my worry was completely unfounded. To think, I was going to SKIP the Sunday Tlacolula Market because of my fear of parking at the town center.

I had read that people steal anything not bolted down, from license plates to spare tires and hubcabs, that parking on the street was an invitation to crime, and all sorts of horrid warnings.

In fact, parking at the Tlacolula Sunday market (and all the downtown markets) was so incredibly easy and comforting, I don't know why I couldn't find a single thing related to this on the internet. I literally scoured forums. So here, I will tell you, you CAN park at any of these markets with a rental car.

Look for estacionamiento signs. These are private lots, often with a convenient bathroom and plenty of space for lots of cars. Parking is generally by the hour, $15-20 MXN pesos per hour, and they are watched by the parking lot staff.

public parking signs in Spanish

Be aware that some lots may ask you for your llaves (your keys). I do NOT recommend offering your keys. Their intent is to be able to move cars around in a tetris-like grid as necessary to fit in more cars, but always play on the side of safety and keep your keys with you.

Safety Considerations

Lastly, we saw no evidence of petty crime like pickpocketing in Oaxaca, anywhere. We also felt no element of unsafe situations.

Like anywhere, do not leave belongings within sight in a car, do not carry a handbag that is easily grabbed or reached into, and do not go fanning out your money in public.

The markets can be crowded, but not overwhelmingly so. Stay alert and all will be fine.

More than anything, consider your physical safety - wear a hat, sunblock and loose fitting clothing to endure the heat, especially inside markets with open flame barbecues where it can get very warm.

All that said, you are now prepared to visit the markets in Oaxaca. Let's dive in a little deeper!

Markets in Oaxaca

Mercado de Artesanias de Oaxaca

Oaxaca City

leather shoes in a mexican market

Go here for:

Start a fun market day near the Church of Santo Domingo to walk the Calle Alcala (good for coffee) towards the markets. Mercado Artesanias will be your first stop, and it is your typical travel guide recommended Mexican marketplace full of souvenirs, brightly colored textiles, handicrafts and more. Located in the city center, you can begin your shopping in Oaxaca at this market and walk to the next two markets on this list.

Tour to Take You There:

Mercado de Benito Juarez

Oaxaca City

benito juarez market map

Go here for:

Seek out vendors selling chapulines (grasshoppers) and browse the mix of food stalls, produce items, souvenirs and other home goods. My deal of the day was to find the colorful vinyl tablecloths that I love in restaurants across Central America and Mexico. The cost is only $45 MXN (less than $3 USD) per yard, and it's a truly unique souvenir to bring home and brighten your dinner table.

Note that Google says the Benito Juarez market is closed on Saturday and Sunday, but it is not accurate. This market is open every day with exceptions/early closures on certain holidays.

Tour to Take You There:

Mercado 20 de Noviembre

Oaxaca City

colorful mural and entrance to a market

Go Here For:

This smaller market is the location of many food vendors selling pan (bread), bags of mole mix to take home (I recommend the mole estofado or coloradito), and plenty of sit down stalls for lunching.

bread at a mexican market

The pasillo de humo meat hall is here, but found outside in a neighboring alleyway. You'll want to read all about it on my separate Oaxaca foodie thread, but essentially it's a chaotic luncheon experience full of meat, condiments, and sensory overload.

Tour to Take You There:

Tlacolula Sunday Market at Mercado Municipal Martín González

Tlacolula de Matamoros

onions and garlic for sale at a mexican market

Go here for:

This is the classic market you hear about when you first start to research Oaxaca, and it doesn't disappoint. This sprawling market is simple to get to with a car, but many people choose to go as part of an organized tour. Go early and make plenty of time to sample dozens of Oaxacan food items, do some souvenir shopping, and see the bustle of both locals and tourists alike.

Here we found produce, street food, textiles, dresses for my daughter, blouses for me, tons of pottery from green to black and clay, alebrijes of all sizes and colors, and more.

sacks of chiles

Although this particular version of the market takes place on Sundays, it is also open during the week (in a smaller capacity) if you don't like crowds. Make it a day trip and add a stop to the Mitla archaeological site or the numerous mezcal distilleries nearby.

To truly enjoy this massive and incredible market, be sure to make time for a barbeque lunch in one of the food halls. For only $2 USD we sample costillas de cerdo (pork ribs) en ajo (garlic sauce), as well as white chorizo, fresh grilled cebollas (onions) and tortillas. Similar to the experience you may find in the Oaxaca centro at Pasillo de Humo, this super relaxed experience made our market visit very memorable.

colorful hall of meat vendors and barbeques