A woman walking toward the Church of Santo Domingo de Guzman, Oaxaca, Mexico.

Marco Bottigelli/Getty

Templo de Santo Domingo

Top choice in Oaxaca City

Gorgeous Santo Domingo is the most splendid of Oaxaca’s churches, with a finely carved baroque facade and nearly every square centimeter inside decorated in 3D relief with intricate gilt designs swirling around a profusion of painted figures. Most elaborate of all is the 18th-century Capilla de la Virgen del Rosario (Rosary Chapel) on the south side. The whole church takes on a magically warm glow during candlelit evening Mass.

Santo Domingo was built mainly between 1570 and 1608 as part of the city’s Dominican monastery, with the finest artisans from Puebla and elsewhere helping in its construction. Like other big buildings in this earthquake-prone region, it has immensely thick stone walls.

Santo Domingo de Guzmán (1172−1221), the Spanish monk who founded the Dominican order, appears as the right-hand one of the two figures holding a church in the center of the facade, and his elaborate family tree adorns the ceiling immediately inside. The Dominicans observed strict vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and in Mexico they protected the indigenous people from other colonists’ excesses.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Oaxaca City attractions

1. Museo de las Culturas de Oaxaca

0.02 MILES

Got two hours? You'll need it for the Museum of Oaxacan Cultures, housed in the beautiful monastery buildings adjoining the Templo de Santo Domingo. This…

2. La Máquina

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At the center of this gallery's workshop is an exceedingly rare 8-ton J Voirin lithography press, which prints both acrylics and woodcuts. Works on…

3. Galería Quetzalli

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A leading serious commercial gallery, handling some of the biggest names, such as Francisco Toledo and Guillermo Olguín. It has a second exhibition space,…

5. Jardín Etnobotánico

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In former monastic grounds behind the Templo de Santo Domingo, this garden features plants from around Oaxaca state, including a staggering variety of…

6. Centro Fotográfico Álvarez Bravo

0.13 MILES

With a taste for provocative social commentary, this contemporary gallery displays weird and wonderful work by local and international photographers.

7. Andador Turístico

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Historic, romantic, dignified and safe, wonderful Calle Alcalá (traffic-free since the 1980s) is what Oaxaca is all about. It runs north from the…

8. Arte de Oaxaca

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This commercial gallery presents a wide range of quality art, and includes a room devoted to surrealist painter Rodolfo Morales’ work.