Coming to Mexico City for Day of the Dead (“Dia de Los Muertos”)?
You’ve made a great choice. There are many exhibits on Dia de Los Muertos in Mexico City and an incredible Alebrije Parade and exhibition, usually in the days before.
^^ not in Mexico City
But, you should know that there’s actually NOT a “real”, public, traditionally celebrated Mexico City Dia de Muertos festival, at least not the way you are most likely imagining at… regardless what the James Bond movie would have you believe.
face painting near the “James Bond” parade
In a strange example of life imitating art, Mexico City did organize a James Bond-esque parade in 2016 (basically just replicating what you see in the movie), but it was pretty poorly organized, announced super last minute, started several hours late, and was impossible to see unless you either felt comfortable elbowing through a large crowd to the front, or shelled out some big bucks for a seat in a nearby high-up restaurant or bar.
we arrived over an hour before the scheduled start: what we could see of the Mexico City Day of the Dead parade
My favorite part of the Mexico City Day of the Dead parade, because I couldn’t see really any of the actual parade, was people watching.
There was so much going on!
They plan on doing the Mexico City Day of the Dead parade again this year, but the date has switched back and forth between October 28 and 29, without anything firm being set.
That being said, if you were really hoping to experience a National Geographic-style Day of the Dead (and not just a tourist-centric movie-based parade) – DON’T CANCEL YOUR PLANS YET!
I come with a solution!
And a damn good one, at that. [if I do say so, myself]
8 Things You Need to Know to Celebrate Mexican Day of the Dead Near Mexico City
1. Where to Experience Day of the Dead near Mexico City
Mixquic is the perfect place to experience Mexican Day of the Day if you want to base yourself in Mexico City (or any of the nearby cities), and I visited myself in 2016.
You can still base yourself in Mexico City (and you should, it’s one of my favorite cities in the world and chock FULL of activities even aside from Day of the Dead), and just visit nearby Mixquic, which holds a gorgeous, traditional celebration that welcomes respectful visitors.
2. How to get to Mexican Day of the Dead / Dia de Muertos in Mixquic
From Mexico City you can:
- take an uber to and from Mixquic
- arrange a roundtrip transfer with your hotel
- go with Viator (as I did last year) and they’ll arrange everything for you. Easy peasy.
- rent a car or drive yourself
While doing the trip with Viator is affordable and the most low stress option (you just jump on the tour bus and the guides do everything else), visiting Mixquic Day of the Dead really is a trip you can do yourself, I promise. More details on that below.
3. What exactly happens at Mexican Day of the Dead / Dia de Muertos in Mixquic
There are a couple different areas and aspects of the Mixquic Dia de Muertos celebration, including:
- Carnival/festival-style booths selling snacks and sweets, souvenirs, jewelry, and clothing
- A stage where traditional dancing is performed
- A church, also presenting exhibits about Mixquic Dia de Muertos (in Spanish)
- The cemetery with flower decorations and candles
- People wandering dressed like Catrinas and in more American Halloweenesque costumes
4. What to wear to Mixquic Day of the Dead
While I saw a few locals dressed up Catrina-style in Mixquic, I did not see any costumed or painted foreigners. Most people were just dressed in regular streetwear.
Check the weather, but I would advise wearing long pants (or jeans), water-resistant boots or shoes (it can still be rainy in the end of October and beginning of November), any kind of top, and bring a sweater or jacket.
I’ve got more suggestions on what to wear in Mexico City (and around) in this post.
5. What to bring to Mixquic Day of the Dead
In addition to yourself and an open-minded attitude, you’ll want:
- Umbrella or packable rain jacket
- Small-bill money (watch out for pickpockets in big crowds) for snacks and souvenirs
- A backpack or bag if you plan on buying a lot of stuff
- Camera (my favorite mirrorless pick is also waterproof)
- Theft-proof purse (like this one)
6. What to know about photography at Mixquic Dia de Muertos / Day of the Dead
It’s totally acceptable and common practice to take photos of shrines, flowers, and the carnival-style booths.
However, you should NOT photograph individuals without their permission (“Puedo tomar una photo?”).
Avoid using flash as much as possible, especially when photographing people, and if you are going to use flash give a warning (if you’ve never been on the receiving end of a photo with flash in the dark, you should try it. Not usually pleasant)
7. What to eat at Mixquic Dia de Muertos / Day of the Dead
There’s an endless supply of sweets, treats, and snacks, in addition to little restaurants dotted around the main drag.
WARNING: If you look like a foreigner and don’t speak Spanish like a Mexican, ask for the price before ordering. I’ve never been ripped off in Mexico until Mixquic. A friend ordered a typical dish that would usually run about 50-100 pesos (probably the low end, for this type of casual establishment), and was charged 500. Ri-di-cu-lous.
8. How to Visit Mixquic Day of the Dead By Yourself
If you’re going to pass on the guided tour with Viator, no problem. You got this!
From Mexico City (or Puebla), you’ll need to drive to San Andres Mixquic.
RENT A CAR: If you’re driving yourself, you’ll need to park a ways from the city, as parking fills up quickly, and you’ll want to park a ways from the city, as the roads are incredibly congested both before and after the main event.
TAKE UBER: Uber runs from Mexico City to Mixquic, and also picks up in Mixquic to go back to Mexico City (though there’ll be a bit of a delay on the return trip with fewer drivers in the area). Easy peasy.
HIRE A DRIVER: You can also hire a driver (through your hotel is the safest bet), and agree in advance what time he’ll return to pick you up. Around 10pm would be a good bet, though celebrations go until the sun comes up.
Once in Mixquic, you want to head towards Mixquic Church, or Parroquia de San Andres Apóstol, as everything is organized around that point (including the cemetery and a stage for traditional dance performances). At some point, as you get near, you’ll pass by the carnivalesque stalls set up along the street, selling candies, snacks, souvenirs, and almost anything you can imagine.
Pin it for Later: How to Celebrate Mexican Day of the Dead in Mexico City
Where to stay in Mexico City?
Airbnb is a GREAT value in Mexico City (I recommend homes near Chapultepec Park, Roma, and Condesa for the best location and safe neighborhoods). Never used an Airbnb? Now’s the time to start! Get $38 off your first stay with this link.
If Airbnb isn’t your jam, the StayInn Barefoot Condesa has a range of price options, is super cute, and in the PERFECT spot for exploring all that Mexico City has to offer.
Agoda also has a variety of price options (everything from budget dorms to high end hotels), and in a range of locations. Agoda runs flash deals, and you earn points towards free stays with every booking, so they are always my hotel aggregator of choice.
What to do in Mexico City?
Aside from visiting Mixquic for Dia de Los Muertos, Mexico City has a TON to do, see and drink! Check out my definitive guide here.
What to wear and pack for Mexico City?
I’ve got you covered in this end-all and be-all list!