Day of the Dead in Mexico City: A 2024 (Local’s) Guide to Dia de Muertos

Day of the Dead in Mexico City feels a little different than the rest of the country. Read on to explore everything there is to do during Dia de los Muertos in Mexico City in 2023!

Even though the celebration revolves around death, it’s everything but a gloomy affair.

In reality, it’s probably the liveliest time of the year to visit Mexico!

day of the dead in mexico city

Yes, death is scary for us, too, but Day of the Dead is all about celebrating life rather than mourning.

As Mario Benedetti once said: “After all, death is only a symptom of life”. 

If you’re thinking of heading to Mexico City to celebrate Day of the Dead, I guarantee you’ll be in for a real treat.

Table Of Contents

When is Day of the Dead in Mexico City Celebrated?

Day of the Dead falls on November 1st and 2nd, a date when the underworld opens and spirits are believed to visit their loved ones in the living world. 

In Mexico City, however, Day of the Dead is more like a month-long love story, with festivities and events taking place all throughout October and well into November.

day of the dead in mexico city

Why Celebrate Day Of The Dead In Mexico City?

While Day of the Dead in Mexico isn’t as “traditional” as it is in other parts of Mexico, in recent years, the city has made a huge effort to implement it more into its cultural calendar. 

All throughout October, you’ll be spoiled for choice with wonderful things to do related to the celebration. 

Think immersive experiences that will take you through Mictlán (the Aztec underworld), theater performances showcasing Mexican horror legends on a lake, skull-themed exhibitions, and so much more. 

day of the dead in mexico city

Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting overwhelmed with options, especially if you’re the artsy type!

I’d describe Day of the Dead in Mexico City as artsy and classy with a modern twist to it. 

If you’re looking to party and want a more traditional celebration, though, I’d opt to celebrate Day of the Dead in Oaxaca instead.

How Is Day Of The Dead Celebrated In Mexico City?

Starting in October, Mexico City becomes a playground for Day of the Dead-themed activities. 

As the main date approaches, the city gets blanketed with orange cempasuchil flowers, gigantic skulls, and colorful papel picado

day of the dead in mexico city

Is Day of the Dead in Mexico City like Halloween?

No, Day of the Dead and Halloween aren’t the same, but Halloween is also huge in Mexico City. Mexico City locals LOVE it!

In fact, it’s my favorite holiday of the year and has been ever since I was a little kid.

Because my birthday falls on November 1st, I usually celebrate it by hosting a big Halloween party on the night of 31st (which I totally regret the next day when I feel like I am coming out from the dead myself for Day of the Dead).

Throughout October, you’ll also be able to celebrate Halloween all over the city, be it by attending the many costume-themed nights held at nightclubs, joining the annual Horror Film Festival, or spending an evening getting spooked at Six Flags. 

I guess that’s what I love the most about Day of the Dead in Mexico City. There seems to be a Halloween vs Day of the Dead fight all over, but my response to it usually is: Why not both?!

Mexico City Day Of The Dead Guide: How To Plan Your Trip And How To Find The Most Local Celebrations

Mexico City Day Of The Dead: How Far Ahead Should You Book Your Accommodation?

Day of the Dead in Mexico City isn’t as big for tourists as it is in places like Oaxaca or Pátzcuaro, so you don’t really have to worry that much when it comes to planning ahead. 

day of the dead in mexico city

With the huge influx of tourism and digital nomads we’ve been receiving lately, though, I’m not sure how long that’s going to last. 

If you’ve got your heart set on celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico City, perhaps it would be a good idea to start booking your tickets and accommodation now to stay on the safe side.

How Long Should I Be In Mexico City For Day Of The Dead?

At least a week before the actual festival and maybe a few extra days after. 

Here’s the thing: The city doesn’t announce the dates of the big Mexico City Day of the Dead parade until a few weeks before the actual event. 

The Day of the Dead parade is probably the main reason you’re even looking to celebrate Day of the Dead in Mexico City anyway (yes, I’m talking about the one you saw on James Bond!). 

day of the dead parade mexico city

In 2021, the parade was held on October 31st, whereas the one before took place on November 1st (Update: this year, 2023, it will happen on November 4th!)

If you want to book your flight and accommodation in advance, I recommend reserving at least from October 27th until November 5th to make sure you don’t miss out on it no matter the date it ends up falling on. 

Plus, the city is a true treat throughout the entirety of October. It’s my absolute favorite time to be in Mexico City. 

You’ll find a ton of Day of the Dead-themed events, museum exhibits, dining experiences, and so much more before (and even after) the main event. 

You definitely want to stay in the city longer to experience this incredible time of the year in CDMX!

dia de muertos mexico city

Mexico City Day Of The Dead 2023 Calendar Of Events (Updated October 16th, 2023)

There will be plenty of amazing activities and things to do in Mexico City dedicated to celebrating Day of the Dead. 

Please bookmark and check back on this post, especially as the date starts to approach.

I will be updating you with every single activity in the city as soon as we hear about it, so almost daily!

Here are a few of the confirmed events so far that will definitely be taking place in Mexico City for Day of the Dead in 2023: 

Day Of The Dead Parade in Mexico City

The Day of the Dead Parade in Mexico City is what put the capital on the map as a destination to celebrate Day of the Dead. 

The festival was made famous thanks to its appearance in the James Bond movie. Sort of. Here’s a confession: The festival didn’t even exist before the movie.

dia de muertos parade mexico city

It was actually more of a product that came out of it. After the film’s success, the government decided to re-create the festival, and it has since become a beloved tradition in Mexico City.

mexico city day of the dead parade

My only recommendation is to get to Puerta de los Leones a few hours before the parade begins because it gets extremely crowded and you may not be able to grab a good spot otherwise. 

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Big Day Of The Dead Parade in Mexico City Dates

The date for the big Day of the Dead Parade in Mexico City has just been announced and it will take place on November 4th, 2023.

Big Day of the Dead Parade Route + Tips

The festival covers almost 9 kilometers, starting 14:00 on November 4th, 2023.

The festival will begin at Puerta de los Leones, en el Bosque de Chapultepec, continue over Avenida Reforma and then make its way to the Zocalo via Calle 5 de Mayo.

The entire walk/festival is expected to last 4:30 to 5 hours.

At a tip, even though it officially begins at 14:00, I recommend getting there a few hours before as it can get extremely crowded and you may not be able to grab a good spot otherwise.

More Day of the Dead Activities in Mexico City:

1. La Alumbrada at Mixquic

If you want a super local Day of the Dead experience, La Alumbrada should be at the top of your list. 

Mixquic is a neighborhood located south of Mexico City that hosts some of the most traditional Day of the Dead celebrations in the city. 

day of the dead in mexico city

During La Alumbrada, all electricity in Mixquic is turned off, making its candlelit streets and cemeteries the only source of light available. 

Throughout the night, you’ll get to stroll the neighborhood’s cobblestone streets, see colorful ofrendas, gorge on traditional Day of the Dead food, and take part in live entertainment and performances. Live mariachi music is a guarantee, too!  

  • Date: November 2nd
  • Price: Free, but bring cash along to buy street food and get your catrina face paint! 
  • Where: See on Google Maps. I recommend taking an Uber.

Moreover, if you prefer to enjoy this Day of the Dead activity worry-free, there are also local tours offered that you can book!

This way you won’t have to worry about transportation and you will have a guide with you who can also explain what is going on during the entire evening, not to mention they also know the best posts.

→ Book your Mixcquic tour here.

2. La Llorona Xochimilaco

Hop on a boat under the moonlight to enjoy a theatrical and musical display at night. 

You’ll get the chance to learn about the legend of La Llorona and other Mexican mythical tales over the ancient canals of Xochimilco! 

The play is an absolute delight for every single one of your senses.

It’s visually stunning and provides a wonderful insight into Pre-hispanic music and culture.

  • Date: Throughout October and November.  
  • Tickets: Book here.
  • Where: Boats take off from Embarcadero Cuemanco, but check with your specific tour. The one I recommend includes transport and the meetup place is at Reforma Avenue, so that’s a huge plus!

3. Mega Procesion de Catrinas

The Mega Procesion de Catrinas is another huge parade that takes place on Reforma Avenue and celebrates the catrina symbol!

dia de muertos mexico city

Here, you’ll be able to see hundreds of volunteers dressed up as catrinas and catrines and marching all the way to the Zocalo.

This one is very similar to the big Day of the Dead Parade, so if you aren’t able to make it to that one, this one is a great alternative.

  • Date: October 22, 2023 at 5:30 PM (but arrive earlier to ensure a spot!)
  • Price: Free
  • Where: Starts at the Angel of Independence on Paseo de la Reforma and goes over 5 de Mayo Avenue until reaching the Zocalo.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip! As always, I recommend Safety Wing for great prices and coverage abroad. It starts at only $45 USD per month and will have you covered with everything you may need during your trip! Check them out here.

4. Las Calaveras de Tlahuac (The Skulls of Tlahuac)

If you want to go to a place that few people know, go to Tlahuac in the south of the city.

Here, you’ll get to see monumental skulls that the Jaen Cartonería collective mounts every year on the streets for Day of the Dead.

  • Date: October 26th till November 5th
  • Price: Free
  • Where: Tlahuac

5. Boat ride through Xochimilco

Throughout October and November, you can take a trajinera ride through the canals of Xochimilco.

dia de los muertos mexico city

You can do this year-round, but during Day of the Dead season, they take a little twist and focus more on the spooky side of the canals. 

Throughout the ride, you’ll be able to listen to Mexican horror legends, visit the isla de las muñecas (a small islet that homes hundreds of horrifying dolls), and of course, drink to your heart’s content! 

After you get off the boat, make sure you also explore the rest of Xochimilco. This is a very traditional neighborhood in the south of Mexico City that brims with life and festivities during Day of the Dead.  

  • Date: October and November

A tour is the best option to explore Xochimilco as you wont have to worry about getting a trajinera and negotiating everything, which can be a hassle even for us locals!

This tour is a wonderful option! Not only does it include your boat ride through Xochimilco at night (spoooky!), but it also include spots at Day of the Dead activities throughout the city as well as a cemetery! Book here.

6. Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales

The Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales is a parade that takes place annually in Mexico City.

day of the dead in mexico city

It features giant, colorful sculptures known as alebrijes, which are a traditional Mexican art form made from papier-mâché or wood.

The sculptures are often fantastical creatures, such as dragons, unicorns, and other mythical beasts, and are decorated with bright colors and intricate patterns.

The parade is a celebration of Mexican culture and art, and attracts thousands of visitors each year.

It begins at the Zócalo, the main square in Mexico City, and winds its way through the streets, with the alebrijes towering over the crowds. The sculptures are created by artisans from all over Mexico, who spend months crafting them by hand.

  • Date: October 21st, 2023 at 12:00
  • Price: Free
  • Where: The route will begin in the Zocalo and makes its way through Avenida 5 de Mayo, Juárez until it reaches the Angel of Independence

Tip: If you can’t make it to the actual parade, the alebrijes will stay on display until November 5th over Reforma Avenue!

7. Pan de Muerto and Chocolate Festival

Spend the day enjoying the flavors of Day of the Dead at this gastronomic festival that brings together the best recipes.

day of the dead in mexico city

As expected, pan de muerto in all its forms is the star of the festival, but you will also find different chocolate delicacies that pair perfectly.

  • Date: November 3rd, 4th, and 5th 2023
  • Price: Free
  • Where: Palacio de Autonomía de la UNAM

8. Walk over Paseo de la Reforma

Every year, Paseo de la Reforma, one of Mexico City’s most important avenues gets blanketed by orange cempasuchil flowers and decorated with gigantic skulls created by different artists!

day of the dead in mexico city
  • Date: October and beginning of November
  • Price: Free
  • Where: Paseo de la Reforma (I recommend starting your walk at the Angel de la Independencia and making your way over to Chapultepec Park)

9. Day Trip: Feria del Alfeñique in Toluca

The Feria del Alfeñique is an annual event held in Toluca, State of Mexico, in November.

dia de los muertos in mexico city

This fair is a celebration of the alfeñique tradition, a type of candy made from sugar paste, which is molded into different shapes and decorated with bright colors.

During the fair, you can enjoy a wide variety of alfeñique candies, as well as other local products such as crafts, textiles, and typical food.

In addition, there are mechanical games, live shows, and activities for the whole family.

The Feria del Alfeñique is a very popular celebration in Toluca and attracts thousands of visitors every year from Mexico, but it’s not really very popular among foreigners so this is a wonderful activity if you want to get “off the beaten path”.

  • Date: October and beginning of November
  • Price: Free
  • Where: Museo del Alfeñique, Toluca

This tour is a great option if you don’t want to worry about the hassle of getting to Toluca! They provide transport from Mexico City as well as a local guide to help you make the most out of your day at the fair. BOOK HERE.

10. Calavera Art Experience

This exhibition has different rooms, where skulls are the main characters. You will enjoy virtual reality attractions, immersive experiences, art pieces, and much more.

The exhibit consists of different rooms where you will learn everything about skulls, including their history and representation in popular culture.

In addition, you will see an interactive offering, a room dedicated to the catrinas, and a space where engravings and skulls are discussed.

  • Date: Until November 12th, 2023
  • Price: $99 MXN on weekdays and $129 MXN on weekends
  • Where: Palacio Metropolitano: C. de Tacuba 15, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México

11. Pan de Murto Fest 2023

A festival dedicated to sharing the best pan de muerto from some of the best restaurants and stands in the city, all in one single spot!

dia de los muertos in mexico city

This is one of the best things to do for Day of the Dead in Mexico City if you are an avid foodie and want to try all the best seasonal treats the date has to offer.

  • Date: October 21st, 2023 at 16:00
  • Price: $325 MXN per person
  • Where: Av. 5 de Mayo 61, Centro Histórico de la Cdad. de México, Centro, Cuauhtémoc

12. Day of the Dead Bike Ride at Night

This is another of the coolest Day of the Dead events in Mexico City, especially if you love riding a bike and want to meet locals.

dia de los muertos in mexico city

This year, the route is 18 kilometers long and will begin at the Fuente de Petroloes and finish at Plaza Tlaxcoaque in the centro historico.

They haven’t shared much about what to expect during the event, but last year, it involved lots of music, cool spots, and lots of Day of the Dead themed art. 

  • Date: October 28th, 2023 from 19:00 till 23:00
  • Price: Free, but you will need to rent your own bike
  • Where: Starts and Fuente de Petróleos and ends in Plaza Tlaxcoaque

13. Calaveritas Run 2023

A Day of the Dead-themed marathon? You heard it right!

dia de los muertos in mexico city

This 10-kilometer run will take place in Chapultepec Forest and dressing up as a catrina is highly encouraged!

If makeup isn’t your thing, there will be face painters at the beginning of the race to help you out, so don’t worry too much!

If you’re traveling with kids, there will also be a 100 to 400 meter rates for kids aged 4 to 14.

14. Coco: Un Festival para Recordar (Coco: A Festival to Remember)

If you love Day of the Dead, chances are you also love the movie Coco and for the first time ever, Disney and Pixar are showcasing “Coco: Un Festival para Recordar” in Mexico City.

The event will include a screening of the famous movie as well as lots of art, live music, and performances, including a few by the Folklore Ballet of Mexico as well as live orchestras.

There will also be an interactive ofrenda (altar), mapping art, and a parade of gigantic fluorescent alebrijes and skulls!

15. Mezcal Fest MX Day of the Dead Edition

Mezcal Fest is an annual event in Mexico City perfect for mezcal lovers.

Various artisanal producers, mezcal masters, and women mezcal producers will showcase their products and have a say in the upcoming seventh edition of this event.

If you love great food and drink, this event is a must-see during the Day of the Dead in Mexico as you will be able to meet different mezcal masters, indulge in tastings, and have a delightful culinary experience.

Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip! As always, I recommend Safety Wing for great prices and coverage abroad. It starts at only $45 USD per month and will have you covered with everything you may need during your trip! Check them out here.

Day of the Dead Symbolism

In order to fully get the experience, there are some Day of the Dead-specific terms and symbolism worth learning:

  • Ofrendas — Altars set up for the deceased. They usually have photos of the deceased person as well as their favorite food, drinks, and items. These are meant to welcome them when they come back from the dead during Day of the Dead!
  • Pan de Muertos — A type of bread only served during Day of the Dead. It’s a sweet bun decorated with bone-shaped pieces. The term literally translated into “Dead’s Bread”.
  • Catrina – An emblematic character that represents Day of the Dead. She’s a tall, think and classy skeleton lady created by artist Jose Guadalupe Posada.
  • Mictlán – The underworld in Aztec mythology.
  • Calaveras — Skulls
  • Cempasuchil — An iconic marigold flower used to decorate ofrendas on Day of the Dead. During October, plenty of avenues and streets get blanketed by orange cempasuchil flowers to welcome Day of the Dead in Mexico City.

→ Read more about Day of the Dead colors and symbols

Other Things to Do in Mexico City after Day of the Dead

If you get tired of celebrating Day of the Dead (you won’t! But you may want to explore other aspects of the city as well), here are some must-do tours:

1. Frida Kahlo Museum

The Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Casa Azul, is located in the Coyoacán neighborhood of Mexico City. It was the childhood home of Frida Kahlo, the famous Mexican artist, and was later turned into a museum.

The museum contains a collection of Kahlo’s artwork, personal items, and photographs, as well as exhibits about her life and the cultural and political climate of Mexico during her time.

Tip: Book your entrance ticket in advance to avoid long queues (or not being able to snag a ticket at all!). This is a great option to get your tickets.

2. Try the street food

Trying street food is a must when visiting Mexico City because it is an essential part of the city’s culture and cuisine.

Mexican street food is known for its rich and diverse flavors, unique ingredients, and affordable prices.

This small-group food tour is perfect for first-time visitors to Mexico City who want to explore the city’s food scene without feeling overwhelmed. You’ll sample a wide range of street food, from tacos to candy, and receive personalized attention in a group limited to eight. Your guide will do the ordering, so you can sit back and enjoy the flavors of Mexico City. BOOK HERE.

3. Teotihuacan, Guadalupe Shrine, Tlatelolco & Tequila Tasting Tour

This tour is a wonderful option if you want to see three of the most iconic attractions in Mexico City in one go (with a little tequila added to the mix!). BOOK HERE.

4. Hot Air Balloon Over Teotihuacan

Taking a hot air balloon tour over Teotihuacan is one of the most unique ways to experience this archaeological site.

This tour offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience of flying in a hot air balloon over the ancient city of Teotihuacán, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

You’ll enjoy a traditional toast upon landing and receive a flight certificate to commemorate the experience.

Before takeoff, you’ll have a coffee break and participate in an obsidian workshop, maguey tasting, and try typical drinks.

After the flight, you’ll have breakfast in a unique natural cave. BOOK HERE.

5. Night Tacos and Mezcal Crawl

This tour is perfect for foodies who want to experience the best tacos and mezcal drinks in Mexico City.

Led by a local foodie with strong opinions about good tacos and mezcal, you’ll indulge in a 3-hour night crawl through one of the city’s most impressive neighborhoods, Colonia Roma.

At each stop, you’ll learn about the history of each taco and drink, and discuss its cultural influences. You’ll also get to know the city’s food, culture, and traditions while trying out new dishes in new places. BOOK HERE.

6. Xochimilco Boat Ride and Mexican Party

This tour offers a unique and fun experience of cruising along Xochimilco’s floating canals and gardens in a traditional trajinera canal boat.

You’ll enjoy unlimited beer, tequila, and mezcal onboard, and learn to make fresh guacamole, which you can enjoy with tortilla chips.

The tour also includes a stop at the replica Island of the Dolls, a creepy and fascinating sight for those interested in Mexican folklore. BOOK HERE.

7. Take a Day Trip to San Miguel de Allende

San Miguel de Allende is another wonderful place to see Day of the Dead decorations.

Thanks to the fact that it’s only about 3 hours away from Mexico City, taking a day trip here is easy!

This day trip to San Miguel de Allende from Mexico City is perfect for those who want to explore one of Mexico’s main colonial cities and its baroque architecture. After getting to know the town alongside a guide, you’ll also get free time to stroll the colorful streets, visit cafes and shops, and explore the plazas on your own. BOOK HERE.

Safety In Mexico City During Day Of The Dead

I don’t think there are any extra precautions you need to take in Mexico City during Day of the Dead than the regular ones. Just be aware of pickpocketers during the parade as it gets extremely crowded.

Take a look at my safety guide to Mexico City to learn how to stay safe in Mexico City during Day of the Dead!

Where to Stay in Mexico City for Day of the Dead

There are plenty of accommodation options in Mexico City for all budgets.

Here’s a few of my recommended ones:

NIMA Local House

NIMA Local House is a favorite for digital nomads visiting Mexico City.

It’s located in a colonial house in the heart of the Roma Norte, which is a very safe neighborhood just a few blocks away from where the parade starts. Check rates here.

Casa Emilia

Casa Emilia is a gorgeous boutique Bed & Breakfast that houses only 7 rooms, each with a unique and cozy style.

It’s located right by Paseo de la Reforma, so it’s location is ideal for Day of the Dead in Mexico City.

Its design is gorgeous and you’ll basically be surrounded by plants every step you take inside the property, so it acts as a great oasis from the bustle and hustle from the city, all while still being super centric. Check rates here.

Selina Hostel

Selina Hostel is a great option for those visiting Mexico City for Day of the Dead on a budget or who want to stay in a place where they can make friends to make the most out of their visit. Check rates here.

Final Thoughts on Day of the Dead in Mexico City

Celebrating Day of the Dead in Mexico City is a truly unique experience that mixes the ancient with the modern.

Even though it’s actually a pretty new destination to celebrate Day of the Dead, Mexico City sure knows how to do it right.