How to Make the Most of Mexico City’s Dia de los Muertos Celebration

Mexico City’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is a centuries-old celebration of lost souls. In recent years, however, this ancient holiday has made steps towards modernity thanks to the Mexico Tourism Board. In 2016, they announced the inaugural Dia de los Muertos Parade in Mexico City and believe it or not, Mexicans have James Bond to thank. In the 2015 film “Spectre,” the opening scene shows a fictional Day of the Dead Parade replete with spectacular costumes and props. Well, the Tourism Board saw this and thought to bring the display to life. The parade, which will take place Oct. 28, will be the kickoff to this extended holiday which runs until Nov. 2 on All Saints Day.

While parade organizers will use props and costumes from the actual James Bond film to create a breathtaking scene, locals will be able to partake in the artistry of sugar skulls and vibrant flowers sprinkled throughout the streets of Mexico City. The Mexico Tourism Board is also encouraging travelers to take part in the festivities by snaking the parade through the streets of central Mexico City and along the tourist hot spots that pepper the capital. Both locals and tourists are asked to don sugar skull masks, flower crowns and dress in colorful clothing.

With the parade being the newest attraction, there are still plenty of other ways to participate. Because this holiday is all about remembering fallen spirits, visiting a cemetery will give you a unique perspective into the true meaning of Dia de los Muertos. For Mexicans, they use this holiday to visit the graves of their loved ones, decorating their headstones and often lighting numerous candles. This makes for quite a sight. San Andres Mixquic in the southeast side of the city, is famous for its elaborate celebrations during this time. Their cemetery will be covered in candles, with gravestones donned with bright yellow marigolds. Xochimilco, another community in the southern part of the city, is known for their Aztec gondola’s, which for the Day of the Dead festivities, they cover in lights and take riders down the river towards the Tecomitl cemetery. Cemeteries aside, the main square of Mexico City called Zócalo is where you’ll find even more traditions involving ornately decorated shrines to the dead alongside live music.

Making a trip to witness the spectacle that is Day of the Dead should also include the components of what makes Mexico City one of the increasingly-modern cities in the world. Take their restaurant scene for instance: In the heart of the Polanco neighborhood lies Pujol, a fine dining restaurant that once ranked in the top 20 restaurants in the world. Here, you’ll dine on a series of expertly crafted dishes featuring locally inspired recipes. Quintonil follows suite in both style and location. This Polanco restaurant focuses on contemporary gastronomy with sustainable ingredients. Seneri also has their eye towards fine dining, but leaves behind the presumptions and emphasizes the design. Located in La Condesa, one of the cities most fashionable neighborhoods, Seneri purveys delicate dishes of Mexican inspiration.

While still in La Condesa, hop over the the neighboring streets of Roma for a round of gastronomic cocktails in the art deco Limantour. With a place in Polanco as well, you can bounce from hood to hood sampling some of the cities best poured drinks. Jules Basement isn’t far from Limantour’s Polanco spot where they constantly rank among the best bars in the city. Donned with all black and white décor, including giant skulls as tables, Jules Basement is where you’ll find live jazz while sipping an Oscar Wilde, a whiskey drink with apple nectar and passionfruit puree. Even better, just a few blocks over there’s Maison Artemisia, with prohibition-era charms including a piano bar.

When looking for hotels, we recommend sticking with the aforementioned neighborhoods, because along with the best restaurants and bars often comes the best hotels. Las Alcobas resides in Polanco where their design features tropical themes such as white stucco, palm trees and what they call their “ultramodern facade.” Or, you can hop across the Chapultepec Zoo to La Condesa where AR 218 Hotel lies. Elegant and modern of course, but with a warm, homey vibe, AR 218 prides itself on offering a sense of tranquility. Hotel Distrito Capital in the hillside neighborhood of Sante Fe, is where the skyscrapers call home, and Distrito is no exception as it stands amongst them. Those looking to stay right in the heart of downtown, closest to all the Day of the Dead action should look to the aptly named Downtown Mexico. While its façade may look straight out of the old world, its interiors beg to differ. Inside you’ll find some very conceptually unique rooms, plus a rooftop terrace with stunning views of downtown.

Dia de los Muertos will take place in Mexico City from Oct. 28 – Nov. 2.