Great decision! Christmas is the perfect moment to visit Rome and you’re even luckier if you already live there. During that time, the Italian capital is not as popular as it is in summer – which means fewer tourists and less selfie sticks, hurrah! But, being the global capital of the Catholic Church, it could be an excellent way to witness the Christmas traditions where these were started a few thousands of years ago.
Top things to do and see in Rome during Christmas:
1. Check out the Christmas trees!
There are amazing Christmas trees all around the world, but the huge one in Saint Peter’s Square surely deserves a stop (and a few pics). This year, the 25m tree will come from Trentino Alto Adige and will be adorned with 18000 energy-saving lights.
There will also be a 22m tree in Piazza Venezia right in front of the stunning Vittoriano and another one the same height next to the Colosseum. All Christmas decorations and trees are going to be on display from December 8th and as per tradition, they will be up until January, 6th.
2. Meet the star of the show
No, that’s not Santa Claus but Baby Jesus. In Italy, making the presepe (Nativity scene) is one of the happiest traditions and childhood memories, so if you wish to catch a glimpse of this Italian costume, make sure to take a peak in one of the 900 churches around Rome. The best one must be the life-size one in Saint Peter’s Square which will be created by Maltese artist Manwel Grech who won 2016’s competition. (more info, here – only in Italian).
While you are in Rome, you should also check out the Sale del Bramante’s 100 Presepi, which this year celebrates its 41st edition. With artworks of artists from all over the world, the exhibition will open on November 24th and will close on January 8th. There are also workshops for children where they can build and create their own nativity characters!
Where: Sale del Bramante, via G. D’Annunzio, Piazza del Popolo
When: every day, from 10am to 8pm
Ticket: €8, children €5.50
More info: Prolocoroma website (only in Italian)
3. Magical Rome Christmas lights
Just like in London, there are incredible lights all around Rome. Perhaps less commercial and extravagant, but the lights in the Italian capital make the eternal city look even more magical and stunning during Christmas. And while you soak in the atmosphere and wander around the beautiful streets, make sure to stop to listen to the many buskers after buyings some chestnuts from the street vendors.
4. Rome’s Christmas Markets
There are tons of Christmas markets all over Rome during that period. But the best one is in Piazza Navona, where from December 1st until the Epiphany (6th January), the square itself gets transformed into a huge Christmas market, one of the most suggestive in Rome. Stalls full of sweets and toys are set up all around the square – y u m m y!
Opening times: Weekdays: 10.00 am – 1.00 am; Holidays and days before Holidays: 10.00 am – 2.00 am.
5. See the Pope
All year round, people of all religions and faith go to Rome to catch a glimpse of the Pope. I also tried a few times, but never managed to see the man-in-white. But seeing the father of the Catholic Church celebrating the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve must be a very emotional event.
Tickets to the Mass are free, but the Basilica’s capacity is limited: you must book it as early as possible here.
Still want to see the Pope but don’t want to go through the mass? You can catch him at Saint Peter’s Square in the early morning to hear the Urbi et Orbi – the Pope’s Christmas message!
On Boxing Day, the Pope makes another short appearance for the Angelus (no tickets required) where he will give another short speech from his apartment.
6. Ice skating in Rome
Christmas isn’t Christmas without falling on your bum on an ice rink a few times. So, when in Rome, head to the 1200 square meter outdoor ice rink in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, from December 5th until February, where not only you will have an excellent time, but you can also enjoy one of the most amazing views of Rome.
Where can you go ice skating in Rome?
- Galleria Porta di Roma, Via Alberto Lionello, 205
- Auditorium Parco della Musica, Viale Pietro De Coubertin, 30
- Ice Park Village Tor di Quinto, Via Tor di Quinto, 55/57
- Grinzing Village, Lungotevere Castello
- Axel, Piazza Antonio Mancini
7. Don’t miss the old, good Rome!
Christmas period can be ideal for visiting museums and classical tourists’ attractions that are typically overcrowded during summer. Especially if it’s your first time in Rome, make sure to don’t miss the best parts and areas.
Please note that:
The Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Roman Forum are closed on December 25th and on January 1st and will be open every other day.
The Capitoline Museums are usually closed on Mondays and will be also closed on Christmas day and on January 1st. On December 24th and 31st will be open until 2 pm. Opening hours on the other days: 9 am – 8 pm.
Vatican Museums will be closed on December 8th, 25th, and 26th, on January 1st, and 6th; will be also closed every Sunday (as usual), except the last Sunday of the month (free entrance from 9 am to 12.30 pm). Make sure to book your tickets in advance.
8. Gospel festival
One of the best ways to get into the festive mood and vibe is through music and sing carols around Rome’s beautiful streets. However, if you like me are not really good with singing, you can go and listen to the Gospel Festival instead. Since 1995, this musical event hosts a series of holiday concerts at the Parco Della Musica. You can buy your tickets here.
Where: Auditorium, Parco della Musica Via Pietro De Coubertin, 30, 00196 ROME
9. The New Year’s fireworks
If you are in Rome for New Year’s Eve, you must join the crowd in Piazza del Popolo, where Rome’s largest public celebration takes place. There is music, dancing, and incredible fireworks. A free concert takes place at the Via dei Fori Imperiali every year.
People here will go crazy, singing, drinking and having fun all night long and you should join along. There usually is another free classical music concert outdoors on the square in front of the Quirinale, off Via Nazionale, also followed by fireworks at midnight.
10. Stuff your face on Italian Christmas delicatessen!
What Christmas is without panettone? I personally prefer pandoro, but both are a must-eat while you are in Rome (or in Italy in general). Avoid the commercial ones at supermarkets and head to local pasticcerie (bakeries) instead.
....il PanTony.....panettone con impasto a lievitazione naturale gusto zuppa inglese con pezzettoni di fondente e uva sultanina australiana.... #rocher #panettone #food #desserts #yum #yummy #amazing #instagood #instafood #sweet #chocolate #cake #icecream #dessertporn #delish #foods #deliciou s #tasty #eat #eating #hungry #foodpics #sweettooth #grancafferomano #gran_caffe_romano #solocosebuone #foodporn #solofra
My local friends told me that the best ones can be found here:
- Panificio Bonci on via Trionfale 34/36
- Panella on Via Merulana 54