What to do in Rome for Christmas

Are you joining the crowds to feel the Yuletide spirit in the Italian capital? Find out what to do in Rome for Christmas to enjoy the city in the winter festivities.

Being the capital of Christendom, it’s only normal that for Christmas Rome is very popular among travellers. Christmas markets, lights, events are only some of the things to do in Rome during the winter festivities. Read on to get inspired to book that ticket or to know what to do if you already have!

READ MORE: If it’s your first trip, you might want to check our detailed guide to the top things to do in Rome for first-time visitors.

Christmas Tree in front of the Colosseum among the things to see in Rome for Christmas
The Christmas Tree in front of the Colosseum in Rome

What to do in Rome for Christmas

Visit the Vatican

Whether you are religious or not, Catholic or not, the Vatican is always a must for anyone visiting Rome, and for Christmas more so. There are many highlights in the Vatican and landmarks to see, and for Christmas, there are more events and functions.

Preparations start in the first week of December, so if you can be in Rome from mid-December, you can enjoy also the first stages. On December 14th there is the yearly concert in the Vatican, and this year 2019 some of the singers participating are Italians Elisa, Mahmood, Giorgio Albiani, Fabio Armiliato and international artists such as Susan Boyle, Mireille Mathieu, Lionel Richie and Bonnie Tyler.

If you are in Rome around that time and want to participate, you can buy the tickets here. The proceeds from the concert will fund two charity projects, one in Iraq and one in Uganda.

Check out our Vatican extensive guide to know everything you can visit in the Holy See and how to book for the different places, and where to book your hotel if you want to stay nearby.

One of the five itineraries included in our new eBook “Tasting Rome by Neighbourhood” explores the area around the Vatican. Check it out to find the best restaurants and things to do nearby.

READ MORE: For as stunning as it is, don’t limit your religious tour to the Vatican. Read our post to discover beautiful and lesser-known churches in Rome.

Christmas Markets in Rome

One of the best things to see and do in Rome during this time of the year is visiting the Christmas markets. Every year there are some different markets from the year before, but some are an annual appointment.

The most well-known market is the one set up every year in Piazza Navona

Some others, among the most famous Christmas markets in Rome, are the one in Piazza Risorgimento, right close to St. Peter’s Basilica, selling anything from jewellery, homeware, gifts, clothes, and the one in Piazza Mazzini, Prati neighbourhood, very big where you will find artisans from many Italian regions selling the typical products, mostly culinary.

Sometimes I also saw a lovely little market in Corso Vittorio Emanuele, close to Chiesa Nuova, where they sell objects and winter accessories.

Go to the museum

All throughout the year in Rome there are countless art, history and cultural exhibitions. Some of the exhibitions happening during Christmas 2019 are the one at Centrale Montemartini about the 110 years of Acea energy provider in Rome “110 Anni di Luce”, “La meccanica dei mostri. Da Carlo Rambaldi a Makinarium”, an exhibition about cinema special effects until January 6th 2020 at Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Via Nazionale.

Another fascinating exhibition is “Pompei e Santorini” about natural disasters caused by volcanoes at Scuderie del Quirinale until January 6th 2020, while in Via Guido Reni 7 they will show “Van Gogh + Monet Experience” virtual exhibition until January 6th. At the Colosseum archaeological park, you can see “Carthago. Il mito immortale”, an exhibition about one of the most powerful and fascinating ancient civilizations.

If you are in Piazza Navona, you might want to visit the beautiful Chiostro del Bramante and have a peek of their current exhibition running until March 2020 showing the paintings of the two artists Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.

There is also the annual exhibition of the Nativity Scene “100 Presepi”, launched in 1976 to ward off the risk of replacing an age-old Italian tradition with the use of Christmas trees.

This year is in Via della Conciliazione, in front of St. Peter’s Square, and shows several nativity scenes built with the most different materials from wooden to glass to copper to silver, and styles. From Dec 7th 2019 to Jan 12th 2020, Sala San Pio X (Via della Conciliazione 7), open daily 10 am 8 pm, free entrance. Booking is recommended for groups, email [email protected] or phone +39 0669869500.

Christmas Lights in Rome

Whether you are in the most significant places for the Catholic faith like the Vatican or other churches (I’m thinking of Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo fuori le Mura, San Giovanni), you will love the lights that embellish the places.

But that’s not all. Sacred places are only one aspect of Christmas in Rome. Walking along large shopping streets like Via del Corso, Via Cola di Rienzo or Via Ottaviano, colourful festive lights will run above you all throughout.

Christmas lights in Rome really make the city pretty.

Christmas Trees in Rome

From St. Peter’s Square to the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia, you will see many Christmas trees around Rome. The most famous, usually a gift to the Vatican from another country, is the one in St. Peter’s Square. Very tall and finely decorated, it’s really beautiful. But not the only one worth photographing.

The piazza in front of the Colosseum usually has a lovely Christmas tree, the little squares around the city as well as shops, hotels, and restaurants have their own tree, you will love all the colours, styles and lights.

Nativity scenes in Rome

Being a Catholic city in a Catholic country and the seat of the Holy See as well as the capital of the former Papal Kingdom, it goes without saying that Christmas in Rome is very much felt. You will find nativity scenes everywhere in Rome, as much, if not more than the decorated trees. This is definitely one of the nicest things to see in Rome for Christmas.

Just like for every other festive decoration, the Vatican shows also the largest nativity scene with human-like statues until January 7th in St. Peter’s Square.

As it’s the scene central to Christmas celebrations and meaning, you will find this in every single church in Rome, and some are really beautiful. Check out large churches like Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo Fuori le Mura but also important places like San Pietro in Vincoli and Santa Croce in Gerusalemme for more variety.

Go shopping

Going shopping is always a sound thing to do in Rome, but under Christmas it’s really a treat. Shops are full of gift-like goodies, colourful packages and plenty of original ideas to attract customers.

From fancy lingerie to trendy clothes and shoes to original homeware, if you are after some Christmas gifts in Rome, you will be spoilt for choice and for sure won’t be disappointed.

Roads like Via del Corso, Via Nazionale, Via Cola di Rienzo and Via del Tritone will be flashing with lights and beautiful windows, but I wouldn’t disregard smaller streets like the alleys around Trastevere or around the Spanish Steps for some artisan handmade products, or the same Christmas markets all around the city.

Going on a shopping spree is one of the favourite things to do in Rome for Christmas for both residents and tourists.

Visit Viterbo

Why not a day-trip to Viterbo during Christmas? It’s always a great time to visit this beautiful city, but this time of the year they organise also a lovely Christmas market and the decorations around its medieval quarter are beautiful. Besides, Viterbo is Rome’s sister and has been a Papal city for centuries, very proud of their past, they look after their religious festivals.

This year in Viterbo they organise a “Caffeina Christmas Village”, open from November 23rd to January 6th. In the beautiful setting of the old medieval quarter, this themed village will show the house of Santa Klaus, the world’s biggest covered Nativity Scene, the Magic World, the Dragon’s Cave and many other attractions.

An artistic fairy tale where children and adults can walk around little wooden houses, culinary products, artisan creations, gift ideas and enchanted worlds.

Opening times of Viterbo’s Caffeina Christmas Village: Nov 24-Dec 20 Mon-Thur 2-8 pm Fri-Sun 10 am-8 pm. Dec 21-Jan 6 Daily 10 am- 8 pm, Dec 24 10 am-6 pm.

Entrance fee: 16 euro full ticket. The full ticket gives you access to all attractions once. From November 23rd to December 19th from Monday to Friday it’s possible to visit all the attractions with a discount ticket of 12 euro. There are also cheaper tickets that will buy you entrance to only some attractions.

If you don’t finish them all in one day, the ticket is valid until the end of the project and you can visit the rest of the attractions other days. You can also choose different types of tickets, cheaper, for a selected number of attractions. Ticket office is in Piazza del Gesù, for info and booking you can contact [email protected]


The best things to do in Rome for Christmas

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