Magic Things to Do in Rome for Christmas 2021 – Fantastic Events and Delicious Markets

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 annual appointments. The most well-known market is the one set up every year in Piazza Navona and this year, you can also visit one in the gorgeous settings of Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps together with a nativity scene.

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 jewelry, homeware, gifts, clothes, and the one in Piazza Mazzini, Prati neighborhood, very big where you will find artisans from many Italian regions selling the typical products, mostly culinary.

Another out-of-the-ordinary market is the Christmas edition of the Green Market Festival held for five days (8th, 11th, 12th, 18th and 19th of December from 10 am to 8 pm) at the Città dell’Altra Economia in Largo Dino Frisullo in the Testaccio neighborhood with a feast of artistic handicraft, yoga classes, artisan beer, an area for children and more. Foodies will enjoy the Christmas market at Birreria 568 beer factory in the very traditional Garbatella neighborhood until December 12th.

Attend exciting events

This Christmas, Rome is the venue for wonderful Yuletide-themed events for kids and adults.

Some of the most fascinating events happening during Christmas 2021 include the Christmas Village at Cinecittà, Italy’s famous cinema production studios, until January 6th. This will have a Christmas market rich in artisan food and handicraft goods as well as music and shows, a feast of lights and decorations. Foodies will love to try the typical Italian season flavors with Vin Brulé, hot chocolate, chestnuts, and deep-fried doughnuts. There is everything for everyone. Cinema fans will love the Gocce di Cinema (“Cinema Drops”), scenes from Christmas movies on maxi screen, and kids will enjoy virtual experiences of a roller coaster and flying on Santa Klaus’ sleigh.

Music and travel lovers can’t miss the series of events and activities of Christmas World organized in Rome’s music temple Auditorium Parco della Musica. Here, you will be able to travel around the world without leaving Rome as each section will take you to a different city: London, Paris, New York, Berlin, even the North Pole. You can attend Christmas-themed shows, live concerts, shopping in “London’s” Portobello Market, kids’ workshops, have your babies play at the Baby Village set up just for them or enjoy a light zoo.

Image: Show of Mirabilia of Music in Rome for Christmas 2021
Mirabilia of Music in Rome for Christmas 2021. Photo courtesy of Giacomo Bai

Finally, music lovers won’t want to miss a fantastic series of concerts and gigs gathered under the events’ umbrella Mirabilia of Music. Unlike last year, that it was entirely shown online, this year the music shows take place in seven different venues scattered around the city, including the iconic Pantheon and Castel Sant’Angelo, and the historical Apollo Veio Etruscan sanctuary, and welcome eager spectators to a terrific mix of genres and shapes. Some of the artists include eclectic Russian saxofonist Dimitri Grechi Espinoza, violoncellist Mario Brunello, and jazz-inspired Raffaele Costantino. These are the venues and you can follow the Facebook page of Direzione Musei Statali della Città di Roma for more info and updates:

  • Museo Boncompagni – Via Boncompagni 18
  • Galleria Spada – Piazza Capo di Ferro 13
  • Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo – Lungotevere Castello, 50
  • Museo Nazionale degli Strumenti Musicali – Piazza di S. Croce in Gerusalemme 9/a
  • Museo Hendrik Christian Andersen – Via Pasquale Stanislao Mancini 20
  • Santuario Etrusco dell’Apollo Veio – Via Riserva Campetti
  • Pantheon – Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres – Piazza della Rotonda

If you are a fan of live concerts and gigs, don’t miss the classics with the wonderful backdrop of Teatro Marcello every weekend until December 26th and then January 1st. Here for more info.

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 in Laterano), 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, colorful 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. Don’t miss Spelacchio in Piazza Venezia, Romans’ pride!

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.

Image: Christmas tree and nativity scene in St. Peter's Square in Rome

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 charming city, and this time of the year, it becomes magic. But how do you experience the magic of Christmas in this scenic town? Wandering through an artistic fairy tale where children and adults can walk around little wooden houses, culinary products, artisan creations, gift ideas and enchanted worlds.

At Viterbo Christmas Village, your kids will have the rare chance to meet the real Santa Klaus in 15th-century Palazzo degli Alessandri, they will see his red-nose reindeer Rudolph resting in its stable, in the heart of Viterbo’s old town, San Pellegrino neighborhood, in the historical Palazzo Scacciaricci, they can write and send a letter to Santa Klaus, and in Piazza San Carluccio they will see where the Italian Befana, the old lady who brings gifts across the country on the night of January 5th, makes candies for the good children and charcoal for who’s been too naughty!

Image: Home of Santa Klaus at Viterbo Christmas Village
Home of Santa Klaus. Photo courtesy of Viterbo Christmas Village

Kids and adults will have plenty of fun ice-skating on the frozen lake, will admire the nativity scene in the majestic Papal Palace, will go back in time on a vintage carousel in Piazza Duomo and history buffs can even discover underground Viterbo and the Museum of the Knights Templar as well as the medieval ceramics tradition at a local workshop. All this, wandering the enchanting streets and alleys of the medieval town spruced up for the Yuletide with lights, installations, Christmas music and Scandi-style little houses.

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