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 Rome in December is very popular among travelers. Christmas markets, lights, and events are only some of the things to do in Rome during the winter festivities.
I can’t even believe we are already almost at that time of the year. I feel summer has just finished, and the unusually warm weather of this fall in Rome this year doesn’t help to make us think it’s time to plan for Christmas.
However, going out and about around Rome, I can see already some Christmas decorations in stores and themed events being prepared. This Christmas, Rome is the venue for wonderful Yuletide-themed events for kids and adults. Read on to get inspired to book that ticket or to know what to do in Rome for Christmas if you already have one!
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.
Table of Contents
- 1 What to do in Rome for Christmas
- 1.1 Visit the Vatican
- 1.2 Christmas Markets in Rome
- 1.3 Visit the Christmas Village at Cinecittà World
- 1.4 Concerts and events at Auditorium Parco della Musica
- 1.5 San Gregorio Armeno Presepi in Parco Commerciale Da Vinci
- 1.6 Christmas Lights in Rome
- 1.7 Christmas Trees in Rome
- 1.8 Nativity scenes in Rome
- 1.9 Go shopping
- 1.10 Visit Viterbo’s Christmas Village
- 1.11 See the lights of Botanical Gardens’ Incanto di Luci
- 1.12 Visit Regno di Babbo Natale (Santa Klaus’ Kingdom) in Vetralla
- 1.13 Walk around fairy tales in Ariccia’s Parco delle Favole Incantate
- 2 What to wear in Rome for Christmas
- 3 What to book ahead in Rome for Christmas
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.
A lovely initiative in the Vatican is what’s known “100 Presepi in Vaticano”, with “presepe” meaning nativity scene. It takes place under Saint Peter’s Square colonnade for a month from December 8th to January 8th every day from 10 am and 8 pm, except on December 24th and 31st when it closes at 5 pm. This is a fascinating route through several traditional nativity scenes to show the religous and social meaning of Christmas.
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. This year, on December 17th there will be the 30th edition of the yearly Christmas concert in the Vatican. This year, it will take place in the Auditorium Conciliazione (Via della Conciliazione 4).
Like every year, also in 2022, plenty of singers from different music genres including blues, jazz, pop, rock, gospel, and opera will perform in Rome. The names of the artists will be released soon by the Vatican. If you would like to participate, you can buy the tickets here. The proceeds from the concert will fund several charity projects that will be announced soon.
Check out our Vatican extensive guide to know everything you can visit in the Holy See and how to book the different places, as well as our handy tips about 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.
Christmas Markets in Rome
One of the best things to see and do in Rome during the Christmas holidays is to visit the lively and colorful 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, 9th, 10th, and 12th, and the 17th and 18th 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.
The Green Market Festival will also have other two Christmas-themed separate events. One on the 3rd and 4th of December from 10 am to 8 pm in the Appian Way, in the Ex-Cartiera Latina, Via Appia Antica 42. It’s a charming exhibition of artistic handicrafts and regional food excellence with a space for children and shows.
Still in the same place in the Ancient Appian Way is the other separate event organized by Green Market Festival. This will take place on December 23rd (10 am-8 pm) and 24th (9 am-6 pm) and will focus on last-minute Christmas shopping with stalls selling organic food products and artisan creations. Here, too, there will be a space for children’s entertainment, shows, and where to grab a bite.
Visit the Christmas Village at Cinecittà World
Some of the most fascinating events happening during Christmas 2022 include the Christmas Village at Cinecittà World, Italy’s famous cinema production studios, from November, 12th 2022 to January, 8th 2023. 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.
The young ones will love to visit Santa Klaus’ house and factory, while foodies won’t want to miss strolling along Cinecittà Street to visit the huts of the Christmas markets to sample traditional Italian foods as well as buy season gifts. One of the new attractions this year in the Christmas village of Cinecittà World is the Stardust festival (Polvere di stelle, in Italian), where you can walk across a light path populated with fantasy animals, colorful trees, light interplays and decorations.
At Cinecittà World for Christmas this year you can also experience the North Pole with a large snow park that will include ice-skating rinks and the adrenaline-filled playgrounds and roller coaster of the Scivolone slide, Kamikice, and soft mountains from where to throw your snowballs.
There is everything for everyone. This year, too, 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.
- Address: Via Irina Alberti.
- Opening hours: From November 12th to December 4th, open only on weekends from 11 am to 7 pm. Open also December 8th-11th, 17th and 18th, 25th-29th, and January 2nd-8th, always from 11 am to 7 pm. Open also New Year’s Eve from 6 pm to late at night.
- How to book: Follow this link and select the day you want to go. A new page will open and you can purchase your tickets.
Concerts and events at Auditorium Parco della Musica
Also for Christmas 2022, Auditorium Parco della Musica – Ennio Morricone is preparing a rich calendar of events, concerts, and theater performances for November and December including the artists of Roma Jazz Festival, and pianist Alexander Gadjiev playing Chopin and Schuman.
On December 22nd, there will be the Christmas concert called “Fiabe in Musica”, musical fairy tales, led by director Stanislav Kochanovsky, Agunda Kulaeva as the mezzo-soprano, and Sergey Radchenko as tenor.
On the days around Christmas, Florida Inspirational Singers choir will perform gospel concerts in the 23rd of December, while on the 25th, there will be two concerts with Harlem Gospel Choir.
San Gregorio Armeno Presepi in Parco Commerciale Da Vinci
A stone’s throw from Rome in the huge shopping center Parco Da Vinci of Fiumicino, they reproduce the historical road of San Gregorio Armeno in Naples’ old town famous for the artisan workshops making sculptures and decorations for Christmas’ nativity scenes.
From November 25th, at Parco Da Vinci you will be able to walk around the shops and workshops of the artisans who have been building nativity scenes for generations. You will feel in Naples city center without even going to Naples at all.
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 famous Rome 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 colors, 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.
Going shopping is always a sound thing to do in Rome, but at Christmas, it’s really a treat. Shops are full of gift-like goodies, colorful 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 favorite things to do in Rome for Christmas for both residents and tourists.
Visit Viterbo’s Christmas Village
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 Viterbo 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.
In Piazza San Carluccio, you will also 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!
Among the new guests of Viterbo Christmas Village in 2022 are the naughty Grinch who will be living in the historic Torre Scacciaricci tower and the village of the elves where children and adults can discover a magic world of sacred trees and enchanted woods.
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.
Viterbo’s Christmas Village opens on November 26th from 10 am to 8 pm and until the 23rd of December, it will open only on weekends and for Immacolata Day from the 8th to the 11th of December. Getting close to Christmas, it will be open every day from December 23rd to January 6th from 10 am to 8 pm. On the 24th and 31st of December, it’s open until 6 pm, on December 25th and January 1st, it will open at 11 am instead of 10 am.
See the lights of Botanical Gardens’ Incanto di Luci
Between November, 19th 2022 and January, 8th 2023, Rome’s Orto Botanico in Trastevere will become an enchanted park of colorful lights where adults and children can walk surrounded by shimmering trees and mesmerizing fountains.
Make your way across a magical 1.5-km illuminated trail and experience Rome’s festive vibe.
Your family will be charmed by the view of landmarks such as the Cathedral of Light, Kaleidoscope, Butterflies, the Steps to the Moon, Laser World, and Field of Light. This will make a dazzling adventure of lights and colors in a sensory overload in the heart of Trastevere.
Whether you are traveling to Rome with a toddler or kids, they will all love it.
- Address: Largo Cristina di Svezia, 23A/24
- Opening hours: Wednesday to Sunday 5.30-11 pm (last entrance at 9.30 pm), closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
- Entrance fee: €12.50 on weekdays, €14.50 on weekends.
Visit Regno di Babbo Natale (Santa Klaus’ Kingdom) in Vetralla
This magical place is about an hour’s drive from Rome towards Viterbo. In fact, Vetralla itself is a beautiful town of the Tuscia Viterbese. This is a large shop for Christmas decorations in a park with plenty of themed activities for kids.
At the entrance, you can choose between three different lines, one only to the shop, one including also the House of Santa Klaus, and one including these two, plus the Village of the Elves. After whichever landmark you choose, you can spend the rest of your morning or evening at the Victorian Village with plenty of entertainment for children and kids in the amusement park with a carousel, an elf’s train, and a skating rink.
If you are traveling with your family, this is one of the coolest things to do in Rome for Christmas with kids. Keep in mind that you will need a car to reach here, so perfect if you have decided to rent one and drive in Rome.
- Address: km 62.200, Strada Statale Cassia, 01019 Vetralla (VT).
- Opening hours: Every day 9.30 am-7.30 pm.
- Entrance fee: Free to enter, each playground’s attraction has a fee of 1 token: 1 token costs 4€, 3 tokens cost 9€.
Walk around fairy tales in Ariccia’s Parco delle Favole Incantate
Another fantastic thing to do in Rome at Christmas with kids is a visit to Parco delle Favole Incantate in Ariccia, about an hour’s drive south of Rome. Italian for Park of Fairy Tales, this enchanted park is located inside the beautiful Parco Chigi.
Your children will absolutely love wandering into the woods looking for the characters Disney took from the most famous fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Pinocchio, Aladdin’s Genie, and obviously, Santa Klaus. On weekends, there are shows and performances taken from children’s stories.
- Address: Via dell’Uccelliera 1, 00040 Ariccia (RM).
- Opening hours: Every day 4.30 pm-11.30 pm (Saturday and Sunday until 12 am). Weekend shows start at 6 pm.
- Entrance fee: On weekdays 5€, on weekends and holidays 10€ per person. Free up to 8 years old.
What to wear in Rome for Christmas
December in Rome is cold, especially if you come for Christmas that it’s at the end of the month, and if you want to join the celebrations, also for New Year’s Eve, which is often at night. Here are some of the clothing items you should pack for Rome for Christmas.
- Coat. Something warm over your clothes is necessary. If you feel more comfortable with a jacket, that’s fine too, just it needs to be a warm, padded jacket, because raincoats or spring/autumn jackets are not enough.
- Long-sleeve tops. This is good for layering in case you are going to a restaurant where the inside is kept very warm. Your top should be also warm, though, not too light. Wool, silk, or warm cotton are good options.
- Sweaters. Whether you are wearing a top or a blouse underneath, a wool sweater or such warm garment is recommended.
- Warm trousers. Either warm cotton or wool is recommended. If you are more comfortable in sporty trousers to walk all day, you can wear insulated or padded ones.
- Boots or warm walking shoes. Whether it’s raining or not, warm shoes are a must this time of the year in Rome.
- Scarf, hat, and gloves. I wear a scarf and a hat every time I go out in Rome in December. I don’t always wear gloves because I don’t find them practical, but sometimes I do regret my choice. Truth be said, there isn’t always the need for gloves in December, more so in January and February. But it’s still winter and the weather can be unpredictable. Adding to that, if you are planning some nights out, you might actually need a pair of gloves.
- A fancy outfit. Christmas celebrations, especially when held in hotels, restaurants, or concert halls, require an elegant outfit. For men, a suit or some smart trousers and a button-down shirt are all a good choice. Women can wear elegant trousers with a fancy top, or a dress, or a nice knee-length skirt. Obviously, the shoes should fit the attire, so avoid runners or sneakers!
Check out our full guide to what to wear in Rome in December.
What to book ahead in Rome for Christmas
Christmas is a very busy period in Rome so I strongly recommend booking ahead as much as you can, or at least what you really want to visit.
- Hotels. I recommend booking your accommodation well ahead of time before traveling. This applies especially if you want to book a hotel in Rome city center, and if you fancy a specific accommodation. There are plenty of hotels in Rome, but by booking ahead you have a better chance to find the room you are aiming for.
- Events. Concerts, tickets for Christmas celebrations and villages will certainly be crowded and places might be limited so I recommend booking and purchasing your ticket online.
- Restaurants. If they are central, booking is always a good idea, but absolutely necessary if it’s on weekends and mandatory for lunch and dinner of festive days such as the December 8th (Festa dell’Immacolata), 25th (Christmas), and 26th (Santo Stefano/Boxing Day). Reserving your table with even a week in advance is recommended also for lunch on New Year, January 1st.
- New Year’s Eve dinner. Usually, for New Year’s Eve dinner, restaurants don’t serve an à la carte menu but they organize what we call “cenone” (big dinner), with a fixed menu for everyone. There are normally two menus, one meat-based and one seafood-based. Here, booking is mandatory and required by the same restaurants. The fixed menus come also with a fixed price and include drinks and bubbles for the midnight toast.
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