Christmas holidays are a fantastic time to visit Rome, maybe not popular as summer months, but still very suggestive and certainly less crowded with tourists. Rome is the capital of Christianity and the place where the celebration of Christmas originated: which place could be better of Rome in Christmas?
Winter in Rome is not too cold, temperatures seldom drop below freezing, and snowfalls are very rare. Just bring with you at least one warm coat and a rain coat, add an umbrella in your bag, and your Christmas in Rome will be wonderful!
Here a list of the top ten Rome Christmas sights during Christmas holiday season.
1 – Admire Christmas Trees.
One of the symbols of Christmas, each year several Christmas Trees are erected in the Capital: you can find a huge one in Saint Peter’s Square, and two of the largest Christmas Trees are usually erected in Piazza Venezia and next to the Colosseum. There’s also a Tree in the area in front of the Museums on the Capitoline Hill.
2 – Enjoy Nativity Scenes.
You can find Nativity scenes set up in most of Rome’s churches. A very suggestive, life-size nativity is set up in Saint Peter’s Square. The Church of Saints Cosma and Damiano, by the main entrance to the Roman Forum, has a very large 18th-century hand-carved Neopolitan Nativity scene. “100 Presepi”: about 200 Nativity Scenes from all around the world, is on display in the Sala del Bramante of the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo (near Piazza del Popolo), from November 24th to January 8th (Opening hours: every day from 10 am to 8 pm; full-price ticket 8€).
3 – Delight yourself with Christmas lights.
During this period the city main streets and monuments looks magical with traditional festive lights and decorations. You’ll also be entertained by roving musicians and vendors selling roasted chestnuts. Decorations are getting every year more ambitious, with twinklings, light projections, and jumbo screens, lighting up not only Rome’s center, but even Termini, EUR, and the Fiumicino airport.
4 – Wander around Piazza Navona Christmas Market.
From December 1st until the Epiphany, Piazza Navona is 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. The Piazza Navona market is specialized in Christmas decorations, offering everything you could possibly need to create a beautiful tree or add to a nativity scene, from traditional objects to most original ones.
5 – See the Pope.
Every year Saint Peter’s Basilica and Saint Peter’s Square, are crowded by thousands of devotees and visitors from all over the world, for the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, celebrated by the Pope himself. Tickets to the Mass are free but the Basilica’s capacity is limited: you must book for it as far in advance as possible. Here you can find the Reservation Procedure.
The Pope also delivers his Christmas message at noon on Christmas Day (Urbi et Orbi Blessing) from the window of his apartment above the Square.
The other opportunities to see the Pope in December are on Sundays at midday and on December 26th, for the Angelus (no tickets required): he will give a short speech from his apartment, followed by the Angelus and a blessing at the end of the prayer.
6 – Ice skate near Castel Sant’Angelo.
An 1200 square meter outdoor ice rink is set up in front of Castel Sant’Angelo, from December 5th until February. Enjoy a spectacular view of Rome with ice skates at your feet. Official website and Facebook (Italian only).
7 – Visit Museums and tourist’s attraction.
Christmas period can be ideal for visiting museums and classical tourist’s attractions that are less crowded than in Summer time. Just check in advance when they will be closed for feast days.
The Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum will be closed on December 25th and on January 1st and will be open every other day. Until December 31st are open to the public the Underground of the Colosseum and the Third ring: the tours are limited and subject to booking.
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).
Some smaller museums could be close for more days during Christmas period, but churches will be open every day and, clearly, squares and fountains will be always at your disposal.
8 – Go Shopping!
Throughout December and January, you can enjoy the many famous shopping streets enlightened for Christmas. However, bear in mind that most shops will not be open on Christmas Day and on January 1st.
9 – Enjoy New Year’s celebrations.
For New Year’s Eve you can join the crowd in Piazza del Popolo, Rome’s largest public celebration, with music, dancing, and fireworks. You can find live music and midnight fireworks also near the Colosseum, on Via dei Fori Imperiali, and there usually is a classical music concert outdoors on the square in front of the Quirinale, off Via Nazionale, also followed by fireworks at midnight.
10 – Don’t miss delicious Christmas sweets!
Bakeries are brimming over with yummy holiday offerings like panettone, torrone and pandoro.
And then, as usual in Rome, there will be many exhibitions, fairs, concerts, shows, musical all over the Christmas and New Year’s period.
For this special occasion, we recommend you our Christian Tour: Christmas is the best period of all to enjoy Rome’s churches and Vatican City, the very home of the Catholicism.
Photo sources: wikimedia, flickr