Christmas in Rome 2016 – The Best Seasonal Things To See & Do

Christmas in Rome kicks off on with Festa della Madonna Immacolata on December 8 and continues straight through to Epiphany on January 6. Christmas markets, nativity scenes, outdoor skating rinks and festive decorations fill the piazzas of Rome. It's one of the best times to visit the Eternal City.

Seasonal concerts and special events book quickly at this time of year, so we recommend you book as early as possible. If you can, you must experience an opera event at one of the historic churches of Rome, with special Christmas & New Year's Eve performances. And the magic continues beyond the Roman gates — explore Naples & Pompeii on a relaxing day trip.

Christmas in Rome 2016 – Popular Activities

VIP Skip-the-Line Vatican Tour

Skip-the-Line Vatican Walking Tour

Covering the Vatican Museums + the Sistine Chapel + St Peter's Basilica, this VIP tour will be a Christmas memory of a lifetime.

See the world's largest private art collection with an expert guide at your side, including Raphael's Rooms, the Sistine Chapel, and the incredible frescoes by Michelangelo. Finish at St Peter's Basilica to see the stunning hisPieta. Our advice is to upgrade to the small-group tour (12 people maximum) for more individual attention and flexibility. Available through most of December.

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This tour was amazing! It was long enough to see all the things we wanted to see. Our group was very small, only 13, so our tour guide was able to to make it a more personable experience. He was very knowledgeable about the history of Rome, as well as the Vatican. We would highly recommend this tour."
– 5-Star Review

Skip-the-Line Ancient Rome + Colosseum Tour

Ancient Rome + Colosseum Tour

Leave the holiday crowds behind and go directly inside the Colosseum!

Explore the first and second tiers while learning about the gladiators who competed in the Colosseum games. Next, the half-day tour takes you to the Roman Forum, the hub of Ancient Rome.

Want to see more? Upgrade to include the Colosseum Underground Chambers, the Arena, and the Upper Tier — areas normally off-limits to tourists.

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Absolutely brilliant. Easy, clear instructions to the meeting point and there's no way we would ever have learnt so much if we didn't have the tour guide. She was very informative, took care of the group and I can highly recommend that everyone does this walking tour. Fantastic!"
– 5-Star Review

Christmas in Rome Bike Tour

Christmas in Rome Bike Tour

Rome is compact city and, so, perfect for a cycling tour.

On this classic tour you discover Rome's secret passages, ancient walls, ruins, parks & off-the-beaten path neighbourhoods. Stop along the way for photos, hot chocolate & seasonal pastries.

The weather in December, although chilly, is ideal for a cycling adventure through the Eternal City. Best part? This tour is available throughout the holiday season, including Christmas Eve.

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Thoroughly enjoyed this tour. We saw all the major sights, but what was really delightful was seeing the neighborhoods of the Trastavere. Our guide was great — lots of history and context. I want to return and would take the tour again. So much to see. Thank you."
– 5-Star Review

Naples + Pompeii Day Trip

Naples + Pompeii Day Trip

This tour is even available Christmas Eve!

Combine a trip to the seaside city of Naples with a tour of Pompeii's ruins. See the best of Naples — the Royal Palace, Castel dell'Ovo, Piazza del Plebiscito.

Then travel to Pompeii, the haunting UNESCO-listed ruins that lay undiscovered for centuries. Includes luxury coach transportation and a classic Italian lunch.

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Fabulous — not to be missed. You learn so much about this city — how sophisticated it was as well as its dark side. You can almost feel what it must have been like when terror struck and then everything was frozen in time. Note: the people casts are not among the ruins but rather are preserved in a glass house. Still riveting nonetheless."
– 5-Star Review

Christmas Arts & Culture

2016 Christmas Concerts in Rome

2016 Christmas Concerts in Rome

In addition to the good food & wine, Christmas in Rome means music — plenty of it!

And music not just in the concert halls, but also in historic churches and small opera houses of Rome. At Chiesa di S. Paolo entro le Mura it's a month-long celebration with the Great Italian Opera Gala, the Three Tenors, and La Traviata.

Over at Chiesa Evangelica Valdese you can experience Vivaldi's Four Seasons, The Three Tenors, and special New Year's Eve Concerts.

Christmas Food & Wine Events

Rome Culinary Walking Tour

Rome Culinary Walking Tour

So much beautiful Italian Christmas food, so little time!

Join this fun moveable feast as you sample your way through the belly of Rome. December is a special time to be in the city and explore the heart of Rome's culinary district, Testaccio.

Meet the people behind Rome's food producers, sample seasonal specialties, sip wine, and learn about the Christmas food traditions of Roman life. Includes all tastings plus a copy of the Local Food Lover's Guide to Rome.

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Excellent tour guide…he was so funny and the best tour guide I have had. Loved all the food and couldn't get enough, even though I felt like I was going to burst, I was so full. Overall fantastic and highly recommend."
– 5-Star Review

Christmas Markets – Mid-December to Early January

Christmas Markets

Join the festivities at the Christmas markets where you'll find Roman foods like cheeses, baked goods, cured meats, roasted chestnut, even scarves & children's toys. The most famous is in Piazza Navona, where the Baroque square is transformed into a festive holiday market.

Other markets are found at Piazza Re di Roma, Roma con il cuore a Piazzale Ankara, Piazza Caprera, and Mercatino Natalizio di Fiumicino. Plan on visiting Via dei Condotti, Rome's main shopping street, for the festive Christmas lights.

More Christmas!

Festa della Madonna Immacolata & The Pope's Blessing

Catch a glimpse of the Pope as he travels to Piazza di Spagna (the Spanish Steps) in homage to Mary. The best plan is to arrive early to get a spot closest to the column erected in honour of the Immaculate Conception. The blessing is at 4pm. Tickets are not required but it's recommended to arrive early. December 8.

Nativity Scenes

Experience the tradition of Italian nativity scenes in churches all over the city. Over 200 cribs from artists around the world are on display. November 24 to January 2017.

Outdoor Ice Skating

Head to Castel Sant'Angelo (Hadrian's Tomb, for you classicists) where an outdoor ice skating rink is set up for the holidays. It's open daily from 10 am to midnight. You'll also find a Christmas market. Other skating rinks —

  • Galleria Porta di Roma, Via Alberto Lionello, 205
  • Auditorium Parco della Musica, Viale Pietro De Coubertin, 30
  • Ice Park Village Tor di Quinto
  • Grinzing Village, Lungotevere Castello, Via Tor di Quinto, 55/57
  • Axel, Piazza Antonio Mancini

Menorah in Piazza Barberini

Rome also is home to a thriving Jewish population and Hanukkah is celebrated with a large Menorah found in the Piazza Barberini.

Christmas Papal Masses – Saint Peter's Basilica

The most important thing to note is that midnight mass is at 9:30 pm. Your best bet is to arrive early. Papal Masses are a central to Christmas celebrations in Rome.

Tickets are required, and are essential for midnight Mass on Christmas Eve. In order to get a hold of a ticket, you must write to the Prefecture of the Papal Household 2 to 6 months in advance. Tickets are free, however, if you don't win a ticket, you can always watch the event in the piazza on giant screens.

  • December 24: Christmas Midnight Mass, 9:30 PM
  • December 31: First Vespers and Te Deum, 5:00 PM
  • January 1: Holy Mass on the Solemnity of Mary, 10 AM
  • January 6: Epiphany, 10 AM

What's Open During Christmas in Rome

What's Open During Christmas

You're in luck! Most of the major monuments and museums of Rome are open during the holidays with the exception of Christmas Day & New Year's Day. Make sure to check the schedule before you leave your hotel.

Expect the Colosseum, Forum and Palatine Hill to be closed on Christmas Day & New Year's Eve. The Vatican Museums will be closed several days in December — 25th, 26th, and an early closing on New Year's Eve.

Christmas Dinner in Rome

Christmas Dinner in Rome

As you would expect, an Italian Christmas is all about the food.

Like many things in Italy, food is a regional affair, with some clear national traditions. Christmas Eve dinner is usually focused around seafood so expect fritto misto alla romana (a melange of seasonal vegetables and codfish) or spaghetti with clams.

On Christmas Day expect tortellini brodo as a first course, lasagne or another classic pasta dish as the second course, followed by roast lamb or stuffed chicken. Dessert will almost certainly include panettone, a towering sweet bread filled with candied and dried fruits. Expect plenty of wine with the meal and a sweet ending with a digestive liqueur, mandarin oranges and a selection of dried fruits & nuts.

If you're planning on dining out on Christmas Day or New Year's Day, plan far in advance, as many small family restaurants in Rome will be closed during the holidays.