The Best Things to do in Rome in December 2019

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Given you are not desperate for the summer heat to follow you on your trip to Italy, visiting Rome during December is the perfect choice for you. Find out what are some of the best things to do in Rome during December!

Off-season benefits in Rome

The off-season period in Rome starts mid-November and lasts until February, which means fewer crowds everywhere. Assuming you are going to visit Rome during the warmer months, it’s advisable to arm yourself with patience, due to the long waiting lines everywhere and crowded streets.

But it’s a different situation for December! If you decided to visit The Eternal City during this festive period, you can relax and take your time exploring Roman streets and monuments. Waiting lines for sites like the Colosseum and St. Peter’s Basilica are much shorter and more manageable. Still, we advise you to purchase Rome’s skip-the-line tickets for monuments like these.

December decoration Colosseum Rome
Festive decoration in front of the Colosseum

Alongside stress-free sightseeing and picture taking, you will find that accommodation prices drop during the off-season compared to the summer. Accommodation providers tend to keep lower prices throughout December and most of January (with New Year’s Eve being the exception). So if a budget-friendly trip is your cup of tea, December may be the perfect time for you to visit Rome. Add to that the Roma Pass Card, and you can have a worry-free vacation.

The extra bonus is that Rome offers plenty of things to do in December since it’s the holiday season!

Weather in Rome during December & What to Pack

Rome tends to be reasonably cold during December (7°C to 10°C on average), with some rain showers throughout the month. The weather can shift from cloudy, grey days to crisp, sunny ones. Frost and snow are a sporadic phenomenon for Rome in December, although snowfalls did happen in the past.

When it comes to packing for your December visit to Rome, it’s recommended you bring along warm clothes that you can layer on. This way, you will stay comfortable during moderately cold days and be prepared for cooler nights. Don’t forget to pack a heavy jacket, an umbrella, or a raincoat and waterproof shoes since Rome can get quite rainy in December. 

Rome's Festive Spirit

Beautiful Rome radiates with a special kind of magic during December. Just like the majority of bigger European cities, Rome exudes Christmas spirit with its lights and ornaments and celebrates the festive season. 

If you are a fan of Christmas ambiance, the thing you must do is stroll around Rome to feel the magic of the season. The first stop should be the Christmas decor in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, together with its nativity scene. Have a look at Spanish Steps and Via Condotti. Other places around Rome with beautiful festive decor are Piazza Navona, Via del Corso, and Piazza Venezia. Make sure you don’t miss the opportunity to have a peek through many charming little streets of Centro Storico and Trastevere.  

Holiday Events in Rome during December

Most of the holidays celebrated in Rome during December are Christian and Roman Catholic. The celebration also includes secular and Jewish events. There are plenty of festive things to do in Rome in December. You can find a variety of holiday markets, few parties, and many religious ceremonies.

Christmas Markets in Rome

Christmas market at Piazza Navona Rome December
Christmas market at Piazza Navona

Located on the Piazza Navona Roman Christmas market opens in early December, lasting until the 6th of January. The square gets  filled with people and little stalls from which you can buy nativity crafts, handmade gifts, and children’s toys. You can also try out a variety of seasonal treats and street food. Street musicians and the carousel are an exceptional addition to the Christmas market.

The lighting of the Menorah & Hanukkah

Menorah lighting is possibly the first celebratory attraction that Rome offers to a tourist in December. Giant Menorah is lit at Piazza Barberini. This event starts off the Hanukkah celebration in Rome. The holiday falls on a different week each year, so make sure to check the correct dates before making plans for your vacation. Due to Rome’s sizable Jewish community, the commemoration of Hanukkah holds a big importance to the city. Piazza Barberini becomes the epicenter of celebration as candles get lit each night of the eight-day holiday.

The Nativity Display

At Sala del Bramante near Piazza del Popolo, you can see a display of nativity scenes from around the globe, which are set out until January 6th. Nativity scenes can be found in most of Rome’s catholic churches so you can have a look if you’re planning to attend Mass or service.

The Immaculate Conception

immaculate conception december rome winter holidays
Colonna dell' Immacolata in front of the Church Trinita dei Monti

On December 8th, Catholics celebrate the holy day of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception of Jesus. Marked by the Pope leading a caravan from the Vatican to the Piazza di Spagna this sacred holiday is of big importance to the Catholics. Upon arriving at Piazza di Spagna, a wreath gets laid at the Colonna dell’ Immacolata in front of the Church Trinita dei Monti. 

Santa Lucia Day (Saint Lucy's Day)

As one of the many holy days during December, St. Lucy’s day is more widely celebrated in other parts of Italy. However, in Rome, it’s honored with a large procession starting from Castelo Sant Angelo, going to Saint Peter’s Square.

Christmas Eve

Traditionally, on the evening of the 24th of December, Nativity displays in Rome get completed by adding the baby Jesus to them or are revealed in their entirety. The one that is worth your visit is the life-size Nativity scene at Saint Peter’s Square.

The Christmas Day - Urbi et Orbi

Christmas Rome St. Peter Basilica

As it is one of the most religious holidays of the year, you can expect many places to be closed on Christmas day. Romans traditionally celebrate the day in the company of their families. But fear not, if your vacation falls on this date, there is still a lot of things to do in Rome to celebrate Christmas. From attending midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica to visiting Christmas crèches around the Eternal City.

On Christmas morning, you can attend the Pope’s addressing and blessing to devoted masses at Saint Peter’s Square. The Pope showers his blessings twice a year ( Christmas and Easter) in a ceremony called Urbi et Orbi. So if you want to catch a glimpse of the Pope in person and attend the traditional holiday celebration, be sure not to miss this event.

Saint Stephen's day

Celebrated on the 26th of December, St. Stephen’s Day gets celebrated as an extension of Christmas Day. It is a day when families head out to visit Christmas markets and nativity displays in churches. Roman Churches commemorate this feast day, for instance, the church of Santo Stefano Rotondo nearby the Colosseum.

New Year's Eve

New Years eve fireworks in Rome

Much like the rest of the world, Rome celebrates the beginning of the new year in grand style. The largest public celebration of New Year’s Eve takes place at Piazza del Popolo, accompanied by music, dancing, and of course, spectacular fireworks.  

Food & Beverages in Rome during December

The time of the year when we can indulge ourselves in tasty, traditional food must be December, and Rome is no exception when it comes to that. Of course, you’ll enjoy pizza and pasta if you are visiting Italy, but that is a traditional food you can enjoy all year round. There are some seasonal specialties you should try while spending the holiday season in Italy. 

If you have a sweet tooth, there is plenty of treats to try out in Rome during December. A well known, tall, fluffy cake in the shape of a star, topped with powdered sugar, that melts in your mouth while you eat it called Pandoro is an Italian staple. Panettone is another dessert option that will, for sure, satisfy your sweet tooth. This dome-shaped cake is filled with candied fruits and is an Italian holiday staple. Another treat that Rome has to offer during the festive season is Torrone, a nutty delicacy made of egg whites, sugar, and honey complemented by a tasty crunch. You can easily find Torrone in most Italian grocery stores and bakeries.

December holiday cake in Rome
Traditional Christmas panettone with raisins and dried fruits

If you want to indulge in traditional holiday dishes, why not book the best food tours in Rome:

 

You may be a more savory type of foodie, be sure not to skip one of many delicious artichoke dishes, traditional for the winter season in Italy. Both Roman-style (carciofi alla Romana) and Jewish-style (carciofi alla Giudea) cooked artichokes are delicious. They are one of the best-known winter delicacies of Rome. Be sure not to miss the delightful street food sold on the Christmas market and spoil yourself with roasted chestnuts from the Roman streets.

A tasty and heartwarming beverage that will satisfy both kids and adults is the Italian equivalent of hot chocolate – Cioccolata calda. This thick, sweet treat will surely warm you up on a crisp winter day. If you want to add a kick to your festivities in Rome, try out Caffè corretto. This drink combines espresso and grappa (grape-based alcohol) and translated to English literally; it means – proper coffee.  

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire at streets of Rome December
Chestnuts roasting on an open fire at streets of Rome in December

Shopping in Rome during December

Rome’s city center is world-renowned for being a great place to shop, and it’s no different during the holiday season. You can buy your Christmas presents or treat yourself with a Roman shopping day out of a movie.

Via Condotti, a well-known street for its luxury designer shops, offers holiday window displays that are a delight to look at in themselves. But if you are more interested in a budget-friendly shopping experience, head out to Via del Corso. Which is surrounded by reasonably priced shops and serves correctly for your gift buying needs.

When it comes to shopping, the number one thing to do in Rome in December is visiting all the little stalls and booths on holiday markets. Streets of Rome fill up with vendors who sell handmade goods and souvenirs.

Spanish Steps in December
Spanish Steps in December

What is open during December in Rome?

Most businesses and monument sights work as per usual during winter, as well as in December. But make sure you check your bookings in advance to avoid any surprises. Even though winter in Rome is known as the off-season, nothing closes, since the city has visitors all year round.

With that being said, keep in mind that most of the businesses, monuments, and some museums will probably be closed on holidays. Such as December 8th, Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day and New Year’s Eve.

Don’t miss out on the Rome tourist attractions!

Just because you are visiting Rome during December, you don’t have to dedicate your vacation to festive activities exclusively. December, and winter season, for that matter, are a perfect time of the year to visit Rome. The lines are shorter, and the museums and monuments are less crowded plus December provides plenty of exciting offers and things to do in Rome.

Sites like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel stay open and regularly work during December. And are definitely something you don’t want to miss during your visit to Rome. So you might consider checking out the Vatican and Sistine Chapel Guided Tour or booking The Colosseum Tickets beforehand.

St. Peter's cathedral in December
St. Peter's cathedral in December

The best tips for visiting Rome in December!

  • It will be crowded during the holidays ( Immaculate Conception, Christmas, St. Stephen’s Day, ect.), especially at the st. Peter’s Square on Christmas Day 
  • Pack warm clothes, and don’t forget an umbrella
  • Don’t forget to visit Christmas market at Piazza Navona
  • Keep an eye out for delicious, traditional food sold at the Christmas market
  • Visit the Vatican Museum for free on St. Stephen’s Day
  • Check out the working hours of the sights in advance!
  • ‘Buon Natale’ means Merry Christmas, and ‘Felice Anno Nuovo’ means Happy New Year in Italian!

Are you going to visit Rome in December?

Have a look at our guide for the best Colosseum Visiting Tips!