Simply put, Christmas in Rome is purely magical. I highly recommend adding it to your travel list. Even if you don’t celebrate the holiday, the overall cheer, beautiful lights, friendly Romans and lack of tourists makes it the best time of year to travel. We absolutely loved spending the holiday in the heart of Rome, even while traveling during the height mask wearing and testing due to Covid. We stayed in the city for 8 nights and we could have spent another 8 days and still be left with things to do and explore. We had time to do every “tourist” destination but also really enjoy the season and the city without rushing through any of it. I highly recommend staying in the Monti neighborhood, which has similar vibes to Soho and is filled with cafes, vintage shops and artisanal vendors.
The Christmas holiday season in Rome starts on December 8, which is the holiday of the Immaculate Conception, or Immacolata and officially ends on January 6, the Epiphany. We traveled from December 17th – December 24th and we thoroughly enjoyed the Christmas season!
Rome’s main streets are decorated with lights and often have entertainment by roving musicians and vendors selling roasted chestnuts. Good places to go during the holidays are the shopping streets near Piazza di Spagna.
Things to do in Rome for Christmas
Each year, a huge Christmas tree is erected in Saint Peter’s Square. A life-sized nativity is also set up but usually not unveiled until Christmas Eve. Thousands of visitors flock to Saint Peter’s Square when the pope celebrates midnight mass on Christmas Eve inside Saint Peter’s Basilica (in the square, the mass is shown on large screens). He delivers his Christmas blessing at noon on Christmas Day.
An outdoor ice skating rink is set up near Castel Sant’Angelo, where there’s also a small Christmas market.
The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore is said to have the oldest permanent nativity scene. It was carved in marble by Arnolfo di Cambio in the late 13th century. Although originally displayed in the church, the nativity is now in the museum of Santa Maria Maggiore. The first Christmas Mass was said to be held in Santa Maria Maggiore. When bells are rung at midnight, it signifies the start of Christmas.
Sempre Natale is a holiday shop located on Via della Scrofa in Rome and is open all year long. The store is known for European blown-glass ornaments, which are handmade in Italy, Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.
There is a Christmas Eve Mass celebrated at the Pantheon. Originally a pagan temple designed in early Roman times, it was consecrated as a Christian church in 609 AD and is used for Catholic services.
Christmas Markets in Rome
Via del Corso is fun to see for the never-ending Christmas lights, but there’s so much more to explore! Streets vendors will line the busy squares, like Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori, where you can buy unique handcrafted gifts. We loved wandering the streets with the familiar scent of chestnuts roasting in the air.
There is also a Christmas market in Piazza Navona. It is not as full of vendors as it used to be, but you can still find treats and treasures.
The Mercato Monti is another great market where Romans frequent around the holidays. This is where I found my vintage Italian sunglasses and a cute puffer jacket with crochet sleeves.
Borghetto Flaminio Market is a Sunday flea market and I loved shopping here for some presents for my family. Note that the vendors only accept cash, so come prepared. There are plenty of vintage designer goods and it’ll blow you away!
Vintage Shops in Rome
Ahhh the vintage shopping in Rome is SO good! Think vintage Gucci, Moschino, Hermes and more! The prices are definitely cheaper than the United States so I spent every penny I budgeted when in Rome! Check out my guide for vintage shopping in Rome here.
Traveling in Rome with Kids
Romans love kids and kids love Rome! It is such a walkable city and with never ending steps and new corners to discover, there is a lot to explore in the heart of the city. Every trip we take, we make time for some play so we spent a chilly but mellow morning in Villa Borghese and Gianicolo. Harlee also requested to hike up and down the Spanish Steps every. single. day. Without a doubt, your kids will love the fountains and simply exploring throughout the City!
Fave Restaurants in Rome
There are SO many blogs and articles with detailed restaurant recommendations but these were a few of our favorite spots!
Roscioli – this was recommended by so many people and it was definitely worth the hype! We tried a sampling of their specials and were not disappointed.
Bibliothe – unexpected Indian restaurant in the heart of Rome. There are plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, too.
Ai Tre Scalini – a cute spot that locals flock to in the Monti neighborhood. It’s a lowkey vibe, small but delish menu of local fare!
Cul de Sac – come for the pasta, stay for the vino!
All’Antico Vinaio – great sandwiches but be warned, the lines are looooong!
Civico 4 – another locals spot in Monti, we stumbled upon it one night and loved it. It’s more of a wine bar menu, but there were plenty of kids and Harlee loved the vibe in the courtyard!