The most magical time of year arrives, Christmas and New year eve. The cities are dressed in lights, families feel more union and love, with friends everything is joy and travel becomes a unique experience, so, if you are thinking of visiting Rome at Christmas, here we tell you the best things to do if you are visiting Rome during Christmas.
Always remember to plan the arrival so that it does not represent chaos, we recommend you to book in advance the Rome airport to city transfer through Uptransfer a safe, fast and reliable way to get to your hotel and start the fun. The travel from the main Rome Airport (Fiumicino) to the city center takes approx. 30km and takes 50 minutes.
If you celebrate Christmas, there is not a more traditional way to celebrate it than spending Christmas in Rome, the cradle of the Christian faith.
Christmas season starts official in Rome on December 8th, with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, an important holiday in the country, and by this date, the decoration across the city is complete. Most of the festivals, markets, and decorations last until January 6th, with the feast of the Magi.
During the night of 5th to 6th of January, Befana, the witch, comes to bring sweet and coal to the children.
Rome Christmas markets
Visiting a traditional Christmas market is essential for those traveling to Rome during Christmas time. There are many markets across the city, but the most famous one is the one at Piazza Navona, which, joints two different traditions, Christmas and the Epiphany.
From December 2 to January 6, Piazza Navona is filled with stalls selling Christmas decorations, handicrafts, typical sweets and the socks that Befana, a witch, takes to Italian children on January 6. They can be full of candy or charcoal, depending on how the child has behaved.
The very Befana arrives on the day of Reyes in the plaza distributing sweets and gifts to the children. This tradition lives in the hearts of Italians and it is very funny that you can also enjoy it.
The Christmas market in Piazza Navona is indeed the most traditional one and the most visited by tourists and locals during the Christmas festivities. The beautiful architecture of the Piazza alongside the decoration works perfectly to bring the Christmas feelings.
It was once the biggest Christmas market in Rome, however, in 2014 it almost disappeared. It is slowly coming back though.
Piazza Navona market happens from 8th December to 6th January.
Piazza Mazzini Christmas market
Piazza Mazzini is famous for its year-round antique market, which happens in the first and third Sunday of each month, selling not only antique but also vintage items and furniture. However, during the Christmas season, it turns into one of the best Christmas markets in the city of Rome.
Selling decoration and nice gift ideas to bring to your loved ones. Among the Christmas items, some vendors still resist and keep selling their antique goods, which is also great.
Piazza Mazzini Christmas market opens on 8th December and ends on Christmas eve, 24th December.
Nativity scenes in Rome
For Catholics, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, so the Catholic church in its main headquarters dresses up during December.
However, even if your religion is different or you do not have a particular belief, it is still worth visiting the main churches of Rome to see the Nativity scene(The scene of the birth of Jesus), also known as Presepe, or Crèche.
It is one of the oldest Christmas traditions in Italy, and you will surely find many Nativity scenes across the streets, being the most famous, the ones in Piazza Navona, the St Peter’s Square, Piazza del Popolo, and the one in the church of Santa Maria d’Aracoeli.
Undoubtedly though, that of St. Peter’s Square is the favorite and it’s open between December 7 and January 6.
Christmas tree in Rome
Being a Northern Europe tradition, the idea of decorating a Christmas tree wasn’t something common in Italy until a few decades ago, when it became popular.
Like the Nativity scenes, you will find many Christmas trees nowadays, scattered across the city, normally in front of the main attractions in Rome.
The most famous and worth seeing of them though, are those located in the St Peter’s square, next to the Nativity scene mentioned above, the Christmas tree next to the Coliseum of Rome, and the Christmas tree at the Piazza Venezia, this one being the most iconic tree in the city.
Piazza Venezia Christmas tree
Christmas tree at Piazza Venezia
The most famous Christmas tree in Rome, and perhaps in the world though, was known as Spelacchio and used to be placed in the middle of Piazza Venezia every year. It dragged a lot of attention for its funny and screwed format, that ended up captivating the sympathy of everybody.
The tree died in 2018 though, due to bad conditions during the transport, and was replaced for a new tree, sponsored by Netflix. Although the famous Spelacchio is gone, the new Christmas tree of Piazza Venezia is worth a visit!
New Year in Italian style
The main dish of New Year’s Eve is the lenticchie with zampone, which means lentils with a special pork sausage wrapped in its own leg. Lentils are a dinner dish, and it is said that they bring money for the coming year.
After dinner, the most typical New Year’s Eve in Rome is to attend one of the free concerts in the capital and see the fireworks. The most remarkable free concerts are the Circus Massimo and the Fori Imperiali but there are many more meeting points in the capital on New Year’s Eve. In the Plaza del Quirinale, as every year, the classical music concert counts with the presence of the President of the Italian Republic himself.
There is much more to discover at this time in Rome, so pack your suitcase, book your tours and live an unforgettable experience.
You will surely be without energy at the end of this trip, so remember to plan the Rome Airport Transfer through Uptransfers in your trip back to the airport.