This post covers the top events and things to do in Rome in December 2023, including free attractions, things to do at night, and family-friendly options.
Don't forget to check out these posts for even more ideas and information.
As local tour guides, we compiled this list based on our own experiences, but also answering your questions.
We lead thousands of people each month through the streets of Rome and on every tour you ask us about things to do in the city.
And, in the video below, Matteo from Rome Free Tours takes you on a virtual walk in and around Piazza Navona, Rome's most famous square.
We also grabbed ideas from the members of our popular Rome Travel Tips Facebook group.
The group consists of locals, like our tour guides, veteran travelers, as well as newbies to Berlin.
You don't need to join in order to read the posts, comments, and recommendations.
Check out the group once you are finished reading this post. A link can be found at the bottom of the post.
In this section, we provide our top ten list of the best activities in Rome during the month of December.
If you’re looking for help finding the most popular activities in Rome, check our most popular posts:
Keep in mind that several of the activities below are either cheaper or free with the help of a Rome tourist pass.
1. Take a Walking Tour
December is one of the best times to take a walking tour of Rome.
Not only is this the beginning of the slow season for tourism, but there are also a lot of fantastic Christmas decorations being put up around many of the historic sites.
Alternatively, you may want to consider taking a guided walk through the Vatican Museums.
Some of these walking tours are either free or pay-what-you-wish, so this is a great way to save money while exploring the city and learning about the history of Rome.
2. Attend a Concert
Rome has a long history with music. Some of the most well-known composers have created their works here.
If you'd like to attend a concert in some of the same places where great works were performed, you have a number of options.
- Vivaldi/Bach at St. Paul's Within the Walls | Mondays
- Rooftop Bar Opera Show: The Great Beauty in Rome | Wednesdays
- Capuchin’s Crypt: Sacred Music in the Heart of Rome | Thursdays
- Open Air Opera Concert: Best Arias and Love Duets | Fridays
- Open Air Opera Concert at Terrazza Borromini | Fridays
- La Traviata at St. Paul's Within the Walls | Fridays
- The Three Tenors in Rome | Saturdays
- Mefistofele | December 2nd, 3rd, 5th
- Tosca | December 12th, 14th
3. Go Christmas Shopping on Via dei Condotti
Via dei Condotti is the fashion district of Rome. It has stores such as Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, and more.
It is also the street that typically has some of the best lighting displays in all of Rome.
In recent years, there have been lights in the shape of popular cartoon characters like Scooby-Doo, Tom & Jerry, The Powerpuff Girls, Adventure Time, and more.
4. Enjoy a Christmas Concert
There will be two great opportunities to hear some of your favorite Christmas carols performed live in Rome this holiday season.
The most notable experience will be a Christmas Baroque Concert taking place at the Capuchin Crypt on December 21st, 26th, and 28th (Rome celebrates Christmas well past the 25th).
In addition to that opportunity, you can also attend an Opera Aria concert which will include popular Christmas songs.
This performance will be held on December 22nd, 23rd, 26th, 29th and 30th.
5. See the Pope and Vatican City
With so many holy days taking place in December, there will be more than a few opportunities to see the Pope during this month.
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception | December 8th | Piazza Mignanelli
- Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve | December 24th | St. Peter's Basilica
- Urbi et Orbe on Christmas Day | December 25th | St. Peter's Square
Note that it's difficult to get tickets for the Christmas Eve service, but it is free to attend if you are granted admission.
In addition to these special occasions, the Pope will also hold audiences on Wednesdays and perform the Sunday Angelus each week.
You can learn more about both activities in our post covering how to see the Pope at St. Peter’s Basilica.
The Vatican will be decked out in decorations during December. If you can't make it to mass, see what else you can do here throughout the month.
TIP: It’s worth noting that the Vatican Museums will be open to the public for free on December 24th, and open at regular prices throughout the Christmas season.
6. See All the Christmas Displays
No other city celebrates Christmas quite like Rome.
Not only are there several events and activities related to the holiday, but you’ll also find Christmas Trees and more near many historic landmarks.
Here are just a few places you can expect to find a nice holiday display:
- The Spanish Steps
- St. Peter’s Square
- Capitoline Hill
- Piazza Venezia
- Piazza Navona
- And More!
TIP: Each of these locations is either included as a stop or very near one of the destinations provided by hop-on-hop-off bus tours.
If you’re hoping to see as many of these Christmas displays as possible, this is a great way to get around the city.
And if you're looking for more after-dark activities, check out our section on things to do at night.
7. Enjoy Free Admission to Popular Sites
Free admission was granted at certain popular landmarks and historic sites on the first Sunday of every month.
There are at least 20 free museum days throughout the year at notable locations across the city.
Just a few of the public museums that have this day are:
- The Colosseum
- The Roman Forum
- Borghese Gallery
- Castel Sant’Angelo
- Baths of Caracalla
Here's an entire list of other locations that take part. Note that this offer does not cover special exhibitions that require a fee to enter.
TIP: If you want to avoid the possibility of large crowds altogether, consider using a Rome attraction pass to visit each of these locations on a less popular day without paying full price.
8. Take a Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
Most people come to Rome for two things: eat the food and see the sights!
The Colosseum is perhaps the most recognizable site in the city and on most people's lists of must-see Rome.
A convenient way to travel between sights is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.
These tours allow you to cover much more ground than you would on foot.
Spend time at the sights you want by hopping off - and the great thing is that in December there is much less crowding at famous spots like the Borghese Gallery.
If you do want to explore by foot and get up close and personal with the Eternal City, take a look at these tours of the city center to find a walk that is right for you.
9. Celebrate New Year’s Eve
As with their celebrations for Christmas, Rome tends to throw a pretty great party for New Year’s Eve.
Everything starts at Circus Maximus, with "The Moon" festival. There will be live theatrical performances and, of course, fireworks.
You'll also find live local rock bands and folks who gather to watch the fireworks at Piazza del Popolo.
And there are free concerts taking place at Via dei Fore Imperiali and Circo Massimo!
Don't worry about getting to bed early as most museums and notable sites are closed the next day. Just have fun at these free events!
For more fun activities that won’t cost a euro, check our free things to do section.
10. Save Money with a Tourist Pass
If you’re planning on visiting a lot of popular attractions in Rome this month, a tourist pass will help you save a lot of money.
Depending on which pass you choose and how you use it, you could easily save 50% or more off general admission prices at a variety of locations.
There are currently a few different types of tourist passes in Rome.
An all-inclusive pass includes admission to dozens of different attractions and activities that you can enjoy for a specific amount of time (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 7 days).
Alternatively, you can also choose a prepackaged pass that offers admission to specific activities in addition to discounts of 10% - 50% off other popular attractions.
No matter which option you pick, the following tours and locations are usually included with at least one major Rome tourist pass:
- Hop-on-Hop-off Bus Tour
- Hop-on-Hop-off Cruise
- The Vatican Museums
- Capitoline Museums
- Castel Sant’Angelo
- Baths of Caracalla
- Borghese Gallery
- Catacombs Tour
- The Colosseum
- Opera Tickets
- Bike Tours
- And more!
Some tourist passes offer skip-the-line admission at locations such as the Colosseum and the Vatican Museums, allowing you to save both time and money.
For more details on these services, please read our post covering Rome tourist passes.
11. Go to a City Centre Christmas Market
If you’re still looking for the perfect Christmas gift, consider going to one of the many Christmas Markets that pop up in Rome during December.
One of the biggest markets is located at Piazza Navona, which was once actually the site of the main city market.
There will be various holiday pastries, toys, and other trinkets available for purchase.
You can also expect live street musicians and artists to perform a lot of festive tunes.
Alternatively, you can also head to Campo de’ Fiori, which will also be open and participating in the holiday festivities.
Given that this is more of a traditional marketplace, you’ll probably find a wider variety of potential gift ideas here.
12. Experience the Pantheon on a Snowy Day
It’s not every day that it snows in Rome, but December offers some of the best opportunities to see this rare event.
If you happen to be in the city when snowflakes begin to fall, head to the Pantheon as quickly as possible.
Thanks to the open dome at the Pantheon, all of the elements such as rain and snow actually fall through the roof and into the building.
According to many visitors, this is a very beautiful sight to behold.
The way the light hits the snowflakes makes them look as if they are falling from heaven.
Even if it doesn’t snow, you might still want to see this historic landmark on a rainy day for a similar effect.
13. Attend Midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica
On Christmas Eve, Catholic churches around the world celebrate the holiday by holding mass at midnight.
This time-honored tradition is held everywhere – including St. Peter’s Basilica, where the pope himself will be on hand to deliver the mass.
Even if you can’t manage to get tickets for this event, remember that there are several churches in Rome where you can attend midnight mass.
To obtain tickets, you need to ask for them ahead of time by mail. Be sure to include all of the information they are asking for.
If you do manage to get tickets, you must take them to the Preffetura Vaticana at least a few days before the event to confirm that you have them.
14. See the Wood of the Manger
According to religious leaders, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore holds within its walls some of the wood that came from the manger where Jesus was born.
You’ll find the relic in an item known as The Holy Crib, which is located near the kneeling statue of Pope Pius IX.
To this day, visitors are welcome to come and venerate this holy item.
What better time of year to see such an important artifact than during the month leading up to Christmas?
15. Visit the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli
In addition to all the nativity scenes and holy items such as the wood of the manger, you may also want to go see the Santo Bambino of Aracoeli during this special time of year.
This holy artifact is a carved wooden image of the baby Jesus.
According to some visitors, this religious relic has the power to heal the sick.
Worshippers often leave letters for “Il Bambino” in hopes that their prayers will be answered.
Located at the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli, visitors are welcome to come and see or worship Santo Bambino for free.
This site is very close to historic landmarks such as Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find.
NOTE: There are hop-on-hop-off bus stops very close to the church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli.
If you're looking for more free activities, check out our post of free things to do.
16. Celebrate Hanukkah at Piazza Barberini
Rome may be a predominantly Catholic city, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any other religious cultures in the area.
Believe it or not, there is a big enough Jewish community that they actually hold a special event for Hanukkah every year at Piazza Barberini.
On every night of Hanukkah, in 2023 December 7th - December 15th, one of the candles of a 20-foot tall menorah will be lit in this public square.
This attraction draws a pretty big crowd, with a big party and dancing.
Even if you’re not religious, you may want to head to this plaza during the holiday to celebrate and enjoy the event.
Both locations are free to visit and would make for great activities either before or after this event.
17. Enjoy The Three Tenors at St. Paul Within the Walls
If you’re looking for a more classical concert, there will be several opportunities to hear the Three Tenors at St. Paul’s Within the Walls.
They appear each Saturday to sing "famous Neapolitan songs and the most beautiful opera arias".
Find more evening entertainment in our post on things to do at night.
18. Go Ice Skating
Although it rarely gets cold enough for ice to form in Rome, there are a few locations where you will find a skating rink during the winter.
The two ice rinks closest to the city center are Auditorium Parco della Musica and Ice Space Village in Testaccio.
Each park will only be open for a limited time in the winter, and they both open up in December.
You may also find a rink open at Grinzing Village by Castel Sant'Angelo.
NOTE: Auditorium Parco della Musica is just across the river from Olympic Stadium. If you’re planning to see a football game with the family, you may want to add this activity to your trip for some extra fun.
19. Christmas Treats in Rome
When it comes to holiday treats, Rome is home to several interesting options you may not be familiar with.
The two most popular choices are Panettone and Pandoro.
Panettone is similar to fruitcake, it’s bread with candied orange, lemon, and raisins.
Pandoro is more of a traditional cake, shaped like a star and covered with sugar.
If you need some help finding the most festive and delicious holiday treats in this city, consider taking a Christmas walking tour in Rome.
If you’re looking for more of a traditional candy, try some Torrone -- a bar of nougat with roasted nuts.
20. Listen to Christmas Carols
Although there are no guarantees, we recommend visiting at least a few public squares like Piazza Navona or Piazza del Popolo in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Sometimes groups of carolers will gather in these areas to song traditional holiday music.
It’s also worth noting that most churches will host a special Christmas mass or other events on Christmas Eve, and these activities usually include the opportunity to sing carols with everyone else.
21. Celebrate St. Stephen’s Day
Even if Christmas is technically over, that won’t stop the Romans from celebrating for another two weeks at least!
One popular celebration is St. Stephen’s Day on December 26th, and on this day the Vatican Museums are entirely free to visit.
Crowds are usually large on free days, but as there are a lot of notable and historic things to see here, it’s definitely worth it.
22. Visit a Trastevere Christmas Market
The Trastevere neighborhood is where many people feel that you can get a true taste of what Rome is really like, and there are at least two-holiday markets in the area you may want to visit.
Piazza San Cosimato is home to an open-air market every day except Sunday, and they focus mostly on fresh foods.
This could be a great spot to find a few things for Christmas dinner, and there are several great restaurants in the area to grab some festive foods as well.
If you’re looking to do some Christmas shopping, head to the Agora Market at Live Alcazar, a former movie theatre.
This market is all about fashion, vintage collector's items, music, and more.
23. Celebrate The Feast of The Immaculate Conception
On December 8th, Roman Catholics will pay homage to the Virgin Mary by making a pilgrimage to Piazza Mignanelli, which is roughly one block away from Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps.
In a tradition dating back to 1958, the pope himself will be there to kneel in prayer and leave a wreath to be placed on the statue of the Madonna.
Since this is a national holiday, all schools and government offices will be closed for the event.
Thankfully, the shops will remain open, but you can expect road closures and particularly large crowds around Piazza Mignanelli.
NOTE: This is one of the rare occasions where you will be able to see the Pope in public outside the walls of the Vatican.
If you want to learn more about opportunities to see him, check out our post about visiting St. Peter’s Basilica.
24. See the Nativity Scenes of Rome
In addition to all the Christmas trees and holiday lighting displays you’ll find all over the city, you’ll also find plenty of incredible nativity scenes spread across Rome.
You’ll find the most notable examples at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the Spanish Steps, St. Peter’s Square, Santa Maria in Trastevere, and San Marcello on the Via del Corso.