Things to Do in Rome in December

This post covers top events and things to do in Rome in December, including free attractions, things to do at night and family-friendly options.

Don’t forget to check these posts for even more ideas and information.

 

 

Disclosure: We think you should consider our free tours, but we have also provided other options. While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.

26 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN DECEMBER

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 in 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.

In addition to tours of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, you can also take a tour of Rome’s city centre.

 

Walking Map of Central Rome

 

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. See a Show at Teatro dell’Opera

No matter when you come to Rome, this historic theatre will likely have at least a few notable operas and other shows taking place. 

This theatre will be hosting four different shows in Rome during the month of December, including both The Nutcracker and Swan Lake.

 

 

Here is a full list of the performances you can see at Teatro dell’Opera before the new year.

  • The Nutcracker | Dec 4th – 15th
  • Les Vepres Siciliennes | Dec 10th – 22nd
  • Tosca | Dec 12th – 21st
  • Swan Lake | Dec 31st – Jan 8th

Find more theatre and ballet here.

TIP: Teatro dell’Opera is roughly a 15-20 minute walk from famous sites such as the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.


3. Go Christmas Shopping on Via dei Condotti

This is 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.

Via dei Condotti is the fashion district of Rome, so you’ll find plenty of great stores in the area including Gucci, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co, and more.


4. Enjoy a Christmas Concert

The Auditorium Parco della Musica will be hosting a performance of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio on December 16th, 18th, and 19th. 

St. Paul’s Within the Walls will also be hosting a Grand Christmas Concert on December 20th featuring several popular Christmas carols.

They will also have a performance of The Nutcracker on December 23rd!

Alternatively, you may also want to visit the Ponte Sant’Angelo Methodist Church on December 22nd for their Christmas concert.


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.

The first notable opportunity will be on December 8th for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. 

There will be another chance to see the Pope when he delivers the Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve.

It’s difficult to get tickets for this event, but it is entirely free to attend if you are granted admission.

 

 

You’ll have another chance to see him during the Urbi et Orbe on Christmas Day.

This is an event where the Pope delivers a special address to the world in front of all those present at St. Peter’s Square.

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.

For more great activities to enjoy after dark, check our things to do at night section.

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:

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

In years past, Rome had a special event known as Domenica al Museo.

Free admission was granted at certain popular landmarks and historic sites on the first Sunday of every month.

Although this program was canceled, they have replaced it with something even better which ensures at least 20 free museum days throughout the year at notable locations across the city.

Many of the most significant sites in the city will have free days during the month of December, including the following:

  • The Colosseum | Dec 1st, 18th
  • The Roman Forum | Dec 1st, 18th
  • Palatine Hill | Dec 1st, 18th
  • Borghese Gallery | Dec 11th
  • Castel Sant’Angelo | Dec 1st, 5th, 12th, 19th, 26th
  • Baths of Caracalla | Dec 1st, Dec 17th

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.

Find more free things to do in the section below.


8. Go to a Concert

Music lovers will be happy to hear that there are several concerts taking place in Rome throughout the month of December.

You can find all of the concerts this month here.

 

 

There is only one concert of note taking place this month, but there will be several Christmas concerts you may want to consider in addition to this event:

Click here to see more concerts happening in Rome.


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, where you can expect live theatrical performances and a fireworks display beginning at 21:00 (9:00 pm).

 

 

On the morning after, from 7:00 am – 14:00 (2: pm) there will be music, games, dance, exhibitions and more activities on Aventine Hill and at the Biblioteca Centrale Ragazzi.

The best part about all of these activities? They’re all free to attend!

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 which 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:

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 which 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.

TIP: Campo de’ Fiori is actually the first stop on our self-guided walking tour of Rome. It is also included with some guided walking tours of the city centre.


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.

 


This photo of Pantheon is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

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. 

NOTE: The Pantheon is very close to other historic sites such as Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain

 

13. 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 our post about visiting St. Peter’s Basilica.


14. 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.

You will need tickets for this event, but they are entirely free to obtain. All you need to do is ask for them ahead of time and wait to see if they will be granted. 

 


This photo of Rome is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

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.

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. 


15. 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?


16. 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.

 

Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli

 

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 already planning on using such a service, this could be a great way to visit the church and see Santo Bambino for yourself.

If you’re looking for more free activities, check out our post of free things to do

 

17. 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, one of the candles of a large menorah will be lit in this public square.

 

 

At around 20 feet tall, this attraction tends to draw a pretty big crowd. 

Even if you’re not religious, you may want to head to this plaza during the holiday to celebrate and enjoy the spectacle.

If you’re interested, the show begins at 6 pm on each night of Hanukkah (or 4 pm on the Sabbath and on the last night).

There is usually a big party and dancing to go along with the lighting of the menorah.

NOTE: Historic sites such as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps are only about 10-15 minutes away from Piazza Barberini. 

Both locations are free to visit and would make for great activities either before or after this event.


18. 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. 

This group performs at least twice a week, so you don’t have to worry about missing out and it’s unlikely that tickets will sell out quickly.

Each performance begins at roughly 8:30 pm, making this an excellent activity to enjoy after dark. Tickets run from just €20 – €50 per person.

NOTE: Save €5 using the Rome Turbo Pass.

Find more evening entertainment in our post on things to do at night.


19. 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 centre are at Auditorium Parco della Musica and Ice Space Village in Testaccio.

 

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Each park will only be open for a limited time in the winter, and they both open up in December.

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.


20. See The Nutcracker Puppet Show

The San Carlino Puppet Theatre will be performing The Nutcracker during weekends in December. 

If you’re worried that your kids are a little too young for a more traditional theatrical experience, this is an excellent opportunity to bring them to a show they’ll love.

 

Nutcracker Puppet Show

TIP: The San Carlino Puppet Theatre is very close to landmarks like Villa Borghese, the Spanish Steps, and Piazza del Popolo. 

If you’re interested in doing some sightseeing, consider making a short trip to any of these locations.

You can find other family-friendly things to do in our post on things to do with kids in Rome.

 

21. 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’re looking for more of a traditional candy, try some Torrone — a bar of nougat with roasted nuts.


22. 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, because 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.


23. 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 there are a lot of notable and historic things to see here, so it’s definitely worth the trip.


24. Visit a Trastevere Christmas Market

The Trastevere neighbourhood 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.

 

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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.

 

25. See a Football Game

When it comes to sports, Romans are wild about their football clubs AS Roma and SS Lazio.

Both will be playing several home games at Olympic Stadium in December, which means you’ll have many different opportunities to see a live match.

AS Roma

SS Lazio

Find all the sporting matches in Rome at this link.

NOTE: Olympic Stadium is right down the street from VIGAMUS, the Video Game Museum. Rome Turbo Pass includes admission to this museum for free.


26. 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.


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