10 things to do in Rome in December

The Eternal City takes this month, marked by Christmas, very seriously: ice rinks, musicals and lentils to say goodbye to the year in style.

Nuria Rozas

Nuria Rozas

9 min read

10 things to do in Rome in December

Christmas in Rome | ©Neigesdantan

With the New Year just around the corner, there is plenty to see and do in Rome in December and the city is decked out to celebrate the most important time of the year for Italians: Christmas. Of course, hurry to buy your flights, as they become impractical!

If you travel to the Eternal City at this time of year, you'll find that Romans celebrate New Year's Eve with a hearty plate of lentils to keep them going all night long. Get comfortable because in this guide I tell you everything you need to know to make the most of this winter month in the capital.

1. Take advantage of the off-season to visit the main attractions

colosseum in rome|©Chait Goli
colosseum in rome|©Chait Goli

Whether you have been to Rome in high season or not, you surely know that it can be impossible to get tickets for the main attractions and that, if you are one of the lucky ones, the experience can be a bit overwhelming due to the large number of people.

That is why December is a good time to enjoy the city more at ease and calmly, being the perfect date to visit popular places such as:

  • The Colosseum: about 6 million people visit every year the largest amphitheater the Roman Empire. Now imagine how many people are there in high season? Much better to go in low season to fully enjoy this historic monument.
  • Castel Sant'Angelo: on December 25 the castle is closed, but the rest of the month you can enjoy its five floors. Also, going in December will help make the climb lighter and not so overwhelming. Remember that it is open every day from 9:00 to 19:30.
  • Bioparco: it is the oldest zoological garden in Italy and the perfect place to go with children. During the month of August it can be exhausting to visit due to the heat, but in December you will be able to enjoy the animals much more.

Book your tickets in Rome

2. Take shelter from the cold in a convent with exhibitions or in the museums

Visiting the Chiostro del Bramante| ©Luigi FIORE
Visiting the Chiostro del Bramante| ©Luigi FIORE

If during your vacation in Rome, one day it doesn't stop raining, take shelter from the water at the Chiostro del Bramante, a former Renaissance convent that now serves as a venue for some of the best exhibitions, meetings and concerts in Europe. Take the opportunity to have a coffee, one of the symbols of Italy, in its restaurant overlooking the cloister. Is there anything more bucolic than watching it rain from the windows?

In addition, you will also have the opportunity to see many of Rome's museums with much less tourist crowds, another plan to escape the cold that can be in Rome in winter. Dare to buy tickets to the Vatican or to see the best works of the Capitoline Museums.

Book tickets for the Vatican Museums without queues

3. Attend the Opera in your best attire

Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls where the concert will be held.| ©Berthold Werner
Church of St. Paul Outside the Walls where the concert will be held.| ©Berthold Werner

If you are a music lover, take note of this original plan: attend the opera in the heart of Rome. In addition, it is also another way to take shelter from the cold. Specifically, I recommend two of the best concerts in the city:

  • Opera at Palazzo Santa Chiara: its excellent acoustics will make your experience perfect and you will be able to listen to both the singers and the orchestra in an incredible way.
  • Opera at the Waldensian Church: you can listen to pieces by musicians such as Vivaldi, Verdi or Puccini, as well as some Neapolitan folk songs.

Get your ticket to the Roman Opera

4. Experience the magic of a musical at the Roman theater

Outside the Teatro Costanzi| ©California Will
Outside the Teatro Costanzi| ©California Will

One of the best plans to avoid freezing in Rome is to take cover in its wonderful theaters. At this time of the year, the best shows are premiered and, contrary to what you might think, musicals are not only in New York or London.

In addition to the premieres that are concentrated on the stage during the winter in Rome, classical music concerts are also frequent. However, I recommend that you check the program as soon as you are sure of your travel dates and book your tickets to ensure a place in the theater.

5. Travel to Christmas around the world

Christmas World entrance sign| ©Sara Cacciarini
Christmas World entrance sign| ©Sara Cacciarini

Discover the illuminated Eiffel Tower, meet Santa Claus at the North Pole and see the legendary ice rink at Rockefeller Center in New York are some of the things you can see at the 'Christmas World' exhibition at the Parco della Musica Auditorium, after skating on its fabulous ice rink.

It is an open-air museum with more than 25,000 square meters where visitors will discover the Christmas traditions of different countries around the world. If you are an inveterate traveler, thisexhibition, which lasts almost the whole month, will blow your mind!

In particular, you can walk among the reproductions of the monuments of the great cities designed by prestigious Italian artists; go shopping at the Portobello Road flea market; travel through the flavors of the world with the Food Market; relive the masterpieces of cinema and attend the shows performed by international companies. The time will fly by!

Practical information about the 'Christmas World' exhibition

  • Where: Parco della Musica Auditorium, Viale Pietro De Coubertin, 30.
  • When: from December 4 to January 9.
  • Price: tickets from €6.
  • Hours: from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

6. Be quiet in Santa Claus's fantastic castle

Christmas at the Castello Di Lunghezza| ©Donatella Toletti
Christmas at the Castello Di Lunghezza| ©Donatella Toletti

If you are traveling to Rome with children, a plan they will love is to visit Santa Claus with his elves, fairies and reindeer at the Lunghezza Castle, about 20 kilometers from the Eternal City. With his good-natured face, traditional beard and red suit, Santa Claus will welcome you to his magical kingdom, an ancient royal castle, now surrounded by Christmas trees, sleighs and magical characters.

  • Where: Via della Tenuta del Cavaliere, 230 - Lunghezza
  • Until when: every Saturday, Sunday and national holiday until January 6, 2022.

Children will be able to see Santa Claus sitting on his throne, hand him their letter, ride a sleigh, participate in games and meet the tireless Elves working to fulfill their wishes. You will also find the cave of the witch Befana, the "Witch Queen" and a character from the Italian culture who brings gifts to those who spend the night of January 5 in Rome.

7. Find some relics at the Car Boot Market

Visiting the Car Boot Market| ©CarBootMarket
Visiting the Car Boot Market| ©CarBootMarket

If you want to discover the most unusual second-hand flea market in Rome, I suggest you visit the Car Boot Market located in the Città dell'Altra Economia in Testaccio. It is a flea market where Italians show their objects for sale in a different showcase...the trunk of their car! As you read it. Moreover, you are in luck because it is held only during the weekends of the month of December.

Based on an English model, the aim is to give those forgotten objects (antiques, records, clothes, books...), found around the house or in the storage room, a new life, through sale, exchange or, altruistically, as a gift in the improvised four-wheeled tents. And, of course, if you're still in the mood for more shopping, don't forget to visit one of Rome's Christmas markets.

Motorcycle trunks converted into walking flea markets

At the event, you can find an even more curious corner, the Scooter Boot Market, a space reserved for those who do not have a car. Can you imagine a Vespa converted into a handy store? You will see everything! Of course, in this area you will only find small items that fit and can be displayed in the trunk of the scooter.

8. Warm up in Caffè Greco

Caffe Greco|©Inna
Caffe Greco|©Inna

Another way to escape the cold Roman temperatures of December, while discovering a mythical place, is to take the opportunity to have a hot drink at Caffè Greco, the oldest in the city and the second oldest in the country (behind only Caffè Florian in Venice).

It opened in the eighteenth century, specifically in 1760, in Via Condotti 86, and was visited by the likes of Lord Byron, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Hans Christian Andersen, Orson Welles and even Spaniards like Fortuny. In short, it was a haven for artists, politicians and writers that still retains its classic aura.

9. Enjoy the roasted chestnut stands

Roasted Chestnut Stall| ©Sunny Lapin
Roasted Chestnut Stall| ©Sunny Lapin

When autumn arrives in Rome, it is common for the historic center of Rome to be filled with street st alls with traditional roasted chestnuts. Taking a stroll and buying one of these cones is a great way to warm up, as well as an excellent source of energy to continue the day's sightseeing.

If you want to try one of these cartridges, I recommend you visit the stalls in Piazza Spagna, Via del Corso and near the Trevi Fountain. And for those with a sweet tooth, don't forget to try the chestnut cake - it's finger-licking good! You will discover that in addition to the best pizzas and the best ice cream, there is much more to try in the Eternal City.

Nuria's Traveller Tip

Be careful! Do not sit and snack on chestnuts on the famous staircase of the Spanish Steps, the Italians take great care of their historical heritage and you could be fined.

10. Celebrate New Year's Eve in Rome... In style!

Enjoying a New Year's cruise| ©Maurício Mascaro
Enjoying a New Year's cruise| ©Maurício Mascaro

Hands up who hasn't dreamed of waking up on New Year's Eve in another city in the world! If you are one of those lucky ones who will spend the Capodanno in the Eternal City, away from the mother-in-law, there are options for all tastes, some very picturesque. Here are some of the most original proposals offered by the capital:

End the year with a cruise

If you want a romantic plan for Rome you can surprise your partner with a sightseeing cruise on the Tiber River, which includes all kinds of fun activities. Waking up in a cabin overlooking the sea is priceless.

Romantic dinner in an old streetcar

If, on the other hand, you are more down to earth, you can book a special dinner on the Ristotram, a streetcar from the 50's renovated and transformed for an unforgettable evening of jazz and touring the most beautiful streets of Rome.

Party on a bus with DJs

Those who prefer a good party on the busiest night of the year can get on board the Crazy Bus, a vehicle parked in the center of Rome and equipped as if it were a nightclub with TV screens, audio systems and state-of-the-art lighting.

Book a cruise on the Tiber in Rome

December temperatures in Rome

Snow in Piazza di Spagna| ©Valerio Ianna
Snow in Piazza di Spagna| ©Valerio Ianna

The weather in December can vary greatly from year to year. Although it is not usual, even some years the capital has been dyed white. So I suggest that before traveling you take a look at the weather forecast during your getaway in Rome in applications such as AccuWeather or eltiempo.es.

December is one of the coldest months* in the Eternal City, however, if you are well wrapped up you will be able to endure it perfectly. In Rome, even in winter, the sun is always out, squid! Temperatures average between 4°C and 13°C. Don't forget your umbrella because this is one of the rainiest periods of the year!

What should not be missing in your suitcase in December?

Organizing your luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich
Organizing your luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Woolen hat or earmuffs.
  • Warm scarf.
  • Warm gloves. If you are going to skate on the ice rink, avoid wool ones, they could get wet!
  • Sweater, fleece or sweatshirt.
  • Thermal undershirt (my favorite item).
  • Thick pants or corduroy pants, ideal for winter.
  • Coat, jacket or down jacket, whatever is more comfortable for you.
  • Thermal socks.
  • Umbrella and raincoat.
  • A small backpack for sightseeing.