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Rome in December: tips, things to do and a practical guide to the city

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

Rome in December: tips, things to do and a practical guide to the city

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 season for Italians: Christmas. Just be quick to buy your flights, as they can become impractical!

If you travel to the Eternal City at this time of year, you will notice that the Romans celebrate New Year's Eve with a good plate of lentils to keep them going all night long. It is also a tradition to throw away junk and old furniture to start the year off right, listen to concerts and skate on the fabulous ice rinks. In this guide I tell you everything you need to know to make the most of this winter month in the capital.

1. Inauguration of the ice rinks in the Eternal City

Enjoying the ice rink in Castel Sant' Angelo| ©Mike Clauss
Enjoying the ice rink in Castel Sant' Angelo| ©Mike Clauss

Can you imagine skating on ice surrounded by majestic buildings? Well, stop dreaming about it because a Christmas in Rome on skates is possible. The most emblematic rink is the one installed next to the castle of Sant' Angelo, the mausoleum of the family of Emperor Hadrian, which in the past served as a fortress of the Eternal City. Take the opportunity to visit its interior as well!

Another 100% recommended option is to visit the skating rink of the Auditorium Parco della Musica, installed outside the modern building by Renzo Piano. There are also activities and workshops to stimulate children's creativity. In any case, wherever you go, you are sure to find an ice rink in the center of Rome.

Book a guided tour of Rome

2. Travel through Christmas around the world

Christmas World entrance poster| ©Sara Cacciarini
Christmas World entrance poster| ©Sara Cacciarini

Discovering the illuminated Eiffel Tower, meeting Santa Claus at the North Pole and contemplating 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 will be able to 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: Auditorium Parco della Musica, 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.

3. Experience the magic of a musical in the Roman theater

Outside the Costanzi Theater| ©California Will
Outside the Costanzi Theater| ©California Will

One of the best plans to avoid freezing in Rome is to take cover in its wonderful theaters. At this time, moreover, 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. Of course, I recommend that you check the program as soon as you have clear dates for your trip and book tickets to ensure a place in the theater. If you are traveling as a couple, a musical or a concert can be one of the many romantic plans that Rome has in store for you.

4. Get lost in Santa Claus's fantastic castle

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

If you are traveling to Rome with children, a plan that will delight them 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 holidays 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 Italian culture who brings gifts to those who spend the night of January 5 in Rome.

5. Attend the traditional Christmas concert in your finery

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

If you are a music lover, take note of this original plan: the New Year's Eve concert performed by the Orchestra of I Virtuosi dell'opera of Rome. You're probably wondering what's so new about this. Well, now comes the curious part: it is held in one of the churches of Rome, specifically in the church of San Paolo inside the Walls. You won't know where to look: at the wonderful orchestra or at the impressive colorful frescoes of the chapel.

The traditional concert, which has been on stage for over twenty years, fuses art, history and religion creating a surprising acoustic effect for all spectators. In the recital they play operas by Mozart, Strauss and Verdi, among others, as well as the famous waltzes. You will think you are at the Vienna opera with their virtuosity and elegance!

6. 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 recommend you to go to 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 will 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.

7. Marvel at the nativity scenes

Christmas decorations in St. Peter's Square| ©Keith Putnam
Christmas decorations in St. Peter's Square| ©Keith Putnam

If you want to experience a fairytale Christmas like a true Roman, visit the traditional nativity scenes that are placed all over the city. In St. Peter's Square is installed the most famous, a work of art that in 2018 was made with sand from the beaches and came to weigh more than 700 tons. almost nothing!

Next to the iconic nativity scene is installed the monumental Christmas tree, which is usually a donation from some Italian locality or foreign countries. The square has been decorated with pine trees from the Swiss Alps, Germany and Poland, among other regions.

Nativity scenes of all nationalities

In recent years, a very colorful exhibition has been organized near the Vatican: 100 presepi in Vaticano, which displays the works of the finalists of a crib competition, involving thousands of artists from all over the world. Don't miss it!

8. Take shelter from the cold in a convent with exhibits or in 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 influx, another plan to escape the cold that can be in Rome in winter. Dare to buy tickets to the Vatican or to know the best works of the Capitoline Museums.

Book tickets for the Vatican Museums

9. Enjoy the roasted chestnut stands

Roasted Chestnuts Stall| ©Sunny Lapin
Roasted Chestnuts 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

Don't sit and snack on chestnuts on the famous 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 cruise on New Year's Eve, which includes all kinds of leisure 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 50's streetcar 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 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.

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, some years the capital has even 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 it 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.