11 things to do in Rome in January

January is a very special month: festivals, fireworks and Christmas villages turn it into a fairytale metropolis. Take note of these plans for the new year

Nuria Rozas

Nuria Rozas

10 min read

11 things to do in Rome in January

Snow in the Roman Colosseum | © Stefano Costantini

New year, new life. Or so they say, right? We have 365 days ahead of us to fulfill our dreams. For example, January is a good time to set a goal to travel and see all there is to see in Rome, soaking up ancient history through the majestic monuments of Rome. Don't let the winter cold stop you in Rome!

During this magical month you can finish enjoying the Christmas season and the Christmas markets in Rome, celebrate the new year in style with fireworks, take advantage of the best sales in one of the European capitals of fashion and much more. I leave you with a list of goals for the new year in the form of the best plans for you to have the most fun in the city. Here we go!

1. Feel the pope up close at the Angelus mass

Pope Benedict from the Window prays the Angelus| ©Lawrence OP
Pope Benedict from the Window prays the Angelus| ©Lawrence OP

Whether you are a believer or not, attending a live mass of the Pope will be a legendary experience that you can tell your grandchildren about. If your trip to the Italian capital coincides with the New Year and you have not been seduced by the Roman New Year's Eve too much, I recommend that you get up early to get a seat (it gets crowded with citizens and visitors) and attend the famous Angelus in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican that takes place around 12 noon.

One of the things to see and do in the Vatican is to be able to hear the Pope's blessing, if you don't make it to the Angelus because you are up late, don't worry because in this article I tell you how, when and where you can see it or even attend the Papal Blessing.

Book tickets to the Papal Audience

2. Be enveloped by the chilling legends of Rome

Sant'Angelo Bridge| ©Fred Romero
Sant'Angelo Bridge| ©Fred Romero

What better than in the cold winter to immerse yourself in a ghost tour in Rome. The history of the eternal city has given rise to gruesome legends, and on this one and a half hour tour, an expert guide will bring you up to date on all of them as you wander through mysterious streets and creepy corners.

An itinerary that will take you past Ponte Sant'Angelo, Ponte Sisto, Piazza del Popolo and Piazza Navona, among other points of interest. Don't hesitate! You will get to know a vision of Rome you would never have imagined.

Book a tour of ghosts and legends of Rome

3. Discover the city in comfort with the tourist bus

Rome Sightseeing Bus| ©Ant (ac_1076
Rome Sightseeing Bus| ©Ant (ac_1076

And if you want to get to know the city while escaping the low temperatures that characterize this time of year, be sure to take a sightseeing bus tour with free stops.

The audio guide on the City Sightseeing bus will introduce you to your surroundings and, from the top floor, you will be able to enjoy a 360° view that will make sure you don't miss a single detail. And to make the most of the experience, you will have a real-time map of the buses, as well as an interactive map with the main monuments.

In addition, you have the option to purchase a 24, 48 or 72 hour pass depending on your preferences.

Book your sightseeing bus tour

4. Stroll around the city at your leisure without cars

A Sunday in Rome| ©Richard Clifford
A Sunday in Rome| ©Richard Clifford

Another advantage of traveling to the Eternal City during the winter is that you will have the opportunity to walk around the great monuments of Rome in the metropolis without vehicles on some Sundays (only cabs and those using clean energy can pass through). It is a unique opportunity to get to know the capital by walking through corners to which you would otherwise never have access.

Rome's goal with this measure is to take care of the environment, to free the city from the gases that big cities suffer from and to allow pedestrians and tourists to enjoy the city completely. You will have a totally different perspective of the Eternal City and even more if you book a guided tour through the streets of Rome!

Book a private tour of Rome

5. Visit the museums of Rome for free!

Vatican Museum| ©malouette
Vatican Museum| ©malouette

To take shelter from the cold in January, I propose a very economical plan for Sundays, which consists of visiting the museums and the great masterpieces of Raphael, Rubens and Caravaggio for free on the first Sunday of the winter months. What do you think of the idea?

Get up early to get a seat

However, be aware that the most popular museums have huge queues at the gates, where you can be waiting for hours. Especially to visit the Colosseum and to enter the Castel Sant'Angelo. I suggest that, if you really want to get in, don't gamble and buy them in advance, or be among the first to arrive.

Take note! Access to the Vatican Museums is also possible on the last Sunday of the month. But being one of the most famous, you will have to get up even earlier. As the saying goes, the early bird catches the worm.

Here is my list of the best museums in the Eternal City:

Book a guided tour of the Borghese Gallery

6. Find the best bargains in the sales

Taking advantage of the sales| ©Sam Lion
Taking advantage of the sales| ©Sam Lion

Rome is undoubtedly a city of movies and fashion. Thanks to its elegance and wonderful scenery, reflected in the splendid film 'Roman Holiday', the Italian capital has become one of the favorite European cities for shopping lovers.

From January 2, the long-awaited sales arrive and it is possible to find some bargains in the fashion streets: via del Corso, via dei Condotti and via del Babuino. I advise you to take a walk contemplating the bohemian air of its buildings and to take advantage of the discounts, some of them reach up to 70 percent. Leave room in your suitcase because I assure you that you will want to sweep the stores!

Take note of the best areas for shopping:

  • Via Condotti, Via Borgognona and Via Frattina: popularly known as the "fashion trident". Here you will find the most luxurious and prestigious stores in the world such as Armani, Versace and Tiffany, among other brands. Even if you do not buy anything, contemplate their wonderful windows.
  • Via del Corso: ideal for young people. Take a break at the Alberto Sordi Gallery to have a delicious coffee while admiring the beauty of this wonderful place.
  • Via Ottaviano and Via Cola di Rienzo: with stores for all budgets and pockets. You can recharge your batteries in two temples of taste, Castroni and Franchi, which sell gastronomic specialties from all over the world.

Book a tour of Rome with audio guide on app

7. Tune your ears... and listen to gospel music

Gospel choir| ©Chrissy Cuttita
Gospel choir| ©Chrissy Cuttita

At Christmas time, the city is transformed into a fairytale city with its lights, decorations and typical sweets. The best part? The special programming for these dates. Until mid-January you can visit the Auditorium Parco della Musica, which hosts a Christmas market, an ice rink and organizes more than 50 concerts, shows, a gospel festival and exhibitions. Don't miss it!

One of my favorite plans was to attend a concert of the Rome Gospel Festival, the most important European gospel event, featuring some of the best groups in the U.S. The show, directed by Mario Ciampà, was born in 1985 and has a long tradition in the country. You'll get the hair on the back of your neck with their voices!

8. Visit a multicultural Christmas village

Piazza Navona Christmas Market| ©Sean Foneill
Piazza Navona Christmas Market| ©Sean Foneill

If you've already fallen in love with Rome's Christmas markets, this plan is for you. Can you imagine celebrating Christmas in Sydney at 30 degrees Celsius and dressed as a surfer Santa Claus? Or celebrating for 3 months in the Philippines? Traveling to any city at this time of the year is like doing it all over again for the first time. If you want to visit almost every metropolis in the world in one day, I suggest you go to the exhibition that reconstructs a Christmas village at the Auditorium Parco della Musica.

Throughout its more than 25,000 square meters, you will discover how this holiday is celebrated in every corner of the world. The Christmas World exhibition immerses you in the Christmas atmosphere, traditions and peculiarities of different countries through its artistic installations: a wonderful journey through different cultures!

Interesting facts about the exhibition 'Christmas World'

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

9. Welcome the new year... in style!

Dish of Lentils| ©Alesia Kozik
Dish of Lentils| ©Alesia Kozik

If you spend New Year's Eve in Rome, you will notice that there are no typical grapes. Romans end December 31 in Rome with a hearty dish of lentils with cotechino (ground pork) and their delicious panettone. To celebrate the arrival of the new year, at 12 o'clock sharp, forget the champagne, in Italy they toast exclusively with spumante which, by the way, is much sweeter. chinchin!

  • Dance at the January 1 festival: Every year to welcome the new cycle, the Eternal City organizes a big festival in the historic center for 24 hours free of charge, involving a thousand artists and live concerts and more than 100 performances of theater, film, dance and circus, among other disciplines.
  • End Christmas with the Befana, the Italian Witch Queen: January 6 is a national holiday in Italy for the Epiphany of the Lord, which celebrates the baptism of Jesus Christ. The night before, a good little witch sneaks into homes and leaves gifts. She is the Befana, the Italian witch-queen who has left Santa Claus and the Three Majesties of the East unemployed.
  • Vatican Procession: Also on January 6, don't miss the Vatican procession with hundreds of people dressed in medieval costumes, riding horses, donkeys and playing drums. Participants in the procession carry symbolic gifts for the Pope, who then performs a mass which you can attend if you opt for a visit to St. Peter's Basilica.
  • Let yourself be dazzled by the nativity scenes: Also, if you visit the different churches in Rome, you will find a surprise: the living nativity scenes inside.

10. Enjoy a good hot chocolate

Enjoying Hot Chocolate| ©Theo Crazzolara
Enjoying Hot Chocolate| ©Theo Crazzolara

It is well known that Rome's ice cream is one of the symbols of Italy. I'm sure some brave person will dare to try it in January, but what about the rest of us? A good option to warm up in winter is to have a delicious hot chocolate.

Walking the streets of Rome I discovered one of my favorite places to have a cup of cocoa in the Italian capital: an old chocolate factory hidden in the neighborhood of San Lorenzo, which maintains its essence of yesteryear but has managed to adapt to the new times. A culinary gem!

And for those with a sweet tooth... Pasta with chocolate!

This is the Said chocolate shop, where you can taste a handmade chocolate, have an afternoon snack or treat yourself to a tray of pastries. Inside, there is also a restaurant, where they serve curious dishes related to chocolate, such as pasta with pear and chocolate. It sounds strange, but I promise it was delicious.

11. See an open-air farm in Rome

Blessing the animals at the St. Anthony the Abbot Day Festival.| ©Angel Cantero
Blessing the animals at the St. Anthony the Abbot Day Festival.| ©Angel Cantero

One of my favorite holidays is celebrated on January 17, St. Anthony Abbot's Day, the patron saint of animals, when a special Eucharist is held for them. On that day, in the purest 'Farmer looking for a wife' style, the Italian Cattlemen's Association gathers all of them with their animals, in front of St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. An ideal time to pay a visit to St. Peter's Basilica.

Every year, there is also an exhibition of livestock animals open to the public, where cows, sheep, goats and chickens roam freely, happy to have exchanged their landscapes for the historic buildings of Rome. At noon, there is a horse show, which delights onlookers and tourists with their feats of skill along the street. This festival is an excellent way for visitors to get to know the country's most authentic traditions.

Temperatures in Rome in January

Enjoying the Cold| ©Olya Kobruseva
Enjoying the Cold| ©Olya Kobruseva

January is the coldest month of the winter in Rome, yet it is still very bearable. Temperatures range from 3ºC to 12ºC. In addition to wearing warm clothes, buy warm socks, a hat and T-shirts because you will need them. However, you can always warm up with a good hot chocolate in any of its Christmas markets.

A tip I give you is to get up early enough to make the most of all the hours of sunshine. At this time of the year the sun rises around 7:30 am and the sun disappears on the horizon around 5 pm, which leaves about 9 hours for sightseeing and activities and to see the majestic monuments of Rome.

Nuria's Traveller Tip

If you are traveling to Rome in January, don't forget a small umbrella in your suitcase - it rains on average 7 days a month! Therefore, the probability of getting caught is high.

Prices in Rome in January

Calculating Payment| ©Karolina Grabowska
Calculating Payment| ©Karolina Grabowska

Although it is not the preferred month for the coldest of the cold, the thriftiest are in luck. January is one of the months with the least amount of tourists and, therefore, with the lowest prices of the season, both in flights and hotels. It will be very easy for you to find real bargains! It is also a great time to see all there is to see in Rome.

Now that you no longer have the excuse that Rome is an expensive city, I recommend that you plan your getaway in advance to make it even better. If you have already decided to visit the Eternal City as your New Year's resolution, read this guide with the keys to organize your trip to Rome.

Book your Roma Pass and Omnia Card