Visiting Rome on Christmas Day can be a magical experience. Here is what you can expect if you’re spending the holidays in the eternal city.
Christmas is fast approaching and everyone is trying to decide on plans for the festive week. And since there is a high chance that I am going to be in Rome this year on Christmas Day, I thought I should pen down a guide for those of you who are planning to spend the festive season in the eternal city. So read on to know exactly what to expect while visiting the city during this period. I am also including a list of fun things to do in Rome on Christmas day.
Festive Atmosphere in Rome
Christmas in Rome can be really magical. The Christmas Lights make all those typical Italian streets look even more gorgeous. The biggest addition to the city’s Christmas decor is the huge Christmas tree. Traditionally it is placed right outside Piazza Venezia. The last few years the decorations have been sponsored by Netflix. You can also find grand decorations around the Spanish Steps. Along with that, most of the stores and local restaurants too put up beautiful decorations. This adds to the Christmas spirit in the city.
And if that was not enough, the Vatican too does their own fair share of decorations. These decorations come up usually after the feast of the immaculate conception on the 8th of December. The beautifully done Nativity Scene and the huge Christmas tree right outside the square are the main attractions. This is definitely something you must check out while spending Christmas in Rome. The decorations in the Vatican will be on display until the 12th of January, 2020.
Weather in Rome during Christmas
The temperature in Rome during the month of December ranges between the highest of 13° and the lowest of 4°. So come prepared with all your winter outfits. But do keep in mind that it can also be really windy and humid, so you’ll want to layer and cover up, so pack accordingly. While the city does get some rain during this month, you will also be sure to get some of the winter sun that Rome is famous for. There is an average of 8 days of rain in Rome during the month of December. But the weather can be unpredictable and sometimes. Yyou could see the sun shining bright after a few minutes of downpour.
Where to Stay in Rome for Christmas
If you’re planning to be in Rome on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, I highly recommend staying in or very close to the city center. Anywhere in Monti, Prati, around the Vatican or the Colosseum would be perfect.
The main reason I say this is because on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, the public transportation in the city is extremely limited. and you will spend a lot more on cabs to and from the city center. If you’re already a walking distance from or living in the center itself, you could just walk everywhere and enjoy the charm of the beautiful city. Don’t forget to pack comfortable walking shoes though.
Where to Eat in Rome on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day
Christmas in Italy is a family affair. During the festive period most of the local restaurants will most probably be shut. This could mean for the week, or at least on the 24th, 25th and 26th of December. The best way to find a restaurant open during the festive period is to walk to the closest monument or popular square. These restaurants are normally extremely touristy and would not want to miss out on the holiday sale so you definitely will find something open. I will be doing a round up of places open for Christmas eve and Christmas day here on the blog in the coming weeks, so keep an eye out for that or just subscribe to the mailing list so you don’t miss out.
Monuments in Rome at Christmas
Most of the important monuments in the city like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the other ticketed museums will be closed to the public for one day on the 25th of December. The Vatican museums remain closed on both the 25th and 26th of December, 2019. However St. Peters Basilica is open daily from 7 am to 6:30 pm for visits and normally scheduled masses.
Getting around Rome during the Christmas Week
The public transportation in the city runs only for a limited time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Make sure to check the ATAC website for the updated information and timings for the trains, bus, trams and metro timings for the festive week before making your plans.
Taxis would also be available in the city over the holidays. You could simply just walk to the nearest taxi stand or just order one to where ever you want through the Free Now app.If you are comfortable with driving in the city, you could rent a car for the holidays from Termini, right in the city center or you could try to sign up with Share Now or Enjoy as they have cars all around the city that can be rented for a short journey within the city limits. All you need to do is sign up and book the car closest to you. Once you’re near the car, you can unlock it through the app, drive it to your destination of choice and park it and end journey on the app.
Special Things to do in Rome on Christmas Day
To be honest, Christmas in Rome is not as commercial as it is in other countries. The main reason for this being that Italy is a catholic country and Christmas is strictly religious for most of the locals. They spend Christmas eve and Christmas day with family and friends. And from what I hear, a lot of food and wine is obviously involved in their celebrations. Hence, you might find a lot of local restaurants and shops closed on the 24th and 25th, and maybe even longer.
But don’t let that stop you because you will surely find some restaurants in the city center that will be open even on these days. Just make sure to reserve a table in advance as they could all be sold out due to the high number of tourists in the city at that time. But there is still plenty of fun and free things to do in the city. Here are some cool things you could do in and around Rome on Christmas Day:
Take a magical walk in the Center
Rome is one of the most beautiful cities. Just a leisurely walk in the center can be enchanting and magical in itself. Especially when the city is lit up and festive. You can take your time to admire the architecture and stop and stare at the beautiful sites the city has to offer as there will definitely be fewer people out on the streets. Besides, Christmas just makes everything more magical, doesn’t it?
Christmas Mass at the Vatican
The Christmas mass at the Vatican starts by 9:30 with a short procession followed by the actual mass. If you would like to attend though, you would actually require a ticket to actually enter into the Basilica. These tickets are free of charge and are issues so as to limit the people inside the church. Click here for more details on how to get hold of these tickets.
But if you don’t manage to get a hold of a ticket for the mass, you can still watch the live mass on the big screen in St. Peters Square. If you decide to skip the Vatican, you could also attend the midnight mass at the Pantheon. Tickets are not required for this, but you would need to get there early to find a spot inside.
Go discover the beautiful nativity scenes in different churches in the city
While the Nativity Scene at the Vatican receives all the tourist attention, many smaller Churches around the city go all out with theirs. My Roman friend told me that each of them is stunning and unique. Her top recommendations are the Nativity Scenes at the Church of Santi Cosma e Damiano, Sant’ Andrea Della Valle, Santa Maria Del Popolo and the Bascilica Del Sacrocuore immacolato. But if those are out of your way, enter into any church in the city, and you’re sure to find a beautiful Nativity Scene adorning the scene.
Visit the Original Table from Jesus’ Last Supper
A remaining fragment of what is believed to be the original table used for the last supper can be found in the Church of San Giovanni in Laterano. This relic can be found behind the high above the back left altar. It is believed that this was the same table used by St. Peter himself while saying mass in Rome and was later used by Jesus for the last supper. Pretty cool right?
Spend the day at the Spa
Another cool thing to do on Christmas Day would be to spend the day at a spa. And luckily, Italy has some beautiful natural ones that are just about 2.5 hours away by road. You could head to Saturnia or Bagni di San Filippo. These are two of my favorite natural baths around the city. Or you could just head to QC Terme in Fiumicino for a more luxurious experience.
Spend an evening at the Christmas Market in Rome
Christmas Markets in Rome are not as big and amazing as the German ones. But the best one has to be the Christmas Market at Piazza Navona. You could spend your evening browsing through the stalls at the little Christmas Market or checking out the nativity scene in the square. If you’re looking for better Christmas Markets, you could take the train to the small town of Arezzo in Tuscany. The Christmas Markets in the small town are very beautiful and the town is extremely charming too. It’s approximately a 2.5 hour train ride each way, so makes for a perfect Christmas day trip.
Hike up to Gianicolo Hill and Enjoy a Beautiful View of the City
One of my all time favorite views of the city has to be from the terrace of Gianicolo Hill. You can literally see all of Rome from there. It is a pretty easy hike up to the top and the views are phenomenal. My suggestion is to take a bottle of wine or beer up with you on top and head there right before sunset so you can enjoy the views with day light and also catch how beautiful the city looks at night with all the sparkling lights on.
Head to the Vatican at noon to see and be blessed by the Pope
If you didn’t get a chance to attend the midnight mass at the Vatican don’t worry. You could easily catch the Pope on Christmas Day at noon. That’s when the Pope comes out and gives a special speech called the Urbi et Orbe. Beware though, anything that involves the Pope is bound to be crowded with people. So make sure you get there early to find a good spot!
Christmas Lights and Roasting Chestnuts
Another winter favorite Roman thing you can do is take an evening stroll in the city. During Christmas time, this could be done by admiring all the beautiful Christmas lights along with a side of roasted chestnuts. You will find these being sold in almost every street in the city center. Make sure to include Via del Corso, Via Merulana, Via Giulia, Via dei Condotti along with Trastevere, Piazza Venezia,Spanish Steps, and the Colosseum in your evening walk itinerary. You can also buy some typical Italian products and gifts to take back home with you.
Ice Skating in Rome
Yes, you read that right. While the temperatures in Rome don’t really drop too low, there are still a few ice skating rings. These pop up during winter all around the city and some of them can be reached by public transportation too. But considering that even public transportation does not function normally on Christmas even and Christmas Day, the ice skating rink at the Parco Della Musica should be the closest. If not, you could also check out the ones in the malls of Rome like Porta di Roma or Euroma2.
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