If you are coming to Rome in December, you are in for a treat: Rome is very un-crowded in December, the weather is ok, and, the city begins to light up for the holidays.
Did I mention how un-crowded it is?
Here's what you need to know about coming to visit Rome this time of year:
The first day of winter is December 21. So actually, most of December is an autumn month (yeah, that seems weird to me too).
The winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, is on December 21/22 so December does have some pretty short days.
In December, the sun is already low in the sky by 4pm and sunset is around 4:45pm.
We don't really get snow in Rome, but once every decade or so, there might be a bit, although typically not in December (in recent years, when it's snowed in Rome, it's snowed in January or February).
During the day it's in the low 50's °F/low teens °C, and in the evenings it can still be quite chilly, in the mid 30's °F/single digits °C. Click here for more about Weather in Rome.
I walk around Rome a lot, in all seasons and in all kinds of weather. Below are some of the things I wear. These are my personal recommendations for your visit to Rome in December:
This is the time of year you will want to wear a warm cozy winter hat.
These are easy to pack, and keep in your bag as you walk around. Trust me, when temps drop when the sun goes down, you will want a hat!
I own these e-tip gloves and just love them. They are perfect for cold weather, and I can keep them on while I use my phone to make calls or take pix.
I've washed them more than once, and they look brand new.
A scarf is a must in Rome year-round (yes even in summer).
In winter, I love having a large pashmina which I find more versatile than just an oblong scarf. And I like a blend of cashmere and silk because it's not overly hot, and it doesn't make me itch.
Bonus - these are great for the plane ride too!
In Italy, men wear scarves year-round.
It's partly for the fashion and mostly because Italians have a firm belief in always keeping your neck warm.
The best jacket you can wear when sight-seeing in Rome in cold weather is a water-proof hiking jacket, with removable lining.
I have several for when I hike, and I wear them around Rome in winter. It's really 3 jackets in one.
Here is a men's version of the same kind of jacket: waterproof, sporty, and with removable lining.
It's the perfect travel jacket for Rome in December.
It doesn't hurt to travel in Rome (or anywhere) with a good travel umbrella. You can always buy one here, even off a street vendor.
I love mine, that has features like wind-resistant ribs, and a cool open AND close button.
You might consider yoga pants too.
The key to enjoying sight-seeing in Rome is to be comfortable. It doesn't get much comfier than yoga pants!
A warm cardigan, pullover, or turtleneck is a good idea.
Even when you take off your jacket, you will still be warm and cozy.
A half-zip or full-zip fleece is another way to be warm and comfortable while sight-seeing in Rome.
It's also easy to pack in your luggage, and to ball up and carry around in a small backpack.
For Rome in December, you should also include the following items in your packing list:
See also my page about What to Pack for Rome, with downloadable packing list.
My number one rule for sight-seeing in Rome, any time of year: be comfortable.
This especially pertains to shoes. Sneakers, trainers, hiking shoes, good walking shoes: all these are fine and you will fit right in.
Check out these Italians at Vatican Square in December, all wearing comfortable shoes and jeans.
Rome in December can be chilly. But at the beginning of December, there can even be balmy days. Layering is always a good idea.
Be prepared for changes in temperature between when the sun is out, and when it gets dark.
And always wear or carry a scarf with you.
This is a great time to come to Rome if you are looking for hotel bargains.
In December, you can expect it to be fairly cold in Rome, with some rain.
December is a beautiful time of year to be in Rome, because the city starts lighting up with decorations and there is a festive feeling in the air.
December is the beginning of (mostly) low season.
By December, you can definitely find Roman artichokes just about everywhere.
Not just fried (alla giudia) which seem to be more and more available during the year, but stewed artichokes. These are on the menu as Carciofi alla Romana and you can only get them in winter and very early spring when this particular type of artichoke is in season in Rome.
Chicory is now also in season, which means you can find it not just cooked but also raw.
There is a special raw chicory salad that is sort of particular to Rome: puntarelle. This is raw chicory, cut into thin strips until it curls, then soaked in ice-water until it becomes crispy and crunchy, and then dressed simply with olive oil, garlic, lemon, salt and crushed or chopped anchovies. If you love puntarelle, or want to try them, now is the time!
December is also the real beginning of citrus season. Oranges, mandarins and clementines fill the markets now.
What better way to keep cold and flu germs at bay than to have a nice fresh-squeezed spremuta (juice) of Sicilian blood oranges?
Want to know more about Rome cuisine? Click here.
This is a good time to visit monuments and museums, since they will be much less crowded (except during the holidays).
It's also a great time to catch some special museum exhibits indoors. Note also that several museums stay open later on the weekends.
Here are some special things you can do in December in Rome:
On the first Sunday of December, state sites and museums are free for everyone. This includes archeological sites like the Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla and Ostia Antica; and museums like the Galleria Borghese and Palazzo Barberini. In 2019, the first Sunday is December 1.
Also, on Wednesday, December 18, 2019 (International Migrants' Day), you can visit these sites for free.
For the Galleria Borghese, you will need to reserve in advance.
On the last Sunday of every month, the Vatican Museums are open from 9am - 2pm (normally closed Sundays.)
If you are on a tight schedule and this is the only day you can go, or you are on a tight budget, then this is a great opportunity. But otherwise it is usually better to book your visit ahead of time and pay to go another day. You can expect large crowds even in low season.
In 2019, the Vatican Museums will be free and open on Sunday December 29.
St. Peter's Basilica and Square are free and open daily.
The Galleria Borghese is free for the time slots 1-3pm, 3-5pm, and 5-7pm on December 1 and 11, 2019. Galleria Borghese are choosing to offer free entry on the 2nd Wednesday of each month.
You still need to reserve. If tickets are not available on the website try emailing or calling them.
The four museums that make up the Rome National Museums, Palazzo Altemps, Diocletian Baths, Palazzo Massimo, and Crypta Balbi, will all be free on December 1, 2019 .
Another wonderful day trip from Rome is to visit Tivoli and see the Villa D'Este and Hadrian's Villa.
They are offering free entry on the first Monday of each month from May - December 2019.
Both sites are free on Monday December 2, 2019.
One of my favorite art museums in Rome, Palazzo Barberini, will be free on December 1, 2019 (first Sunday of the month).
They share the same management, and same schedule with Galleria Corsini (Trastevere), so you can visit that museum as well.
As you walk around Rome in December, you will see more and more lights and decorations going up outside people's apartments, storefronts, bars, restaurants, hotels and just neighborhood streets in general.
Visit my Rome at Christmas page for more details. Meanwhile, here are some specific holiday things to do in Rome in December:
In 2020 there will not be a Christmas fair and market in Piazza Navona due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. In previous years this has included a carousel, nativity scene and...sometimes lots of fun stalls and stands selling food and gifts. In 2014 there was a scandal and diminishing of the number of stands. In 2015, 2016, and 2017, there was barely a fair in the piazza, but there was a carousel, a tree and a nativity scene. In 2018, there were as usual the carousel, a nativity scene and a stage for some small shows. In 2019 the Christmas market was shut down and there was no carousel, so stay tuned to see what happens in the future!
Regardless, the Piazza becomes a center for enjoying the Christmas spirit in Rome, and in 2020 a fun light show has been installed, projecting onto the Fountain of the Four Rivers from 5pm to 9pm.
Chabad Roma organizes the lighting of the menorah during Chanukah in Piazza Barberini.
You can attend the first night's lighting ceremony with Rome's rabbis at sundown on Thursday, December 10, 2020, but you can also go for the following 7 nights to see each "candle" being lit.
Several Christmas trees go up around Rome in December, but it seems the one people ask me about the most is the one at the Vatican.
The Christmas tree in Vatican Square is a relatively new phenomenon (started in 1982 during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II), but it's typically been lit just before Christmas Eve.
The nativity scene and Christmas tree in Vatican square will be lit on December 11 2020 at 4:30pm. They will stay lit through the evening of January 10 2021.
December 8, the Immaculate Conception, or Immacolata, is a pretty major holiday in Italy. Shops will be closed but sites are open (except for the Vatican Museums.)
At noon, you can head to St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis give the Angelus (free, lasting about 15 minutes.)
Also on December 8, you can also try to check out the Pope visiting Piazza Mignanelli (next to the Spanish Steps), at 4:30pm, for the changing of Madonna's wreath at the top of the column there.
The pope does not do it himself - the firemen do, but he is there for the event. Be prepared for large, crushing crowds.
Many of the below tours are available only during the Christmas season. Some are available on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and others are not available those days. Click each link to see details and more tour options.
You will enjoy complimentary tickets to Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican. This is a really big deal, as these tickets are hard to come by!
Minimum 4 people per booking is required. Dress code applies. Tour is not wheelchair accessible but mass is.
Wondering what to eat in Rome around the Christmas holidays? Why not take a Christmas Food Tour?
You'll start with an appetizer in Rome's Campo dei Fiori, then make your way to a traditional sit-down Christmas dinner in Trastevere. (Not available the week of Christmas.)
In this private tour for 2 people only, you will take a full-day trip with private car, from Rome to the charming medieval town of Gubbio, to see the world's largest Christmas tree.
Includes hotel pickup and drop-off, a local food tasting, and the car at your service all day.
The cooler fall and winter months are a great time to take in the arts and some art indoors. Some museums stay open later on the weekends.
Here are some special things you can do in Rome in December:
Bacon, Freud and the school of London - Works from TATE
At the beautiful Chiostro del Bramante, now through February 2020.
The Chiostro del Bramante is behind Piazza Navona, on Via Arco della Pace, 5. T. +39 06 915 19 41
Click the picture to visit the museum's official site.
Open Mon - Fri 10am - 8pm; Sat - Sun 10am - 9pm.
13€ includes audioguide. No advance booking required.
Enjoy beautiful exhibitions on Palazzo delle Esposizioni, on via Nazionale. Now through January 6, 2020.
Click the picture to visit the museum's official site.
Tue, Wed, Thu, Sun: 10am - 8pm; Fri-Sat: 10am - 10:30 pm; Closed Mondays. 8€
Pompeii and Santorini - now through January 2020
Scuderie del Quirinale, in Via XXIV Maggio number 16.
Museum hrs: Sunday - Thursday 10am - 8pm; Friday and Saturday 10am – 10:30pm.
15€ full price (click the photo to visit this site).
At the Museum of Rome – Palazzo Braschi you can visit an exhibition-event focused on the link between Antonio Canova and the city of Rome, with over 170 works and prestigious loans from important museums and Italian and foreign collections.
Now through March 2020, Palazzo Braschi 10,Piazza di San Pantaleo.
Open daily, from 9.30am to 7pm. Last admission 1 hour before closing time.
Tickets from € 11.00 (reduced).
An incredible journey through time to discover Van Gogh and Monet.
From October 09th to January 6th 2020, former Barracks Guido Reni - Via Guido Reni, 7.
Hours: Mon-Fri from 10am to 6pm; Sat-Sun and holidays from 10am to 8pm.
Full price tickets € 13.50.
Now through January 12 2020, every day from Monday to Sunday 10am - 7pm (last admission at 5pm) - Closed on Tuesdays.
Adults - 12€ includes audio guide.
Villa Farnesina, via della Lungara 230.
The first major exhibition entirely dedicated to the history and civilization of one of the most powerful and fascinating cities in the ancient world, Carthage. The immortal myth.
Now through March 29, 2020 in the monumental spaces of the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, inside the temple of Romulus and the Imperial Ramp.
This is part of a standard Colosseum/Roman Forum entry ticket. There is no additional cost. Click here to buy tickets to the Colosseum.
Open daily 8:30am - 4:30pm.
The Capitoline Museums pay tribute to the famous Renaissance painter Luca Signorelli.
Capitoline Museums, Exhibition Halls of Palazzo Caffarelli.
Now through 12 January 2020, daily from 9:30am to 7:30pm.
Tickets from € 16,00.
An extraordinary selection of figured wall plates and polychrome terracotta molded architectural decorations.
Centrale Montemartini, Via Ostiense, 106, now through February 2, 2020. Tuesday-Sunday 9:00am - 7pm.
Tickets from € 9.00 (reduced ).
With the holidays around the corner, you have a huge choice of indoor concerts to enjoy this time of year. Below you'll find Christmas concerts, New Year's Eve concerts and general music concerts:
Catch Disney on Ice in Rome this December 5-8, 2019, at Palalottomatica in EUR.
Tickets from 29€. Matinees available.
For a unique and solemn experience, attend the Christmas Baroque Concert inside Rome's Capuchin Crypt.
December 21 and 28, 2018. From $40.
Optional dinner available.
Listen to a Christmas concert with a variety of holiday songs, from opera arias to classics like White Christmas and Jingle Bells.
Enjoy a light aperitivo of snacks and sparkling wine after the show, together with the artists.
December 22, 2019. From $23.
Check out the Rome Gospel Festival at the Rome Auditorium.
There will be a special Christmas Day concert by the Harlem Gospel Choir.
Tickets from $25.
The Three Tenors - Enjoy New Year's Eve Concert in Rome in the beautiful Caravita Church in the center of Rome.
The singers are some of Rome's most talented, and they do credit to the original Three Tenors.
December 31, 2019, and January 1, 2020. From $45. Children under 7, and disable people can attend for free.
Sparkling wine after the concert is included.
Greet the new year in Rome with a beautiful lyrical concert of classic opera and concert music. Works include pieces by Puccini, Strauss, Rossini, Verdi, Mozart, and many more.
December 31, 2019, and January 1, 2020.
From $40. Great for families; wheelchair accessible.
There's nothing like Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake to ring in the New Year.
See this beautiful ballet in one of Rome's official opera halls, the Costanza Theater.
Playing December 31, 2019 - January 8, 2020.
Check out the Rome Gospel Festival at the Rome Auditorium.
There will be a special New Year's Eve show by DaNell Daymon & Greater Works Choir.
Tickets from $50.
Enjoy a New Year's Eve dinner at a local restaurant and relax during a panoramic tour of Rome tailored to your needs.
This is a 6 hours event starting at 7:15 PM.
Tickets from $350.
Visit the Colosseum bar hop, one of the capital city’s best Dance Bars. Complimentary BODY SHOTS, watching the firework from the rooftop and a VIP welcome to one of Rome’s favorite club venues will make this hottest New Year’s Eve Party unforgettable.
Tickets from $46.
Enjoy this special New Year's Baroque Concert played with the original period instruments in one of the most stunning private palazzos in Rome, Doria Pamphilj Palace.
Tickets from $55.
Enjoy La Traviata The Original Opera with Ballet within the Walls Church, with a mix of songs and prose from this classic Verdi opera.
Enjoy listening to famous opera songs in the stunning and exclusive Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
You can opt to include dinner in the beautiful rooftop restaurant, Terrazza Borromini.
See the "Three Tenors" in a beautiful church setting.
You will be treated to three of Rome's most famous tenors singing some of the best-known and loved songs of Italian opera. They will be accompanied by costumed dancers.
Enjoy a wonderful evening listening to the masterpieces of Vivaldi, La Traviata, or Rigoletto - A Night At The Opera Experience.
Listen to classic arias and duets by Italian opera greats Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini, in the gorgeous Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
A special private tour of the Princess' apartment is included.
Visit the extraordinary Capuchin Crypt, then head into the recently restored church to listen to sacred music in a gorgeous setting.Wednesday afternoons.
Fans of the Baroque will love this beautiful concert inside Borromini's stunning basilica on Piazza Navona.
You'll be treated first to a short guided tour of this masterpiece, followed by a concert of Baroque music.
Enjoy beautiful Vivaldi music in the lovely setting of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj.
Tour the private apartments of the Princess Doria Pamphilj.
The Waldensian Church in the heart of Rome offers a special atmosphere in a journey inside Verdi’s, Puccini’s, Rossini’s and Mozart’s masterpieces in charming surroundings.
Maybe it's your 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) time in Rome. Or you have more than 3 days here. Or you just want to see and do lots of fun things.
Besides the obvious must-see tourist attractions, there are lots of great things to see and do in Rome in December. Here are some ideas for your visit:
For more information about events in Rome in December, visit the official website of the Rome Tourist Board.
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