Rome in December
Essential Trip Planning Guide

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?

piazza barberini in decemberPiazza Barberini in December - notice anything? No crowds!

December in Rome - at a Glance

Here's what you need to know about coming to visit Rome this time of year:

Weather in Rome Italy in December

caffarella park in december in RomeThe Caffarella park in December in Rome

The first day of winter is December 21. So actually, most of December is an autumn month (yeah, that seems weird to me too).

It seems to rain a little less in December than in November, and the days can be clear, sunny and crisp . . . and they are short of course. 

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.

In late fall and winter, outdoor archeological sites close earlier.

Last entry to the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill is at 3:30pm, and they close by 4:30pm. 

Because of the limited daylight, and because these sites close earlier, the best time for visiting them in December is morning and early afternoon.

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.

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What to pack for Rome in December

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:

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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.

Heavy cotton pants or comfortable jeans are an excellent idea for men, women, and children alike.

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.

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What to wear in Rome in December

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.

what people wear in Rome in DecemberWhat to wear in Rome in December? The most important thing is to be comfortable. Jeans, sneakers, and a warm jacket are perfect!

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.

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December in Rome - What to Expect

In December, you can expect it to be fairly cold in Rome, with some rain

You can also expect it to be very uncrowded, except during the Christmas and New Year holidays.

colosseum ticket booth winterThis is the ticket booth in front of the Colosseum, in the middle of a December day. No lines, no crowds.

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 - Low season

December is the beginning of (mostly) low season.

Hotel and airline rates drop dramatically from around the beginning of November and, other than during the Christmas and New Years holidays, stay low throughout winter.

This is a great time to visit if you want to see all the popular sites and monuments in Rome, with much smaller crowds than you find in high season.

The perfect 3-day itinerary in Rome

Trying to figure out how to organize your visit to Rome? I've got the perfect 3-day itinerary for first-time visitors (or those who have not been here in a while.) It works for a 2.5 day visit as well.

In my 3-day itinerary, you'll see all the major must-see Rome attractions like the Vatican, Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, and much more.

And if you have more time, or want suggestions for extra/other things to do, you'll find that there too.

Visit my page with the best 3-day itinerary in Rome for first-timers.

Check Hotel Rates for Rome in December

This is a great time to come to Rome if you are looking for hotel bargains.

In Italy, the Catholic holiday of December 8, the Immaculate Conception, or Immacolata, is celebrated. Many shops will be closed, but sites are open (except for the Vatican Museums.)

If the 8th falls near a weekend, you can expect it to be busy in Rome.

See below for things to do on December 8.

December Foods in Season in Rome

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.

roman artichoke il falchettoCarciofo alla Romana - one of the best things about December 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!

puntarelle da daniloPuntarelle at Da Danilo in Rome

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.

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Rome in December - things to do

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:

Free things to do in Rome in December

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.

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 2018, the Vatican Museums will be free and open on Sunday December 30.

St. Peter's Basilica and Square are free and open daily.

Holiday things to do in Rome in December

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:

Official Holiday Events Around Town December 2018

Waiting for news about this for December 2018. I will update this page the minute we know! Stay tuned .  . .

On December 2, 2018 the Rome Christmas fair and market should go up in Piazza Navona. This includes a carousel, nativity scene and...supposedly 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 will be as usual the carousel, a nativity scene and a stage for some small shows. There will also be vendors, more than in recent years but not as many as in the past. Stay tuned for more news as we get it.

Regardless, the Piazza becomes a center for enjoying the Christmas spirit in Rome.

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 Sunday, December 2, 2018, 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 7 2018 at 4:30pm. They will stay lit through the evening of January 8 2019.

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.

Christmas Tours to Take in Rome in December 2018

Take a semi-private (max 10 people) tour of the Vatican Museums, with a privileged entrance to St. Peter's Basilica.

You will enjoy complimentary tickets to Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican.

Minimum 4 people per booking is required. Dress code applies. Tour is not wheelchair accessible.

On this special Christmas Nativities and Angels tour, you will visit beautiful churches and squares in Rome, starting with the church of Santa Maria in Via, which has a well of miraculous holy water. You will see some of Rome's most beautiful nativity scenes,  visit Piazza Navona's Christmas fair, and end in Saint Peter's Square.

Check out Rome all decked out for Christmas on this Christmas Walking tour of Rome. Includes hotel pickup, and visits to the best spots in Rome center and Vatican Square where you can see Rome's Christmas decorations at their best.

Looking for a Rome tour on Christmas Day?

This Half Day Christmas Walking Tour goes exclusively on December 25, so you will not be without something to do! Enjoy Rome all decorated, and see the best sites and monuments from the outside.

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:

Andy Warhol at the Complesso del Vittoriano.  Now through February 3rd, 2019. 

Mon - Thu 9:30am - 7:30pm
Fri - Sat 9:30am - 10pm
Sun 9:30 am - 8:30 pm

Tickets are 13€. Advance booking highly recommended for this popular exhibit. Click the image at left to visit the official site.

Pollock and the school of New York at the Complesso del Vittoriano.  Now through February 24th, 2019.

Mon - Thu 9:30am - 7:30pm
Fri - Sat 9:30am - 10pm
Sun 9:30 am - 8:30 pm

Tickets are 15€. Advance booking highly recommended for this popular exhibit. Click the image at left to visit the official site.

Dream - Art Meets Dreams - at the beautiful Chiostro del Bramante, now through May 2019.

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.

Pixar: 30 years of animation - "over 400 drawings, sculptures, sketches, collages and storyboards and a huge selection of video material."

Palazzo delle Esposizioni, on via Nazionale. Now through January 20, 2019

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€ 

In December 2018, catch the opera in Rome, including Puccini's, Tosca, Giuseppe Verdi Rigoletto and Čajkovskij's Swan Lake.

Some shows are in Rome's beautiful Teatro dell'Opera (Opera House), and others are at their other official venues around Rome.

Click here to find tickets at Teatro dell'Opera.

I attended the opening of this show and it's incredible! A unique mix of immersion theater, with live actors, ballet, modern dance, original music by Sting, and more. I cannot recommend this enough, especially if you are as big a fan of Michelangelo as I am.

Ovid - love, myth, and stories.  Now through January 20, 2019

Scuderie del Quirinale, Via XXIV Maggio.

Museum hrs: Sunday - Thursday 10am - 8pm; Friday and Saturday 10am – 10:30pm. 

10€ full price (click the photo to visit this site).

Monet to Cézanne - multimedia immersion experience. Now through January 6th, 2019

Check out this multimedia exhibition showcasing the French Impressionists. Allow yourself to be transported 19th Century Paris, and enjoy works by these artists as you've never seen them (there are no original works here, just large-scale reproductions.)

Palazzo degli Esami, Via Girolamo Induno, 4 (Trastevere)

15€ full entry fee. Buy tickets here.

Mon - Thu 10am - 8pm; Fri - Sat 10am - 11pm; Sun 10am - 9pm.

Through February 3, 2019, you can enjoy a special exhibit of sculptures by Picasso in the Galleria Borghese.

During the exhibit, standard ticket prices are 20 Euros.

Exciting news for lovers of Ancient Rome! From November 11, 2018 - January 6, 2019, you can visit the gorgeous Ara Pacis at night.

Because this amazing ruin is housed inside an almost all-glass museum that was especially designed for it, you will really get the full impact by seeing it lit up, with the night sky around you outside.

And, now you can also view the monument with virtual reality goggles, making it an even more sensory experience. 

The museum is accessible and wheelchair facilities are available for people with walking difficulties.

Buy your tickets to the Ara Pacis here.

CONCERTS IN ROME IN december 2018

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:

Christmas Concerts in Rome in December 2018

Catch Disney on Ice in Rome this December 6-9, 2018, at Palalottomatica in EUR.

Tickets from 29€. Matinees available.

Take in a wonderful Christmas concert in the gorgeous basilica of Sant'Agnese in Agone, right on Piazza Navona.

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, in a lovely church in the center of Rome.

Enjoy a light aperitivo of snacks and sparkling wine after the show, together with the artists.

December 22 and 26, 2018. From $35.

Check out the Rome Gospel Festival at the Rome Auditorium.

There will be a special Christmas Day concert by the New Direction Tennessee State Gospel.

Tickets from $25.

New Years Concerts in Rome in December 2018

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, 2018, and January 1, 2019. From $45. Children under 7, and disable people can attend for free.

Sparkling wine after the concert is included.

Enjoy a superb early dinner before the Three Tenors concert, then listen to these talented tenors perform beautifully in the Caravita Church in the center of Rome.

The concert finishes at about 11pm, so you will still be able to head out and enjoy the New Year's fireworks.

December 31, 2018, and January 1, 2019. From $160.  Wine not included. Must be 18 or older to attend.

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, 2018, and January 1, 2019. 

From $35. 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 28, 2018 - January 6, 2019. 

Check out the Rome Gospel Festival at the Rome Auditorium.

There will be a special New Year's Eve show by the South Carolina Mass Choir.

Tickets from $50.

Music Concerts in Rome in December 2018

Enjoy "La Traviata Experience" in a beautiful church setting, 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.

Enjoy this special Baroque concert +  tour of Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, one of the most stunning private palazzos in Rome!

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 opera singing by Orchestra I Virtuosi dell’opera di Roma inside a scenic and suggestive setting in central Rome (locations vary).

These wonderful opera singers put on a mini-production of various operas in full costume.


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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Rome in December - What the weather's like, what to pack, things to do. By Romewise.
Rome in December - What the weather's like, what to pack, things to do. By Romewise.

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