10 things to do in Rome in December

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

10 things to do in Rome in December

Christmas in Rome | ©Neigesdantan

With the New Year just around the corner, there's plenty to see and do in Rome in December and the city is decked out to celebrate the most important time of year for Italians: Christmas. But hurry up and buy your flights, as they can become impractical!

If you're travelling to the Eternal City at this time of year, you'll find that Romans celebrate New Year's Eve with a hearty plate of lentils to keep them going all night long. Get comfortable because in this guide I'll tell you everything you need to know to make the most of this winter month in the capital.

1. Make the most of the off-season to visit the main attractions

colosseum in rome|©Chait Goli
colosseum in rome|©Chait Goli

Whether you've been to Rome in high season or not, you'll know that it can be impossible to get tickets to the main attractions and, if you're lucky, the experience can be a bit overwhelming due to the crowds.

December is therefore a good time to enjoy the city at your leisure, and the perfect time to visit popular sights such as the Colosseum, the Colosseum and the Colosseum:

  • The Colosseum: around 6 million people visit the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire every year. Now imagine how many people are there in high season? It is much better to go in low season to fully enjoy this historical monument.
  • Castel Sant'Angelo: on December 25th the castle is closed, but the rest of the month you can enjoy its five floors. Besides, going in December will help to make the climb lighter and not so overwhelming. Remember that it is open every day from 9:00 to 19:30.
  • Bioparco: it is the oldest zoological garden in Italy and the perfect place to go with children. During the month of August it can be exhausting to visit due to the heat, but in December you will be able to enjoy the animals much more.

Book your tickets in Rome

2. Take shelter from the cold in a convent with exhibitions or in the museums

Visiting the Chiostro del Bramante| ©Luigi FIORE
Visiting the Chiostro del Bramante| ©Luigi FIORE

If it's raining during your holiday in Rome one day, take shelter from the rain at the Chiostro del Bramante, a former Renaissance convent that now serves as a venue for some of Europe's best exhibitions, meetings and concerts. Take the opportunity to have a coffee, one of the symbols of Italy, in its restaurant overlooking the cloister. What could be more bucolic than watching it rain from the windows?

You'll also have the chance to see many of Rome's museums with far fewer tourists, another great way to escape the cold weather in Rome in winter. Buy tickets for the Vatican or see the best works of art in the Capitoline Museums.

Book tickets for the Vatican Museums without queuing up!

3. Dress up in your finery at the Opera House

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: attend the opera in the heart of Rome. It is also another way to take shelter from the cold. Specifically, I recommend two of the best concerts in the city:

  • Opera at the Palazzo Santa Chiara: its excellent acoustics will make your experience perfect and you will be able to listen to both the singers and the orchestra in an incredible way.
  • Opera in the Waldensian Church: you will be able to listen to pieces by musicians such as Vivaldi, Verdi or Puccini, as well as some Neapolitan folk songs.

Get your ticket for the Roman Opera

4. Experience the magic of a musical at the Roman Theatre

Outside the Teatro Costanzi| ©California Will
Outside the Teatro Costanzi| ©California Will

One of the best ways not to freeze in Rome is to take cover in its marvellous theatres. At this time of year, 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. However, I recommend that you check the programme as soon as you are sure of your travel dates and book your tickets to ensure your place in the theatre.

5. Travel around the world for Christmases

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

Discover the illuminated Eiffel Tower, meet Father Christmas at the North Pole and see the legendary ice rink at Rockefeller Center in New York are just some of the things you can see at the 'Christmas World' exhibition at the Parco della Musica Auditorium, after skating around its fabulous ice rink.

It is an open-air museum covering more than 25,000 square metres where visitors can discover Christmas traditions from different countries around the world. If you are an inveterate traveller, you will love thisexhibition, which lasts almost the whole month!

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

6. Be quiet in Father Christmas's fantastic castle

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

If you are travelling to Rome with children, one plan they will love is to visit Father Christmas with his elves, fairies and reindeer at the Lunghezza castle, about 20 kilometres from the Eternal City. With his good-natured face, traditional beard and red suit , Father Christmas 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 bank holidays until 6 January 2022.

Children will be able to see Father Christmas sitting on his throne, hand him their letter, ride a sleigh, take part in games and meet the tireless Elves working to fulfil 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 5th in Rome.

7. Find 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 suggest you visit the Car Boot Market located in the Città dell'Altra Economia in Testaccio. It's a flea market where Italians show their objects for sale in a different kind of showcase... the boot of their car! Just as you read it. What's more, you're in luck because it's only held on weekends in December.

Based on an English model, the aim is to give those forgotten objects (antiques, records, clothes, books...) that are lying 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 in the mood for more shopping, don't forget to visit one of Rome's Christmas markets.

Motorbike boots converted into walking flea markets

At the event, you'll find an even more curious corner, the Scooter Boot Market, a space reserved for those who don't have a car. Can you imagine a Vespa converted into a useful shop? You'll see everything! Of course, in this area you'll only find small items that fit and can be displayed in the boot of the scooter.

8. Warm up in Caffè Greco

Caffe Greco|©Inna
Caffe Greco|©Inna

Another way to escape the cold Roman temperatures in December, while discovering a mythical place, is to take the opportunity to have a hot drink at Caffè Greco, the oldest in the city and the second oldest in the country (behind only Caffè Florian in Venice).

It opened in the 18th century, specifically in 1760, on Via Condotti 86, and was visited by the likes of Lord Byron, Nietzsche, Baudelaire, Hans Christian Andersen, Orson Welles and even Spaniards such as Fortuny. In short, it was a haven for artists, politicians and writers that still retains its classical aura.

9. Enjoy the roasted chestnut stalls

Roasted chestnut stall| ©Sunny Lapin
Roasted chestnut stall| ©Sunny Lapin

When autumn arrives in Rome, it is common for the historic centre of Rome to be filled with street st alls selling 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 your 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 miss the chestnut cake - it's finger-licking good! You'll 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

Be careful! Don't sit and snack on chestnuts on the famous Spanish Steps in the 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 Eve cruise| ©Maurício Mascaro
Enjoying a New Year's Eve cruise| ©Maurício Mascaro

Hands up who hasn't dreamt of waking up on New Year's Eve in another city in the world! If you are one of those lucky ones who are going to spend the Capodanno in the Eternal City, away from the mother-in-law, I can tell you that there are options for all tastes, some of them very picturesque. Here are some of the most original proposals that the capital has to offer:

End the year with a cruise

If you want a romantic plan for Rome, you can surprise your partner with a sightseeing cruise on the River Tiber, which includes all kinds of fun activities. Waking up in a cabin overlooking the sea is priceless.

Romantic dinner in an old tram

If, on the other hand, you're more down to earth, you can book a special dinner on the Ristotram, a renovated 1950s tram transformed for an unforgettable evening of jazz and touring Rome's most beautiful streets.

Party bus with DJs

Those who prefer a good party on the busiest night of the year can hop aboard the Crazy Bus, a vehicle parked in the centre of Rome and equipped as if it were a discotheque with TV screens, audio systems and state-of-the-art lighting.

Book a Tiber cruise in Rome

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 unusual, the capital has even been dyed white for some years. So I suggest that before you travel you take a look at the weather forecast during your getaway in Rome on apps like AccuWeather or eltiempo.es.

December is one of the coldest months* in the Eternal City, however, if you dress warmly you will be able to handle it. In Rome, even in winter, the sun is always out, squid! Temperatures average between 4ºC and 13ºC. Don't forget your umbrella because it's one of the rainiest periods of the year!

What should you pack in your suitcase in December?

Organising your luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich
Organising your luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich
  • Waterproof boots.
  • Woollen hat or earmuffs.
  • Warm scarf.
  • Warm gloves. If you are going to skate on the ice rink, avoid woollen ones - they might get wet!
  • Jumper, fleece or sweatshirt.
  • Thermal vest (my favourite item).
  • Thick trousers or corduroy trousers, ideal for winter.
  • Coat, jacket or down jacket, whatever is most comfortable for you.
  • Thermal socks.
  • Umbrella and mackintosh.
  • A small backpack for sightseeing.