Christmas in Rome. Here you will learn everything about Christmas markets in Rome, nativity scenes, museum opening times, church dates, dates of the Pope and Christmas traditions in Rome.
Enjoy Christmas in Rome! The shops and the streets are decorated, the evenings are long and the church is preparing for the Solemnity of the Nativity of the Lord.
Advent in Rome
The Christmas season starts in Rome on the 8th of December with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which is a holiday in Italy. On December 8, the Christmas decorations will be turned on in Rome. The tradition of St. Nicholas on December 6th is not celebrated in Rome.
The Christmas season ends in Rome with the feast of the Magi on January 6th. On the night of the 5th to the 6th of January the witch, La Befana, comes and brings sweets and coal to the children.
Nativity scenes in Rome
In Rome there is at least one crib in each church. And there are many churches in Rome! You can also visit some exhibitions. The largest is near to the Vatican. In the surroundings of Rome there are nativity scenes with performers and animals, so-called “living cribs”.
The living nativity scene at the Basilica St. Johann does not exist in 2019.
The nativity scene on St. Peter's Square
The most famous crib of Rome with life-size figures is built every year in St. Peter’s Square. In 2016 it came from Malta. Click here for the picture gallery of the crib 2016>
In 2017, the crib came from Naples. In 2018, the nativity scene was carved out of a block of sand from Jesolo.
Nativity scene and tree come from the Veneto region in 2019. The nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square comes from Parè di Conegliano in the province of Treviso. I suppose that it will be wooden figures.
The Christmas tree comes from the village of Rotzo on the Asiago plateau in the province of Vicenza.
The crib will be inaugurated on December 7 at 16:30. Nativity scene and tree remain lit until Monday night January 6, 2020.
The origin of the Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square is already marked for the next fifteen years.
Nativity scenes exhibition
100 Nativity scenes in the Vatican
In Rome you can find lovingly constructed cribs everywhere. Some show small models with moving figures.
The exhibition 100 Cribs in the Vatican is located in Via di Conciliazione 5. It is called “100 presepi in Vaticano“. The exhibition shows 100 cribs from all over the worldmade of different materials like wood, glass or metal and in different styles. Entrance is free.
The crib of the street sweepers (all year)
Crib exhibition in the Basilica of St. Anthony
Another nativity scene exhibition is in the crypt of the Basilica of St. Anthony of the Franciscan Order. Entrance is free. The basilica is located on the Via Merulana corner of Viale Manzoni. Via Merulana leads from the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore to the Basilica of St. John.
Crib exhibition on Via Tuscolana (all year)
In the living cribs, participants recreate life at the time of Jesus’ birth in Palestine. There are stalls, artisans, shepherds with their animals, Roman officials and soldiers, and of course the holy family with the baby Jesus. Ox and donkey are also around somewhere.
In 2017 and 2018 there was a very nice living nativity scene near the Basilica of San Giovanni. Unfortunately, this crib will not take place in 2019.
The living crib of the missionary community of Villaregia
Around 20 km south of Rome, a living crib is organized by the Villaregia mission community in Via Antonio Berlese 55. This nativity scene is lovingly prepared in months of work and the proceeds are used for the mission in Burkina Faso.
How to get there: You can reach the crib by bus 703, stop Strampelli / Berlese. The line 703 departs from Via Cristoforo Colombo, previous to the obelisk, from the Civiltà del Lavoro stop. The bus runs about twice an hour and the journey time is just under 45 minutes. To get to the Civiltà del Lavoro, take bus 30 (or on public holidays 130F), 170, 714 and 791. Or take the metro B to Eur Fermi and then take bus 703 at the Arte / America stop. For the journey you need a day ticket BIRG for 3 zones for the price of 8 Euro.
The living crib of Tarquinia
100 kilometers north of Rome, in the historic city center of Tarquinia , there is a living nativity scene beginning at 5 pm on December 26 and 30, 2018, and on January 6, 2019. It is a big spectacle with fire-eaters and fakirs and local culinary specialties.
How to get to Tarquinia: Regional train 2342 at 2:12pm from Termini with arrival at 3:27 in Tarquinia or train 2344 at 4:12pm. From the station you can go by local bus to the city center or 3 km on foot. Return trains are at 8:29 and 10:29pm. For the journey you need a day ticket BIRG for 4 zones for the price of 9,30 Euro or train tickets for the price of 13,80 Euro for round trip. Children between the ages of 4 and 12 pay a reduced price of 7 euros round trip with the train ticket.
In Rome you will find a huge variety of culture, churches, archeology, gastronomy and shopping. But Christmas markets, as they are known from northern countries, do not exist in Rome. If the Romans want to visit a classic Christmas market, they go to Bolzano or further north. In Rome, there is no catering at the Christmas markets. Most Christmas markets are open only during the day.
In Piazza Navona, until the 6th of January, a kind of funfair takes place, the “Festa della Befana”, the festival of the witch. The only attraction for big and small is the beautiful carousel with horses from 1896. Some stalls sell hand-made nativity scenes and there is a puppet theater. Most of the fairgrounds, however, sell worthless stuff. There are also numerous shooting galleries that draw attention to themselves. A serving of food and drinks does not exist. This market was so miserable in 2018 that there were only few visitors.
There is a better quality market at the Auditorium Parco della Musica on 7 and 8 December and from 13 December to 6 January. There is also a ice rink with skate rental. The auditorium can be reached by tram number 2. The market has an ice rink and a bar.
What we like best is the market in Piazza Mazzini in Prati. This year-round market offers Christmas decorations and has a nice ambience.
There are other markets scattered around the city, mostly in tents offering everything from used books to costume jewelery.
Throughout the year, on Sundays, the Porta Portese flea market takes place with housewares, second-hand goods, clothing, furniture and antiques. Tram lines 3 and 8.
Christmas in the Vatican
Christmas in the Vatican is particularly impressive. On St. Peter’s Square, in front of the obelisk, a large nativity scene and a Christmas tree are being set. There is another nativity scene in St. Peter’s Basilica just on the left side in the baptistery.
Christmas is high season. Many tourists and pilgrims are in Rome. For the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum, you need to reserve in good time to avoid long waiting times. For St. Peter’s Cathedral, you can bypass the queue if you have pre-booked an audio guide or an official tour.
There are the following public dates of the Pope:
December 24 21:30 St. Peter’s Basilica, Christma Mass. If you would like to participate, you must order free invitation cards in good time at the Prefecture of the Papal Household. You can watch the mass live on our page about live broadcasts from the Vatican.
December 25 12:00 St. Peter’s Square, Urbi et Orbi. For Christmas, the Pope gives the blessing to the city and the world. Entry is free. You can follow the blessing live on our page about live broadcasts from the Vatican.
All dates can be found on the page December in Rome>
Museums for Christmas
The Vatican Museums are open from Monday to Saturday from 9am to 6pm with last admission at 4pm.
On December 24 the museums close at 15:30. The museums are closed at Christmas on December 25 and 26.
Museums in Rome
The National Museums and the Museums of the Municipality of Rome are closed on 25th December and 1st January. The museums of the municipality of Rome close on December 24 and 31 at 2 pm. On 1st January there will be a special opening time for some museums in the municipality of Rome.
Shopping for Christmas in Rome
The Romans plan not long in advance, and only in the last few days before the feast it is hectic in Rome. Many visitors come from the surrounding countryside to Rome for the Christmas shopping and it is tight on the streets and in the shops. everything is festive. In Via dei Condotti you will find the big fashion brands, on the Via del Corso and in the surroundings you will find an extensive offer in every price class.
In our gallery we show you a walk through the atmospheric streets of the city, with decorated shops and hot spiced wine.
During Christmas, different rinks are built in Rome.
Another ice rink is located in Piazza Re di Roma. It is open from 10-midnight and the admission including skates costs 8 euros, on Sundays and public holidays 10 euros.
There are also ice skating rinks at the Euroma2 shopping center and the Parco Leonardo shopping center. They are open 10-22 and the entrance including skates costs 8 euros, on Sundays and public holidays 10 euros.
On all ice rinks children up to 6 years pay 2 Euro less.
On the 24th December, bus, tram and metro will stop operation with a final departure at 9pm. On the line to Ostia the last departure is at 9 pm.
The night buses go according to the timetable. The lines of the night buses are marked with an N.
On the 25th December public transport will run from 8:30 to 13:00 and from 16:30 to 21:00. This also applies to the line to Ostia and to the city area of the line Rome-Flaminio Montebello. The night buses go according to the timetable.
On December 26, the normal holiday timetable applies.
Celebrating Christmas in Rome
For the Mass on Christmas Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica you must pre-order tickets. On Christmas Day, the traditional Christmas message and the blessing “Urbi et Orbi” will take place at noon in St. Peter’s Square.
The 24th December is the day of the expectation of the birth of Christ and therefore not a holiday and there is no banquet. The tradition is fish or simple dishes.
On the 25th December the dishes will be served in the right way. The tradition includes a wide choice of appetizers, pasta, lamb (abbacchio) or rabbit (coniglio) or other specialties of the Roman cuisine. Finally, the traditional Christmas biscuits, Pannettone or Pandoro and, of course, caffè and a grappa or a liqueur such as limoncello as “Ammazzacaffè” (coffee butcher), which counteracts the taste and caffeine of the caffè.
On December 26, friends are visited and the leftovers are eaten.
In the month of December, Rome has a minimum temperature of 4.4° C, a maximum of 13.3° C and 6 rainy days. During the day it is usually quite pleasant and in the evening you have the right temperatures for a mulled wine – it is called in Rome Vin Brulè. Sometimes the weather is rather unfriendly and more suitable for visiting a museum or churches. You should check the weather forecast and be prepared for rain.
It is fresh by the sea but pleasant on sunny days. The Romans go skiing in the Appenine.