Rome is one of the world’s most iconic Christmas-time cities, up there with the likes of New York City and Salzburg when it comes to putting on a festive show. When you come to Rome in the lead up to the 25th, it won’t take long to realise why. There’s a strong case to be made that the city is at its most beautiful at this time of year, with the chilly temperatures balanced by the dazzling displays of Christmas lights and heavy presence of winter cheer.
Our tours of Rome at night are perfect for seeing the city at its festive best. The Illuminated Rome tour is breath-taking at any time of year, showing some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks, such as the Colosseum and the Trevi Fountain, flooded in lights. In December, the twinkling fairy lights in many parts of the city elevate the magic even further. And our Panoramic Tour by Night with Traditional Dinner is an even more special after-dark tour option, including an indulgent meal.
However you choose to explore Rome at Christmas, there are some things we recommend you do, see… and taste.
Christmas Trees in Rome
You’ll likely see a lot of Christmas trees during your trip to Rome, but there’s one in particular that’s worth going out of your way for. St. Peter’s Square, the gateway to the unimaginable treasures of the Vatican, is a year-round must visit. At Christmas, however, it’s more special than ever, thanks to its dizzyingly tall imported Christmas tree, decked out with white lights.
The tree goes up in late November but doesn’t usually have its lights on until around a week into December, so time your visit carefully if you want to see it at its most magnificent. Alternatively, find out exactly what day the tree first arrives and come then. Seeing this giant being shifted into place is a memorable (and more than a little nerve-wracking) experience.
Christmas Markets in Rome
There are a few different outdoor markets in Rome where you can soak up some intense merriment, but the most famous – and, we think, still the best – is the Piazza Navona. Going strong over a century since it first opened, the Christmas markets here are the stuff of your most Euro-tastic festive fantasies.
Along with the toffee apples, gingerbread, wooden toys and sparkly baubles you can expect at any Christmas market worth its salt, you can pick up some specifically Italian treats here – like chocolate coal, a stand-in for the coal Santa Claus is said to leave for naughty children.
And of course, the square itself and its glorious fountains are gorgeous, with or without those inviting Christmas stalls.
Ice Rinks in Rome
In more or less every city that takes its Christmas celebrations seriously, you’re going to find ice rinks springing up in the weeks before the big day. Rome is no different. There’s plenty of choice here when it comes to places here where you can take to the ice, and most of the rinks open in November don’t close until February.
One of the most unmistakably Roman places to go skating is the rink overlooked by the Castel Sant’Angelo, a huge, ancient fortress that’s been standing for close to 1,900 years. The views from all sides of the rink are beautiful, and you’ll never doubt for a moment that you’re in one of Europe’s great historic cities.
The Auditorium is another popular choice. The rest of the year, it’s dedicated to live music, but at Christmastime, it becomes a winter wonderland – complete with an ice rink as a seasonally appropriate centrepiece.
Christmas Treats in Rome
There’s no doubt that the Italian cuisine is an all-seasons winner when it comes to the sheer volume of delectable delights it includes. But some of the nation’s finest treats only get rolled out around Christmas time. The two with the highest profiles are panettone and pandoro. Both these cakes are dense offerings that, when encased in their pretty cardboard packaging, often feel hefty enough to knock someone out with. The two cakes are superficially similar, but panettone traditionally contains fruit while pandoro does not.
Both are available in as many different flavours as you can possibly imagine these days, incorporating every liqueur going alongside classic ingredients like chocolate as well as more faddy flavours such as salted caramel. Branching out a bit from the conventional choices can make things a bit more exciting (although panettone and pandoro purists may look at you askance).
If a Roman getaway sounds like your ideal present to yourself this Christmas, check out our many different Rome tours to find out how to make it happen.