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Visiting Rome in December – Things to Know about Winter in Rome

Visiting Rome in December – Things to Know about Winter in Rome

Visiting Rome in December is quite an experience that few tourists consider, but that just makes it even better for those of you who are. 

With next to no crowds, you will save so much time waiting in lines for the biggest attractions, while the city is still buzzing with special events and celebrations for the holiday season. 

Although you may need to endure the cold, it’s more than worth it to see this Catholic city come alive at such a special time of year. 

Pros and Cons of Visiting Rome in December

The pros and cons of visiting Rome in December are pretty balanced as it is the peak winter holiday season with vibrant atmospheres, cozy markets, and the special magic of the holiday season everywhere. 

While Winter usually brings cheaper prices, December is often the exception with hotels hiking their prices the closer you get to Christmas day. You may also find that some businesses close their doors or reduce their hours to allow them to spend time with their own families. 

Make sure to consider all these pros and cons before finalizing your Italian itinerary


  • No crowds 
  • Cheaper prices 
  • Holiday atmosphere
  • Authentic experiences


  • Occasional rain 
  • Shorter days
  • Colder temperatures
  • Limited hours of operation/closed businesses 
What to do in Rome in December
It can still be quite warm – photo taken on December 15th

Average Weather in December in Rome

The weather in Rome in December is generally quite crisp but has limited rainfall, leaving you with handfuls of beautiful blue sky days. 

Plus, it rarely snows in Rome let alone in December, so while you may be facing cold nights, you don’t have to worry too much about snow messing up your travel plans.

Something that you may need to consider is the limited daylight hours. With the winter solstice happening around December 21st or 22nd each year, December has the shortest days of the year with the sun rising around 7:30 a.m. and setting before 5 p.m. each day

That being said, if you’re planning on visiting a lot of museums this is absolutely not a problem! 

Average Temperature in Rome in Winter

Temperatures in Rome in December are quite pleasant if you are someone who doesn’t like the scorching heat that this city produces in the summer months. 

At the start of December, you can expect temperatures around 15°C / 60°F during the day while it can get down to 8°C / 46°F at night. 

Temperatures generally get colder as the month goes on and from mid-late December, expect temperatures closer to 12°C / 54°F during the day and down to 3°C / 37°F at night

Important dates in Rome in December

December is all about Christmas in Rome, it is a Catholic country and home to Vatican City after all! 

8th December: Immaculate Conception Day – Generally, this holiday marks the beginning of the Christmas period and is used to put up your decorations and Christmas Tree. It’s mostly a family holiday so as a tourist you may not notice much besides smaller shops and businesses closing. 

24th December: Christmas Eve – The night of Christmas Eve is the beginning of the main events. Most families enjoy a special dinner together and then head to midnight mass. Restaurants will normally offer set menus and require booking quite far in advance for Christmas Eve dinner. 

25th December: Christmas Day – Nearly everything other than church and restaurants will be closed on Christmas Day as it is reserved for attending mass and spending time with your family. Note that the Colosseum, Vatican Museum, and other major tourist attractions will be closed. 

26th December: St. Stephen’s Day – Many tourist attractions will re-open today (except the Vatican), however for Italians, this is still a holiday. Much like Boxing Day in other countries, many people use St. Stephen’s Day to rest and recover before going back to work. It’s also popular to watch movies either at home or the cinema where many “cinepanettoni” (comedy Christmas movies) have been released. 

31st December: New Year’s Eve – Although it’s not officially a holiday, New Year’s Eve in Rome is just as celebrated as anywhere else in the world. Many of the celebrations center around Piazza del Popolo and restaurants will offer set menus only which need to be booked well in advance. 

How to Get to Rome in Winter

Getting to Rome in December is no different from arriving in this amazing city at any other time of the year

There are two international airports in Rome, Fiumicino and Ciampino. I have a whole article comparing the two to give you a full overview of which is best but to give you a quick rundown, Fiumicino (Leonardo da Vinci) is the main international and regional airport in Rome. 

If you’re arriving from the US or further afield, you will most likely be flying into Fiumicino, but as you can imagine, this means it is very busy. If you’re planning on renting a car in Italy from here, make sure to allow plenty of time as the lines are long. 

Alternatively, if you are flying with a budget airport such as Ryanair or Wizzair, you will probably arrive at Rome Ciampino Airport (CIA). While it is technically closer to the center of Rome, it may still take you longer to reach than from the larger Fiumicino which has more direct connections. 

How to Get around Rome in Winter

Rome is a huge city and while walking along the cobblestone streets is a great way to get around smaller neighborhoods, when you need to travel between different areas of the city you will need to take some other form of transport. 

The great thing about this city being so large is that transport options are not limited in winter as they may be in smaller destinations, which means you can take a metro, bus, tram, or taxi just as you would in summer. 

Rome’s metro network is great for traveling longer distances in a similar direction, but if you need to make many changes it can be a little challenging. Alternatively, hop on a bus or tram, just make sure to validate your ticket in a machine onboard, otherwise, you may face hefty fines. 

Tickets for Rome’s public transport system can be bought from ticket machines inside the metro stations, at newsstands, or at convenience stores. Note that most types of public transport only run from around 5:30 a.m. to midnight

If you prefer to spend less time waiting in the cold, you can always take a taxi or Uber but expect inflated prices on holidays and at night.

What to Pack for Rome in December

While you may be lucky and get perfect clear skies and mild temperatures during your visit to Rome in December, you still need to pack for the worst as you don’t want to get caught out in the cold (literally) without something waterproof. 

Starting with your footwear, you will want good, warm, grippy, and waterproof boots as cobblestones get extremely slippery when wet! But remember you’re going to Rome, a city where locals don’t let the weather get in the way of fashion so shop around to find a cute pair. 

Next, a winter coat that is both warm and waterproof is essential, as is an umbrella! For extra warmth, you can also pack scarves, hats, and gloves. 

Underneath you will want many layering options to allow you to stay warm and stylish no matter what the weather is doing. Cashmere and wool blouses provide a hint of elegance to your outfit while keeping you warm and long pants such as dark jeans or skirts with thick tights will tie it all together.  

Things to Do in Rome in December

There are way too many things to do in Rome that I can’t list them all here, but thankfully nearly everything is open year-round. That being said, some things are seasonal to winter, so here is a list of the best activities for your December trip. 

1. Visit all the Museums

As I mentioned earlier, the darker days in December make it the perfect time to explore all of the incredible museums that Rome has to offer. 

Thankfully, there will be little to no lines so you can decide last minute if you find yourself with some extra spare time on a rainy day, but make sure to check the opening days and times before going as there are many holidays in December when museums may be shut.

There are way too many to list but here are some of the best: 

  • Borghese Gallery – A beautiful art gallery located in the former Villa Borghese Pinciana. You can also visit the adjoining gardens which are a stunning attraction in their own right. 
  • Vatican Museums – The absolutely huge public museums of Vatican City, these museums are home to countless artifacts from all around the world crossing many centuries. 
  • The Capitoline Museums – Focusing on ancient history, this collection of museums contains art and archaeological artifacts in beautifully decorated buildings located on top of Capitoline Hill near the Roman Forum. 

2. Eat Warming Italian Meals

Eating at any time of year in Rome is a must-do activity, but traveling in December means you get to experience all of Italy’s best Christmas foods

If you’ve never been to Italy before you may be surprised by some of the customs which are general practice in restaurants here, so check out my tipping guide before you go to be fully prepared. 

Many of Italy’s Christmas meals are actually centered around seafood such as Spaghetti alle vongole (Spaghetti with clams or tuna), Baccala (fish), and Capitone (Eel fish). You can find all of these dishes throughout the country around this time but if you are looking for some more seasonal meals that are local to Rome, here is a quick list. 

  • Trapizzino – A modern Roman street food that consists of a flatbread pocket filled with pollo alla cacciatora (sauteed chicken). 
  • Soups – When it’s cold outside the perfect thing to warm you up is a steaming cup of soup. With many winter vegetables reaching their peak season, you’ll find plenty of fresh choices. 
  • Saltimbocca alla Romana – Veal cutlets topped with ham and sage cooked in wine. 
  • Agnolotti del Plin (Stuffed pasta ) – Pasta squares filled with roasted beef or veggies topped with parmesan cheese. 
  • Fritti –  Fried foods served with pizza or as street food. Some common examples include fried cod fillets and Suppli, which is tomato pork ragu and mozzarella surrounded by rice. 

If you want to get even more involved with Rome’s delicious food, you could take a food tour, or learn to make your own pasta with a cooking class

3. Take a Walking Tour

Walking the streets of Rome is absolutely an activity in its own right, and the reduced crowds and colorful Christmas displays make December the perfect time to take a stroll. 

With so much history crammed into this bustling city, I recommend taking a walking tour with a knowledgeable guide so you will fully understand what you are seeing. 

There are so many different options for you to choose from so you can find something to suit your interests and attention, but here are a few I can suggest booking. 

Recommended walking tours: 

City Highlights Walking Tour

Jewish Ghetto Walking Tour

Best of Rome Private Customized Walking Tour with a Local

Rome at Twilight Tour Among the Piazzas and Fountains

Guided City Center Evening Sightseeing Walking Tour

4. See the Beautiful Churches

Seeing as you are planning a trip to Rome at one of the holiest times of the year, it only makes sense to visit a few churches during your trip. 

I highly recommend you join a Christmas mass if you have the chance to experience this sacred holiday. Even if you aren’t religious you can still enjoy the intricate decorations and lively atmosphere

Here is a list of some beautiful churches you can visit in Rome.

5. Enjoy the Holiday Festivities

Rome is a great place to spend Christmas in Italy, with the streets decorated from head to toe and lots of events taking place, there’s always something extra going on. 

It all starts on December 8th when the decorations are first lit up and families typically decorate their Christmas trees at home. Head to  Piazza Venezia and Saint Peter’s Square to see the annual Christmas tree lighting, or visit Piazza Mignanelli to see the Pope changing the wreath

Throughout most of December, Piazza Navona is also usually home to a Christmas fair with plenty of stalls and attractions for the whole family. And in Piazza Barberini, there is the Menorah lighting on all 8 nights of Hanukkah

You can also wander the streets alone to discover all the lights and Christmas displays or take a guided Christmas nativities tour where a guide will take you directly to all the best ones. 

6. See all of Rome’s Iconic Attractions without Crowds

As I have mentioned plenty of times already, winter is the best time to see all of Rome’s more iconic sights without the crowds

Forget waiting hours to throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain or having to book months in advance to visit the Colosseum, here are some attractions that you should absolutely take advantage of the lack of crowds. 

Where to Stay in Rome

Rome is a huge city with many different neighborhoods so if you want to make the most out of your trip for your specific interests, check out my post on the best places to stay in Rome for a detailed area breakdown.  

However, if the price is more important to you than location, simply pick something below. All these hotels have a central location and great reviews

Luxury Hotels in Rome

Donna Camilla Savelli – Designed by Francesco Borromini in the 17th century located in a beautiful former monastery. 

Baglioni Hotel Regina – Beautiful rooms with Murano glass chandeliers and marble bathrooms located on Via Veneto.

Rocco Forte Hotel De La Ville – Elegant 17th-century hotel with a well-equipped spa, located at the top of the Spanish Steps near the Trevi Fountain.

The St. Regis Rome – One of the most luxurious hotels in Rome with huge rooms and state-of-the-art amenities. 

Budget Hotels in Rome

Hotel Borromeo – Great prices and a nice and sunny rooftop terrace with a view. 

Hotel Forte – Boutique hotel located on the famous street from the movie “Roman Holiday”.

Suite Sistina – Stylish hotel right next to the Spanish Steps and surrounded by good restaurants. 

The Radical Hotel Roma – Bright and cheery hotel in the center of Rome with stylish rooms and a great location. 

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