Christmas is a time for family, friends, and celebration. And what better place to spend it than in the Eternal City of Rome? In this blog post, we will give you all the information you need to plan your Christmas vacation in Rome. We will tell you about the best places to stay, what to see and do, and how to get around the city. And, of course, we’ll tell you about the famous Christmas Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City! So put on your Santa hat and prepare for an Italian Christmas adventure!
How To Spend Christmas in Rome
Christmas is a large holiday regardless of where you are in the world, but it’s particularly important in Rome.
If you’re planning on spending Christmas in Rome, the first thing you need to do is figure out where you’re going to stay, what you should see and do, and how to visit the Vatican during this special time of the year.
If you want to skip around the article, the following links will help you navigate to each area:
- Is Rome a Good Place to Visit for Christmas?
- Is Rome Crowded at Christmas?
- Does it Snow in Rome at Christmas?
- What is the Weather Like in Rome at Christmas?
- What to Pack for Christmas in Rome?
- Is the Colosseum Open over Christmas?
- How Do They Celebrate Christmas in Rome?
- Are There Christmas Markets in Rome?
- Do Trains in Italy Run on Christmas?
- Where Should I Eat in Rome at Christmas?
- What to Do in Rome at Christmas Time?
- A Map of Places to Visit in Rome During Christmas
- Is the Vatican City Open on Christmas?
- What Happens at Vatican City on Christmas?
- Is the Sistine Chapel Open on Christmas Day?
- What Time Is Christmas Mass at the Vatican?
- What is Midnight Mass?
- How To Get Vatican Christmas Mass Tickets
Is Rome a Good Place to Visit for Christmas?
Rome is an excellent place to visit any time of the year (it made our list of must-see places in Italy). Still, it’s particularly charming to visit for Christmas if you are interested in the holiday festivities.
The Vatican celebrates Christmas with a large mass, and there are also several other events throughout the city, like Christmas markets and nativity scenes. If you’re looking for a place to celebrate Christmas away from home, Rome is a great option.
Is Rome Crowded at Christmas?
Rome can be crowded at Christmas, particularly near the Vatican and other popular tourist attractions, but it’s not as bad as you’d think. Most people spend the Christmas holiday at home, so the tourist crowds aren’t nearly as bad as they are for New Year’s Eve.
If you’re planning on visiting Rome during the holidays, it’s still a good idea to book your accommodation and tickets in advance just to avoid any hiccups with your travels.
Think about everything you would want to do and see and then book your tickets at least six months before your Rome Christmas vacation.
- Vatican mass
- Colosseum tours
- Sistine Chapel
Each of these will require you to set them up as soon as possible. We found out the hard way when we tried to book a hotel for Christmas/New Years in Rome, and they had been completely booked for a few months.
Does it Snow in Rome at Christmas?
One of the most common questions we get about spending Christmas in Rome is whether or not it snows.
The answer to this question is that it does snow in Rome, but not very often. The last time it snowed on Christmas Day in Rome was in 2012, and before that, you have to go back to 1985.
So, while you may see a white Christmas in Rome, it’s not very likely.
What is the Weather Like in Rome at Christmas?
The weather in Rome during Christmas is usually mild, with temperatures ranging from 10-15 degrees Celsius (50-60 degrees Fahrenheit).
You may see some rain during your stay, but the Roman winters are not as rainy as the summers.
What to Pack for Christmas in Rome?
If you’re spending Christmas in Rome, you must pack for the weather and activities you have planned. Chances are that you won’t wear the same clothes at Christmas Eve mass as you would for exploring the Colosseum.
Above all else, make sure to pack a jacket or coat, as well as comfortable shoes for walking.
And, of course, don’t forget your camera to take plenty of pictures of the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations!
Is the Colosseum Open over Christmas?
Yes, the Colosseum is open over Christmas break, but not on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. We recommend booking your tickets in advance, as the Colosseum is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome.
If you’re planning on heading to the Colosseum over the Christmas holidays, you should know ahead of time that the Colosseum observes the winter hours, from 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM every day, with the last admission at 3:30 PM.
You can book your tickets online here.
How Do They Celebrate Christmas in Rome?
One of the best things about spending Christmas in Rome is that you can experience how the Roman Catholics celebrate this holiday.
The Vatican holds a large mass on Christmas Eve, and the Pope attends it to give his blessings to the crowd. This is followed by a procession of the Nativity scene, which is set up in Saint Peter’s Square.
On Christmas Day, there is another mass at the Vatican, and then several other events take place around the city, such as Christmas markets and nativity scenes.
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Are There Christmas Markets in Rome?
Yes, there are several Christmas markets in Rome. The most famous one is the Christmas market at Piazza Navona, which is held from December 8th to December 24th.
This market is located in one of Rome’s most beautiful squares and is the perfect place to find Christmas gifts and decorations.
There are also markets at Campo de’ Fiori, Largo Argentina, and Piazza Venezia.
Do Trains in Italy Run on Christmas?
The answer to this question is a little complicated.
Some trains do run on Christmas Day, but many of them do not. It is best to check the schedule ahead of time to see if your train will be running.
If you’re planning on taking a train on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we recommend booking your tickets well in advance.
Where Should I Eat in Rome at Christmas?
If you’re looking for a traditional Italian Christmas dinner, we recommend heading to Trattoria da Bucatino.
This restaurant is located in the Trastevere district and it is known for its delicious Bucatino all’Amatriciana, a pasta dish made with pork and tomato sauce.
For something a little more modern, we recommend dining at La Pergola. This Michelin-starred restaurant is located in the Rome Cavalieri hotel and it offers an unforgettable dining experience.
No matter what type of food you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it in Rome at Christmas time.
What to Do in Rome at Christmas Time?
In addition to exploring the city’s Christmas markets and nativity scenes, there are plenty of other things to do in Rome at Christmas.
You can visit the Vatican Museums, which are decorated for the holiday season, or take a tour of the Sistine Chapel.
We recommend visiting some of Rome’s Best Museums, which we put in a guide to help you quickly identify which ones interest you the most.
If you’re looking for something a little more festive, you can attend the Christmas concert at the Vatican or go ice skating in Piazza Barberini.
No matter what you decide to do, you’re sure to have a magical time spending Christmas in Rome.
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A Map of Places to Visit in Rome During Christmas
This map points you to several areas of interest for spending Christmas in Rome:
- Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore
- Obelisk of St Peter’s Square
- Piazza Navona
- Campo de’ Fiori
- Chiesa di Sant’Antonio dei Portoghesi
- Chiesa di Santa Maria ai Monti
- Chiesa di Sant’ Ignazio di Loyola
- Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore
- Altar of the Fatherland
Christmas at the Vatican
One of the most popular things to do in Rome during Christmas is attending mass at the Vatican. This is a beautiful experience, and it is something that you will remember for the rest of your life.
However, it is important to note that the Vatican does not allow flash photography during mass.
You will also need to dress modestly, so pack a scarf or shawl to cover your shoulders.
The Vatican website has more information about attending mass at the Vatican during Christmas.
Is the Vatican City Open on Christmas?
Vatican City is open every day, including during Christmas. However, keep in mind that you won’t be able to access the Vatican Museums on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
What Happens at Vatican City on Christmas?
On Christmas Eve, the Pope leads a mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. This is followed by a procession of the Nativity scene, which is set up in Saint Peter’s Square.
On Christmas Day, there is another mass at the Vatican and similar events like Nativity Scenes and Christmas markets.
Is the Sistine Chapel Open on Christmas Day?
The Sistine Chapel is open every day except for December 25th (Christmas Day) and January 1st (New Year’s Day).
Oddly enough, the week leading up to Christmas and the day after Christmas are relatively quiet, with fewer tourists in the city than usual. This gives you the perfect opportunity to explore the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.
That said, Rome gets very crowded on the days leading up to New Year’s Eve. So make sure you visit the Museum and Chapel before everyone arrives in Rome.
What Time Is Christmas Mass at the Vatican?
You can also visit St. Peter’s on Christmas day at noon when the Pope gives his Christmas Day Urbi et Orbi speech and bless the crowds.
However, we recommend getting there early so you can get a good spot. Many people start lining up hours before the mass begins.
If you haven’t booked a seat (or standing) at least several months in advance, you likely won’t be able to enter St. Peter’s Basilica. People come from around the world to watch the Pope and pray together. We booked our tickets one year in advance and recommend you do so.
If you miss tickets, you can still go to mass at other beautiful locations, such as the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, one of the oldest churches in Rome.
What is Midnight Mass?
Midnight Mass, or “Mass of the Lord’s Supper,” is the Catholic Mass that takes place late on Christmas Eve. Despite its name, Midnight Mass actually starts around 9:30 PM.
Christmas Midnight Mass usually includes readings from the Bible, carols, and other hymns. The Pope leads this mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
If you’re not Catholic, don’t worry! You can still attend Midnight Mass and join in on the beautiful celebration. All are welcome.
How To Get Vatican Christmas Mass Tickets
We’ve mentioned it a few times, but the first thing to remember is that you should book as soon as possible. Tickets for Midnight Mass run out quickly.
You can request tickets through the Papal Audience, but they haven’t moved into the 21st Century yet, and getting tickets isn’t as straightforward as you’d assume.
Note tickets are free, and you should never pay for your mass tickets.
The best way to get your tickets for Christmas Mass at the Vatican is by sending a request via email directly to the Vatican 2 to 6 months in advance.
The Vatican will respond and notify you that they received your request. You then take this acceptance letter to the Swiss Guards in St. Peter’s Square at the “Bronze Door.” The Swiss Guards will grant you access.
Fill out the form found on the bottom right side of the Papal Audience website (look for the coat of arms icon) and submit it any of the following ways:
Fax: +39 06 6988 5863
Prefecture of the Papal Household
Vatican City State, 00120
Christmas in Rome is a magical time. If you’re planning on spending the holidays in Rome, be sure to check out our guide for what to see and do. From visiting the Vatican to soaking up the festive atmosphere in Piazza Navona, there’s something for everyone during Christmastime in Rome. Do you have any other tips for visitors? Let us know in the comments!