Christmas Rome 2017: Christmas markets, opening hours and Christmas Mass

On Christmas the city of Rome is dressed in lights, colored ribbons, cribs and trees that seem to give new light to the Italian capital.
 Christmas in Rome (as in the rest of Italy) is usually celebrated with the family. Christmas goes along with a wild ride to get the last gifts, so you will see a city beautifully lit but also chaotic (more than usual).
 The article provides you with useful information concerning opening hours of famous Roman sights, museums, restaurants and stores during the Christmas period. Furthermore, you will discover nice christmas markets in Rome, Italian Christmas traditions and special Christmas dishes in Rome. If you want to attend a Christmas Mass in Rome, find more information in this article!

Christmas in Rome 2017: Things to do on Christmas in Rome

Rome is worth a visit the whole year, but on Christmas a trip to Rome is very special and memorable. Christmas is a major holiday in Italy, Italians celebrate lots of unique Christmas traditions. There are also a lot of things to do on Christmas in Rome, stores and shops are open for Christmas shopping and the famous Roman monuments are waiting for curious visitors. During your Christmas trip to Rome,  you can also discover the delicious Italian kitchen with its Christmas specialities and visit several traditional Christmas markets in Rome (picture: ©


Christmas decoration in Rome goes up in general on December 8th, the date of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. From this date on, most of the Christmas markets open and the streets of Rome as well as the insides of Italian homes shine resplendent. Tremendous Christmas trees can be found all over the city, for instance in front of the Colosseum.

Christmas in Rome: Opening hours of monuments and museums in Rome

Almost all monuments, museums and archaeological sites in Rome like for example Castell Sant’Angelo, Galleria Borghese or the famous Colosseum and will be closed on December 25th. They will instead open on other days from 8 am to 15:30 pm, some will even remain open until 18:30 pm.
 The Vatican Museums are a special case, they will be closed on December 25th and 26th (St. Stephen’s day)! On December 24th monuments and museums follow their regular opening hours, some of them might close a little earlier.  St. Peter’s square is one of the prettiest places to be during Christmas in Rome.

Christmas in Rome: Opening hours of shops and shopping malls

Every year around Christmas people are looking for Christmas presents for their loved ones. The shops in the center of Rome and the big shopping malls are open every day except on December 25th from 10 am until 20:30 pm. Most of the stores in Rome have extended hours during the Christmas period, some open on Sunday or even stay open during lunch. On December 24th most shops will be closed by 6pm, they will stay closed on December 25th and 26th.

Did you know that some of the kids in Italy get their Christmas presents not on December 24th or 25th, but on January 6th, the Epiphany day or Befana in Italian? Others can discover their presents on December 24th in the evening or December 25th in the morning. The Christmas season officially ends on this special day, Christmas markets close and decoration is put away for next year.

Christmas in Rome: Opening hours of the metro in Rome

On Christmas there will be no changes in the metro schedule. The metro in Rome operates normally from 5:30 am to 23:30 pm (Sunday to Thursday) respectively from 5:30 am to 1:30 (Friday and Saturday).

Christmas in Rome: Opening hours of restaurants

Find a nice little place to eat in Rome at Christmas is not difficult at all. In fact the majority of the restaurants in Rome are open and propose a special menu with traditional Christmas dishes. In every region of Italy there are typical Christmas dishes and Rome proves the rule.

Christmas in Rome: Visit Christmas markets in Rome

One of the best things about Christmas is visiting a traditional Christmas market and taste culinary specialities. Here you will find an overview of nice Christmas markets in Rome that you should absolutely not miss:

  • Christmas market at Piazza Navona in Rome: one of the most famous markets, open from December 8th to January 6th from 10 am  to 1 am in the morning
  • Christmas market at Piazza Re di Roma: nordic Christmas market, open from December 18th to January 6 from 10 am to 19 pm
  • Christmas market at Piazzale Ankara in Rome: This market is worth a visit as you will find fair trade products including areas dedicated to charity sale, antiques and tastings of typical products, here you can also go ice skating, open from December 18th to January 6th from 12 to 20 pm
  • Christmas market at Eur Market: between Via Oceano Pacifico and Via della Grande Muraglia, this market offers creative workshops, children entertainment, contests, local products and in addition to the Santa Claus house, you will find the Magic Tree Happy Christmas dedicated to John Lennon in which everyone can hang a thought or a wish, open from November 19th to December 27th from 10 am to 19 pm

Christmas customs in Rome

For Christmas in Rome as elsewhere in Italy, it is traditional to decorate the tree with the whole family. The day which is dedicated to decorate the Christmas tree is December 8th.
 Another tradition that unfortunately has almost been lost over the years is installing the crib and adding the statuette of baby Jesus after midnight on December 24th. During the Christmas season Romans love to visit the many nativity scenes scattered throughout the city. An absolute must is a visit to the International Exhibition in the “Sala del Bramante” in Via D’Annunzio (near Piazza del Popolo). Since 1976 this site hosts hundreds of cribs from all over the world, the work of international artists. This exhibition is open from November 25th to January 8th, free admission from 10am to 20pm.

Christmas dishes in Rome

Having traditional Christmas food in Italy is a great experience, there are a lot of delicious things to eat. Christmas Lunch is normally celebrated within the family and the moment when the whole family gathers around a rich table seems to be the best day in the year! Christmas Lunch can also be enjoyed in a restaurant in Rome with a classical “Pangiallo Romano” (a cake of dried fruit, honey and candied citron), Gnocchi alla Romana, “Minestra con l’Arzilla” (bread, broccoli, red pepper, broken spaghetti, cherry tomatoes and grated pecorino cheese), “Coda alla Vaccinara” (ox tail stew and served with vegetables and a sweet-sour sauce). Another typical Christmas dish in Italy is the “Abbacchio” (lamb sautéed with garlic, ham into small pieces and cooked with rosemary), all accompanied with a good Roman wine as for example “Mulsum” (ancient wine used since imperial Rome)

Christmas in Rome: Enjoy a Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica

At Christmas, one of the top tourist destinations in Rome is undoubtedly the Vatican and the St. Peter’s Basilica, which means that there will be a lots of people. It is therefore highly recommended to get tickets for the Christmas Eve Mass on December 24th 21:30pm at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in advance. The sooner you make the reservation, the higher are chances to get tickets for this special event. Don’t forget that the tickets are always for free, but if you want to participate, you need to reserve a free ticket, because the capacities are limited.

The pastoral message ‘Urbi et orbi” which thousands of people would like to get from the Pope takes place on December 25th at 12am at St. Peter’s square. The pope appears at the loggia of St. Peter’s and blesses the crowd. This blessing and the Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica are two of the most expected events of the year. At St. Peter’s Square you can also see a life-size nativity scene and a Christmas tree almost as tall as the obelisk that stands in the middle of the place.
 The St. Peter’s mass is not the only Christmas mass in Rome, but it is definitely the one that you should not miss!

Where to buy ans how to reserve tickets for the Christmas Eve Mass in Rome

If you want to attend the blessing “Urbi et orbi” in Rome you don’t need a special ticket, but expect a big crowd. To get tickets for the Christmas Mass in Rome you need to fill in a form and send it to the Prefecture of the Papal household in Rome. Please address the fully filled-in form to the Prefecture of the Papal House, V – 00120 Vatican City and specify the date of the Christmas Mass, the number of cards required, your name and description of the group, your postal address and also a telephone and fax number. Here you can download the request form. The tickets can be picked up at the ticket office located just inside the Paul VI Audience Hall.

Due to the numerous requests and limited space available in St. Peter’s Basilica, any requests to attend the Christmas Eve Papal Mass cannot be taken into consideration after December 8th can no longer be considered. You can also follow the Holy Masses on the large screens that are placed on the St. Peter’s Place. No admission cards are required.

2 Reader Comments

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  1. Ellie M. says:

    Dear Sirs,
    My son and I would like to attend the Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Dec. 24 2017. Is it too late to be considered to enter ?
    Thank you for your kind attention.

    All my best,

  2. M G says:

    This is my first time in rome. I am very disappointed since one of the reasons was to see the christmas market in piazza navona which unfortunately is not yet open and yr site says it opens on 8th dec. So next time pls update.

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