11. September 2018

Christmas Rome 2018: Information about decorations, Christmas tree, Opening hours, Shopping and Christmas Masses

Looking for tips on what to do in Rome at Christmas? You can find useful information about the opening hours of attractions, museums, restaurants and shops in Rome at Christmas as well as decorations and Christmas trees in Rome in this article. You will also find out more about the most beautiful Christmas markets in Rome, Italian Christmas traditions, Christmas masses in Rome and special Italian dishes served during Christmas time. Enjoy!

Christmas Rome 2018: Tips & Information about Christmas in Rome

During Christmas time Rome is beautifully decorated with lights, nativity scenes and Christmas trees. But Christmas in Rome doesn’t just stand for a merry time, but also hectic shopping to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Rome is beautifully illuminated during Christmas time but at the same time a very chaotic and turbulent city. Christmas in Rome signifies a Christian feast between antiquity, culture and shopping. A Christmas on ancient ground, under palm trees and pines, in the center of Catholic Christianity.

Christmas in Rome Tips: What to do during Christmas in Rome

Rome is always worth a visit. Travelling to Rome during Christmas is sure going to be an unforgettable experience! In Italy Christmas is an important holiday that should be spent with family. Italians have many lovely Christmas traditions, which you shouldn’t miss discovering during your stay. Also, there are lots to see during Christmas in Rome: the city is festively decorated, most shops are open for Christmas shopping and famous attractions are waiting with open doors for curious visitors. On a trip to Rome during Christmas you can also taste the delicious Italian cuisine with its Christmas specials and visit the Christmas markets in Rome.

skip the line tickets colosseum

Christmas decorations are generally hung up on the 8th of December, the day of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. From this day on most Christmas markets in Rome are open and shops and houses illuminate in Christmassy splendor. Countless Christmas trees will be put up all over the city, among other places in front of the Colosseum, too.

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

During Christmas season attraction and museums in Rome stick to their normal opening hours. All museums and attractions that you need to have tickets for are closed on the 25th of December and the 1st of January. On the 24th and the 31st of December all attractions and museums in the municipality of Rome close at 2 pm. On the 26th of December most attractions and museums will be open again, even though this day is considered a national holiday in Italy.

Vatican Museums inside

The Vatican Museums are open on the 24th of December, but closed on the 8th, 25th and 26th of December.

St Peter’s Square is one of the most beautiful places in Rome during Christmas season. St Peter’s Basilica is open  throughout the whole Christmas season. St Peter’s Basilica in Rome is closed when general audiences, pope masses or the blessing ‘urbi et orbi’ take place. My advice: on the 26th of December museums and attractions are nearly empty, the perfect day for sightseeing.

Christmas in Rome: Opening hours of shops and shopping malls

Galleria-Sordi-Rome-ShoppingEvery year during Christmas time Romans and Rome visitors are looking for the perfect Christmas gifts for their friends and relatives. All along Christmas season shops and malls extend their opening hours. Some even skip the sacred lunch break and open nonstop instead. On the 24th of December shops, banks and offices close at 6 pm. On the 25th and 26th of December all shops and shopping malls in Rome are closed. The common “returning of Christmas gifts” and “redeeming vouchers” will take place on December 27th.

Did you know that some children in Italy do not receive their Christmas gifts on the 24th or 25th of December, but on the 6th of January, the Day of Revelation (‘Befana’ in Italian)? Christmas time officially ends on this day, Christmas markets close and the Christmas decoration will be safely stowed for the years to come.

Christmas in Rome: Public transport and the metro during Christmas in Rome

On Christmas holidays, the metro is not running at full schedule. On the 24th of December the metro, bus and tram service ends at 9 pm. Night buses start their service between 11:30 pm and midnight.

Metro-in-Rome

On the 25th of December the metro lines A, B, B1 and C are working from 8 am until 1 pm, buses and trams from 8:30 am until 1 pm and then again from 4:30 pm until 9 pm. On the 26th of December the metro lines A, B and B1 are working until 1:30 am of the following day, the line C until 11:30 pm. On the 25th and 26th of December night buses follow their normal schedule.

Christmas in Rome: Opening hours of restaurants in Rome

On Christmas Eve many Roman restaurants offer a ‘Veglione’, in the broadest sense a ball which can go on until the early morning hours. Several also offer a ‘Cenone or ‘Cena di vigilia’, a multi-course dinner. The names ‘Veglione’ and ‘Viglia’ indicate that you stay awake very long, that you keep watch.

small-Café-in-Rome

Finding a nice restaurant in Rome at Christmas isn’t difficult. In fact, most restaurants in Rome are open during Christmas and offer a special Christmas menu with traditional Christmas dishes. However, most restaurants aren’t open nonstop, instead they either open for lunch or dinner or just one out of two Christmas holidays. In any case you should book a restaurant table in Rome for Christmas in advance.

Christmas in Rome: Christmas markets in Rome 2018

Even though Italian Christmas traditions are slightly different, they still do Christmas markets. You can find out more about Christmas markets in Rome in a different article on this website:

More information about Christmas markets in Rome

Christmas in Rome: History of the Christmas feast in Rome, traditions and customs

On the 25th of December catholics and protestant celebrate the birth of Jesus. It is one of the most important celebrations in Christianity. Even in Ancient Rome the feast of the Sun God was celebrated on this day. In many other cultures the winter solstice has been celebrated for several millennia. Even before Christianity became the state religion in Rome in 380 A.D. Christians honoured the birth of the Lord on that day. So if you spend Christmas in Rome you follow tradition that has been existing for thousands of years.

Christmas season in Rome

Romans are unfamiliar with the tradition of Advent. Christmas season in Rome officially begins with the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary on the 8th of December, which is a public holiday in Italy. From this day on Christmas decoration is put up in Rome and the Romans start decorating shops and streets. Christmas season officially ends on the 6th of January. In addition to the Three Kings, a witch called ‘Befana’ visits Italian children on this day, bringing sweets and gifts. Children who didn’t behave well will receive coal instead. This is why you can find many witches and candy that looks like coal on Roman Christmas markets.

Since it gets dark early but temperatures are not as low as elsewhere, evenings in Rome are very enjoyable. It rarely snows during Christmas in Rome and temperatures almost never go below 0°C. All attractions and monuments are beautifully illuminated, perfect for all your souvenir pictures! Between Christmas and New Year’s Day it can get quite cold at night and it usually rains. Hence, you should put on warm clothes and bring an umbrella.

Christmas meals Rome: These are the best Christmas dishes in Rome

For Italians the 25th of December is the most important Christmas holiday. There is a big feast, the ‘pranzo di Natale’. It starts at noon and ends some time in the late afternoon. In between there is lots of Antipasti, followed by pasta with the traditional Stracciatella, a soup of beef broth and beaten egg. Main courses include Abbacchio (lamb) or Coniglio (rabbit), cod fillet (baccalà) and other Roman specialties such as pickled artichokes (carciofi alla romana), fried artichokes (carciofi alla giudia) and puntarelle, a chicory salad with anchovies. Finally, there are pastries with candied fruit, typical Christmas biscuits and a panettone with liqueur wine, liqueurs or Grappa.

Afterwards you should head out for a walk around the city Rome. Since most shops and museums are closed you will experience a quiet city. If the weather is good you should head over to Via Appia Antica (bus 118 from Piazza Venezia) or go tot he sea at Ostia (local train from Pyramide/Ostiense).

Christmas in Rome: Information about the Christmas Mass in St Peter’s Basilica & Urbi et Orbi

During Christmas season St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican are the most popular attractions in Rome, which means that it is very busy. Tickets for the Christmas Mass in St Peter’s Basilica on the 24th of December at 9:30 pm should be booked in advance! The sooner you book your tickets, the higher the chances are to actually receive tickets for this special event. Even though tickets are for free, you should still book tickets in advance since seats are limited.

St Peter's basilica in the morning

The blessing ‘urbi et orbi’ that thousands of people want to receive every year, takes place on St Peter’s Square in Rome on the 25th of December at noon. The Pope appears in the loggia of St. Peter and gives his blessing to the crowd. The Christmas Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome is one of the most anticipated events of the whole year. In St. Peter’s Square you can see a life size crib and a Christmas tree in the middle of the square, almost the size of the obelisk. The Christmas Mass in St Peter’s Basilica is not the only one in Rome that day, but it is definitely the one you shouldn’t miss!

Swiss guard entry papal audience

Every Wednesday a General Audience takes place in St Peter’s Basilica and so does during Christmas season. You can order tickets for the Papal Audience at the Prefecture of the Papal House. Some guided tours combine Papal Audiences and the visit of St Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Museums.

Every Sunday at noon the Pope says the Angelus prayer on St Peter’s Square. You don’t need a reservation and entry is free as well. During Christmas season the Angelus prayer also takes place on the 8th and the 26th of December.

Christmas in Rome: Tickets for the Christmas Mass in Rome

To receive the blessing ‘urbi et orbi’ you don’t need a ticket. But expect to meet a large crowd on St Peter’s Square. To receive tickets for the Christmas Mass in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome you need to fill in a form and send to the Prefecture of the Papal House. You can then pick up your tickets at the cashier desk located in the audience hall Paul VI.

St Peter's Basilica General audience

Due to high demand and limited seating inside St Peter’s Basilica you should file your application as early as possible. However, large screens will be put on St Peter’s Square to follow the Christmas Mass inside. You don’t need tickets to watch the Mass on screen.

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