If you’re looking for the best things to do in Rome in winter, you’ve come to the right place! This comprehensive post will cover everything from a guide to winter weather in Rome, including how much it rains in Rome during the winter, to the best sightseeing options in Rome during the winter, great winter day trips from Rome, Christmas shopping in Rome, Christmas lunch in Rome, New Year’s Eve in Rome, and even some tips to enjoy Rome in the winter just like locals do.
It’s actually a great time of year to visit Rome as tourist numbers dip but you can still catch some lovely winter sunshine, enjoy some typical Roman festivals and some hearty, seasonal Roman food – plus much, much more.
Read on for the complete guide on what to do in Rome in winter, as I round up 20 things to do in Rome around the Holiday season!
P.S. – If you haven’t reserved your hotel room yet, here are a few of my picks for where to stay in Rome.
Rome in winter: time your trip to enjoy winter sunshine
How much does it rain in Rome during the winter and what can you expect generally in terms of Rome winter weather? Rome is actually quite a rainy city during the winter, but the good news is that it doesn’t rain every day during the colder months. Between November and February there are an average of 8-10 rainy days per month, with November being the rainiest month.
According to Climatemps, there are around 120 mm (2.95 in) of rain during November, which is nearly double the rainfall in September, and nearly four times the rainfall in the summer months. October (108 mm) is the second rainiest month of the year, followed by December (93 mm) and January (83 mm). February is actually the driest winter month, with just 76 mm of rain, and temperatures start to shade up again after the January lows.
All that said, in between the rainy days (you have a one in three chance of getting a rainy day!) Rome is famous for some strong and stunning winter sunshine, when the sun sits low on the horizon and shoots bright, warm beams along its cobbled roads. It’s not unusual to be forced to peel off your coat around Christmas in Rome!
Average temperatures are 12.9°C (55.2°F) during the daytime in Rome during the winter, falling to 2.6°C (36.7°F) overnight. However, that also means that you can get some lovely highs of 16-22°C when the sun is shining which means you’ll be stripping off heavy coats at midday.
It snows very rarely in Rome – not even once a decade – but if you’re lucky enough to catch it, you won’t regret it! When the snow laces Rome’s famous monuments it will leave you with the best holiday photos ever. See here for some snowy Rome scenes from earlier this year.
Rome in winter: relax on a Roman roof terrace
Not all of Rome’s picturesque hotel roof terraces remain open during the winter months. The list of rooftop closures sadly includes the incredible Hotel Eitch Borromini, my summer favourite, but you can drink indoors at its cosy bar. Elsewhere, several high-end hotels endeavour to keep their rooftop bars open even when the weather is very cold, for daytime coffees and teas, lunch and even an evening drink. Some add gas heaters or plastic covers, but several just leave things as is.
Winter sunshine means that the rooftop bar and restaurant at ivy-clad Hotel Raphael is simply stunning in the colder months, and this shares many of the glorious views enjoyed by Eitch Borromini. Julia Roberts’ character famously stayed here in the Eat, Pray, Love movie and this old-school boutique hotel is still a firm favourite all year round for a spot of lunch, afternoon tea or a drink with picturesque views.
The AcquaRoof Terrazza Molinari, dubbed Sea Lounge for its specialist seafood menu, is located on the sixth floor of The First Roma- Arte Hotel at Piazza del Popolo. The AcquaRoof terrace – with stunning views across the old city – has been redesigned with a partial covering to make drinks and dinner doable all year round. While the bar, sponsored by iconic Roman liquor Molinari (of Sambuca fame) has some of the best bartenders in town, come here too for fusion seafood in tasting portions, from a restaurant kitchen overseen by rising star Claudia Ceppaluni and advised by Michelin-starred chef Angelo Troiani.
I’m also a huge fan of The Flair restaurant, at Hotel Sina Bernini Bristol. This fabulous rooftop restaurant has recently been upgraded to offer some of the best dining in the capital. See my full review here.
Don’t overlook the gorgeous garden at Hotel de Russie, which is open all year long. Gas burners in the winter keep things cosy and bright out of doors – just perfect for a drink after dark.
Set in an impressive white marble building from the 1800s, Palazzo Naiadi, The Dedica Anthology, Autograph Collection is located in Piazza della Repubblica. This 5-star luxury hotel features a panoramic rooftop terrace which is open all winter and hosts a fabulous New Year’s Eve party every year. Definitely a great thing to do in winter in Rome.
Several other hotels such as Hotel Eden – Dorchester Collection or the Sofitel Villa Borghese have a half-out, half-in modular set up which vibes with glorious views and a spot of outdoor space for sunset selfies. Also worth exploring: Japanese restaurant Zuma has one of the best rooftop bars and restaurants in town, while charming ghetto boutique hotel Hotel Monte Cenci wraps up its glorious roof terrace with a cosy cover, adding deep armchairs for a memorable rooftop drink after dark. Definitely a great thing to do in Rome in winter.
If you like the idea of getting cosy for Christmas in Rome at one of the city’s grand hotels, consider spending time at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria, a ten minute drive from the Vatican. They always have plenty of foodie surprises in store at Christmas, and the decorations are ravishing. Hang out at the hotel’s exclusive bar for a bespoke winter cocktail: how about pear vodka, lemon syrup, cream and chestnut honey? Look out too for pastry chef Dario Nuti’s signature panettone creations. Including regular, dark chocolate and pistachio varieties, the pistachio topped panettone is studded with whole black cherries.
Rome in winter: visit Rome’s prettiest parks
Pick a sunny, winter day for a lovely, free thing to do in Rome in winter. My favourite parks this time of year include Villa Borghese, where unparalleled views across the city from the Pincio are even better when the trees lose their leaves. From Metro Spagna’s upper exit, walk past the French Cultural Institute, the Villa Medici, to peer across the rooftops of Rome, and then turn right up into the Villa Borghese park for one of the best winter sunsets in the city.
The other must-see Roman park during the winter months is the orange groves on the Aventine Hill, il Giardino degli Aranci. Oranges are a winter fruit so the garden is absolutely at its best from December onwards, with the heavy orange orbs hanging between the trees’ evergreen leaves, against a backdrop of one of the best views in Rome in winter.
From the orange groves on the Aventino, in fact, you can gaze across at the Trastevere neighbourhood, admire the dome of St Peter’s, the Pantheon, and myriad other churches, and also trace the green line of the river passing through the city, as the bare trees reveal the curve of the river Tiber.
Entrance to the park is free but the opening hours are shorter in the winter – you will be asked to leave at dusk, so plan accordingly around sunset times. Polite note, the trees in the orange grove produce bitter, Seville-style oranges so they’re not worth stealing (unless you’re going to make some marmalade, and even then, don’t).
Rome in winter: see an English-language film in Rome
If you’re stuck with a rainy day in Rome, why not catch a film, ideally in English? There are four or five cinemas in the centre which regularly show Original Language films (tip: look for the abbreviation V.O. next to the film name, which means versione originale (original version). I regularly go to Cinema Multisala Barberini (Metro Barberini), Nuovo Olimpia (off via del Corso) and Cinema Intrastevere (Trastevere) to get my fix of English-language films, but there are several more cinemas offering a selection of the biggest films of the moment in the original version.
Check out Cinema Farnese (Campo de’ Fiori) and Cinema Nuovo Sacher (Trastevere) for original language films in other languages as well. I find it pretty essential as the Italian way is to dub foreign movies directly, and who wants to see your favourite actors dubbed with improbable voices?
Handily, all the English-language cinemas in Rome have also been gathered in one place at this excellent, expat-friendly cinema guide, Rome Review, which is updated regularly.
Expect to pay around €8 for adults in most cinemas, and a bargain €6 on Wednesdays or during the afternoons. Bring on the popcorn! Definitely one of the best things to do in Rome in winter.
Rome in winter: visit a shopping mall
Fancy doing a bit of under-cover shopping during the winter in Rome? This is an excellent opportunity to buy Christmas gifts in Rome, personal souvenirs or the latest Italian fashion. Retail therapy is also the favourite pastime of many Romans during the winter and it’s a great way to turn around a rainy day.
In the centre of Rome, off Rome’s main shopping street, via del Corso, Galleria Alberto Sordi is one of the city’s oldest and in fact only traditional arcades, with a beautiful period ceiling and airy, glass interiors which have been refurbished in recent years. Here, under a welcome glass canopy which keeps out the bad weather, expect to find a range of stores, including bookstore and record shop La Feltrinelli, plus fashion favourites Bershka, Massimo Dutti, Coccinelle, Osho, the Bridge and more. Just a great thing to do in Rome in winter.
Galleria Sordi used to be anchored by Italian upmarket department store, la Rinascente. However, this moved out last year, transferring to a swanky new purpose-built location on Via del Tritone (Metro Barberini). The move coincided with a group level strategy change, from generic department store to a luxury approach. Out went household essentials, and in came designer names and upmarket food and beverage options.
Now, if you visit La Rinascente on via del Tritone, you’ll find the kind of premier brands which used to only cluster around via dei Condotti and via del Babuino. La Rinascente’s ground floor is a mecca for designer shoe and handbag enthusiasts, with open-plan boutiques from Gucci, Prada, Valentino, Chloe and more, plus a walk-in hall dedicated to Louis Vuitton.
Menswear and female fashion continues on the upper floors, with both designer and upmarket high-street options in the mix. The top floor is home to several quick eateries and designer restaurant concepts, including Brazilian-Japanese fusion sushi bar Temakinho, plus a champagne bar and terrace with fabulous views overlooking Rome. The restaurant here is run by Michelin-starred chef Riccardo Di Giacinto and worth booking ahead for. An ideal destination for winter in Rome.
In short, La Rinascente has changed, and this six-level shopper’s paradise is worth a look just to gawp at the glamour. The builders discovered an ancient Roman aqueduct on the lower levels during the construction phase, and the lower-ground floor includes a glass-covered museum area, plus the household, interiors and suitcase departments. It’s here that you’ll find La Rinascente’s Christmas store, the perfect place to pick up souvenir baubles and decorations, or even a designer Christmas tree.
If you’re looking for an international-style, regular mall you’ll have to head out of town. The easiest mall on public transport is Parco Leonardo. It’s on the same line as the airport train from the suburbs and in fact one stop away from Fiumicino airport.
This location, just 10 minutes from the airport, does mean you can time a visit to Parco Leonardo with your journey in and out of the country, depending on your luggage situation. In a longer layover situation, consider dropping into Parco Leonardo to catch a film, as a few movies are shown in English at the UCI multiplex (schedule here). What better thing to do in winter in Rome?
Rome in winter: get cosy in an enoteca
Lots of people drink red wine year round (me!) but it has a certain appeal in the winter months, when the weather takes a turn for the worst outside and you are yearning for a cosy evening with friends or a loved one. The best wine drinking in Rome takes place in an enoteca, literally a wine store, many of which have cute corners for sipping wine and often a fairly ambitious kitchen to enjoy food while you drink. Some of my favourite enotecas in Rome have the best vibe in winter: they are wood-lined, stone floored joints, where the bottles glisten round the walls, and your friendly bartender is always ready with some advice on what to drink or ideal food pairings.
Relatively new opening Barbieri 23 is the kind of restaurant I love. It’s perfect for those in-between nights, when you would like to share a good bottle of wine and a platter of cold cuts, fine smoked salmon or carefully sourced cheeses. Expect only the best quality at this outstanding enoteca.
In lively Monti (Metro Cavour), head for locals’ favourite Ai Tre Scalini on via Panisperna to grab a glass of wine at the bar and mingle in friendly surroundings. Tables are hard to come by, so this is good for an early evening drink or a couple of late night, standing-room-only jars. If you do manage to sit, the light bar menu – ranging from parma ham and mozzarella to cheese platters and pre-prepared lasagne – is a good value option to make a night of it.
Also centrally located, Rimessa Roscioli is great for wine tasting evenings (great Christmas gift, anyone?) while its superb wine list makes it the perfect place for an informal drop-in, too.
Close to the Vatican, Magazzini Scipioni is a modern wine store, bar and restaurant with an excellent wine list and great food.
Near piazza Navona, Mr. 100 Tiramisu on via dei Sediari 11/12 is a relatively new opening offering wine by the glass and 100 types of tiramisu. Pull up a stool to enjoy a couple of glasses of wine and don’t miss out on one of their multiple versions of Italy’s most famous dessert.
Rome in winter: chill in a craft-beer pub or cocktail bar
If beer is more your thing, don’t miss one of Rome’s excellent craft beer bars. Eight of my favourite Roman craft beer pubs are listed here. Otherwise, if you’re a fan of mixology, winter is a great time to explore some of Rome’s classiest cocktail bars. Near the Vatican, Chorus Café is a theatre bar (and more) offering some of the best cocktails in town.
Right in the centre of Rome, near Santa Maria in Maggiore (Termini district) don’t miss Drink Kong, too, from star Roman barman, Patrick Pistolesi, which was recently voted one of the best bars in the world. This stunning Roman cocktail bar and Japanese eatery is inspired by cult film Blade Runner, and is home to a very cool set. From arcade games to a penchant for neon and noodles, this is a dark, precise world of no-half-measures and velvet couches. Because even replicants deserve great cocktails.
We also like Metropolita, in north Rome, for well-priced cocktails in art deco-inspired surroundings. Head east to Pigneto’s funkiest cocktail bar in the shape of Co.So Cocktail & Social, or visit Rome’s only dedicated Gin Bar, The Gin Corner. Otherwise, try Santo in Trastevere to order from some of the city’s best hipster barmen, with great modern cuisine to boot. One of my favourite things to do in winter in Rome.
Upmarket dining club Palmerie in north Rome is a great destination if you like your cocktails with a side of sushi and the cool set. Reservations recommended.
Rome in winter: visit Rome’s thermal baths
Rome’s thermal baths are rather unloved in the summer months, when the beach and lakes offer a refreshing alternative to the city. However, central Italy’s many naturally occurring hot thermal springs are a real treat when the weather starts to get cool. Many of them started life as natural pools in the woods or countryside, but were later channelled and developed to make commercial swimming pools of naturally hot thermal water built into stately spa hotels and beauty farms.
The die-hard thermal fans (or budget conscious) still head into the woods to try and sneak a dip at the source, but I highly recommend visiting the spa establishments as they tend to be clean, well-priced venues with manicured lawns and pleasant hotels and eateries attached. There’s still a big cult of the thermal ‘cure’ in Italy, so expect to find plenty of older folk taking the whole business pretty seriously, but there are plenty of couples and young families here to frolic in the water. One of the best things to do in Rome in winter.
Terme dei Papi is Rome’s best known out-of-town thermal baths. Located near the historic town of Viterbo, you have a few transport options for reaching them, the easiest being by private car or by catching the free dedicated shuttle bus, which departs at 9am every day from Viale George Washington (near Piazza del Popolo). The free shuttle leaves the baths at 4pm daily. Otherwise, get the train to Viterbo’s Porta Fiorentina station, and then jump in a taxi from the main station.
Midweek is much better value than weekends: for 2019/2020, midweek entry to the thermal pool costs €12, going up to €18 on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays. One of my favourite Roman experiences in the winter is simply staying submerged up to the neck in the steamy, thermal water here while the ground frost or even snow crisps on the edge of the pool. Weirdly bracing and bags of fun!
If you get really into the thermal baths experience, there is an alternative venue in Stigliano near Bracciano, although the outdoor pools aren’t really warm enough at the coldest part of the year. Alternatively, near the airport, try out QC Terme, with bracing ice-cold outdoor pools as well as an indoor and outdoor thermal pool circuit and luxury hotel.
A good downtown alternative is the Turkish Hammam Acqua Madre, located very centrally in the Jewish Ghetto. A great idea for winter in Rome.
Rome in winter: daytrip to the lake
The town of Bracciano on Lake Bracciano is a 30-minute train ride from the centre of Rome (catch a train at Ostiense station), and is a pleasant destination in cooler weather for a stroll or lakeside lunch. In late autumn, look out for chestnuts rolling along the roads and blackberry brambles weighed with fruit along the lakeside. In rainy weather, visit the Castle of Bracciano (Castello Orsini-Odescalchi) to peer into a well-maintained medieval fortification and museum with breath-taking views (guided tours obligatory; more info here). Combined tickets cost €8.50 for adults, €6 reductions.
As one of the largest and best-maintained castles in Italy, the venue has hosted several high-profile weddings like the ones of Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes, Eros Ramazzotti & Michelle Hunziker, as well as Petra Ecclestone & James Stunt. The castle is open every day from 10 am; in the winter, it closes at 17.00 (Monday-Friday) and at 18.00 on Saturdays and Sundays. Last entrance one hour before closing.
If you have a car, drive round the lake to one of the other lakeside towns, Anguillara Sabazia or Trevignano Romano. Trevignano in particular is home to a string of lovely lakeside restaurants, many of which serve typical fish from the lake (usually carp) in a variety of delightful ways. Otherwise, for a unique farmhouse experience, visit Agriturismo La Riserva di Martignanello with staggering views over the adjacent lake of Martignano. Please note, this structure is reached along a 2km dirt track which is very difficult to navigate in wet weather without a four-wheel drive. However, on a sunny, winter’s day it’s an extraordinary destination, with a panoramic terrace and roaring log fire. Full story here.
Rome in winter: have lunch in the Castelli Romani
Visiting the Castelli Romani is not only an easy day trip from Rome, it’s an ideal location for a lunch and a stroll outside Rome, returning the same afternoon.
The Castelli Romani (literally, Roman castles) is a region featuring 17 hilltop towns and villages about 30 km south-east of the city of Rome. This collection of towns and villages is slightly misunderstood by tourists, and for good reason. Essentially, there are no castles; you’d be hard-pushed to find even a medieval fortification amongst its vine-clad slopes and plunging valleys.
However, they are home to much of Rome’s wine-making traditions and have become associated with popular food events and harvest festivals. Most of the food festivals or sagre take place during the autumn months and early winter, including events dedicated to porchetta, as well as chestnuts, porcini mushrooms and wine.
Famed for its roast pork, or porchetta, a spit-roast pork flavoured with herbs, Ariccia is a fantastic, rustic destination for a lunch outside Rome which will enable you to escape the chaos of the city of Rome and enjoy a great value lunch in the Castelli Romani. Just the best place to be during winter in Rome!
The main drag of the restaurants in Ariccia is Via Borgo S. Rocco, a touristy affair these days, but still plenty of fun. Order abundant antipasti of prosciutto, porchetta, smoked cheese, bruschette, olives, dressed beans, salami and coppiette from the traditional fraschette eateries and see if you still have room for a rich, Roman pasta dish: amatriciana, carbonara, gricia or fagioli e cotiche (white beans cooked with pork rinds in a pungent tomato sauce). There are rustic and wintery second courses too, such as wild boar, steaks and sausage, all best washed down with litres of wine.
For a full guide to Ariccia and how to get to Ariccia from Rome, read my full article here.
Frascati is an even easier destination for a day trip from Rome, as direct trains leave from Rome Termini to Frascati on a regular basis. Marino, meanwhile, has a famous wine festival usually held the first Sunday of October, when the town’s fountains are filled with wine and cheap plonk literally flows through the town’s streets. Another idea for the winter season in Rome.
Monte Porzio Catone is one of the towns above Frascati, less visited by tourists but home to sensational wine estate Poggio le Volpi which is a great destination for lunch in the Castelli Romani. For my review of eating lunch at Epos Bistro at Poggio le Volpi, go here. Nearby, Hosteria Amedeo is another lovely, rustic lunch or dinner spot serving an elegant twist on Roman cuisine. For my review of lunch at Hosteria Amedeo, go here.
Rome in winter: choose hearty food in a Roman restaurant
Part of the pleasure of coming to Rome in the winter months is having 50% more appetite than in the summer and feeling free to give in to glorious pasta dishes, rich red wine and all the desserts and cheese you could desire (you know you need the calories in this weather).
A good place to start is with a hearty brunch. For international classics such as waffles and eggs Benedict, I love Bakery House, with its all-American goodies served with fresh fruit or lashings of maple syrup. On Sundays, check out the new farmhouse spread at Proloco Trastevere, from 12.30 until 15.30, featuring a heart spread of salami and cheeses, plus a main course and dessert of your choosing for 25.
Italians really don’t sit down to a four course meal every day, contrary to popular belief, but many of the hearty food with which Rome is associated is best consumed in winter. Try a tangy carbonara, cacio e pepe or amatriciana at a classic trattoria in Rome’s Testaccio or Trastevere neighbourhoods. In Testaccio, visit old-school Perilli for classic offal dishes and one of the best carbonara dishes in Rome, homely Da Oio a Casa Mia for rustic fare, or book ahead for a table at neighbourhood favourite Da Felice.
If you’re after one of the best pizzas in town, you can’t miss the incredible Seu Pizza Illuminati on the edge of Trastevere. A lot has been written about this pizza but it really is one of the best if not the best in Rome right now. Reservations essential for this great winter in Rome thing to do.
Also in Trastevere, you can’t go far wrong with recent opening Cambio, or contemporary gourmet restaurant Jacopa – both sensational choices for different reasons! (Click the links for my recent reviews).
You can’t spend time in Rome without tracking down the home of Fettuccine Alfredo. The historic restaurant Alfredo alla Scrofa is worth all the hype and serves great traditional Roman cooking. My full review of Trattoria Alfredo alla Scrofa is here.
If you’re looking for occasion dining, Il Tino is one of the finest Michelin star restaurants in Rome, in cosy surroundings not far from Fiumincino airport. This really is a special place to dine but totally worth it if you are a die-hard foodie. Chef Daniele Usai never disappoints with his fish-focused menu.
Rome in winter: Catch the Christmas lights and Christmas trees
Unlike many European cities, the Christmas lights and the major Christmas trees in Rome aren’t set up and switched on until early December. The big unveiling date is usually around 8 December, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the first major holiday of the month before Christmas takes place just 17 days later. An essential date for Christmas in Rome.
This actually gives Rome a less commercial vibe around the Holiday season and makes the few weeks of Christmas decorations even more welcome. As you might imagine, Rome’s Christmas lights are always a classy affair, and are focused in elegant swathes along via del Corso, the side streets off via del Corso, as well as across the historic centre of the city.
Have a look too at the lights in the neighbourhoods, including Monti, Testaccio and Trastevere, which are all uniquely designed to enhance their ancient streets. A great thing to do in Rome in winter.
While you will stumble across hundreds of Christmas trees if you are in Rome around Christmas, it’s worth remembering that there are only really two big ones you need to cross off your list. If you want to see something spectacular, the biggest of the city’s trees are found in Piazza Venezia and Piazza St Pietro. The latter makes for an easier selfie – watch out for traffic if you head to Piazza Venezia as cars tend to race round the Christmas tree there.
Rome in winter: book Christmas or New Year’s dinner in Rome
Plenty of restaurants stay open for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve dinners in Rome. Keep this page bookmarked for the best places to eat Christmas dinner in Rome 2018, or the best places to book for New Year’s Eve in Rome 2018/2019.
Rome in winter: browse Rome’s Christmas and Epiphany markets
Don’t expect the same Christmas market tradition in Rome and Southern Italy as you would further north (try the wonderful Alto Adige city of Bolzano for one of the best Christmas markets in the whole country). However, there are still some fun Christmas market options in the city of Rome. Piazza Navona is home to a seasonal market which is designed to celebrate Epiphany, the Christian festival which takes place on 6 January.
If you ask many Romans, in fact, they are far more excited about Epiphany than Christmas Day, as the day when local children traditionally receive stockings full of sweets. This market usually sells gift stockings (with and without sweets) as well as wooden nativity scenes.
If you’re after your fill of Christmas foodstuffs, it’s hard to beat Eataly, with its seemingly endless selection of regional specialities.
However, you’re looking for something a bit more fashion-oriented, try the wonderful Mercato Monti (Metro Cavour) for hip souvenirs and Christmas gifts, including artisan jewellery, vintage goodies, book lamps, original fashion and more. This trendy covered market runs all year round but is a great thing to do in Rome in winter.
While you’re in the Monti district, if you love vintage and pre-loved fashion, don’t miss the incredible vintage stores here. Luckily, I’ve written a full guide to the best vintage shops in Rome and you can find that right here.
Rome in winter: attend a Christmas service or carol concert
As a practising Anglican In Rome, I am best placed to advise you on the Anglian and Episcopalian traditions which also happen to be the churches where music, and Christmas music in particular, is easiest to find. All Saints Anglican Church in Rome has one of the most popular English language carol services, usually taking place the last Sunday before Christmas. Keep this page bookmarked for full details, coming later in the year.
This is a service of 9 lessons and carols, followed by mulled wine and minced pies. It is extremely popular, so make sure you get there early. On Christmas Eve (24 December 2019), expect a crib service at All Saints Church in Rome while Christmas Day (25 December 2019) expect a full English language Anglican Christmas service.
Other English language Christmas services can be found at the Pontifical Irish College (Roman Catholic, via dei Santi Quattro 1); The Rome Baptist Church (Baptist, piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina); St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (Presbyterian, via XX Settembre); St. Patrick’s American Community (Roman Catholic, via Boncompagni 31); St. Paul’s Within-the-Walls (Episcopalian, Via Nazionale); S. Isidoro Church (Roman Catholic, via degli Artisti 41); S. Silvestro in Capite (Roman Catholic, piazza San Silvestro 1); St Francis Xavier del Caravita (Roman Catholic, via della Caravita 7); Venerable English College (Roman Catholic, via di Monserrato 45).
For Pope Francis and the Vatican Christmas celebrations, keep the official Vatican calendar of celebrations page bookmarked. One of the best things to do in Rome in winter.
Rome in winter: visit Rome’s museums
The queues for Rome’s most popular museums are decidedly shorter in the winter months compared to the spring, summer and autumn. Tackle Rome’s largest museum, The Vatican Museums, out of season to beat the crowds. Adult tickets start at €17 – choose from a variety of booking options on the official site here.
Otherwise, get off the beaten track with one of Rome’s quirkiest museums, Centrale Montemartini. When classical sculptures were temporarily stored in a well-preserved art deco-era electricity plant, Rome’s museum directors realised they had pulled off an enthralling juxtaposition of ancient and modern design. Today, fragments of ancient Roman mosaics and sculptures stand atop cast iron turbines and beneath symmetric art deco lamps in this enthralling former factory hall along via Ostiense. A great option for Rome in winter.
Rome in winter: go ice-skating in Rome
Unfortunately for the romantics amongst you, the lakes and rivers in Rome never freeze over – it simply doesn’t get cold enough. During last year’s spell of snow, there were a few glazed ponds in public parks but these are never safe to walk on and you should ignore anyone who tells you otherwise. Happily, outdoor ice-rinks are however a thing in the winter months, with a few public-private rinks going up across the capital, with boots for rent and child-friendly ameneties.
One of the most popular rinks is located next to Castel Sant’Angelo, but you will also find other popular rinks up in the Auditorium complex (Rome’s biggest music venue and great spot for a concert in winter) as well as in the former slaughterhouse complex in Testaccio. Keep this page bookmarked for a more up-to-date list later of where all the ice-rinks are in Rome for winter 2018-2019. A really fun thing to do in Rome in winter.
Just remember that the iconic Babingtons Tea Rooms are on hand at the end of it all to warm yourselves with a refreshing brew.
Rome in winter: outlet shopping near Rome
For designer shopping at bargain prices, there are a few great fashion outlets round Rome, although they aren’t easy to reach on public transport. McArthurGlen-branded Castel Romano Designer Outlet is 25 km from the centre of Rome but you can catch a shuttle bus from Termini Station to reach it. Brands include Salvatore Ferragamo, Missoni, Valentino, Guess, Gap, Adidas, La Perla and more. Full details on catching the shuttle bus, which costs €15 for a round trip, can be found here.
Otherwise, if you do have a car, Diffusione Tessile is another great designer outlet centre just a few kilometres beyond the Castel Romano Designer Outlet centre. Diffusione Tessile is the dedicated outlet centre for the Max Mara Fashion Group. That means it is home to brands from the entire Max Mara stable, including Max & Co, Penny Black, Marella, Max Mara and Sportmax. Here, find clothes, shoes and handbags all at discounts of up to 70% off. For full instructions on reaching the store near Rome, visit this link.
Rome in winter: visit a nativity scene in Rome
Hand-made Nativity scenes, representing the Christmas miracle, are a staunch Italian tradition which is said to go back to the times of Saint Francis of Assisi, who is usually credited with having created the first ever Christmas Nativity scene. These days, from 8 December, expect to find a small, medium or even life-sized mock-ups of the baby Jesus in the stable surrounded by animals, shepherds, three wise men, angels and his parents. Many of these are carefully crafted from wood but are often embellished with wonderful moving parts, electric lights and even flowing water.
While you will have to go to Naples via San Gregorio in Armeno to really get to the bottom of this artisan tradition, plenty of churches in Rome have spectacular seasonal Nativity scenes on display. These include the Nativity scenes in Piazza Euclide, Piazza del Popolo, Santa Maria in Trastevere and Santa Maria d’Aracoeli. In Saint Peter’s Square, a large Nativity scene is usually unveiled on Christmas Eve. Look out for others in the church of Sant’Eustachio as well as an intricate presepe from Naples located in the church of Saints Cosma e Damiano, which is actually on display all year round. Just a great thing to do in Rome in winter.
Rome in winter: Enjoy January sales shopping in Rome
Rome’s Christmas / New Year’s sales usually kick-off on the first Saturday of the New Year. That means that the winter sales in Rome this year will start on Saturday 4 January 2020. Expect discounts ranging from 20%-50% right across town, with a few of the most wanted pieces selling out fast on the first day. A couple of weeks after the sales start, discounts usually lengthen to 50% or even higher. My favourite shopping areas in Rome include via del Corso, via Cola di Rienzo and Galleria Alberto Sordi. Look out too for discounts in charming boutique locations across town. Pause for a well-earned break at a winter brazier to munch on hot, roast chestnuts. These are located all around the historical centre, especially in via del Corso and via Condotti. Enjoy!
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