Christmas in Rome

We’ve covered Christmas in London and Christmas in Paris on the blog this week.  You can’t highlight the best of European big city festivities without including Rome!

I asked one of our favorite kid-friendly walking tour companies in Rome, Nancy Aiello Tours, to provide their list of things to do in Rome during Christmas time with children. Everything sounds fabulous but I have to say Midnight Mass at the Pantheon gives me goosebumps (and I’m not Catholic).  Thank you for the wonderful list!

Christmas decorations in St. Peters Square. Photo courtesy of Nancy Aiello Tours

The season leading up to Christmas is a light-filled festive time in Rome that can provide an ideal backdrop for an enchanting vacation with kids. Beside its great museums, on-going exhibits, and the ancient Rome landmarks, there are several annual Christmas events that are not to be missed, particularly when visiting Rome with children.

Don’t Miss the Piazza Navona Christmas Market

Lots of small markets can be found throughout Rome at Christmas time. However, by far the largest and most popular is the Navona Christmas market, located in one of the most beautiful Roman squares. Piazza Navona, built in the 15th century on the site of an ancient Roman stadium. The newly renovated baroque fountains and churches create a stunning setting; it’s the perfect place to make everyone feel thoroughly festive.

During the Christmas holidays Piazza Navona comes alive with a spectacular market that features Christmas decorations, paraphernalia, statuettes, cribs, and nativity figurines. There are loads of outdoor stalls offering gifts and tasty seasonal sweets such as cookies and traditional Roman sweets like torrone (nougat with almonds and honey) and panettone.

Piazza Navona Christmas Market. Photo courtesy of Nancy Aiello Tours

Babbo Natale (Santa Claus) and the Befana, a good witch, dole out presents to well-behaved children and just coal (sugary tasty coal) to bad children on January 6th to mark the Epiphany. A holiday atmosphere pervades the lit up square which, with its several restaurants and outdoor cafes, is always abuzz with activities and street performers.

Visit the “100 Nativity Scenes” Exhibition

Once again this Christmas the marvelous halls of the Sala del Bramante located on the beautiful Piazza del Popolo (People square) hosts the very popular 100 Nativity Scenes exhibition.

On display are 100 of the world’s loveliest antique and new Nativity Scenes created by Italy’s best craftsmen.  There are also works from various foreign countries with artifacts belonging to museums and private collections. For all those who love this genre and especially children, this is a memorable experience. “100 Nativity” will remain open every day until January 6th including holidays from 09:30am to 8:00pm.

Be aware that beautiful nativity scenes can be also found in every church in the city!

Participate in Midnight Christmas Mass at the Pantheon

Midnight Christmas mass at the Pantheon is a lesser known special event that is perfect for families with children who want to enjoy an intimate experience while avoiding the crowds at the Vatican.

Enjoy Open-Air Ice Skating

Several ice-skating rinks are set up around the Eternal City for the Christmas holidays from December 1st to January 10th with free entry and a small fee for renting the skates. There are also daily exhibitions performed by international professional skaters.

To learn about the locations visit

Check Out the Biggest Toy Shop in Italy

Until last year Rome’s best toy shop was Al Sogno (Inside the Dream), in Piazza Navona. But now be prepared for a new breathtaking experience for both adults and children at the newly opened Little Big Town toy shop! Little Big Town is actually the largest toy shop in Italy with 4 floors of toys and games for children of all ages. Located next to Piazza Venezia on Via Cesare Battisti 120, be prepared to queue to enjoy this absolutely amazing shop.

XVII Golden Circus Festival Edition

From December 23 to January 9 Rome will hosts the 27th edition of the famous XVII Golden Circus Festival where there is hilarious interaction and plenty of fun for the kids. Featuring  performers from all over the world, the main attraction is the plethora of circus acts ready to take to the stage. Visitors will see fire eaters, balancing acts, rope artists, the wheel of death, the high wire, magicians and clowns, of course. Expect to be entertained by a whole host of acts strutting their stuff over the 2-hour show.

To finish off your Christmas holiday in Rome, organize a Christmas tree hunt with your kids to discover and count the Christmas trees erected all around central Rome.  Be sure to include the huge Christmas trees in St. Peter’s Square, Piazza Venezia, and by the Coliseum.  All major Roman squares will have their own lit up Christmas tree—best enjoyed while sampling a big gelato ice cream!

Relevant Links:

Ciao Bambino recommended Rome family hotels

52 things to know before traveling to Italy with kids

Nancy Aiello Tours information, kid-friendly walking tours of Rome

Christmas in Italy E-Book

December family events in Milan

Kid-friendly tour guides in Italy 

Christmas in Tuscany (2009 edition)

Christmas in London with kids

Christmas in Paris with kids

Christmas markets in Europe

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  • My extended family (ages 13-85) is going to spend Christmas in Rome this year. The holiday celebration will seem empty without a charitable activity. I thought about taking a suitcase full of toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrushes etc), assembling the “care packages” one evening as a family, then delivering them to a shelter. Does anyone have any other ideas??

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