Rome takes on a quieter, more relaxed vibe in winter, a perfect backdrop for the Rome Christmas Market, known as the Befana Market.
This market is in the heart of the city in Piazza Navona, set amid ancient architecture, beautiful sculptures and bustling restaurants.
In this article, I’ll share everything you need to know, including confirmed 2023 dates, opening times, locations, the best stalls and local specialties.
Rome Christmas Market 2023
The Christmas market in Rome and the Feast of Befana, is in what is arguably the city’s most beautiful square, Piazza Navona.
The official Pinellian nativity scene is installed at the Spanish Steps, while the city’s official Christmas Tree is at Piazza Venezia.
As you walk through the markets, you’ll discover popular stalls filled with handcrafted nativity scenes, delicate glass ornaments and homemade sweets like pangiallo (Roman Christmas cake) and classic Italian panettone.
Listen to buskers playing traditional Italian songs and watch the puppet theatre while sipping on a steaming cup of vin brulé, Italy’s version of mulled wine.
Several other Christmas events take place around the city, but I don’t think many visitors would find them interesting. I’ve listed the most popular ones further below.
Dates and Information
Rome Christmas Market dates: 1st December 2023 to 6th January 2024.
Location: Piazza Navona.
Opening times: 11am to 7pm.
Christmas Day: Closed.
Christmas Tree: Yes, the switch on date is 8th December in Piazza Venezia.
Light Show: At the Botanical Gardens: 16th November to 7th January 2024.
Befana: Arrives on the 6th January at 10am.
Ice skating: No.
Vegetarian: Yes, plenty of options.
Vegan: Yes, but limited.
Gluten-free: Yes, but limited. However, there are several GF bakeries and cafes in Rome.
Accessible: Yes, although there are cobblestones.
Pet-friendly: Yes, dogs are allowed on a lead.
Parking: Please take public transport or walk to help limit congestion.
Reason to visit: Set in historic Piazza Navona. Artisan stalls, fascinating museums, countless attractions.
Recommended tour: Walking tour of ancient Rome or this incredibly fun Vespa tour.
Specialties: Traditional Christmas pandoro and freshly baked panettone.
Where to stay: Hotel Martis Palace is a highly-rated hotel near Piazza Navona.
For a convenient Roman Christmas experience, stay in the Rione VI Parione district, just steps away from Piazza Navona.
This central historic neighbourhood provides easy access to Rome’s main sights, attractions, museums, squares and places to eat out.
In this area, I recommend staying at Hotel Martis Palace, as it’s central and very stylish.
For a more affordable stay, you might like Suite Art Navona; it’s exceptional value for money.
I’ve been to Rome many times, so I understand it can be a little overwhelming for first-time visitors. It’s a big city with lots to do, which is why I recommend taking a tour to get an overview of the highlights.
On a city tour, you’ll visit the city’s most iconic landmarks and attractions, such as the historic Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the incredible St Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican.
I recommend this city tour of Rome as you can see all the city’s highlights with a local guide. The tour ends at Piazza Navona, where you can walk around the Christmas market.
Alternatively, this food tour is an incredibly delicious way to experience Rome while learning about the local culture. I’ve taken a couple of food tours in Rome. You can’t go wrong with this one.
Finally, I must mention this Vespa tour I took several years ago. It’s the absolute best tour I’ve ever taken in all my years as a travel blogger.
For insights into festivities across the country, my Italian Christmas Market guide has trip planning information to help organise your holiday.
Ice Christmas Village is a smaller market across the river from Piazza Navona. The market is along the river between the Olypmic Stadium and Ponte Milvio.
Ponte Milvio dates: Likely dates: 2nd December 2023 to 7th January 2024.
Location: Lungotevere Maresciallo Diaz.
Opening times: 10am to 10pm.
Christmas World is family friendly event with musicals, folklore show, replica cities and other entertainment. It’s a bit like Disneyland but for Christmas, so it’s definitely not a traditional market. It’s targeted to young kids.
Villa Borghese dates: 1st December 2023 to 7th January 2024.
Location: Galoppatoio, Villa Borghese.
Opening times: 11am to 8pm.
Attractions: Double-decker carousel, chocolate factory, Santa’s House, ice skating.
Another event is Cinecittà World, a movie-based amusement park just outside of the city of Rome that opens a winter market from November until early January.
Set within the famous Cinecittà film studio, this unique market transforms the studio’s Cinecittà Street into a winter festival with sparkling lights, decorations and Christmas stalls.
Scenes from Christmas movies are projected on a giant screen in the main square at the Gocce di Cinema.
Cinecittà World dates: 11th November 2023 to 7th January 2024.
Location: Cinecittà World Amusement Park, Via Irina Alberti.
Opening times: 11am to 6pm.
How to get there: Shuttle Bus from Roma Termini. Price: €7.
Official site: Cinecittà World.
Christmas in Rome
Christmas in Rome is filled with tradition. Midnight masses take place in local churches, and families gather for meals, celebrating generations of Italian culinary heritage.
Pandoro: Originally from Verona, this star-shaped, sweet yeast bread is dusted with powdered sugar to resemble the snowy peaks of the Italian Alps. Its name means ‘golden bread’, reflecting its rich, buttery flavour, and it’s often enjoyed with a glass of spumante or prosecco during the holiday season.
Cannoli: Originally from Sicily, these tube-shaped pastries filled with a sweet, creamy ricotta are popular throughout Italy and a favourite at Roman markets.
Castagne (Roasted Chestnuts): A quintessential winter snack in Rome, castagne are roasted right at the stall, offering warmth and a smoky flavour that’s hard to resist on a cold day.
Cioccolata Calda (Hot Chocolate): Italian hot chocolate is notably thick and rich, often so dense it’s enjoyed with a spoon. It’s the perfect drink to keep warm while browsing the market.
Ciambelle: These ring-shaped biscuits have a crunchy texture and are typically flavoured with wine, either red or white, which gives them a distinct taste. Ciambelle al vino are a perfect accompaniment to a hot drink or a glass of wine while you wander the market.
Pangiallo Romano (Roman Yellow Bread): Pangiallo is a traditional Roman festive cake, dense and packed with nuts, dried fruits, and flavoured with honey. It’s topped with a layer of pastel-coloured icing, reflecting ancient winter solstice traditions intended to bring back the sun.
Pizzelle (Italian Waffle Cookies): Pizzelle are thin, crisp cookies made from a batter similar to waffle batter. Cooked in a special iron that imprints a snowflake or floral pattern, these are often dusted with powdered sugar and can be eaten plain or sandwiched with chocolate or jam.
Panettone: A Christmas essential, this sweet bread comes from Milan but is a festive favourite in Rome as well. It’s filled with dried fruits and raisins.
Supplì (Stuffed Rice Balls): These fried rice balls, similar to Sicilian arancini, are stuffed with mozzarella and typically served with a tomato sauce. They’re a delicious bite-sized snack.
Zeppole: These deep-fried dough balls are sometimes filled with custard or jam and dusted with powdered sugar, offering a simple yet indulgent dessert option.
Gelato: Despite the cold, you’ll still find Romans enjoying their favourite frozen treat, often in seasonal flavours like panettone or pandoro.
Vin Brulé (Mulled Wine): This spiced wine heated with citrus and cloves is Italy’s take on a winter classic. It offers both warmth and a festive spirit with each cup.
What to Buy
Presepi (Nativity Scenes): The presepi are elaborate nativity scenes that are a cornerstone of Italian holiday traditions. Artisans at the market create scenes ranging from basic sets to intricate representations of the nativity, complete with hand-painted terracotta figures.
Glass Ornaments: At the traditional markets, you’ll find beautifully handcrafted ornaments, many made from Murano glass, a centuries-old tradition from the Venetian island of Murano. These delicate and artistic pieces, ranging from vibrant baubles to intricate figurines, add a touch of Italian elegance to any Christmas tree.
Limoncello: This bright and zesty liqueur is a signature product of Italy. Traditionally made in southern Italy, especially around the Amalfi Coast and islands of Capri, it’s produced by macerating lemon zest in alcohol before adding sugar. Bottles of limoncello make for a great gift, bringing the sunny flavours of Italy into the homes of your loved ones.
Artisanal Pasta: Locally made, high-quality pasta in various shapes and flavours, allowing you to bring a taste of Italy home with you.
Cioccolato Artigianale (Artisanal Chocolate): Italian chocolatiers often have stalls at the markets, offering a range of handmade chocolates. These luxurious treats are made using high-quality cocoa and traditional methods.
For more practical information and helpful tips on Rome, turn to Visit Italia’s comprehensive section on visiting Rome.
Many of us are increasingly concerned about climate change and sustainability. Here are a few tips on how we can travel more responsibly in Rome at Christmas.
- Use of Renewable Energy: Many hotels in Rome have started implementing solar panels, but many also use wind power.
- Reduce Food Waste: Italian culture cherishes food, and it’s not uncommon to see locals bringing their own containers to take home leftovers from restaurants. You can embrace this practice to help reduce food waste. Also, consider restaurants like Il Margutta in Rome, which creates delicious vegetarian dishes from ingredients that would otherwise be wasted.
- Ethical Consumption: When shopping, particularly for souvenirs or gifts, choose local artisans and fair-trade shops, which support the local economy and ethical labour practices. The Mercato Monti, one of Rome’s hippest markets, is a great spot to find local artisanal crafts and products.
- Sustainable Diets: Rome has a growing number of organic, vegetarian and vegan restaurants that focus on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
- Sustainable Transport: Rome’s historic centre is best explored on foot, which also happens to be the most eco-friendly mode of transport. For longer distances, consider renting a bike or using the city’s public transportation system, which includes buses, trams and the metro. Rome also has electric scooters and Vespa rentals, a fun and eco-friendly way to zip around the city.
While Rome can be busy during Christmas, it’s generally less crowded than during peak summer, making it an ideal time to explore the city’s attractions without overwhelming tourist crowds.
Winter in Rome is relatively mild, with temperatures ranging from 3°C (37°F) to 14°C (57°F). While you may experience some rain, you can still enjoy strolling through the city and taking in the festive ambience.
If you would like to leave a review of Rome Xmas Market, comment below.
Recommendations are independently chosen based on personal travel experiences and extensive research. This post contains affiliate links to hotels and tours in Rome, Italy. This means I get a small commission from any bookings at no extra cost to you.