In Rome Christmas markets just aren’t as much of a thing as they are in cities elsewhere in Europe, especially further north. For years, when it came to mercatini di Natale, as Italians call them, the main event really was just the Christmas market at Piazza Navona.
Today, Piazza Navona remains the biggest Rome Christmas market, at least in the center. Every Roman (and visiting) family stops there at some point during the Christmas season. Stalls sell Christmas decorations, gifts and sweets and street performers juggle and dance, all under the gloriously-lit fountains and Church of Sant’Agnese in Agone. For atmosphere and convenience, the 100-year-old Christmas market is a good bet. And after being called off for some previous years, the market is back — it should open on 2 December 2018 and close 6 January 2019. (Of course, this being Italy, things can always change!).
But. Most of the gifts for sale there are mass-produced, made-in-China items — and a far cry from the kind of artisanal gifts you can so easily find elsewhere in Rome.
So here are some other top bets for the season. (And for more information on Rome during the holidays, don’t miss my full guide to Christmas in Rome!). Although some of these other markets are slightly out of the heart of the center, if you’re looking for a truly authentic Christmas market experience — one full of Roman families and locally-made goods — they’re worth the trip.
Mercatino di Natale a Piazza di Spagna
2016 saw, for the first time, a Christmas market at the Spanish Steps. Featuring the usual craft, gift and food stalls, it ran for one day only. The date still hasn’t been confirmed for 2018, though, so sit tight…
Arti & Mestieri Expo
Although it’s definitely not central, this market features several hundred stalls selling artisanal goods and foodstuffs, from ceramics to leather to olive oil to chocolate. And since all of the products are made in Italy, it’s a great place to find local, one-of-a-kind gifts to bring back home.
The market, which is free to enter, is at the Fiera di Roma, about a 20-minute train ride from the center of Rome; just hop on the same regional train that you can take from the Trastevere or Ostiense train stations all the way to Fiumicono Airport (the Treno FR 1) and get off at the “Fiera Roma” stop.
For 2018, the Arti & Mestieri Expo takes place from 23 to 25 November.
Regno di Natale
This event for children (and their families) is a new arrival to Rome’s Christmas scene. Called Regno di Natale, it’s a magical 2600sqm “Christmas kingdom” that includes an “ice canyon”, toy factory and, of course, elves. It’s not a traditional Christmas market — more of a mini-amusement park for kids — and the entry price reflects that — and it’s out in EUR, which most visitors will find inconvenient. But it’s also a pretty cute idea. Regno di Natale is open from 1 December until 7 January.
Natale all’Auditorium Parco della Musica
Every year, Rome’s Auditorium puts on a seriously spectacular Christmas event. Above all, it has plenty of performances and concerts, from gospel choirs to the Rome Orchestra — so make sure to time your visit with one of the events going on. From the center, one of the easiest ways to get to the Auditorium is to take the #910 bus, which leaves from Termini.
Natale all’Auditorium takes place from 8 December to 8 January.
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