Visiting Rome in winter is not something that most people consider.
It certainly wasn’t somewhere I’d ever considered for a winter city break.
It doesn’t have world-famous Christmas markets like Germany, or year-round sun like the Canary Islands, and isn’t a winter sports paradise like Switzerland.
Nevertheless, I figured that if I was going to see what all the fuss was about, visiting Rome in January was the way to do it.
And was I right?
Rome in January is incredible, and I really think that I experienced a side of the Eternal City that 99% of visitors don’t get to.
With this in mind, I decided to create a guide to visiting Rome in the winter so that you know why visiting Rome in winter is so worth it, what the weather is like in Rome in winter, what to pack for an off-season trip to Rome, and pretty much anything else you can think of as well.
So, as always, grab a drink, grab a snack, and get comfy, because we’re about to get into it.
Rome in Winter: A Guide to the Eternal City in Off-Season
Reasons to visit Rome in the winter
Cheaper flights and hotels
I visited Rome for 3 days with Jet2holidays on one of their Winter City Breaks.
This basically meant that my flights (including checked-in baggage) and accommodation at a 4-star hotel of my choice were all covered in the price.
If you wanted to take the exact same trip as me in January, you can expect to pay around £350.
Again, this includes return flights to Rome with Jet2 from the UK with 22kg checked-in baggage, 10kg cabin baggage, and 3 nights in a 4-star hotel close to the Colosseum.
For reference, that same hotel costs £180-250 per night if you want to book it independently, so a Jet2CityBreaks deal like the one I got to Rome is a no-brainer.
In the summer months, the same hotel goes for £300-400 per night on other online booking platforms (and bear in mind that I am looking 6 months in advance – the price is sure to increase as summer draws closer).
Visit the main sites uninterrupted
I’ve heard so many people complain about trying to visit the main Rome attractions in high-season and either not being able to get tickets, having to wait in line for hours (despite paying to ‘skip the line’), and being jammed in like sardines, unable to appreciate the beauty of what they’re seeing.
When I visited Rome in January, this was not an issue.
Ethan and I walked right into the Colosseum (we had paid for skip the line tickets, but it really wasn’t necessary), and were able to amble round and take in everything without hundreds of people ruining the experience.
For the inside exhibit, we were able to take our time and read all of the information available, without pressure to move along or get out of people’s way.
It was amazing.
The same went for the Roman Forum, and even Trevi Fountain was nowhere near as crowded as it would be at any other time of year (and we visited in the middle of a Sunday afternoon, when all the Italians were out for their passeggiata!).
If you’re interested, these are the tickets we got for the Colosseum. They included skip the line, as well as entry to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.
Wander the streets at leisure
Another great thing about visiting Rome when the crowds are thinner is the fact that you can enjoy a simple stroll around the cobbled streets without being jabbed by selfie sticks or having to jump out of the way when people suddenly halt to a stop in front of you to look at their maps.
Even the area around the Pantheon was almost deserted, allowing us to fully appreciate the beauty of the architecture around us, and when we ventured across the river to the Trastevere neighbourhood, we were the only tourists around!
Roman food is comfort food, and winter is the perfect excuse to duck inside a cosy trattoria and gorge on all of the soul-warming food you can get your hands on.
Indulge on fried artichokes, bean soups, oxtail stewed in rich tomato sauce, piping hot fried codfish, cheesy spaghetti (cacio e pepe)…I could go on.
For a hearty snack on the go, buy a bag of roasted chestnuts from one of the many street vendors, or try suppli, deep-fried breaded rice balls stuffed with tomato pork ragù and mozzarella (the Roman equivalent to Sicilian arancine).
Of course, these are all best when washed down with copious amounts of red wine (was there ever a better winter drink?), and a gulp of piping hot espresso.
Okay, so this one is a benefit of visiting Rome in January specifically, but the first month of the year is when you can find massive reductions in stores across the city.
Unlike the UK, where most of the January sales only last for a few days, sales in Italy last for the entire month, with prices continuing to drop as the days go on!
Anybody who has ever been to Italy knows that the shopping there is unparalleled, so whether you want to snag a discounted designer handbag or some authentic Roman handmade jewellery from one of the many artisan stores dotted around, be sure to leave some room in your luggage, because you’ll need it!
I’ll discuss the weather in Rome in the winter in more detail later on, but although temperatures certainly drop at this time of year, rainy days are minimal, and you’re far more likely to see sunny but chilly days.
Why is this a plus, you ask?
Well, if you’ve ever been sightseeing in 35 degree heat in a large city before, you’ll understand!
Top things to do in Rome in winter
Enjoy Rome’s best attractions without the crowds
At pretty much any other time of year, you’ll feel like a battery chicken trying to navigate the major attractions of Rome, but during the winter months, you can enjoy them at your leisure.
The Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon are just some of the best things to see in Rome in winter.
Here is my itinerary for 3 days in Rome if you need a few ideas!
Explore the Centro Storico
The Centro Storico, or Historical Centre of Rome is every bit as stunning as you would imagine it to be, and being able to stroll down the narrow cobbled streets, watch the world go by, and stop for an espresso or 2 without the tourist crowds is one of the most simple yet best things to do in Rome in the winter.
Piazza Adriana is the place to go for some ice-skating in Rome, and it’s even more magical at night time.
Enjoy your skating while admiring the beautiful backdrop of Castel Sant’Angelo, before going to the market for some Italian sweets and mulled wine.
The ice-skating rinks in Rome are generally open from December – February.
Admire the Altar of the Fatherland
The Altar of the Fatherland, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, or simply Il Vittoriano, is one of the most majestic buildings I think I’ve ever seen, and practically nobody talks about it!
This colossal white marble structure features an ever-burning flame, statues of the Goddess Roma and Vittorio Emanuele on horseback (the biggest statue in Rome!), and 14 female figures that represent different Italian cities.
You can climb the stairs and admire the statues for free, but you must pay 12 EUR to take the elevator right to the top.
Drink all the hot chocolate
What better excuse to guzzle down mugs of steaming hot chocolate than visiting Rome in the winter?!
Head to SAID, Rome’s iconic chocolate factory, bar, and restaurant, where you can enjoy alcoholic hot chocolates and all the chocolate cakes you can imagine.
Visit Rome’s churches
If you haven’t spent a significant amount of time admiring the frescoes and architecture of Italy’s churches, have you even been to Italy?
Like everywhere else in the country, Rome is full of gorgeous churches (most of which are free to enter) that anyone interested in history, religion, or architecture, will love (plus, they make a great shelter from the rain!).
Visit Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel
The headquarters of the Catholic Church are a separate country within the city of Rome, and The Vatican is the most visited site in Italy.
However, if you visit Rome in January or February, you will find it to be far quieter than other times of year.
Enter St. Peter’s Basilica, and book a guided tour of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel to learn about these iconic sites.
Not only will crowds and queues be at a minimum, but you’ll be inside for the majority of the time, making The Vatican one of the best things to do in Rome when it rains.
Piazza Navona is one of the most famous piazzas in Rome, and just like everything else I’ve mentioned in this article, it will be free of crowds in the winter months.
If you visit Rome for Christmas, you can enjoy the Christmas Markets here, or if you’re visiting later in the season, simply meander round and admire the statues, buildings and Baroque fountains to your heart’s content.
Take a Roman cooking class
What better way to escape the cold than by taking a cooking class in Rome?
From baking authentic Italian pizza to preparing pasta dishes in a local’s home, there’s a Roman cooking class for everyone, and not only do you get to eat everything you make, but you can bring home some valuable skills as well!
Here are the best-rated Rome cooking classes on GetYourGuide:
– Pasta and Tiramisu Workshop with Dinner
– Pasta Cooking Class in the Kitchen of Mamma
– 4-hour Combo Pizza and Pasta Cooking Class
Visit Rome’s best museums
I’m aware that sheltering from the cold is a real theme in this post, but hey, what did you expect from an article about Rome in the winter?!
Rome is home to countless museums, palazzos, and galleries, and bad weather just gives you an excuse to visit them all!
Among the best museums in Rome to visit are Museo e Galleria Borghese, Castel Sant’Angelo, Palazzo Massimo, and Centrale Montemartini.
Eat al fresco
Although temperatures may be cooler, you can still dine outdoors in Rome in winter.
Most restaurants have heat lamps and blankets to keep you warm, meaning you can still enjoy a long lunch in a piazza without freezing to death.
Have an evening in Monti
Monti is a trendy neighbourhood in Rome where you can find elegant wine bars, jazz clubs, and mixology-bars-cum-art-galleries.
Monti is a great place for a romantic evening in Rome, and the complete absence of tourists in low-season gives it a truly authentic feel.
Places that we enjoyed in Monti include Charity Café Jazz & Blues Club and Ai Tre Scalini wine bar.
There are also several great Irish pubs in this area where you can get a decent pint of Guinness and watch the football – we visited The Druid’s Den and The Fiddler’s Elbow (although the Guinness was better in the latter).
Just across the Tiber River is Trastevere, a hipster Roman neighbourhood full of artisan shops, intimate restaurants, and elegant enotecas (as well as a fair few dive bars, if you prefer).
While Trastevere is no longer one of Rome’s hidden gems, you’ll only have to share it with locals in the wintertime, so make sure to head there for an afternoon or evening during your trip.
For an extra special experience, you might want to try this Trastevere Sunset Food Tour.
Visit the Catacombs
One thing I regret about my trip to Rome in January was not having time to visit the Catacombs.
Again, less crowds make for a more atmospheric visit to these macabre sites.
You can visit alone, or book a guided tour like this one, that includes both the Catacombs and Capuchin Crypts.
This Crypts and Catacombs Tour with Bone Chapel and Transfer is the highest-rated Rome catacombs tour on GetYourGuide.
What to pack for Rome in winter
If you’re wondering what to wear in Rome in the winter, you should definitely make sure to prepare for the weather.
Layering is key here, because although you’ll be chilly outside, the bars and restaurants are super warm, so you’ll get a sweat on the second you arrive if you can’t shed a few layers!
The weather can also change suddenly from crisp sunshine to wind and rain, meaning that the clothes you left your hotel in that morning may not be the best choice for the entire day!
With that being said, I would also advise you to pack nice clothes for Rome, especially for the evening.
Italians are very fashion-conscious, and would never wear jogging bottoms out of the house, leggings as pants, activewear when not working out, and those hideous t-shirts with pictures of the Colosseum on.
If you want to fit in, dress how you’d dress if you were dining out at a nice restaurant at home.
Here are my recommendations for what to pack for Rome in winter:
– A hoodie that you can easily take on and off when needed
– Waterproof coat with a hood
– Fleece-lined leggings for underneath winter dresses
– Travel umbrella
– E-tip gloves
– Thick socks
– Tights (if you plan on wearing dresses)
– A knit hat or beanie
– Comfortable walking shoes (I cannot stress this enough) and maybe even gel foot cushions or soft insoles
– Plasters (for blisters!)
– Travel adaptor
– Reusable water bottle (tap water in Italy is safe to drink, and there are public drinking fountains everywhere)
– Travel scarf or pashmina (Italians have a firm belief in keeping your neck warm so will often wear scarves all year round!)
Weather in Rome in winter
The weather in Rome in winter is cold, but not freezing, and many days will be sunny and mild.
January and February are the coldest months in Rome, and while you might get a few rainy days, snow is very unusual and temperatures usually stay above zero (during the day at least).
It’s worth checking the weather before your trip so that you can plan to be indoors if rain is due, and save your outdoor plans for the drier days.
You should also remember that the days are short, and by mid to late afternoon, the sun will have set, so you should try and book your archaeological tours for the mornings.
From December to March, temperatures range from 3 – 17 degrees (37 – 62F).
Where to stay in Rome in winter
The 3 best areas in Rome to stay in are Centro Storico, Monti, and Trastevere.
This is the medieval part of Rome that is home to most of Rome’s major landmarks. Expect upscale hotels, Renaissance architecture, and more tourists.
Monti is a cool neighbourhood with lots of cocktail and wine bars, a vibrant atmosphere, and a great location close to the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill.
Trastevere is a little further away and across the river, but is where you’ll find a labyrinth of cobbled streets, bohemian coffee shops and bars, and a more authentic feel (in winter at least).
Hotel Forum Roma
For our Jet2CityBreaks hotel, we got to choose from a range of options, but eventually settled on Hotel Forum Roma, a grand 4-star hotel situated between the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia.
This 18th century building has an opulent feel (think wainscot panelling, parquet floors, Persian rugs and gold silk sheets), with a rooftop bar and restaurant offering stunning views, and former guests include the Dalai Lama and Gregory Peck.
It’s also within walking distance of Roma Termini station, making it very convenient to reach from the airport.
How to get around Rome in the winter
I walked everywhere in Rome, and aside from The Vatican, things are not too far apart from each other.
The longest walk was from our hotel to Trastevere, which was 25 minutes.
The problem is that those 10, 15, and 25 minute stretches add up, and by the end of my first day in Rome, my feet were killing!
If you don’t want to walk everywhere, the metro system in Rome is fantastic, and there are buses too.
If you want to take a taxi, you can use the FREE NOW taxi app for the best price (the few taxis that we took were not super expensive).
Is Rome safe?
Many visitors to Rome worry whether Rome is safe, and I get it.
Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations in all of Europe, and wherever you have tourists, you also have pickpockets (to be fair, wherever you have people, you have pickpockets, but you get what I’m saying).
While Rome certainly has its fair share of pickpockets and scammers in high season when the crowds are at their highest, the risk is certainly lower in winter.
Think about it – you’re much more likely to notice somebody trying to pickpocket you in an empty piazza than in one full of people, right?
There is a high police presence in Rome, and you are never far away from a police/security/military person who can come to your aid if needed.
Like any city, Rome has some areas that should be avoided, but they are residential neighbourhoods and not somewhere you’d visit as a tourist anyway (you’d have to seriously be lost to end up in one!).
As always, areas around the train stations can be a bit sketchy, so keep a tighter hold on your phone and purse here.
Final thoughts | Should you visit Rome in winter?
If the 3000+ words in this article haven’t made it clear enough, winter is a great time to visit Rome, and as long as you can put up with a bit of cold weather, you’ll have a really good trip.
With the lowest prices of the year, the chance to see all the major attractions undisturbed, and an abundance of things to see and do, Rome in winter is a fantastic holiday choice.
If you’re interested in visiting Italy with Jet2CityBreaks (seriously cheaper than doing it on your own), just click here to find out more.
That’s about it for now, but as always, if you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to ask in the comments section below.
Until next time, ciao ragazzi!