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The Christmas Market In Piazza Navona, Rome, Italy

The Christmas Market in Piazza Navona in Rome will not be listed as one of the best in Europe, however, it is worth a visit for the food, gifts and ambiance.

christmas market in piazza navona -  Carousel

Carousel In Piazza Navona Befana Market

Is The Christmas Market In Piazza Navona The Only One?

There are Christmas markets and fantastic shopping all over Italy, and in Rome in particular. If you are looking for those dreamy seasonal outdoor markets that will sell you delicious food, mulled wine and trinkets for your family and friends, my experience is that Rome might not offer what you are expecting.

Growing up in the US, I had very limited experience with Christmas markets. I believe this is more of a European experience, and something I have only seen on travel shows like the great Rick Steves, or vloggers that visit these markets when the season is right.

Rome At Christmas Time

Rome has a lot to offer during Christmas time and having Vatican City within its borders, you can’t get much more festive than that. The preparations start in November and officially kick-off on December 8th, which is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception national holiday. In Rome, the official Christmas tree lighting takes place in Piazza Venezia, various street lightings are lit and Christmas time in Rome begins.

Christmas Market In Piazza Navona - Santa

Santa In Rome?

The official end of the Christmas season is on January 6th, which is the celebration of the Epiphany, and it is the last of the well-known 12 days of Christmas. It is the day the Christmas markets close down, you can put away your presepe, and if you bought a real tree, you can dispose of this without feeling like you are rushing the remaining dead needles out of your house.

Rome Christmas Markets

There are celebrations all over the city, and events that will cater to the Christmas shopper, but for my tastes, there are two seasonal events that I have enjoyed, even if they are a pale comparison to the markets in Northern Europe and England. We had an evening available to experience the Befana Market in Piazza Navona and a weekend day for Giftland, which is near Piazza Ragusa in a less touristy part of Rome.

christmas market in piazza navona - ornaments

Christmas Puppets

The Christmas Market In Piazza Navona

This traditional market returned in 2022 after being sidelined in Rome because of the COVID pandemic. There is a merry-go-round (or carousel), stalls selling food from Lazio, holiday themed gifts and all within the beautiful piazza as its setting. There wasn’t a show going on when we visited the Christmas market, but I heard about a puppet show that is put on for the children. Maybe next year.

The market unofficially opened on December 1, with the official start on December 8 with a visit from the mayor of Rome. There don’t seem to be hours of operation available, but you can just plan to not get there too early (i.e. not before 10:00) and don’t show up after 9:00 PM.

Christmas Market In Piazza Navona - Chestnuts

Chestnut Vendor

A Very Brief History Of The Befana Christmas Market

There has been a bit of a controversy, which isn’t unusual for Rome. The slightly Orwellian named: Department of Productive Activities worked out a plan in 2017, lasting until 2026, to license all 64 stations to the same vendors every year. In order to generate participation by underserved communities, when the vendors were selected, a higher score was assigned to female entrepreneurs, young people under 35 and those who offer traditional products of the Christmas Festival and of the Lazio Region.

christmas market in piazza navona - Snacks

Feel The Xmas Spirit!

Does It Feel Like Christmas Time?

This Rome Christmas Market left me feeling something less than festive. With a couple of exceptions, the vendors seemed more aligned with a generic carnival, than with anything particularly Christmas-y and the gifts were just kinda Meh. I will probably only visit this market in the future to see how it changes over the years, but with the vendors being locked in until 2026, I don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to visit next year.

The Giftland Market At Piazza Ragusa In Rome

Giftland was a surprise for me and it took me a little bit of time to wrap my head around what I was experiencing. This is a covered market that is held in what was previously a municipal bus depot that currently also is home to a traditional farmers market.

This market is held Friday through Sunday on the three weekends in December leading up to Christmas. It is called a Vintage market, but Giftland is so much more. There are of course vintage clothing and vintage vinyl sellers, but also quite a few artisans selling their beautiful crafts that are perfect Christmas gifts. The crafts are a great addition because I was a little stumped by the idea of buying vintage clothing for someone else, but maybe that is just my hang-up.

Rome Christmas Market - Giftland

Vintage and Artisan

Keeping You In The Christmas Spirit

In addition to the fantastic gifts available, and a not very Italian Santa Claus wandering around the market, you can relax with some coffee (of course), mulled wine (Vin Brulé), a slice of panettone or even, much to my surprise, nachos and guacamole. I didn’t notice the nachos until it was too late, but I won’t make the same mistake next time.

Christmas Market In Piazza Navona - Giftland Mulled Wine

Coffee and Mulled Wine

Visiting Hours For The Giftland Market

As mentioned, it is only open on the Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in December before Christmas. On Fridays, it is open after work, from 5:00 pm until 9:00 pm. On the weekends, the market is open from 10:00 am until 8:00 pm.

More Christmas Season Shopping Options

You can probably tell from the tone of this post that the dreamy and magical European Christmas markets that people expect really aren’t a thing at the Christmas Market in Piazza Navona in Rome. If, however, you are still looking for a place to do some shopping, certainly check out Giftland, or check out these posts:

Christmas Market In Piazza Navona - Xmas Decorations

‘Tis The Season

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