If you are planning a trip to Rome in the cold season you may wonder what are the best things to do in the city when the weather is more suitable for hot chocolate than gelato. Luckily, there are many things to do in Rome in winter and a visit at this time can be surprisingly pleasant.
During the coldest time of the year, the city sheds its summer charms made of al fresco dining and cherry blossoms and wears more somber colours, enveloping visitors and locals in a moody and contemplative atmospheres.
While, for many, this may sound like a good reason to postpone a trip to brighter days, I feel this is exactly why your should make the most of lower airfares and go.
In this article, I share my top reasons to visit Rome in winter.
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How cold is Rome in winter? What to expect
By many standards Rome winters are mild. Temperatures start to drop at the beginning of October and tend to reach their lowest point during the months of January and February, before picking up again.
At a glance, these are the types of temperature you can expect in Rome in winter months:
- November: Max 17 Min 8
- December: Max 13 Min 4
- January: Max 12 Min 3
- February: Max 12 Min 2
While not freezing by any stretch of the imagination, the actual feel of winter in Rome is different from what the thermometer suggests and many get caught unprepared by how chilly it actually gets.
Very green, very humid, and often washed out by torrential rains, Rome can feel very cold and in winter and planning some time indoors is wise.
This is my selection of the best things to do in Rome in winter to enjoy the city and protect yourself form the weather.
Top indoor things to do in Rome in winter
Rome’s beauty can mostly be found in its city centre streets: these are some indoors stops you can plan to break up sightseeing during the coldest months.
Go to Trajan’s forum
Trajan’s forum is part of the large complex of the Roman fora, the part of ancient Rome still visible in the centre of the modern city.
Tourists tend to visit the stretch of the forum beside the Colosseum but in winter this open air archaeological area can be hard to take.
My advice is to go instead to the forum of Emperor Trajan, just in front. This forum has its own entrance and ticketing system, is beautiful and has very good information panels, which are sadly lacking in the other sections.
Impressive and informative, the Trajan’s forum has both an indoor and outdoor area and also offers sweeping views over Rome city centre and archaeological area.
Go to a museum…or church
Rome has stunning museums worth visiting in all seasons but in winter their truly come to life. You can choose between big museums and small galleries, make the most of free days (the first Sunday of the month usually sees national museums open their doors for free) or you can pick one of the many exhibition making their way to Rome.
They are usually widely advertised around the city so all you need to do is to keep your eyes peeled for the many posters and pick the one that picks your fancy.
If you need to find shelter from the rain fast, just head inside one of Rome’s many churches. Most of them are truly spectacular and are the home of important works of art.
Have coffee in the cafe at the Chiostro del Bramante
The strong flavours of espresso can be a real pick me up on a cold winter day and gets even better if tasted in beautiful and architecturally significant surroundings.
A great place to enjoy great coffee is the Chiostro del Bramante, in the city centre.
The small cloister is an architectural gem, worth seeing for its artistic value, and now hosts a cafeteria / young artist exhibition room, a perfect location for a brief or even not-so-brief stop.
Have a glass of red wine in an enoteca
If you prefer the warming properties of Bacchus, Rome is full of fabulous wine bars with cozy interiors and delicious wine and food offerings.
In Rome, wine bars are called ‘enoteche’ and usually offer a large selection of wines (by the glass and bottle) and limited but fresh and homemade food.
Enoteche are best enjoyed in the evening and can be found almost anywhere in the city centre.
Some of my favourite are 313 on Via Cavour and Cul de Sac near Piazza Navona, both very well located close to main Rome landmarks and with good quality food and service.
Go inside the Pantheon to check if it rains inside
Sightseeing is usually less fun in the rain but in Rome there is one exception: visiting the Pantheon acquires a whole new dimension when it pours!
This ancient temple now turned Christian church is famous for having a whole in its roof and checking if it rains inside is a fun activity to turn the nuisance of the rain into a little extra perk!
The Pantheon is a good place to visit at any time and is also one of the best free sites in Rome.
Shop in Galleria Alberto Sordi
The winter is a great time to shop in Rome: sale seasons usually starts as soon as the Christmas celebrations come to an end, around the 6th of January (exact dates changes every year), and you can see it advertised in shop windows all over the city.
A great place to check out shops and defrost if needed is the beautiful Galleria Alberto Sordi, right in the centre of town.
The only one of this type in Rome, it has shops and cafes and it is pleasant for a going window shopping or even just to take a stroll.
Take a bus tour
I don’t always recommend bus tours in Rome due to the city’s crazy traffic, but in winter they can be a very good option to cover a lot of ground in comfort.
There are several companies offering tours of several types: some are generic hop on hop off tours connecting the main Rome landmarks and others are thematic tours such as the one around Christian Rome.
You can find a selection of some reliable ones here:
Hop on- Hop off tour by Greyline: check prices and secure your ticket here
Hop on- Hop off tour by Big Bus tour: Check prices and ticket options here
Classical Rome tour from Civitavecchia port: check times and itinerary here
Take a cooking class
One of the most enjoyable indoor activities we experienced in Rome was a cooking class.
There are several available in Rome (we learned how to make pizza! ) and it is a lovely way to see parts of town you may otherwise miss, chat with a local, learn a new skill and of course fill your stomach with a delicious meal.
Some to consider are:
Pizza making course with dinner: check details and price here
Cooking class and gourmet lunch: find all info here
Cooking class in mamma’s kitchen: info and bookings here
Explore Rome’s bookshops
Rome has some fabulous bookshops ranging from small independent ones to large chains.
Most bookshops stock books in Italian but a surprising number of them has also English titles: for large selections your best bet is the Feltrinelli chain (the have a large English language bookshop near Piazza della Repubblica) but smaller ones often have at least some shelves with English titles.
Go to Eataly
If you want to mix shelter, a foodie experience and possibly even stock up on food to bring home, look no further than Eataly. Organised over 4 floors, Eataly has food shops, restaurants, bars and street food corners and is a paradise for foodies and anyone who wants to learn of even juts enjoy Italian food. Close to metro Ostiense, it is easy to reach and a great refuge for rainy days.
before you go, you may also want to check out:
Best areas to stay in Rome (family friendly but suitable for all travellers)
I hope you enjoyed this quick overview of some of the best things you can do in Rome in winter. Safe travels!