Is the Vatican City open during Christmas time?

Whilst some parts of the city will be closed come, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day, the whole of the Vatican City is open with exciting events throughout the festive period 

Being an important time in the Christian calendar, the Christmas period is a great time to visit the Holy City of the Vatican. Commemorating the birth of Christ, the Vatican City goes above and beyond to celebrate this special time of year. Whether you’re Christian or not, however, Christmas time in Vatican City is a magical time, with twinkling fairy lights covering the buildings and festive music filling the streets. Many may think Christmas is a lonely time to travel, with flocks of tourists flying back home and Italian city dwellers driving out to their family’s country towns. But fear not, as visiting Vatican City within the holiday time is an unforgettable experience. Christmas Eve at the Vatican draws enormous crowds to see midnight Mass and the huge Christmas tree in the piazza, with all sorts of religious events occurring throughout December as well.

What’s Open during Christmas in the Vatican City?

  • Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel

    The Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel are closed on the 25th and 26th of December. As well as closing every Sunday throughout December and January, excluding the last Sunday of each month, when they are open and free. Tickets for the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel costs 17 euros, this is just for admission, any other inclusions such as a guided tour or audio guide will cost more. Make sure you arrive on time so you do not miss out on this exceptional visit!

  • St Peter’s Square and St Peter’s Basilica

    These are open throughout the holidays but are restricted during Christmas day and eve. The Christmas mass restricts anyone strolling in, as it requires tickets at the door (find out more below). However, the square is open to all but can be a tight squeeze as it fills up with both locals and tourists. If you’re going to be in the Vatican from early December check to see if you can catch the turning on of the Christmas Lights. Last year this was done on December 5th, illuminating the large Christmas tree that stood outside St. Peter’s Basilica.

Unique Activities in the Holiday Season in the Vatican City

  • Christmas Tree

    The Vatican Christmas Tree, also known as the Saint Peter’s Square Christmas Tree, is a must-do stop on your holiday travels. Located in St. Peter’s Square, the towering tree stands directly in front of the St. Peter’s Basilica. This traditional Christmas tree started in 1982, when Polish-born Pope, John Paul II introduced the northern European sign of the Christmas tree for its symbolic nature – Christ is the ‘evergreen’ who never dies. Since that year, it is seen as an honour to offer a tree to the Pope, with different European areas donated one every changing year. Make sure to check out the Nativity Scene that is displayed near the bottom of the tree!

  • Midnight Mass

    Even if you aren’t a religious person, visiting Vatican City during Christmas will be a magical time. One of the most unique activities is to see the pope in real life during the Christmas mass. The Pope is the head of the Roman Catholic church and calls Vatican City his home, making the city a faithfully devoted area, offering grand religious celebrations and Christmas cheer. The holiday season in Rome truly starts with the Midnight Mass run by Pope at the Basilica of St Peter. Despite its name, the mass is actually held earlier in the evening at around 10pm with the procession starting at 9:30 pm. You must pre-book a ticket to get a seat inside, otherwise, you can watch the mass on the giant screens set up at St Peter’s Square.

  • Urbi et Orbi on Christmas Day

    If you didn’t get a chance to see the Pope on Christmas Eve, then fear not, you get another chance come Christmas Day, and the best thing? It’s free! Urbi et Orbi, meaning “to the city [of Rome] and to the world”, is a papal address and blessing given by the pope on solemn occasions such as Christmas and Easter. Taking place in St. Peter’s square at midday, the papal address is an event open to all, with no tickets required. Of course, this means that the square can get very busy and fill up in no time. The address is broadcast worldwide and includes greetings done by the Pope in several languages.

Once you’re done exploring the Vatican, venture outside its walls to the Eternal City of Rome! Equally festive in its decorations, events and activities, a wander around Rome will surely get you in the festive spirit. Buy some homemade mulled wine or hot chocolate from one of the Christmas Markets and then take it with you as you explore the many Christmas lights up around the city. Once you’ve finished sipping your hot beverage, take to the ice and skate round on one of Rome’s skate parks, a great activity that will make you forget all about the cold. Then finally, finish off your evening with a Christmas concert and a cosy night in all before Saint Nicholas arrives.

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