Rome in January: all you need to know | Trip planning guide

by marta

All you need to know for a trip to Rome in January. What to expect from the weather, what to pack and what to do in Rome in the winter.

The first month of the year is a particular time to visit Rome.

January is the heart of the winter in Rome.

The days are short, the temperatures low and, once the festivities are over, the city slowly settles into its most local, everyday life pace.

Trevi Fountain Rome cold day

If you are visiting Rome in January, you can expect cold weather and the occasional rainy day.

However, don’t get discouraged: Rome has some special treat up its sleeve for its winter visitors!

January is one of the few months of the year when Rome knows a low season.

After the Epiphany (see below), crowds are thin and this is the best time to see some of Rome’s most popular attractions without having to stand in line for hours or feel like sardines in a can.

If you love shopping also, January is a delight in Rome as this is the moment of the sales.

But don’t let me get ahead of myself. All you can expect in Rome in January is in this guide!

Need to know: when planning your trip, make sure you check official sources stating the rules to enter the country that may affect your trip.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links and, should you make a purchase through them, we might make a small commission.

The weather in Rome in January: what to expect

January in Rome is the heart of the winter and the coldest winter month in the city.

During this month, temperatures are low, daylight hours short and any outdoor pursuit, including sightseeing, will require getting wrapped up with a good winter coat, scarf and gloves

The average temperature in Rome in January is 8C/46F ranging between 13C/55F and 3C/37F degrees.

Usually, you have about seven days of rain in Rome in January, although recent weather patterns make this a lot harder to predict.

If these numbers suggest a mild winter, I urge you not to underestimate the feel of Rome January.

Rome is surprisingly humid and while you cannot compare it with the rigid temperatures of let’s say New York or Northern Europe, the cold does creep into your bones.

Being ready for chilly temperatures in January in Rome is paramount.

Rome doesn’t usually see snow but if it does, January is when snow makes its appearance in Rome!

It is a rare event and usually more a dusting than anything else: you do not need snow attire in Rome in January. Rather, good waterproof shoes for the inevitable slushy puddles!

You can read here >>> all about snow in Rome.

What to expect in Rome in January photo collage

What to wear in Rome in January

Winter attire is a must in Rome in January.

Heating makes indoor spaces cozy but never hot or even warm enough to take off sweaters so make sure you dress accordingly.

You can read here >>> my complete packing list for Rome in January.

At a glance, if you are traveling to Rome in January, it is essential to pack:

  • Good walking shoes, waterproof (ankle boots, knee high boot, not lined) – you can find here >>> my list of recommended shoe styles for Rome
  • Socks and tights
  • Long trousers/ pants (denim or wool both work well)
  • Long sleeve tops and short sleeve ones for layering
  • Warm sweaters (woolen)
  • Winter coat (ideally waterproof), scarf, hat, gloves.

Dates of notice in Rome in January

Most of January is low season in Rome with one important exception: the first week of the month.

During this week, two main events happen that attract large crowds of visitors and will impact on your sightseeing.

1st of January: the first day of the year is National Holiday in Rome.

This impacts the opening of several museums and attractions including the Colosseum, Vatican Museums and Borghese Gallery

6th of January: the 6th of January is the epiphany and it is a holiday in Rome.

On this day the city celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings and Italian children also welcome a magical visitor, la befana!

On the 6th of January most museums are open however the crowds tend to be intense.

January 6th is the last day of the Italian Christmas holiday and the end of the high winter season in Rome.

You can read here >>> all about the befana and the day of the epiphany in Rome

Where to stay in Rome in January

For your January stay in Rome, I recommend you pick a hotel in the city center.

This location will place you close to Rome’s main attractions and will limit the number of time you need to catch a bus, often full and pleasant on cold, wet winter days.

Good hotels I recommend are:

DoubleTree Monti Hotel by Hilton – 4 star hotel with modern rooms in a beautiful location close to Santa Maria Maggiore, the Monti District and the Colosseum

Otivm Hotel – 4 start boutique style hotel in a stellar location close to the Capitoline Hill

Kolbe Hotel – 4 star hotel close to the Colosseum and the Forum also equipped with family rooms.

The best things to do in Rome in January

The best things to see in Rome in January are a mix of sightseeing, shopping and food experiences.

Good to know: while less busy than other months, January sees tourism in Rome; make sure you book the most popular attractions and your accommodation well in advance to secure a good spot.

Go to a Christmas market

The first week of January is the holiday season in Rome and you can still partake in the city’s holiday spirit.

Christmas market in Rome Piazza Navona

The week between the 1st and the 6th of January usually sees the tail end of Rome Christmas markets and it is also a great week to catch the last of the Nativity scenes in front of the Vatican and in many Rome churches.

Roman families traditionally go to the Christmas market in Piazza Navona at least once during the festive season: while the market has diminished in size over the years, it is still the most beautiful in terms of location and backdrop and a great place to have a wander, if in Rome city center in early January.

If you are visiting Rome at the start of January, I recommend you read this guide in conjunction with my tips for visiting Rome at Christmas here, so you can make the most of the holiday season in Rome.

Visit the Colosseum

The Colosseum is fantastic to visit in January.

At this time, you will be almost alone in the arena and while the rain might indeed make your visit wet, the lack of crowds will compensate the discomfort.

I have talked at length about the different tickets to visit the Colosseum here.

For quick reference, my recommended tickets are in the table below:

Ticket Info and Purchase link DescriptionBest ForDrawbacks
24h – Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine HillStandard Entry Ticket by Parco Colosseo (Colosseum ticket office). BudgetNo arena access, Poor cancellation policy, currently only available for purchase 30 days before your visit
Full Experience Ticket with arena and underground of the Colosseum plus Roman Forum, Palatine HillTicket by Parco Colosseo (Colosseum ticket office) including access to the arena floorBudget accessPoor cancellation policy, only available for purchase 1 month before your visit, no live guide
Colosseum Underground educational tour in English + Roman Forum and Palatine Hill TOP PICK Ticket by Parco Colosseo/Coopculture for access to underground Colosseum areaBudget tour of the underground Poor cancellation policy, only available for purchase 1 month before your visit, VERY hard to get as quickly sold out
Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill Priority Entry Ticket TOP PICK Sold by GetYourGuide, this includes priority tickets to the main Colosseum area and access to the Roman Forum/ Palatine Hill Standard access with good cancellation optionAccess is to selected areas only (the arena is included). Only bookable 1 month before your visit. No live guide
Express Colosseum Tour by LivToursTOP TOUR! Express but comprehensive small group or private tour. can be adapted to kids.Includes access to the arena and live guideHigh price point for high quality tour experience
Rome Colosseum for kids TourTOP TOUR FOR KIDS! Guided tour by MariaclaudiaToursSpecialized experience with live guide – budget friendlyDoesn’t include an underground area
Colosseum and Ancient Rome family tour for kidsGuided tour by Kids Raphael Tours and events, included Colosseum main arena area Specialized experience tailored to kids’ needsPrice point, doesn’t include underground area
Colosseum and Roman Forum Tour for kidsComplete Guided Tour by LivTours including option to access the arenaSpecialized experience tailored to kids’ needsPrice point, doesn’t include underground area

Good to know! While I absolutely adore the Roman Forum, I do not recommend visiting the Roman Forum in January, unless you get a sunny morning (or you love history, in which case a visit is a must, no matter what!).

The Forum and even more the Palatine Hill get chilly and wet: I believe in January you are better off seeing the Forum from above, for instance from Piazza del Campidoglio (see below).

Catch a view of Ancient Rome from the Capitoline Hill

The Capitoline Hill (Campidoglio) is one of Rome’s historical seven hill and an unmissable Rome site.

view over the Roman Forum

At its top, you find Piazza del Campidoglio, one of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome.

Designed by Michelangelo, the piazza is dominated by the equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius, one of the most impressive sculptures in Rome and the entrance to the Capitoline Museums, among the most beautiful art museums in the city.

The Capitoline Hill overlooks the photo and it is also a superb location to catch a view over Ancient Rome.

In January, when the Forum becomes unpleasantly cold, catching a view from here is one of the best way to experience the charm of Ancient Rome.

You can read all about the Capitoline Hill, what to see and hw to get there here >>> my guide to the Capitoline Hill of Rome.

Visit the Vatican Museums and Vatican City

Thinner crowds make January a great time to visit the otherwise packed Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel.

If you can, avoid the first week of the month: this is when we visited last and you could hardly breathe it was so full!

If you have no alternatives, consider investing in an early entrance tour: with those, you get to see the Sistine chapel almost on your own!

This is an excellent time to visit Piazza San Pietro and the free areas of the Vatican too including stunning St Peter’s Basilica (Includes Michelangelo’s Pieta’) too, both accessible also without a trip to the museum.

You can find my full guide to visiting the Vatican here.

Visit the Borghese Gallery

The Borghese Gallery is one of the most beautiful art museums in Rome and a must see for art lovers.

Located inside the beautiful Borghese Gardens, a large patrician park in Rome City centre, the Borghese gallery has masterpieces by masters such as Bernini, Canova and Raffaello, just to name a few, and is a feast for the eyes.

Borghese Gallery front entrance

The gallery is indoors and perfect for a rainy afternoon in Rome.

I highly recommend you plan a visit here and then cross the gardens to treat yourself to a hot drink with a view in Casina Valadier, a panoramic restaurant and cafe’ overlooking the Pincio Terrace offering some of the best views over Rome.

Advance purchase of Gallery Tickets is mandatory: you can book your ticket here.

Visit Nero’s Domus Aurea

The Domus Aurea is Emperor Neros’ palace and one of the most interesting archaeological sites in Rome.

The imperial palace dates from the I century AD and historians describe it as the biggest and most lavish building ever seen.

Indeed, the Domus is stunning however, do not imagine a castle or an elegant maison: immediately after Nero’s death, his palace was destroyed and it is now an archaeological dig, entirely underground!

The Domus, despite its fate, is still wonderful to visit. Here, you find yourself walking along Nero’s huge corridors, entering what used to be entertaining rooms and terraces and you can admire the incredible art still preserved on its walls.

This is a fantastic attraction to visit on a cold afternoon. You can find my full review of my visit and tips for planning your own here >>>> a practical guide to visiting Nero’s Domus Aurea.

Visit Palazzo Barberini and the Barberini Mithraeum

Art lovers should not miss visiting the wonderful Palazzo Barberini, an elegant palazzo now housing the National Gallery of Ancient Art.

Designed by masters such as Maderno, Bernini and Borromini, Barberini Palace is one of the most stunning examples of baroque residential architecture in Rome and one of the city’s best museums.

You can read here >>> all about Palazzo Barberini and it treasures

If you are interested in Rome underground attractions and want to see something a little special, then you should plan a visit to the Barberini Mithraeum, below the palace by the same name.

The Mithraeum is an ancient underground chamber devoted to the worshipping of the God Mithras, a solar God of Iranian origin, popular in Rome in imperial times.

The Mithraeum is only open on selected dates and by guided tour in Italian. As such, I recommend it for people with a specific interest in ancient history and religions or to those who want to see a truly unusual Rome attraction!

You can read here >>> our introduction and guide to the Barberini Mithraeum.

Explore Rome’ beautiful piazzas

All Rome main piazzas can be visited at this time.

In January, rain and cold weather may be against you however, chances are you will have at least some clear days to take in Rome’s most beautiful squares.

Some I recommend you seek out are:

  • Piazza Navona, maybe the most beautiful piazza in Rome, decorated with incredible work by Bernini and Borromini
  • Piazza del Pantheon, one of the most scenic in the city
  • Campo de’ fiori, fantastic medieval looking square
  • Piazza di Spagna and Spanish Steps
  • Piazza di Trevi, home to the stunning Trevi Fountain, the most famous fountain in Rome and an unmissable Rome site

You can find here >>> my list of the most beautiful piazzas in Rome

Enter the Pantheon to check if it rains inside

The Pantheon is one of the most famous attractions in Rome in any season.

However, if you are in Rome in January, you can also discover with your own eyes, the answer to one of the most common questions about this peculiar building: does it rain inside the Pantheon?

Inside Rome Pantheon
general view of entrance to Pantheon at Roma – Italy

If you are in Rome on a wet day, you can go and check out for yourself.

If not, you should anyway visit this temple to Rome’s Gods and Goddesses now turned church.

You can find here >>> my practical guide to visiting the Pantheon

Explore Rome hidden gems

In January, when summer holidays for locals are over, Rome’s local life is in full swing so as soon as you leave the most popular areas you will see the city’s living and breathing heart.

You can find here >>> my recommendations for what to see in Rome off the beaten track

Fontana delle rane fountain Rome

Go shopping

If you like shopping, January in Rome is a bit of a treat! January is when winter sales happen in Rome and when you can find the best bargains.

Check our guide to Rome’s best shopping streets for the best addresses to score great deals

Go to the Opera or a concert

Rome has a good opera and ballet program: the program for January 2021 hasn’t been finalized at this time but you can keep an eye on it on the official Rome Opera House website.

Music lovers should also check out the program at Auditorium Parco della Musica, a wonderful music venue in the eternal city

Defrost savoring Rome’s warming food

When you are in Rome in January, you must eat all that glorious Roman food.

Rome traditional cuisine has dishes with bold taste, perfect for the cold season.

In this season I recommend:

You can find my favorite addresses for traditional Rome food in my guide to Rome for foodies.

Go on a food tour

If you want to dig deep into Rome’s traditional dishes, then a food tour can be just the thing for you.

These are food tours worth considering:

Go to an exhibition – January 2023 exhibitions in Rome

Rome has many exhibitions going on at any given time and January is a great time for museum-going.

One exhibitions that can be fun to see also with kids is:

Crazy – Madness in contemporary art. Hosted in Chiostro del Bramante, this is a fun and interactive, colorful exhibition for adults and children (until 8 January 2023)

Domitian Emperor in Rome, a fantastic exhibition in the Capitoline Museum up until the 29 January 2023.

Go to a lesser-known museum

Rome has many lovely museums that are slightly lesser-known and can be a great alternative to big ones at busy times.

Some I recommend are:

Centrale Montemartini – a fantastic ancient sculpture and mosaic museum hosted in an old power plant

Palazzo Braschi – dedicated to Rome City (and with stunning views over Piazza Navona)

Palazzo Massimo – fantastic ancient art museum with sculptures and frescoes

Go church hopping

Visiting churches is one of the best things to do in Rome any time of the year but it becomes exceptionally pleasurable (and handy!) in winter.

Churches are free to enter, often stunning and a great refuge from the rain.

Some I love and recommend seeking out are Santa Prassede (stunning Byzantine mosaics), San Luigi dei Francesi (with a wonderful Caravaggio) and Santa Maria della Vittoria (with Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Therese) but really: when you see a church in Rome, peek in as chances are it is worth a stop!

You can find here >>> my list with the most beautiful Catholic Churches in Rome

Visit Rome’s catacombs

The catacombs of Rome are underground Christian cemeteries dating from the early centuries of hte Christian Era.

The cemeteries are structured like a large network of tunnels that develop under the modern city and they are interesting to visit and unique.

There are several catacombs in Rome open to visitors and those I recommend visiting are this of San Callisto, among the biggest and most impressive in Rome. You can get tickets here.

January in Rome with kids

You can find here >>> a long list of kid-friendly activities in Rome.

These are my favorite things to do in Rome in January as a family.

Embrace the local tradition of La Befana

Italian children welcome a magical visitor on the 6th of January: a witch-type character called ‘La Befana‘.

This is an old lady who travels on a broomstick on the night between the 5th and the 6th of January and brings sweets to good kids (and coal to the bad ones), which she leaves in a long stocking

Locals love her and you can see stockings stuffed with all sorts of treats everywhere in Rome, in preparation for her coming.

If you are in Rome with kids on the first week in January, you van get a stocking and join the tradition!

Go to Explora Children Museum

Explora is Rome’s children museum and it is a wonderful place to explore with kids. In January this is an exceptionally handy place to know for a rainy day or any time the weather doesn’t seem suitable for extended hours in the park.

Explora children museum of Romereview
This is the water and mechanics area of Explora children museum of Rome

Take an art class

Indoor activities can be a lifesaver in Rome in winter and one we adored was an art class we took with a wonderful people of Arte al Sole. the one we chose was a mosaic making class which was perfect for crafty kids.

Take a pizza class

On a cold January day, there is nothing better than staying in a cozy kitchen preparing a warming meal. With kids, we did just that with a local pizza class for families followed, of course, by tucking into our own creation.

Visit Mostra di Leonardo

Mostra di Leonardo is a kid-friendly permanent exhibition in Rome showcasing machines designed by Leonardo da Vinci.

The exhibition is fantastic for kids (and adults) as it is interactive and gets the kids to truly engage with the pieces and even try their hand at recreating them!

This is one of my favorite things to do with kids in Rome on a cold day. You can find my full review here.

Visit Welcome to Rome

Welcome to Rome is a permanent exhibition that uses 3D light installation to showcase some of Rome’s main monuments and attractions and their hostory over time.

The museum is small, easy to manage for kids and captivating for them as well as adults. Worth seeing is also the short film dedicated to the history of Rome, excellent to teach kids the different eras this incredible city went through (I bet adults will learn loads too, it is great!)

I hope you enjoyed this overview of Rome in January. Safe travels! 

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