Spend Christmas in Florence for a Magical Experience

Christmas in Florence is a wonderful experience, the holiday season is always a fun time to visit!

florence at christmas piazza della repubblica carousel and lightsThe Christmas lights at Rinascente in Piazza della Repubblica are always fun! Photo credit: Esther Baardemans

Celebrations start early in December, keep reading to find out what it's like to spend Christmas here.

Everything you need to know about Christmas in Florence 2024

Christmas is definitely one of my favorite times of the year in Florence.

This stunning city that already has plenty of beauty on its own, all of a sudden gets an extra touch of magic.

It’s a great time to come to the city and enjoy it with less crowds and all the gorgeous festive decorations. 

Florence Christmas shopping and lightsThe Christmas decorations make Florence's streets even more magical

Worried about finding yourself amidst closed restaurants and museums?

Where can you find the Christmas market or the huge Christmas tree?

Can you go ice skating or attend a Christmas mass?

On this page I’ll give you all the details you need to know about celebrating Christmas in Florence, including:

Local Florentine traditions to celebrate Christmas 

Christmas is still very much a family affair in Italy.

The Italians even have a saying: ‘Natale con i tuoi, Pasqua con chi vuoi’, meaning ‘Christmas with your family, Easter with whoever you want’, emphasizing the importance of Christmas as a family holiday. 

Christmas food traditions

Italian Christmas starts with La Vigilia (Christmas Eve) on December 24.

In some families there will be a big dinner, traditionally without any meat.

Religious people will go to the midnight mass, the official start of Christmas. 

On December 25 Christmas Day is celebrated, and for families who do not do a big meal on the 24th, this is the day they go all out for a huge Christmas lunch.

fuori porta chicken livers on toastThe Florentine classic of chicken liver pate is sure to be on many people's festive table

A Florentine (or Tuscan) lunch will typically have a few staples includes, such as crostini toscani (crostini with chicken liver spread), cappelletti in brood (filled pasta in a tasty broth) and some kind of meat (usually pork) as a main.

Something you’ll find everywhere in Italy as a dessert is the famous panettone (a big brioche-like bread with candied fruits and raisins in it) or pandoro (a large cake coated in powdered sugar). 

A very local tradition that however is not practiced as much anymore, would be the burning of a big block of wood (‘ceppo’) in the fireplace on the morning of the 25th.

The family would play games whilst the block was burning, and the big lunch was being prepared.

However, with less and less houses having a fireplace this tradition has almost entirely disappeared. 

Gifting for the Christmas holidays

Gifts are an important part of Italian Christmas traditions.

They are not only given to your direct family, people tend to get something for all their friends as well.

Christmas presents in FlorenceYou'll be able to shop for plenty of festive gifts in Florence

This can be anything, from a bottle of wine or a good panettone, to something more personal.

Gifts between friends are usually exchanged in the weeks/days leading up to Christmas, family gifts will be given out either on the night of the 24th or on Christmas Day. 

Unable to get to Florence in person to do your holiday shopping?

Be sure to check out our Amazon store for lots of great Italian gift suggestions!

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Special Christmas activities in Florence

As I already mentioned in my introduction, Christmas to me is a very special time in Florence.

Florence Christmas Markets

The Christmas feeling usually begins with the start of the Christmas market in Piazza di Santa Croce, in front of the Basilica of Santa Croce.

The little wooden houses selling all kinds of foods and goodies from all over Europe has become a much-loved tradition amongst the Florentines.

The market usually lasts for over a month, starting the last week of November

basilica santa croce at nightThe piazza in front of Santa Croce is home to Florence's top Christmas market

German Christmas market 2023

Piazza di Santa Croce

Open daily November 18 - December 17 2023

Florence ice village

As well as a Ferris wheel and ice skating rink, there is also a Christmas market at the Florence Ice Village.

Piazza Vittorio Veneto

Open daily December 8 2023 - January 15 2024

Find out more details here.

Lights and Christmas trees in Florence

florence christmas lightsThe historic center is always covered in lights and decorations. Photo credit: Esther Baardemans

This is also the time of year when you can start to see some Christmas decorations pop up here and there.

For years now the municipality of Florence decorates various parts of the historic center with themed decorations.

The area around Via Tornabuoni and the big shopping streets in the historic center are especially worth a visit.

The lights are usually lit up on the night of December 8, which traditionally marks the beginning of the religious Christmas festivities with the Festa dell’Immacolata.

This is a national holiday in Italy, celebrating the Immaculate Conception.

christmas tree next to florence cathedral at nightSeeing the tree next to the cathedral is a festive highlight! Photo credit: Esther Baardemans

This is also the night that the large Christmas tree in the Piazza del Duomo is lit up, as well as the nativity scene next to it being revealed, perfect for getting into the Christmas spirit.

December 8 is the day that marks the start of holiday celebrations across Italy, so if you're also looking to travel to Rome, Venice, Naples or other major cities, you'll see festive decorations after this date.

There are also Christmas trees put up at Piazzale Michelangelo and Piazza di San Firenze, close to the Bargello Museum.

For the last couple of years, the week of December 8 has also marked the starting point of the Green Line Firenze light festival.

Various buildings in the city get lit up with video projections and special light installations can be found throughout the city.

Every year the festival has a theme that connects all the different works of art. 

florence christmas light show on bridgeThe different light shows each year are especially fun and festive. Photo credit: Esther Baardemans

Christmas Masses

If you would like to attend midnight mass, these are the details for the main basilicas in Florence:

Santa Maria del Fiore

The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore is the main church in Florence, also known as the Duomo due to its distinctive red brick dome.

florence duomoThe Christmas eve mass is held in Florence's main cathedral every year, but be prepared for it to be busy!

The Christmas mass takes place at midnight, but seats are assigned on a first come, first served basis so you will need to arrive by 10:30PM at the latest to ensure you get inside.

On Christmas morning another mass is celebrated at 10:30AM.

Santa Maria Novella

Inside santa maria novella horizontalThe beautiful interior of Santa Maria Novella makes for an atmospheric place to celebrate Christmas mass

The basilica opposite the train station also holds a special mass, starting at 11:45PM on Dec 24.

As with the mass at the Duomo, you will need to arrive at least an hour before to ensure you get a seat.

Santa Croce

Found in Piazza Santa Croce next to the most famous of Florence's Christmas markets, the basilica holds the traditional mass at midnight.

Eating out for Christmas in Florence

Even though Italians and Florentines traditionally wouldn’t go out for a meal for Christmas, over the last couple of years that has changed a bit.

Even though Christmas is still predominantly celebrated at home, a lot of restaurants will open at least one of the Christmas days.

They will typically serve a special menu, consisting of multiple courses, instead of a la carte.

florence at christmas tree in front of Duomo and bell towerAfter going out for lunch on Christmas Day, it's traditional to take a walk around the city and see the decorations. Photo credit: Esther Baardemans

The more high-end restaurants will generally serve you their interpretation of Christmas classics, whereas smaller trattorias will stick with the traditional fare.

If you have a specific restaurant in mind where you want to eat, make sure to arrange reservations well in advance.

Sometimes restaurants publish their Christmas offers and opening hours on their website, but more often than not you will need to make a call to find out what they’re doing for the holidays.

If you’re planning to stay in a hotel for Christmas in Florence, they will often know of restaurants that do Christmas dinners and be able to make reservations for you.

Some hotels that have a restaurant will even set up their own dinners for their guests. 

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Florence restaurants open at Christmas time 2023

These restaurants are confirmed as open over Christmas this year:

B-Roof restaurant

Located on the fifth floor of the Grand Hotel Baglioni, B-Roof are offering a special Christmas Day lunch.

83€ per person for a multi-course meal including drinks, click here for more information and to book.

Hotel Brunelleschi

Offering a Christmas lunch filled with Tuscan flavors, this will be a wonderful way to spend Christmas in Florence!

149€ per person including wines, click here for more information and to book your place (minimum 2 people per reservation).

Christmas tree in florenceHotel Brunelleschi is just a few minutes walk from the Duomo complex

Olivia Bistrot del Frantoio

Open on Dec 25 for lunch only, there is a set menu for €70 with traditional Italian dishes, not including drinks.

Osteria La Pescatoria

Open for lunch on Dec 25, no special menu so you can order from the regular menu.

What's it like in Florence during the Christmas season?

The month of December is a good month to visit Florence.

Even though the winter weather will be colder and there is a chance of rain, you avoid the crowds and will get to enjoy the city in a more authentic way.

Uffizi in December - no crowdsThe Uffizi is usually much quieter in the run up to the holidays, but it can be busier on December 26

Museums will be closed on December 25, but they are usually open on the 26th.

Do make reservations in advance though for the big museums like the Uffizi and Accademia Galleries, as they may get quite crowded on this day with all the locals looking for something to do.

While most restaurants, shops and sites will be closed for a few days over the festive period, generally this is not for long.

If you have a particular place you want to go, double check in advance any closure dates and times to avoid being disappointed.

Take a look at these pages to find out how to make the most of your time in Florence:

Christmas in Florence 2023

If you’re visiting Florence in 2023, here are some dates to remember:

  • November 18 – December 17: Christmas Market in Piazza Santa Croce
  • December 8 around 6PM: lighting of the Christmas tree in Piazza del Duomo
  • December 8 – January 7: Green Line Festival (running through the New Year holiday as well)
  • From December 8: Ferris wheel and Florence Ice Village in Parco delle Cascine (Piazza Vittorio Veneto)
  • December 24: Christmas Eve, mass at the Duomo at midnight
  • December 25: Christmas Day, mass at the Duomo at 10:30AM

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