Much more than just a park, the Villa Borghese in Rome is a hub of culture, centered around the renowned Galleria Borghese museum. During the festive season, the park transforms into Christmas World, arguably the most prestigious and largest Christmas event in Europe. Yet, there's so much more to explore in and around Villa Borghese during this time of year. From the Zoological Museum to the Japanese Institute, and from the cinema to the Etruscan Museum in Rome, there's an array of attractions to discover. Enjoy a variety of fun activities suitable for all ages.
Italian cities, passionately decorated for the festive month of December, often keep their decorations up well into the new year, and Rome is no exception. Admire the beautifully adorned shop windows along Via del Corso leading up to Piazza Venezia, which used to be home to the largest Christmas tree. This year, the nearly 30-metre-high tree has been relocated to Piazza del Popolo due to construction work on the new metro line, expected to last 10 years. Also, don't miss the nativity scene and Christmas tree in St Peter's Square, integral to Rome's Christmas festivities, though technically not Roman. New Year's Eve in Rome is a spectacle of music and extraordinary fireworks over the Tiber. If you're planning a trip to the Eternal City, click here for cheap flights from cities like Brussels.
What else can you do around Villa Borghese?
If you can't visit the Galleria Borghese, don't worry, there are plenty of other fascinating museums nearby. If you're not in the mood for a museum visit, consider a visit to the Bioparco and the Zoological Museum. It's not just for kids - I had a great time there. There is an impressive collection from the Etruscan period at the Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia.
Museum with an extensive collection of classical art, including works by Bernini, Caravaggio, and Raphael.Museo e Galleria Borghese, Piazzale Scipione Borghese, 5, 00197 Roma RM, Italy - https://galleriaborghese.beniculturali.it/
Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna e contemporanea
Museum with a collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by Modigliani, Picasso, and Warhol.Galleria nazionale d'arte moderna e contemporanea, Viale delle Belle Arti, 131, 00197 Roma RM, Italy - http://lagallerianazionale.com/
Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia
Museum with an extensive collection of Etruscan art and culture, including jewelry and sarcophagi.Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia, Piazzale di Villa Giulia 9, 00196 Roma RM, Italy - https://www.museoetru.it/
Istituto Giapponese di Cultura
Museum and cultural center promoting Japanese culture. Closed in December.Istituto Giapponese di Cultura, Via Antonio Gramsci, 74, 00197 Roma RM, Italy - http://www.jfroma.it/
Musée Pietro Canonica
A collection of bronze and marble statues and sketches by the Italian sculptor Canonica, displayed in his old exhibition rooms.Musée Pietro Canonica, Viale Pietro Canonica, 2, 00197 Roma RM, Italy - http://www.museocanonica.it/
Zoo with elephants, Komodo dragons, birds, feeding sessions, a theater, and a summer camp for children.Bioparco-Zoo, Piazzale del, V.le del Giardino Zoologico, 1, 00197 Roma RM, Italy - http://www.bioparco.it/
Museo Civico di Zoologia
Rome's Museo Civico di Zoologia is a fascinating institution dedicated to the study of animals and natural history. Located near the Villa Borghese, the museum offers an in-depth look at the biodiversity and evolution of the animal kingdom through the ages. Visitors can explore an impressive collection of over five million specimens, ranging from fossils and skeletons to stuffed animals and insect collections. One of the highlights of the museum is the detailed representation of various ecosystems, allowing visitors to gain a realistic understanding of different animal habitats.Museo Civico di Zoologia, Via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 18, 00197 Roma RM, Italy - https://www.museocivicodizoologia.it/it
Casa del Cinema
Art house cinema for classics and non-Western films, with a trendy café and summer screenings in the garden.Casa del Cinema, Largo Marcello Mastroianni, 1, 00197 Roma RM, Italy
Museo Dei Bambini
Interactive museum for children.Museo Dei Bambini, Via Flaminia, 80/86, 00196 Roma RM, Italy - https://www.mdbr.it/chi-siamo/la-cooperativa/
A cardinal's villa dating from the 16th century with a collection of baroque art and temporary exhibitions, as well as a beautiful park.Villa Medici, Viale della Trinità dei Monti, 1, 00187 Roma RM, Italy - https://www.villamedici.it
Special Attractions in the Park of Villa Borghese
- The Globe Theatre: A slice of England in Villa Borghese. This replica of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, located in Largo Aqua Felix, is an amazing Elizabethan open-air theatre offering a traditional repertoire from late June to early October. Performances are usually in Italian; visit the official website for more information.
- Villa Borghese Lake: Created in 1766, this lake features a charming island in the center with the Ionian Temple of Aesculapius, making it one of the most picturesque spots in the park.
- The Water Clock: A fascinating feature in the Villa is the famous water clock or hydrochronometer, built in 1867 by inventor Giovan Battista Embriaco. First exhibited at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1867, this functioning hydrochronometer remains an intriguing curiosity.
Piazza di Siena and the International Horse Show in May: Known for its international equestrian competitions, this venue, inspired by Siena's Piazza del Campo, hosts the International Horse Show in spring. The 2023 event marks its 90th edition. Spectators can enjoy free access to the ancient and "natural" stands around the arena. The four-day event features top international riders competing in traditional equestrian events, as well as exciting show jumping and polo matches (Saturday at 20:30 and 21:15).
Casina Valadier: This venue, easily accessible from the Spanish Steps at the entrance to Villa Borghese, is known for hosting upscale weddings and parties. It also boasts a fantastic restaurant with panoramic views. The café on the ground floor is a personal favorite spot of mine year-round. The first-floor restaurant offers a romantic city view, popular among higher embassy staff in the area. I haven't dined there myself, so I'm not certain if it's always open to the public; it seems more suited for exclusive events.
Casina di Raffaello: Located in the heart of Villa Borghese, the Toy Library was originally built to house the wardrobe of Cardinal Scipione Borghese (1576-1633). It features beautiful frescoes by Felice Giani and Giovan Battista Marchetti, and a loggia overlooking Piazza di Siena. Today, it serves as a 400 square meter play and reading room for children, with parental supervision required. It's open from Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm, and on Saturdays, Sundays, and public holidays from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm – a perfect spot to let toddlers unwind.
- Coppedè District: Rome's Coppedè district, a hidden gem in the Italian capital, is an architectural wonderland named after its designer, Gino Coppedè. Located in the larger Trieste district, this unique neighborhood is renowned for its eclectic style, blending Art Nouveau, medieval, baroque, and even ancient Greek influences. Notable for its striking buildings and ornate decorations, including the famous Fontana delle Rane (Frog Fountain), the Coppedè offers a visually stunning and tranquil escape from the city's bustle, akin to stepping into a fairytale world.
Europe's Largest Christmas Market in Villa Borghese Park
Spanning 50,000 to 60,000 square meters, Christmas World at Villa Borghese is an enchanting Christmas market that takes visitors on an imaginary journey through eight cities: Rome, Paris, London, Tokyo, New York, Berlin, New Delhi, and Santa Claus's kingdom in Lapland. The market's atmosphere, expertly recreated by Italian set designers and artists, immerses visitors in the unique vibes of these world-renowned locations.