Siena makes a perfect destination for a visit during the holiday season. The historical center is small enough even for a one-day visit and big enough to offer many events and nice shops for Christmas delights. The narrow medieval streets are already set up with all the lights and decorations ready to welcome citizens and visitors with the magical atmosphere of a Christmas in Siena!
The city administration of Siena every year promotes a series of events during the holiday season from the middle of November until the end of January. Art, gastronomy, and traditions are all protagonists of a rich calendar of events for both adults and kids alike. From the lights along the streets to video mapping in 3D for kids in the Christmas Village, markets, concerts and special exhibitions: we have summarized a few of the main events and things to do and see in this period in Siena below.
A show of lights!
The first thing not to miss is the lighting of the Christmas lights sponsored by shops and hotels from the 1st of December through January 6 - enjoy the streets of Siena lit up with magical colors!
The Monte dei Paschi bank also takes part as it lights up the Christmas tree in Piazza Salimbeni, right in front of central headquarters, on Sunday, December 1st.
On December 7th, the Palazzo delle Poste in Piazza G. Matteotti is the background for magical and colorful projections. It is the first Christmas-themed video-mapping show for kids, which will be replicated on December 8th, 13th, 14th and 15th and then from December 20th through January 6th, from 5pm to 7pm.
On December 14th at 6pm, the first 3D Christmas themed video-mapping will be projected on the Palazzo Comunale in Piazza del Campo, which will be repeated at 6.30pm and then at 8pm. On the 15th at 8pm, another video-show, and again from December 20th through the 26th, at 6pm and 8pm. The lights will thus "dress up" in Christmas colors both palaces and buildings to give them a sense of being alive, with a new "skin" and texture.
The floodlights will not be turned off: in between the 3D mappings, there will be projections of colorful lights.
December 15th will be a special day: at 12:30pm the lighting of the Christmas tree in the Cortile del Podestà with decorations made by kids living in the Contrade. At 5pm there will be a Christmas Concert with the Associazione Culturale Music Ensemble which will have several local elementary school kids participating. And at 8pm, don't forget the 3D light show on PALAZZO PUBBLICO as mentioned above! In the Cappella di Piazza a Nativity scene will also be set up on the 15th.
Mercato del Campo, the Medieval Christmas Market: December 7 and 8, 2019
The Medieval Market in Piazza del Campo held at the beginning of December has become a tradition in Siena. The beautiful piazza is transformed into a medieval style marketplace with Christmas atmosphere and stands for all kind of products are available, perfect for holiday shopping for the two days of the market. Half of the square is dedicated to handicrafts and Christmas decorations and the other half for food and wine.
You can also taste delicacies of all types, from ham, salami, sausages and cheese to honey, sweets, and cakes. The market is open from morning until 8 pm. I really recommend the visit after sunset because you can get the best of the atmosphere when the stands are illuminated. It will be a chance to sample many of the offerings, enjoy street-food, cooking demonstrations and join in creative activities for kids. Usually, the restaurants around the piazza participate in the event; for example, you can buy a sandwich with grilled sausage directly in a stand outside the restaurant for a delicious snack.
The Christmas Village and Land of Fun @ the Giardini La Lizza
Every year, the park next to the bus station and to the fortress is transformed into a Christmas village with an ice skating rink, games for kids, stands for handicrafts and Christmas products and food court for snacks and drinks. Especially if you are visiting the city with children, this park offers a good place to stop. It is also very popular among local children.From November 16 through December 24, the Christmas village has much to offer. The "Kingdom of Santa Claus" (Regno di Babbo Natale) will be open on November 16-17, 23-24, 29-30 and December 1, 6-7, 13-15, 20-24 from 11am to 7pm. Kids under 3 enter free, on Fridays entrance is €5 for everyone and on the weekends kids age 3-10 pay €5, anyone over pays €8. The gardens also host face painting, elves workshops to create Christmas decorations, games and storytelling and the post office where kids can drop off their letters to Santa. The "Santa House" offers candies ;-).
From November 16 through December 24, the Christmas Market is made up of wood stands from the park to Piazza Matteotti that offer food and hand-crafted items where you can find many gift ideas, including figurines and other items to create Naples-style Nativity scenes. These stands will have the artisans showing how the items are made.
The "Land of Fun" includes a new, larger ice skating ring which will remain open until January 8th. There will be "helpers" dressed as penguins helping the smaller kids how to learn how to ice skate! There are many other games for kids as well as for adults to try out, including the Apollo 13 ride. There will be another playground in the Piazza Madre Teresa di Calcutta nearby.
Again, from November 16th until January 6th, the Christmas Train returns! The special electric train goes from the park and into the streets of Siena on weekdays from 10am to 8pm and on weekends from 10am until midnight.
Presep, the Nativity Scenes
There are several Nativity scenes exhibited throughout the city during the Christmas period.
As in previous years, a large Nativity is set up inside the train station and is open from December 18th through January 6th from 10:30am to 12pm and from 3:30-7pm. It is one of the most beautiful mechanical Nativities in all of Italy.
Within the Magazzino di Sale at the Palazzo Comunale, you will find Nativities from the World - the Rappuoli-BologniCollection. The collection includes hand-crafted figures and items from across the world and many unique works of art of many Italian artists. The Nativities can be seen Monday through Friday from 3pm to 6pm and on weekends from 10am to 6pm starting December 14th through January 12th.
If you enjoy seeing the Nativity scenes, make sure to read our article on Nativity scenes in Tuscany to see where else you can find some amazing scenes.
There are various temporary exhibitions organized during this period of the year, particularly within the large Santa Maria della Scala Museum complex. You can read the whole list of exhibits in the calendar of Christmas in Siena 2019. We'd like to just highlight the main one taking place that plays homage to one of the most important Italian and international figure in comics. from November 23rd through January 26th, within the 6th level of the Palazzo Squarcialupi in the Santa Maria della Scala complex, the most famous cowboy in the world created by Giovanni Luigi Bonelli will be celebrated in "Tex. 70 years of a Myth" with memorabilia, installations, tables with comic books and more.
Events for children
Many activities during this period are perfect for kids, from the illustrated storytelling to creative workshops to guided visits and shows. While the guided visits and workshops are only in Italian, these types of activities can be enjoyed even without any knowledge of the language!
One event you can head to, for example, is on the 14th of December. From 12pm to 6pm, inside the Art Museum for Kids within the Santa Maria della Scala museum complex (told you it was huge!), the "Perfume of Fairy Tales" and "Just Baby" will give kids a chance to enjoy stories and activities.
Waiting for the Epiphany with the Firemen. Traditionally, there is a party for children organized by the firemen on the Epiphany on January 6 in Piazza del Campo, as everyone awaits for the Befana. In Italy, the Befana is a sort of witch that brings candy to kids that have been well-behaved over the past year, and coal for those that haven't! Children can follow a fun path of various activities with the help of the firemen, naturally with a visit inside the fire truck. When darkness falls in the square, around 5:30pm, the Befana arrives with candies and chocolate down a rope from the roof of the Palazzo Pubblico! During the activity, funds are collected by selling the Fire Fighter's 2020 calendar and all proceeds will be going to the Cancer wing at Siena's teaching hospital.
On December 22 at 11am, there will be a modern rendition of Santas as they arrive on Harley Davidson bikes! A fun moment in which everyone can admire the many versions of the bikes.
On December 31, in the heart of the city of the Palio, the city will countdown and say goodbye to 2019 and welcome in the new year
On January 1st, a concert by the Tony Washington Gospel Singers will take place at 5pm at the Teatro dei Rozzi organized by the Toscana Gospel Festival. The ensemble is composed of 7 groups which will bring Gospel sounds to Siena. In should be an interesting and fun mix between the past and present.
These are just some ideas for a taste of all the initiatives during this period in Siena! Especially on the weekends, the city is very welcoming and full of life and you may also find itinerant performances in the streets of the historic center. Make sure to check the calendar and see what is planned for the day you plan to visit, to ensure you don't miss something fun and interesting.
If you wish to visit the Siena with a guide, you can always check out the many guided tours and activities offered through Viator here (affiliate link).
How to arrive and move around Siena, especially with the shuttle
If you wish to get to Siena without a car using public transportation, make sure to read our article on how to get to Siena without a car.
If you come to Siena with a car, then make sure to read our suggestions for parking in Siena. During the holidays on specific days, the local bus company TIEMME s.p.a, is offering a FREE bus shuttle from the parking lot of the Mens Sana in Viale Sclavo to Piazza del Sale. The shuttle will operate on December 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 and 24 from 10:30am to 6:30pm.