Lush, chaotic, rowdy, funny, confounding, hypnotic, and exhilarating, Naples is the Italy of your wildest dreams. It’s hard not to fall in love with Naples and the capital of the Italian South is like nowhere else – a rich, intoxicating ragù of thrillingly picturesque street life, opulent palazzi (mansions), glittering shrines, world-class museums, decadent foods, and spectacular vistas. Here’s our lowdown on the best things to do in Naples. Get ready for loads of fun.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Things to do in Naples
- 2 Getting to Naples
- 3 How to get around Naples?
- 4 Where to Stay in Naples
- 5 Is Naples safe?
- 6 Is Naples worth visiting?
- 7 Is the Campania Artecard worth it?
- 8 When is the best time to visit Naples?
- 9 How many days are enough to see Naples?
- 10 Further Reading For Your Naples Visit
- 11 More Information About Italy
Things to do in Naples
Naples is so brimming with sights that it is impossible to take them all in. You may need repeat visits to see everything in Naples, but with diligent planning, even one trip will bring a lifetime of memories.
Below we have compiled a list of the top Naples attractions (in no particular order). Consisting of a mix of well-known bucket-list sights and many lesser-known hidden gems, the following is our opinionated list of what we consider to be the best things to do in Naples.
1. Make a beeline for the National Archeological Museum
If you don’t know what to do in Naples, start with cultural sites like the National Archeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale). The world-famous ancient Roman sites such as Pompeii and Herculaneum around Naples are essentially empty houses and villas, with only a few floor and wall decorations.
Instead, the most valuable antiquity treasures from these important excavations are found in the National Archeological Museum in Naples. The museum occupies the hulking 16th-century red Palazzo degli Studi, which started life in the late 1500s as the home of the royal cavalry and was rebuilt in the early 17th century as the seat of Naples University.
The building was later requisitioned and turned into a museum in 1777 by King Ferdinand IV. The museum’s assets are a tour de force of ancient frescoes, mosaics, epigraphs, pottery, glassware, incised gems, coins, weapons, and of course, sculpture.
The Farnese Collection of antiquities, arguably the best thing to see at the museum, is spread across the ground floor. It forms the core of the museum including one of the most important and largest groups of Roman antiquities in existence.
Some of the unmissable highlights of the Naples Archaeological Museum are –
a. The Farnese Bull: The Farnese Bull is the undisputed star of the Farnese Collection and is easily my favorite thing to see in the museum. It was also found in the Baths of Caracalla during excavations and is widely considered the largest single sculpture ever recovered from antiquity.
The tangled masterpiece recounts the punishment of Dirce (Queen of Thebes), who was tied to the horns of an enraged bull by Ampheon and Zethus (Dirce’s stepsons) to avenge their mother Antiope, whom Dirce and their father Lycus had kept in servitude so they could be together.
The sculpture captures the narrative at the high point of the action incredible detail and workmanship of the life-size figures is stunning!
b. The Farnese Hercules: Created and signed by Glykon of Athens, this spectacular 3-meter tall marble sculpture is a copy and enlargement of a lost bronze original by the 4th-century BC Greek master Lysippos.
It was found in the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla in Rome and shows the mythical hero leaning wearily on his club, over which is draped the skin of the Nemean Lion. His downcast eyes, together with his pose, suggest that Hercules is exhausted after having completed one of the last of “The Twelve Labors.”
c. Alexander the Great Mosaic: Dating from around 100 BC, this elegant floor mosaic is considered one of the most important works of art from antiquity. The mosaic is widely thought to depict the dynamic scene of the Battle of Issus in 333 BC between the armies of Alexander the Great and King Darius III of Persia.
It illustrates Alexander posed in action on his horse (Bucephalus) with his lance in his right arm charging Darius, who is seen fleeing in his chariot. Though it even looks like a painting from a distance, it’s actually made up of about one and a half million individual tesserae, small blocks of stone, tile, and glass.
d. The Secret Cabinet: Deemed too risqué for the public until 2000, the Secret Cabinet, this small, once-scandalous area showcases a collection of erotically themed artworks and objects. It is a must-see for any visitor to the museum, providing an intriguing insight into the salacious private lives of the ancient Romans.
The area contains a titillating assortment of erotic frescoes, phallic art, and perky statues taken from the villas, bars, brothels, and shops of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The Secret Cabinet’s most famous piece is a marble sculpture of the mythical half-goat, half-man Pan copulating with a goat.
e. Hall of the Sundial: The Hall of the Sundial (Salone della Merdiana) is the most impressive room in the building. It is home to numerous Farnese paintings, and the famous Farnese Atlas – the oldest surviving statue of Atlas which depicts him carrying a globe on his shoulders.
I was most impressed with its beautiful ceiling fresco, which pays tribute to King Ferdinand IV and his wife Maria Carolina of Austria.
There is so much to see at the National Archeological Museum that ideally, you should allow at least half a day to see and appreciate everything in there, but if time is limited, make a beeline for specific key works.
If you have kids in tow, they will enjoy the Egyptian Collection in the basement, with its human and animal mummies, sarcophagi, and jewelry.
The National Archeological Museum in Naples is most certainly worth visiting. Even if you’re the sort of person for whom history is an unfathomable bore, visiting the museum might change how you think about art & archaeology.
Arrgh, I know I’m rambling on here I know but I reckon you’ve guessed by now that this is one of my favorite museums in the world.
Practical Information For Visiting the National Archeological Museum in Naples
The National Archeological Museum in Naples is open Wednesday-Monday from 09:00-19:30 (last admission at 18:30). The entrance costs 22 EUR and is worth every cent. To save time, you can also book your ticket online through the museum website or GetYourGuide.
To give your National Archeological Museum visit more context, you can also opt for a guided tour, which provides a richer experience than simply viewing the exhibits.
The museum is spread across four levels – the basement, the ground floor, the mezzanine level, and the first floor. The impressive Farnese Collection and sculptures from Herculaneum, Pompeii, and other Campanian cities are found on the ground floor, the mezzanine level, and the first floor.
Pompeiian mosaics and the Secret Cabinet can be found on the mezzanine level while the first floor is home to domestic items, weapons, and murals showing daily life in the ancient cities.
The Egyptian Collection is housed in the basement.
The best times to visit the National Archeological Museum in Naples are late afternoon (after 16:00) or early morning right after opening.
2. Weave your way through the Bourbon Tunnel
The Bourbon Tunnel (Galleria Borbonica) is one of the coolest off-the-beaten-path attractions in Naples. Built in the mid-19th century, the tunnel is an impressive subterranean network of giant passageways, huge caves, and narrow culverts.
In the mid-1800s, popular revolutions were threatening royalty across Europe. The Bourbon Tunnel was thus conceived as an escape route from the Royal Palace by the then King of the Two Sicilies, Ferdinand II of Bourbon, who was understandably paranoid about being overthrown by the populace of Sicily and Naples.
The tunnel was intended to connect the Royal Palace to the local military barracks. However, the king died before the tunnel was completed, and it was left unfinished and largely forgotten.
During World War II, the tunnel was converted into a military hospital and a bomb shelter, housing up to 10,000 locals. After the war, the subterranean space became a dumping ground for building debris, contraband vehicles, electronic equipment, and marble statues before it was sealed up and forgotten.
Today, the Bourbon Tunnel has been turned into a quirky gallery known as Galleria Borbonica, where the public can see a treasure trove of historic artifacts.
As you make your way through this subterranean passageway, you will get a scoop on all the details about the tunnel’s history and its impact on Naples’s growth. I got a real kick out of the dusty relics of vintage cars and retro motorcycles, and Vespas.
Practical Information For Visiting the Bourbon Tunnel
The Bourbon Tunnel can only be visited on a guided tour. Tours of Galleria Borbonica now take place every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Four tours are offered daily (at 10:00, 12:00, 15:00, and 17:00). The tour lasts an hour and 15 minutes. Tickets cost 11 EUR >>> Book your tickets
3. Get lost in the historic center of Naples
Naples is my favorite city in the world and one of my best-loved moments is exploring its historic center (Centro Storico). The historic heart of Naples is celebrated for its striking juxtaposition of bedlam and consummate artistry, but most of all for the boundless energy of the Neapolitan spirit.
The atmospheric alleys of the historic center harbor many of the city’s most spectacular cultural assets and give a real taste of its exhilarating street life. You’ll come across many cavernous churches, frescoed cloisters, magnificent palazzi, cramped houses, as well as many of Naples’s top pizzerias and eateries.
It’s no coincidence that Naples’ historic center landed itself on the UNESCO World Heritage site list in 1995.
Wander the ancient streets and feast your eyes: this is Naples at its dizzying, high-octane best. If you’re on the lookout for Naples souvenirs, there’s no shortage of artisan studios to browse and shop.
One of the main attractions in the historic center of Naples is Via San Gregorio Armeno aka “Christmas Alley.” Neapolitan artisans have been known for their manufacture of Presepi (Nativity scenes) for centuries and no Neapolitan household would be complete without its presepe.
Via San Gregorio Armeno is entirely dedicated to the Neapolitan obsession with presepi. Many of the knick-knack shops and stalls here are piled high with carved crib figurines – kitsch celebrity caricatures, musicians, peasants, farmers, dogs, and donkeys – rubbing shoulders with the usual shepherds, kings, and angels.
An unmissable highlight of the historic center is Spaccanapoli, which translates to “Naples Splitter.” Spaccanapoli literally cuts through the core of the city’s historic center, splitting Naples in two. It is an ancient street left over from the original Greco-Roman city of Neapolis.
In reality, Spaccanapoli is not one street but a nickname given to the sequence of streets (Via Benedetto Croce, Via dei Tribunali, Via San Biagio dei Librai, and Via Vicaria Vecchia) that cut through the heart of Naples’s historical center.
4. Become a connoisseur by tasting the world’s best pizza
You knew it was coming and it was only a matter of time before I mentioned pizza. Eating pizza is a Naples must-do and though I don’t believe in food fundamentalism, to really taste pizza as nature intended you need to sample it in its birthplace and spiritual home.
Naples and its signature dish are so intrinsically linked that the art of Neapolitan pizza has even recently been accorded UNESCO protection as an object of “intangible cultural heritage.” In my view, Naples boasts by far the richest pizza culture across the globe and Neapolitan pizza is the tastiest in the world.
The authentic Neapolitan pizza has a thin crust and is cooked quickly in a wood-fired oven. It’s spongy, chewy, succulent, and melts in your mouth, while the toppings are aromatic and bursting with flavor.
The classics are the margherita (topped with tomato, freshly sliced mozzarella, basil, and extra-virgin olive oil) and the marinara (topped with tomato, garlic, oregano, and extra-virgin olive oil) but you can’t really go wrong with the other varieties.
With literally hundreds of top-notch pizzerias gracing every street in the city, it’s not easy to decide where to eat. Don’t forget to check our guide to where to go to get the best pizza in Naples!
5. Stop by the famous Naples Cathedral
Officially called the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta), the Naples Cathedral (Duomo) is the city’s most important church and the one you shouldn’t skip.
This great cathedral was commissioned by Charles I of Anjou in the late 1200s–early 1300s and was completed in the early 14th century under Robert of Anjou. It is dedicated to Saint Januarius (San Gennaro), the patron saint of Naples.
Over the centuries it has been plagued by chronic earthquake damage and stands out for its overlapping styles, as centuries of alterations have transformed its structure. The result is a rich array of art and architecture with Greco-Roman foundations, early Christian mosaics, and a Baroque chapel.
Before going in, take a moment to look at the cathedral’s ungainly neo-Gothic façade which is graced by three portals that date back to the 1400s. The interior of the cathedral never fails to impress and you’ll immediately notice the central nave’s gilded coffered ceiling, studded with late-mannerist art.
One of the highlights of the Naples Cathedral is the Chapel of San Gennaro, located to the center-right of the nave. Built in the 1600s, this Baroque extravaganza glitters with its reliquary bust of San Gennaro, silver busts of bishops, multicolor marbles, and the domed ceiling, with its depiction of Paradise.
Locked away in a strongbox behind the altar is a gold bust of San Gennaro containing his skull bones and the two ampoules that hold his blood.
FUN FACT: MIRACLE OF THE BLOOD
San Gennaro was martyred at Pozzuoli, just outside Naples, in 305 AD. When his body was transferred here, two vials of his dried blood liquefied in the bishop’s hands, since which time the “miracle” has continued to repeat itself no fewer than three times a year. On the Saturday before the first Sunday in May, the 19th of September, and the 16th of December, the blood is brought out for the infamous blood liquefaction ceremony There is still a great deal of folklore surrounding this event. San Gennaro is regarded as the savior and defender of Naples, and if the miracle does not occur, it is considered inauspicious for the city of Naples. Neapolitans take this ritual with deadly seriousness and you’ll witness people of every age and background imploring and cajoling that Gennaro do his civic duty by consenting for his blood to liquefy and thus protect the city. On previous (but not all) occasions when the blood failed to liquefy on the saint’s feast day, it signaled bad news for Naples. The miracle did not occur in 1939 and 1940, coinciding with the beginning of WWII and Italy’s entry into the conflict, and again in 1944, an event followed by Vesuvius’s last eruption. Two months after the blood failed to liquefy in September 1980, the Irpinia earthquake devastated dozens of structures in Naples. In 1988, the day after the blood failed to liquefy, SSC Napoli (Naples’s major soccer team) lost an important soccer match to their rivals, AC Milan, which cost them the Serie A title that year. Whatever the truth of the miracle, it’s undoubtedly a major event in the Neapolitan calendar.
The cathedral’s other main attraction is the Santa Restituta Basilica which lies off the left aisle. It was built in the 4th century on the site of a temple to Apollo and is home to some splendid Romanesque frescoes and mosaics.
You can also check out the baptistery, which was built towards the end of the 4th century and is adorned with fragments of splendid mosaics.
Naples Cathedral is open daily from 08:30-13:30 & 16:30-19:30. The baptistery is open from 08:30-12:30 & 16:00-18:30 (Monday-Saturday) and from 08:30-13:00 (Sunday). The entrance to the cathedral is free while the entrance to the baptistery costs 2.50 EUR.
6. Be awed at the Sansevero Chapel
A Naples bucket list favorite, the Sansevero Chapel (Capella Sansevero) has one of the most intriguing sculpture collections you’ll likely find anywhere.
The chapel was founded in the late-16th century by Prince Giovan Francesco di Sangro, fulfilling a vow to the Virgin after recuperating from an illness. The chapel became a family mausoleum over time, with statues of the various princes lining the walls.
In the mid-1700s, eccentric alchemist and scientist Prince Raimondo di Sangro revamped the chapel commissioning the finest artists of the era to fill every gap and recess of the building’s walls with sculptures and paintings. The chapel houses almost thirty works of art that trace a precise moral and iconographic scheme.
Dominating the Sansevero Chapel is Giuseppe Sanmartino’s magisterial Veiled Christ, a wonderful carving in marble of the reclining messiah covered by a delicate shroud. The rendering in alabaster of the soft folds and the diaphanous veil draped over Christ’s prostrate body is remarkably lifelike.
Be sure to take a peek into the chapel’s crypt, which is home to a pair of meticulously preserved human arterial systems that have their artery and vein systems exposed. Rumors have floated that Raimondo experimented on real bodies (his servants) to achieve the uncanny effect.
Practical Information For Visiting the Sansevero Chapel
The Sansevero Chapel is open Wednesday-Monday from 09:00-19:00. The entrance costs 10 EUR.
Visits to the Sansevero Chapel Museum must be booked online for a fixed time slot in advance. However, the chapel is extremely popular and has a limited number of daily admissions.
If you can’t snag a ticket or are unsure about when you’re going to visit, the only way to visit is to join a guided tour which includes entrance to the Sansevero Chapel.
Photography is strictly prohibited inside the Sansevero Chapel so you’ll just have to go and visit to see what the hype is all about.
7. Learn how to make an authentic Neapolitan pizza from scratch
Now that we’ve already covered pizza above, I can’t think of a more enjoyable activity than rolling up your sleeves and participating in a pizza-making workshop in Naples. Take home the skills to recreate a traditional Neapolitan pizza in your kitchen and impress your friends and family with your pizza-making skill.
You can learn everything from how to make the perfect dough, how to select the right toppings, and even how to use a wood-fired oven to get that perfect crust. Along the way, you’ll also learn about the history of pizza making in Naples.
Using only the finest, locally sourced ingredients you’ll get your hands dirty and will have the opportunity to create your own Margherita pizza with the master pizzaiolo offering guidance.
After your pizza is cooked to perfection, you can enjoy it with a drink of your choice (wine, beer, or soft drink).
Overall, a pizza-making class can be a fun and rewarding experience that combines hands-on learning, social interaction, and delicious results. Jacky and I certainly had loads of fun during our class and we both normally loathe cooking.
8. Explore the Naples Catacombs
There’s much more to Naples than meets the eye, quite literally. I’m always imploring people to visit Naples and one of my favorite reasons why that is is the catacombs of Naples. Taking a tour of the Naples Catacombs is one of the best offbeat things to do in Naples.
Catacombs are located in various places below Naples and offer a vivid window into the distant world of antiquity. Two of the most important underground burial sites in Naples are the haunting Catacombs of San Gennaro (Catacombe di San Gennaro) and the Catacombs of San Gaudioso (Catacombe di San Gaudioso).
The vast size and two-level layout of the San Gennaro Catacombs make it the most impressive ancient catacombs south of Rome. This large subterranean cemetery started as a pagan tomb of little consequence around the 2nd century AD and only grew in importance in the 3rd century after acquiring the tomb of St. Agrippinus.
The bones of St. Gennaro (the best-loved patron saint of Naples) were moved here from Pozzuoli in the 5th century. Many of the graves in the Catacombs of San Gennaro are decorated with stunning 2nd to 10th century mosaics and frescoes.
The San Gaudioso Catacombs were dug in Roman times as water cisterns and were first used as burial chambers in the 5th century. Tradition dictates that Settimio Celio Gaudioso, an African bishop, was buried here in 452 and the catacombs sprung up around his tomb.
The corridors of the catacombs still bear traces of frescoes and mosaics from the 4th–6th centuries AD. The catacombs also reveal a number of Neapolitan traditions and folklore around the cult of the dead and the afterlife and various bizarre burial techniques of the Dominican friars.
The Naples Catacombs are well worth visiting because they remain remarkably rich depositories of history where intriguing ancient narratives are embedded within every stone.
Practical Information For Visiting the Naples Catacombs
The San Gennaro Catacombs and the San Gaudioso Catacombs are open daily from 10:00-17:00 (last entrance at 17:00). Both catacombs can only be visited with a guided tour which is offered every hour.
Wondering whether to visit the San Gennaro Catacombs or the San Gaudioso Catacombs? Both are impressive but if I had to pick one I’d say go visit the San Gennaro Catacombs. They are more atmospheric and easier for people to visit who are claustrophobic and have mobility issues.
The guided tour of the Naples Catacombs lasts approximately one hour. Tickets cost 11 EUR for both catacombs. >>> Book tickets for the San Gennaro Catacombs or book tickets for the San Gaudioso Catacombs
N.B. Comfortable non-slip shoes (preferably trainers) are recommended for the tour. The temperature in the Naples Catacombs is about 15°C (60°F) with a high degree of humidity, so dress accordingly.
9. Stuff your belly full of Neapolitan Cuisine
While Naples is famous for its pizza, it’s only one of many local culinary highlights. Food remains one of the highlights of any trip to Naples and you shouldn’t leave Naples without sampling some of the city’s signature dishes.
Neapolitan cuisine is defined by seasonal, fresh, local, and inexpensive ingredients, and yet some of Italy’s most well-known dishes were concocted right here.
Naples is one of the most tortuous places to be if you’re on a diet. There’s a good chance that you will be tempted to give in to gluttony in the Campanian capital. Some of the best foods to eat in Naples are:
a. Street Food: Naples has a rich street food tradition and it heavily focuses on proving that you can fry just about anything.
Some of the best street foods in Naples are frittatina (a ball of deep-fried pasta stuffed with creamy béchamel sauce, provolone cheese, meat, and peas), panzarotti (dough balls filled with meat, fish, cheese, or tomatoes), and arancini (savory rice balls with melted cheese and peas).
A must-eat Naples street food classic is cuoppo, a paper cone of mixed fried foods battered and mixed deep-fried foods including fish, shrimp, mozzarella, eggplant, and dough balls. Delicious!
b. Pasta Dishes: If you love pasta, you have to try the simple yet seductive Spaghetti alle Vongole (spaghetti with clams, garlic, red chili, and fresh parsley) and Spaghetti alla puttanesca (spaghetti with tomato, capers, black olives, and red pepper)
Another famous Neapolitan dish is Pasta alla Genovese (pasta with Neapolitan beef and onion ragù), which despite its name has nothing to do with Liguria.
c. Buffalo Mozzarella: Produced by hand from buffalo milk, the unrivaled cheese Mozzarella di Bufala Campana is one of the best foods to eat in Naples. It bears a Protected Designation of Origin (DOP), meaning that only a select few cheese-makers within the region of Campania can officially produce this heavenly mozzarella.
You don’t know what buffalo mozzarella is until you taste the real thing; It has a distinctively milky taste and velvety texture bearing no resemblance to the omnipresent vastly inferior fior di latte (cow mozzarella).
d. Other well-known dishes of Neapolitan cuisine worth seeking out are Parmigiana di melanzane (oven-baked layers of eggplant, cheese, and tomato), friarielli (bitter but tasty broccoli rabe), and Impepata di Cozze (mussels with olive oil, tomatoes, red chilies, white wine, and parsley)
e. Pastries & Desserts: Neapolitan pastries are to die for and there is a wide assortment of saccharin goodness on offer. Some of the must-try Naples pastries are sfogliatella (a shell-shaped pastry typically that contains sweetened ricotta, semolina, cinnamon, eggs, and candied fruit and Torta caprese (a flourless almond-and-chocolate cake, a specialty of Capri but served all over Naples).
My personal favorite Neapolitan pastry is baba – a small, mushroom-shaped yeast cake soaked in rum syrup and served with whipped cream or pastry cream.
Last, but definitely not least, be sure to have a tiny glass of the delightful local liqueur, limoncello, which will jump-start your digestive enzymes.
To dine like a local in Naples and get an authentic Neapolitan culinary experience, you can sign up for an insightful food tour. The following are some of the top-rated food tours in Naples:
10. Invoke your inner art lover at the Capodimonte Museum
The Capodimonte Museum (Museo e Real Bosco di Capodimonte) is a must-see in Naples and anyone looking for cultural places to visit in Naples should make this splendid art museum a priority.
The Capodimonte Museum is one of the best art museums in Europe; it owes its main masterpieces to the Farnese Collection but paintings run the gamut from medieval to contemporary.
Located on the Capodimonte Hill overlooking Naples, the imposing red and gray building was previously the Bourbon family’s royal palace and part of the museum showcases the palace’s history and furnishings.
Capodimonte’s vast collection includes paintings by Botticelli, Caravaggio, El Greco, Masaccio, Michelangelo, Parmigianino, Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Titian, and Warhol. You could spend hours if not days admiring each and every artwork it houses.
Capodimonte Museum is also home is a collection of Renaissance armor, coins, Flemish tapestries, crystal, and ivory decorative arts.
Some of the best things to see at the Capodimonte Museum are:
- Tititian’s portrait of Pope Paul III and his Grandsons – a masterpiece of characterization and body language, this masterpiece depicts the scabrous relationship between Pope Paul III and his grandsons, Ottavio and Alessandro Farnese
- Titian’s Danae – this erotically charged work shows the daughter of King Argos being seduced by Jupiter in the form of a shower of gold
- Parmigianino’s Antea – Addressing viewers with an unblinking, dilated gaze, no one really knows whether the striking young woman was Parmigianino’s inamorata, daughter, servant, or an advertisement for chastity
- Pieter Brueghel the Elder’s The Blind Leading the Blind – I am a big fan of the Flemish master’s artworks; the six trudging, suffering blind men in the painting are a classic depiction of a biblical parable
- El Greco’s Boy Blowing on an Ember – this masterwork shows a wonderful play of light in the boy’s illuminated face
- Artemesia Gentileschi’s Judith Beheading Holofernes – this macabre and vengeful work shows the Jewish heroine killing the Assyrian general Holofernes in his sleep
- Caravaggio’s Flagellation of Christ – one of three Caravaggio masterpieces in Naples and undoubtedly the pièce de résistance of the Capodimonte Museum. I’m not usually big on religious art but this dramatic masterpiece underscores Caravaggio’s signature use of chiaroscuro; the foot of a tormentor against Christ’s Achilles’ tendon will raise the hairs on your neck
- Masaccio’s shimmering Crucifixion
The top floor of the museum houses a section dedicated to 19th-century paintings and a significant permanent contemporary art exhibition The most famous artwork here is Andy Warhol’s erupting Vesuvius.
Since Capodimonte is set in a royal palace, don’t forget to admire the sumptuous Royal Apartments that are decorated with stunning period details and furniture. The highlights are the grand ballroom with a massive bronze chandelier hanging over an ancient Roman inlaid-marble floor and Maria Amalia’s Porcelain Parlor, a masterwork of chinoiserie.
While most people visiting the Capodimonte Museum are understandably focused on its artworks, don’t overlook the verdant Capodimonte Park surrounding it. No longer a hunting ground for royalty, the park is characterized by smooth lawns and elegant pathways dotted with trees and exotic plants.
Being a rare Naples green space in one of Europe’s most densely populated cities, it’s inevitably crowded on weekends with families and teenagers.
Don’t skip the Capodimonte Museum. The best part about visiting the museum is that unlike some of Naples’s other sights, it is criminally under-visited. You’ll be able to admire the art and exhibits in peace.
Practical Information For Visiting the Capodimonte Museum
The Capodimonte Museum is open Thursday-Tuesday from 08:30-19:30. The entrance costs 15 EUR (free first Sunday of each month) and is worth every cent. To save time, you can also book your ticket online through the museum website or GetYourGuide.
11. Admire the splendor of the San Carlo Theater
Milan’s La Scala might be more famous but it ain’t got nothing on Naples’s San Carlo Theater (Teatro di San Carlo) in terms of sheer beauty and elegance. It is one of the most famous opera houses in the world, and arguably the most important in Italy.
Built in 1737 for King Charles III of the House of Bourbon, the San Carlo Theater is the world’s oldest continuously active opera house in the world. San Carlo Theater was an instant hit with the Neapolitan glitterati and one of the most important social venues in 18th-century Naples.
The original 1737 theater flourished up to a destructive fire in 1816. Nine months after the disastrous event the San Carlo Theater was resurrected by architect Antonio Niccolini in Neoclassical style and reopened in 1817.
Thanks to its grandeur and superior acoustics, San Carlo’s stage has been graced by opera’s biggest names; famed composers such as Bellini, Donizetti, Puccini, Rossini, and Verdi performed their works here.
The horseshoe-shaped interior of the San Carlo Theater is fantastically decadent. It has six levels of tiered boxes, all upholstered in luxuriant red velvet and adorned with gold leaf.
Crystal chandeliers, velvet draperies, and a huge ceiling painting depicting Apollo introducing the greatest poets in the world to the goddess Minerva complete the sumptuous interior.
The opera season runs from January to December (except July and August). Even if attending a performance doesn’t suit your taste, you might want to visit the San Carlo Theater just to see the building; tours are offered frequently.
Several guided tours are available daily in English and Italian. You can check out the opening hours and prices here. You’ll want to reserve about an hour for this tour.
12. Enjoy a peaceful escape in the Santa Chiara Monastery
The majolica-tiled Santa Chiara Monastery (Complesso Monumentale di Santa Chiara) is undoubtedly one of the top 10 sights of Naples. Dating from the 14th century, this monastery is from a period when Naples was governed by French royal rule under the Angevin dynasty.
The complex was built in Gothic style by Robert d’Anjou (‘Robert the Wise’) for his exotically named wife Sancha of Majorca. It was built to accommodate both monks and the tombs of the Angevin royal family.
The hulking Basilica of Santa Chiara stands at the heart of this tranquil monastery complex. While the austere church demands a visit, Santa Chiara’s most impressive feature is its vibrant 17th-century Rococo cloister.
The Santa Chiara cloister was planned as a tranquil garden for the nuns, with wide paths and citrus trees. 72 octagonal columns connected by benches divide the cloister into avenues, each decorated with a series of brightly colored majolica tiles depicting plants, flowers, and scenes of city and country life.
The cloister is the work of Domenico Vaccaro and the father-and-son team of Giuseppe and Donato Massa who depicted eye-catching flora and lively 18th-century town and country scenes. These images were intended to provide the nuns with a link to the outside world although one can only conjecture how tempting these gorgeous scenes must have been for the pious nuns to leave the monastery.
The Santa Chiara cloister has become a muse for photographers thanks to its mesmerizing beauty. Ostensibly, it is the most photographed place in Naples. We ourselves were delighted to snap plenty of photos here.
In addition to the vividly decorated majolica columns and seats, the arcades that run along the four sides of the cloister are adorned with beautiful frescoes depicting sacred narratives.
The adjoining Museo dell’Opera traces the history of the convent. It contains some interesting ecclesiastical props, decorative ornaments, and sculptures.
The Santa Chiara Monastery is absolutely worth visiting since it provides a much welcome and serene retreat from the chaos of the bustling city. Make sure to stop by the next time you get to Naples!
Practical Information For Visiting the Santa Chiara Monastery
The Santa Chiara cloister is open from 09:30–17:30 (Monday-Saturday) and 10:00–14:30 (Sunday). The last entrance is 30 minutes before closing time. The entrance to the cloister costs 6 EUR.
The Basilica of Santa Chiara is open from 08:00–12:45 & 16:30–20:00 (Monday-Saturday) and 09:00–12:45 & 16:30–20:00 (Sunday). Free entrance.
Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and its history can be traced back over 2,800 years to the eighth century BC when people from the Greek colony of Cumae founded what was then called Parthenope. The Italian name for the city ‘Napoli’ itself stems from the Greek word Neapolis or “new city.”
13. Travel beneath the city on a fascinating tour of Underground Naples
As you may have now probably discerned, There’s a lot more to Naples than meets the eye, quite literally. Evidence of its multilayered history and past inhabitants are buried deep under its modern-day streets.
Underground Naples (Napoli Sotteranea) archaeological site is a manmade subterranean maze of passageways, tunnels, aqueducts, and chambers that stretches out underneath the entire historic center at a depth of about 40 meters (131 feet).
The excavations date back to the 4th century BC when the ancient Greeks quarried for tufa stone to build their walls and temples. Later, when the Romans ran off the Greeks, they used the chambers to build a series of underground walkways and aqueducts that provided water to Neapolitans for many centuries until the cholera epidemic of 1884.
Tracts of the disused tunnels and aqueduct were reopened and used as shelters during the heavy Allied bombardments of World War II. In fact, you can still see forgotten war relics such as weapons, and documents.
The Naples Underground tour is a thrilling experience and comes highly recommended.
Practical Information For Visiting Underground Naples
Underground Naples can only be visited on a guided tour. Tours in English are offered daily at 12:00, 14:00, 16:00, and 18:00. Reservation is not required but this is a very popular experience and to avoid queues, you should book a skip-the-line ticket.
The tour is suitable for people of all ages. Although there are plenty of steps involved, there are handrails alongside the stairs. The site is not wheelchair accessible.
Part of the Underground Naples tour takes place by candlelight via an extremely narrow passage so it is not recommended for claustrophobes. However, the narrowest tunnel is optional, so if you’re not up for it you can wait outside for 10 minutes.
N.B. Comfortable non-slip shoes (preferably trainers) are recommended for the tour. The temperature underground is about 15°C (60°F) with a high degree of humidity, so dress accordingly.
14. Feel like royalty at the Naples Royal Palace
Built in the middle of the 16th century, the Naples Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale) was one of the most important royal courts in southern Europe.
Its design was tweaked on numerous occasions over the centuries with successive each ruler leaving his mark. The giant statues of Neapolitan kings along its long façade represent the eight dynasties that ruled Naples from Roger the Norman to Victor Emmanuel of Savoy.
Inside a monumental staircase, embellished with pink and white marble, leads from the central courtyard up to the palace’s royal apartments. The 30 rooms of the Royal Apartments showcase an eye-popping collection of furnishings, porcelain, tapestries, sculpture, and paintings, all under a cavalcade of gilded, stuccoed ceilings.
The highlights of the Naples Royal Palace are –
- Court Theater: The exquisite court theater was built in 1768 to celebrate the wedding of Ferdinand IV and Marie Caroline of Austria. Quite ingeniously, the 12 statues of Apollo and the Muses are decorated with paper-mâché sculpture
- Palatine Chapel: The chapel is known for its splendid high altar, which consists of semiprecious stones set in gilt copper, while the 18th-century elaborate nativity scene is a study of local life at the time
- Hall of Hercules: This attractive room acquired its name after it was decorated with plaster copies of the sculptures of the Farnese collection, including that of the Farnese Hercules
The Royal Palace of Naples is open Thursday-Tuesday from 09:00-20:00 (last entrance is at 19:00). The entrance costs 10 EUR.
15. Take in the sweeping views from Castel Sant’Elmo
Naples undoubtedly has one of the most scenic settings of any city in the world. Thus, when visiting Naples, finding a perfect spot to marvel at the grandeur of Naples’s skyline is a must-do!
If you’re looking for the best viewpoint in Naples, best head to Castel Sant’Elmo. This 14th-century fortress, built atop Vomero Hill by the Angevins, occupies the highest point in Naples.
It was remodeled in the 16th century by the Spanish, with a church and chapel included in the complex. For many years a prison, where revolutionaries and rebels languished, today the Castel Sant’Elmo now contains a gallery of works by 20th-century Neapolitan artists and is an exhibition center.
For most visitors, however, Castel Sant’Elmo is an absolute must-see since it offers the best panoramic views of Naples. The parapets, configured in the form of a six-pointed star, provide staggering views over the city and the entire Bay of Naples.
You can enjoy the whole of Naples spread out like a map, every turret, and dome is clearly visible. I love how you can see Spaccanapoli cutting its way through the historic center.
Castel Sant’Elmo is open daily from 08:30-19:30 (last admission is at 18:30). The entrance costs 5 EUR.
I highly recommend visiting Castel Sant’Elmo just before sunset, as the views are even more beautiful during this time.
16. Visit the Sanità District
Most visitors to Naples stick to the well-worn lists of must-sees and depart without realizing that there’s a lot more to the city. One of my favorite low-key places is the Sanità district (Rione Sanità) – a neighborhood full of nuances and arguably Naples’s most colorful district.
The neighborhood formerly had a reputation for poverty and petty crime but these days is sought out for its Baroque architecture, bustling markets, and local eateries. Largely untouched by tourism, Sanità’s appealingly gritty network of streets offers as authentic a slice of Neapolitan life as you’ll find anywhere in the city.
As you make your way through the neighborhood, you’ll encounter broken cobblestone lanes, itinerant minstrels, sidewalks clogged with makeshift markets, and walls adorned with ancient posters, murals, and graffiti. The raw, high-octane energy that Naples is renowned for is most palpable in Sanità.
While the reason to visit Sanità is simply to watch the theater of Neapolitan life, don’t forget to stop by the Palazzo dello Spagnuolo – one of the best hidden gems in Naples. This pale green and cream 18th-century edifice by Fernando Sanfelice is one of the best examples of Neapolitan Baroque.
Its superb external double staircase with falcon wings and tiers of archways provides a great photo op. Note how stucco designs can be seen throughout.
17. Check out the beautiful Galleria Umberto I
Galleria Umberto I is a famous public shopping arcade in Naples. This iron-and-glass shopping mall was built at the height of the Belle Époque in 1890 to revitalize the area after a devastating cholera epidemic occurred here.
The Galleria Umberto I was modeled on Milan’s Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, which had opened a few years earlier. It is built in the shape of a cross, with four wings leading from the central area.
This lends the arcade the feeling of a cathedral, soaring upwards to a vaulted glass ceiling and a soaring 56-meter dome that rises at the center. The gallery stands out for its rich architectural detail and its walls are covered with Neo-Renaissance elements.
Note the marble floor laid out with mosaics. At the center is a large mosaic depicting the signs of the zodiac.
An integral part of the Naples shopping trail, you’ll find several shopping options at the Galleria Umberto I, including high street names, elegant boutiques, and bargain stores. There are also a variety of restaurants and cafés within.
Even without the shops, the elegant architecture, and the opportunity to watch Neapolitans go on about their business make a visit to the Galleria Umberto I an essential part of any trip to Naples.
The Galleria Umberto I is open 24/7, although shops and restaurants operate on their own schedules.
18. Take a seaside stroll along the Lungomare seafront
One of the most relaxing and pleasurable things to do in Naples is indulging in a leisurely walk along the Lungomare. The 2.5 km (1.5 miles) broad coastal road of the city, which stretches from Santa Lucia to Mergellina, serves as a relaxing place to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh sea air.
It is a favorite venue for Neapolitans, who come here to jog, walk their dogs, or stroll in the sun. The harborside promenade also offers indisputably breathtaking picture-postcard views of nearby Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples.
This delightful area is home to several Naples attractions as well as the glamorous residential and shopping area of Chiaia. The most notable highlights of the Lungomare are –
a. Castel dell’Ovo: The oldest castle in Naples occupies a tiny islet named Megaris by the Greeks, who used it as a harbor. The original fortress was built by the Normans in the 12th century, but most of the present structure was built by the Aragonese in the 16th century.
The castle casts an enduring shadow over the cityscape of Naples and stands out for its tall tufa curtain walls.
FUN FACT: THE LEGEND OF CASTEL DELL’OVO
One of the most popular Neapolitan legends is that buried in the rock beneath the Castel dell’Ovo lies an ancient egg (uovo), which holds the fate of the city within its shell. The Roman scribe Virgil, who was believed to possess powers of divination, prophesied that if the egg breaks, catastrophe would befall Naples. Thankfully, both are still standing.
b. Villa Communale: Though its name sounds like a residence, Villa Communale is in fact the name of the long, narrow park that runs between Via Carraciolo and the Riviera di Chiaia. With exotic plants, playgrounds, classic statues, and beautiful views, it’s an ideal spot to while away an afternoon.
c. Fountain of the Giant (Fontana dell’Immacolatella): Created by Pietro Bernini and Michelangelo Naccherino, this striking marble fountain is a fine piece of Mannerist architecture. Its trio of arches is adorned with heraldic symbols and marine animals.
19. Marvel at some of Naples’s beautiful metro stations
If you’re on the lookout for non-touristy things to do in Naples, visiting some metro (subway) stations should be at the top of your list. A lesser-known fact about Naples is that it is home to some of the most beautiful metro stations in the world.
With over 200 eclectic works of art by local architects and international well-established names, the Naples Metro has turned an otherwise humdrum experience into a visually gratifying one.
Some of the most beautiful Naples metro stations are –
a. Toledo (Line 1): This is undoubtedly my favorite metro station in Naples. Designed by Spanish architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca, the station was designed around the theme of water and light. The walls between the ground and lower levels are clad with thousands of Bisazza tiles and a seascape of LED wall panels.
Changing from light to dark blue as passengers travel down the escalators, the evolution represents the descent into an undersea world. Two monumental mosaics by South African artist William Kentridge containing numerous allusions to the city dominate the upper halls.
The Toledo Metro Station is definitely one of the best Naples Instagram spots and it’s not unusual to see photographers sleuthing around Toledo Metro Station. Escalate and de-escalate a couple of times to enjoy all the features.
b. Museo (Line 1): Located next to the National Archeological Museum, the station is home to replicas of several well-known statues such as the statue of Laocoön and His Sons, and the Farnese Hercules. It also features a series of black and white photo panels by local photographer Mimmo Jodice.
c. Universita (Line 1): Designed with the goal of highlighting the importance of communication, this avant-garde station’s entrance is clad with white tiles, each one printed with a word originating in the last century. The station atrium uses wall-to-ceiling psychedelic patterns and mirrored panels to symbolize the digital era and interconnected world.
You’ll find a metal sculpture that represents synapses and nodes of the brain. The two central black pillars are a metaphor for dialogue and communication between humans.
d. Materdei (Line 1): The station, designed by architect Alessandro Mendini, features a steel and colored glass spire next to its entrance The interior stands out for its colored paneling and beautiful mosaics.
e. Dante (Line 1): Dante Station stands out for its two interesting artworks. One is by the Greek-Italian artist Jannis Kounellis, who created an installation with small steel beams (representing train tracks) running over a hat, a jacket, toy trains, and many shoes.
The other is by Joseph Kosuth, an American conceptual artist, who installed a bright white neon text which is a passage from Dante Alighieri’s Convivio.
20. Seek out some of Naples’s other beautiful churches
Naples is home to a remarkable number of churches ranging in style from the austere to over-the-top opulence. These churches are worth seeking out for their rich architecture and magnificent artworks.
In brief, the following are three churches in Naples you have to visit (besides the Duomo of course):
a. Gesù Nuovo: Gesù Nuovo is what I like to call an architectural Kinder Surprise. Its austere façade is fashioned in dark basalt stone that has been formed into protruding pyramid shapes. It was originally a Renaissance palazzo but was transformed into a church by the Jesuits in the late 16th century.
Every surface of the church’s interior is dripping with opulent Baroque decoration. There are also fine frescoes, paintings, and sculptures, including works by the Spanish artist José Ribera and the master of Neapolitan Baroque Luca Giordano.
b. Pio Monte della Misericordia: A small but high-quality collection of Renaissance and Baroque art makes a visit to this octagonal, 17th-century church well worth the entrance fee. Pride of the place is given to Caravaggio’s The Seven Works of Mercy which hangs over the main altar in a humble gray chapel.
It is regarded as the most significant painting in Naples and the monumental work presents an allegory of the charitable works undertaken by the noble members of the Monte della Misericordia, a charitable institution.
c. San Gregorio Armenio: The interior of this church is a strong contender for the most riotous example of Neapolitan Baroque in the city. Nowhere is this more evident than in the lavish wooden ceiling, dripping in gold leaf.
Also of note are Luca Giordano’s frescoes of The Embarkation and Journey and Arrival of the Armenian Nuns with the Relics of St. Gregory.
d. Certosa di San Martino Church: Dedicated to St. Martin, this beautiful church is located in the historic monastery of Certosa di San Martino. It showcases magnificent Baroque decorations, frescoes, and marble altars.
The high altar is particularly impressive, adorned with intricate sculptures and golden decorations. The church also houses the tomb of Charles of Anjou.
21. Get spooked in the eerie Fontanelle Cemetery
Those looking for unusual things to do in Naples should definitely swing by the macabre underground Fontanelle Cemetery (Cimitero delle Fontanelle), one of the spookiest places in Europe.
Once a Roman quarry for tufa blocks, the underground chamber began life as a makeshift ossuary in the mid-17th century when a plague reduced the population of Naples from 400,000 to 150,000.
Later, it became become a depository for the mortal remains of Naples’s poorest residents, as well as those who perished in the city’s recurring plague epidemics.
The Fontanelle Cemetery is utterly compelling and spine-chilling at the same time. Staring at the thousands of skulls, you can’t help but wonder what life would have been like for each of them.
The Fontanelle Cemetery is open daily from 10:00-17:00 (last admission at 16:30). Free entrance.
22. Drop by the Pignasecca Market
A visit to the boisterous Pignasecca Market (Mercato della Pignasecca) comes highly recommended as it is one of the few places where you can catch a glimpse of workaday Naples and get an intimate experience of everyday life in the city.
The city’s oldest and largest outdoor market is arguably the best place to see the Neapolitans at their most theatrical. Immerse yourself in the local hubbub as the city’s townsfolk seek out the very best locally sourced produce and seafood.
It’s great fun to observe the various vendors, who partake in a shouting contest to attract clientele. Fresh produce and seafood aside, the market’s street-side stalls hock items such as spices, clothes, shoes, bags, jewelry, bric-à-brac, souvenirs, and other paraphernalia.
The Pignasecca Market is open from 08:00-19:00 (Monday-Saturday). To experience the market at its liveliest you should arrive early in the morning.
23. Hop around the lively piazzas
As is the case with other major Italian cities, Naples has no shortage of exciting piazzas (squares). The most important squares to discover in Naples are –
a. Piazza del Plebiscito: The largest piazza in Naples celebrates the 1861 vote (plebiscito=plebiscite) in which Naples chose to join Italy. It is dominated by the twin arcades of San Francesco di Paola, an imposing neoclassical church inspired by the Pantheon in Rome.
The two equestrian statues gracing the square commemorate the two Bourbon kings, Ferdinand I and Charles II are the works of the great Italian Neoclassical sculptor, Antonio Canova.
Piazza del Plebiscito was used as a public parking lot from the 1960s to 1994 when it was restored and opened to the public.
b. Piazza Bellini: The delightful Piazza Bellini, with its outdoor cafés and elegant architecture facing all around, is well known as a hip, trendy area where artists, intellectuals, and students linger. It is also possible to see the remains of part of the ancient Greek walls in the center of the square.
c. Piazza dei Martiri: Located in the chic Chiara district, this small square is dominated by the Monument to the Neapolitan Martyrs. It was designed by Errico Alvino in the mid-19th century; the four lions at its base symbolize the fallen heroes of the anti-Bourbon uprisings of Naples.
24. Pay a quick visit to the Spanish Quarter
The atmospheric Spanish Quarter is one of the city’s most densely populated neighborhoods and its matrix of tight-knit streets and cramped dwellings have become an evocative symbol of inner-city Naples.
The Spanish Quarter is so called because created in the 16th century to accommodate the occupying Spanish troops who were residing or passing through Naples. The neighborhood has a rather exaggerated reputation as a hotbed of crime and while it still suffers from many problems today, it’s a delight to see as a tourist.
This is the Naples of the movies: shabby streets lined with fluttering laundry strung between shuttered windows, cigarette-puffing residents surveying the street below from their modest dwellings, whole chickens hung by their feet in butcher shops, kitschy electric votive candles, mopeds roaring by, neighborhood bars and osterie, and the smells of rich ragu. It’s sort of reminiscent of a casbah.
As is the case with the Sanità district, the best way to explore the is without a map and see what surprises await around each corner.
One of the notable sights in the Spanish Quarter is the so-called “Maradona Square” – dedicated to the late Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona. The charismatic Maradona has god-like status in Naples and is revered by Neapolitans from his glory days playing for SSC Napoli.
The small square features a huge Maradona mural which shows a shaggy-haired Maradona in Napoli’s signature blue shirt charging emphatically toward goal. Dedicated to the worship of Maradona, it is adorned with photos, flags, jerseys, and other relics left by the soccer faithful.
For an intimate experience of getting acquainted with the Spanish Quarter, you should sign up for a guided tour with a local. >>> Book your tour.
25. Head to Castel Nuovo
The Castel Nuovo, more commonly known locally as the Maschio Angioino, is a 13th-century Angevin castle that was later converted into the residence of the Aragon kings.
It is an important Naples landmark that stands out for its architecture, note the superb 15th-century four-tiered Renaissance triumphal arch and five cylindrical towers. The arch now holds allegorical figures representing the Four Virtues.
The imposing castle is now home to the seat of the local government as well as the Civic Museum (Musei Civico). The museum is home to numerous paintings, sculptures, and silver crucifixes.
The most memorable of the museum’s rooms are the starkly elegant Palatine Chapel and the Hall of the Barons (Sala dei Baroni), which features a stupendous star-shaped ribbed vaulted ceiling with intersecting ribs.
Castel Nuovo is open from 08:30-18:00 (Monday to Saturday and 10:00-13:00 (Sunday). The entrance costs 6 EUR.
26. Pop into Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano
Set in the magnificent headquarters of the Intesa Sanpaolo (one of Italy’s major banks), the elegant Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano is one of Naples’s best-kept secrets. It is home to a small but excellent collection of Neapolitan and Italian art spanning the 17th- to early-20th centuries.
The small museum is certainly worth visiting for anyone seeking out the artworks of Caravaggio in Naples for it is home to The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, thought to be his final work. The painting was commissioned by the Genovese nobleman Marcantonio Doria to celebrate his stepdaughter’s decision to become a nun and take on the name Sister Ursula.
According to the legend, Ursula was a British princess who was murdered after she rebuffed the advances of a Hun chief in Cologne. The painting captures the moment the jilted Hun pierces his unwilling virgin bride-to-be with an arrow and shows the young Ursula feeling her mortal wound with an air of faint disbelief.
The palace’s tastefully decorated rooms are also home to numerous standouts are Luca Giordano’s The Rape of Helen, Louis Finson’s graphic Judith Beheading Holofernes, and Artemisia Gentileschi’s Samson and Delilah. The museum is also home to some fine landscape paintings.
Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano is open from 10:00 to 19:00 (Tuesday-Friday:) and 10:00 to 20:00 (Saturday-Sunday). The last entrance is one hour before closing. Tickets cost 7 EUR. Free admission every first Sunday of the month.
27. Go on a day trip
Naples is a good base for exploring the islands, the Amalfi coast, and the historic sites in the Naples Bay area. Some of the most popular day trips from Naples are –
a. The Amalfi Coast: The Amalfi Coast remains one of the most awe-inspiring and exciting stretches of coastline in Europe. The most beautiful Amalfi Coast towns are Positano, Praiano, Ravello, and Amalfi.
These picturesque villages clinging to sheer mountainsides that drop into shimmering azure sea certainly leave an indelible mark on whoever visits. The stunning scenery provided by the limestone cliffs and the terraced olive and lemon groves is further enhanced by the colorful, tiled domes of the churches that grace this picture-postcard stretch.
b. Capri: Once a pleasure dome of the debauched Roman emperor Tiberius, the craggy island of Capri evokes an unequivocal vision of glamour and beauty. It rests on top of rugged limestone cliffs and impresses with its narrow lanes, dazzling white houses, stairways, low arches, and chic designer boutiques.
The fabled Blue Grotto is perhaps the most popular attraction on Capri. Its spectacular emerald blue light is caused by sunlight reflecting off the white sand floor of the cave.
c. Pompeii: Such is the renown of Pompeii, certainly the most important classical archeological site in Europe, that it scarcely needs an introduction. Ancient Pompeii was a busy commercial center with a population of 10,000–20,000 when Vesuvius erupted on the morning of August 23, AD 79.
Today, the excavations reveal a fascinating window into how the people of Pompeii lived, from the ruling class down to the slaves.
Be sure to purchase a Pompeii fast-track entrance ticket before your visit or consider signing up for an informative 2-hour skip-the-line Pompeii tour with an archaeologist. You can also book a day trip from Naples to Pompeii.
d. Herculaneum: If you’re planning on seeing Pompeii, don’t miss out on Herculaneum. Frozen in time like Pompeii, Herculaneum harbors a wealth of archaeological finds. The excavations are less extensive but the site is much easier to navigate and Roman villas are better preserved than those at Pompeii.
Be sure to purchase a Herculaneum fast-track entrance ticket before your visit or consider signing up for an informative 2-hour skip-the-line Herculaneum tour with an archaeologist. You can also book a day trip from Naples to Herculaneum.
It is also possible to visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum on a full-day tour from Naples.
e. Mt. Vesuvius: Mount Vesuvius has fascinated visitors for centuries and one of the most thrilling day trips from Naples is a hike to the rim of Vesuvius’s crater.
Though Vesuvius is the only active volcano in continental Europe, the climb is perfectly safe and not too extreme. From the rim of the crater, fine views can be enjoyed of the Gulf of Naples on clear days.
Getting To Naples
Naples International Airport, also known as Capodichino Airport, is located 6 km (3.7 miles) northeast of Naples city center. The most-budget friendly way to get from Naples Airport to the city center is by taking the Alibus shuttle.
The bus stops at both Piazza Garibaldi (Naples Central Station) and Molo Beverolo (where you can take ferries to the islands). The Alibus shuttle runs from 05:30-00:30 with buses departing every 5-15 minutes.
The journey from Naples Airport to the city center with Alibus takes about 15-20 minutes. You can purchase tickets (5 EUR) from the vending machines located on the ground floor of the arrivals area of the airport or from the bus driver.
If you have a lot of luggage, are traveling in a small group, and want to reach your final destination in Naples without any hassle, you may want to opt for a private transfer.
How To Get around Naples?
Despite its slightly hilly terrain, Naples is a walkable city and the best way to get around Naples is on foot. Walking remains the best way to discover the city’s many treasures.
In case you’re interested in seeing the highlights of Naples on foot, check out this rewarding Naples walking tour.
Once you get your bearings, Naples is an easy city to navigate, and virtually all the main areas of interest to tourists can be covered on foot. However, be extra vigilant crossing the road. Traffic in Naples is as anarchic and chaotic as it gets; drivers often ignore traffic lights and zebra crossings, and fast-moving mopeds appear out of nowhere.
For some sightseeing and for getting around between the different districts it is necessary to use public transport. Naples’s easy-to-use public transport includes the bus, trams, the metro, and funicular trains.
Bus and tram journeys take time in getting around Naples because of the heavy traffic. The metro is the best option and metro line 1 is the most useful for tourists with departures every 9 minutes.
The funicular railways offer a quick way of going up and down the city slopes, particularly in the Vomero district and Posillipo.
A single ticket costs 1.70 EUR and is valid for 90 minutes, a day ticket costs 5.10 EUR, and a weekly ticket is 16 EUR. One ticket covers all and you can seamlessly switch from one form of transport to another.
Tickets can be purchased from the machines at the metro, funicular, and train stations or from tobacconists. Remember to validate your ticket before departure by stamping it in a machine.
In case you’re interested in seeing the highlights of Naples on bike, check out this excellent Naples Bicycle Tour.
For those craving an audio guide and extra comfort, you can also get around the city with a Naples Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.
You probably won’t need to use taxis during your time in Naples. However, should you want to use a taxi, you can order one online or by telephone, or pick up one at one of the numerous taxi ranks located strategically across Naples. Just make certain you use an authorized taxi.
I wouldn’t recommend renting a car for use in Naples. Traffic in the city is a challenge even for experienced drivers, and parking poses an even greater challenge.
Where to Stay in Naples
The best place to stay in Naples would be in the historic center or in the vicinity somewhere as many of the star attractions are close by. By staying here you’ll also get to experience Naples at its most vibrant.
Hostel: Hostel of the Sun, great option just outside the historic center close to the harbor
Budget: B&B San Gaetano, excellent low budget option in the historic center
Mid-range: Poerio 25 Boutique Stay, a top-notch choice close to the seafront in the upscale district of Chiaia
Splurge: Grand Hotel Oriente, a superb choice just outside the historic center, two minutes from Toledo metro station
Is Naples safe?
Is Naples safe? This is the question I most often get asked whenever I recommend people to visit Naples. Naples does suffer from an image problem and many people view it as a hotbed of crime.
Indeed, petty crime is quite widespread in Naples and the Camorra (Naples’s version of the Mafia) enjoys a significant presence in the city. However, this doesn’t imply that the city is as dangerous as is often portrayed and you’re extremely unlikely to encounter violent crime.
The presence of the Camorra may skew people’s notion of safety in Naples but the Camorra is not a threat to tourists (unless you screw them on a business deal or something).
Naples is as safe as any other city in Italy and don’t let apprehension ruin your trip. Having said that, you should take a few precautionary measures to ensure you don’t encounter any issues while sightseeing in Naples.
Pickpockets, bag snatchers, and con artists are particularly active in tourist areas and prey on the unwary, so keep your eyes open and be vigilant. Don’t show off your valuables, secure your handbags and always keep an eye on them. Secure your handbags and never leave them on the back of a chair in a restaurant or bar.
Don’t venture into dodgy areas that make you uncomfortable. The area around Naples Central Station (Garibaldi) is best avoided after dark. In general, be careful when walking down dimly lit alleys at night.
Is Naples worth visiting?
From the 18th century to the mid-19th century Naples rivaled Paris as the most elegant and refined city in Europe, attracting tourists from across Europe.
Such was the renown of Naples at the time that the German writer and scientist Johann Wolfgang von Goethe most famously coined the expression Vedi Napoli e poi muori (“See Naples and then die”) meaning that one could die peacefully after seeing it, as nothing else could be compared to it in terms of beauty and opulence.
Sadly, in recent years it has been overshadowed by other Italian cities such as Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Naples can be an extraordinarily challenging city and traveling there for the first time can give rise to a gamut of emotions. No one who visits remains ambivalent.
Naples is a city that lives by its own rules and demands that visitors give in to the flow of local life. The cacophonic din, traffic jams, kamikaze drivers, general commotion, grubbiness, and unsightly graffiti on urban trains and monuments may be somewhat alarming at first.
However, the city grows on you as you take in the sights and you are likely to succumb to the infectious charm of its extraordinarily rich heritage. With beguiling art and architecture, ever-vibrant street life, one of the most beautiful bays in the world, and a mouthwatering culinary tradition, Naples is truly one of a kind.
So, is Naples worth visiting? Absolutely! I know I’m biased but the city will never, ever bore you making it the perfect destination for a memorable holiday. It deserves to be seen at least once – ideally several times – before you die.
Is the Campania Artecard worth it?
If you’re planning on doing lots of sightseeing in Naples and the surrounding area, it’s worth investing in a Campania ArteCard.
For sightseeing in Naples and the Campania region, the most common travel pass is the Campania Artecard. It allows you access to around 80 of the most important attractions/museums in Naples and Campania for free or at a discounted rate.
The Campania Artecard comes in several versions but for most travelers, the most useful versions are the three days and seven days cards. The major difference between the two is that public transportation on local buses, trams, funiculars, the Naples metro, and regional trains is included for free on the 3-day card whereas the 7-day card doesn’t include free public transport.
Ultimately, whether the Campania Artecard is worth buying and truly cost-effective depends on your needs and interests and the range of sightseeing activities you have planned.
When is the best time to visit Naples?
The climate of Naples is typically Mediterranean, with warm summers and cool winters. In general, the best time to visit Naples is in the shoulder season between April-May or September-October when the weather is generally good and the tourist crowds aren’t quite so big. generally clear skies and mild to warm temperatures.
Summers are very hot and humid, with temperatures around 30°–40° C (85°–105° F). So, if you’re planning to visit Naples in summer, make sure to take lots of sun protection.
Winter in Naples is usually mild with many brilliantly sunny days. The upside of visiting Naples in winter is that accommodation prices are lower and there are hardly any tourists.
How many days are enough to see Naples?
With so many things to do, see and eat, three to five days is a good amount of time for a first-time traveler to get a solid introduction to Naples. However, if you have a week it’s highly recommended you take a few Naples day trips.
Further Reading For Your Naples Visit
That summarizes our comprehensive guide to the best things to do in Naples. However, we reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to Naples & the Campania region!
Further Reading For Your Naples Visit
→ Find out how to spend one perfect day in Naples!
→ Check out our list of 12 best pizzerias in Naples!
→ Find out the 10 Best Neapolitan Pastries You Must Try in Naples!
→ Discover the 7 Best Gelato Shops in Naples!
→ Check out our comprehensive guide to visiting Procida!
→ Read our comprehensive guide to visiting Caserta Royal Palace!
→ Check out our ultimate guide to hiking Mount Vesuvius!
→ Find out everything you need to know about how to visit Pompeii!
→ Check out our in-depth guide about how to visit Herculaneum!
More Information About Italy
Do you agree with our list? What are some of the best things to do in Naples? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!
Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).