Are you about to discover Italy and the famous city of Naples? Here is everything you need to know to visit Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples!
Nestled in the heart of Campania, Naples is one of Italy’s top destinations and must-see cities. Everyone knows or has heard of the magnificent “Bay of Naples,” overlooked by the imposing Mount Vesuvius and home to the stunning island of Capri. Blessed with an exceptional heritage and incredible culture, dating to the classical era and even surviving the catastrophic volcanic eruption that destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii, the city of Naples has been attractive to royalty and the ruling classes for centuries, and as such, is the proud home of dozens of palaces and castles, from Castel Nuovo to the Palace of Caserta, Castel dell’Ovo and of course Castel Sant’Elmo, a majestic castle which has been overlooking the city of Naples for the past 700 years!
You can’t leave Naples before you visit Castel Sant’Elmo, where you’ll enjoy an exceptional view of Naples, its Gulf, Mount Vesuvius, and the historic center! Discover here all the practical information you need to visit Sant’Elmo Castle in Naples.
History of Castel Sant’Elmo
Perched atop Vomero hill, Castel Sant’Elmo is a 14th-century medieval fortress designed by architect Timo di Camaino from Sienna. Known initially as Belforte, the castle was likely a fortified residence, surrounded by walls, and is now serving as a museum and an exhibition hall. The name “Sant’Elmo” derives from a former 10th-century church, Sant’Erasmo, dedicated to Saint Erasmus of Formia shortened to “Ermo” and, finally altered to “Elmo.” In 1456, the fortress was severely damaged in an earthquake, which demolished the external walls and the towers.
When the Spaniards – the Aragonese rulers of Naples – decided to rebuild it, they converted the edifice into a hexagonal star-shaped defensive castle. They gave this task to a military architect from Valencia, Pedro Luis Escrivà di Valenza, instructed to build an impregnable fort. Set atop Vomero hill, Castel Sant’Elmo offered sweeping views of the entire Gulf of Naples, the city and its surroundings: a strategic location in terms of defensive surveillance. It was later converted into a prison in the 17th century, serving this purpose until 1952.
Restored by the state at the end of the 1970s, Castel Sant’Elmo was subsequently opened to visitors. A remarkable edifice, typical of Neapolitan history and culture, the castle occasionally hosts exhibitions and cultural events.
What to see and do at Castel Sant’Elmo?
On your way to visit Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples, you will reach the building by crossing a drawbridge and a portcullis that leads to the castle’s parade ground.
Though most of the interior of the Castle is not accessible to visitors, the site is now home to a multicultural center that regularly hosts several temporary exhibitions, concerts, and shows. The castle also houses the Naples Novecento Museum where you can admire paintings and sculptures by famous 20th-century Neapolitan artists.
One of the reasons to visit Castel Sant’Elmo is to enjoy its exceptional viewpoint. The castle offers superb panoramic views of the city, the bay of Naples, and Mount Vesuvius, as well as the historic center, Spaccanapoli street, the Chiaia district, the Lungomare, the island of Capri in the distance, Mergellina, Posillipo hill, or the tuff quarries.
The castle itself boasts impressive vertical walls. You can access the upper terrace via the elevator or via the ramp situated on the left side upon entering the castle. Accessing the terrace via the ramp allows you to discover the drawbridge and the portcullis, and to look at the view through the arrow slits: you’ll be able to spot, for example, the former monastery and museum of Certosa di San Martino (the “Charterhouse of St. Martin”).
How to get to Castel Sant’Elmo?
Getting to Castel Sant’Elmo is quite convenient as there are many options, regardless of where you choose to stay in Naples.
Home to Castel Sant’Elmo as well as the Certosa di San Martino, Vomero hill is accessible via 3 funiculars.
- By metro
- By funicular
- By bus
- By car
You can access the castle from the Montesanto metro station (Piazza Dante). This metro line (line 1) will take you close to the Certosa di San Martino and Castel Sant’Elmo. Stop at Morghen station, and turn right immediately, into a small semi-private street.
You can also take the central funicular, which leaves from via Toledo, or the Chiaia funicular, which departs from the district of the same name, near Piazza Amedeo, accessible via metro line 2. These vintage funiculars offer both a pleasant and fast way to get to the site: a convenient option! The ascent takes only a few minutes, whereas the journey by bus or metro may take longer.
By bus, take the V1 line: there are several stops near Castel Sant’Elmo (for example: stop at “San Martino-Certosa” or “Sant’Elmo”).
If you’re traveling to Naples with your own vehicle or if you choose to rent a car upon arrival at the airport, you can park near Castel Sant’Elmo and reach the castle on foot.
Use the map above to find your way around the castle! You can zoom in or out directly on the map.
Opening hours and rates of Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples
– Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples is open every day from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm (last admission at 6:30 pm).
-The Novecento Museum is open every day (except Tuesdays) from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm (last entrance at 4:15 pm).
Full price: €5
Reduced rate: €2.50
Price on Tuesday (Novecento museum closed): €2.50
Please note that the cost of admission and schedules may vary depending on the exhibitions on show. You’ll find all the conditions of free access on the official website of Castel Sant’Elmo.
Guided group tours in English are also available (Duration: 1 hour and 30 minutes / Price: €90.00).
GOOD TO KNOW
Here are a few practical tips to help you visit Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples in the best conditions :
– A visit to the castle lasts on average about 1h30
– To avoid the crowds of tourists, we recommend visiting Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples during off-peak times, in the morning or at the end of the day.
– An elevator gives you access to the top of Castel Sant’Elmo
– Animals are not allowed on site
– Since February 28th, 2019, the entrance ticket costs only €2.00 for young people aged 18 to 25.
That’s it, you’re ready to visit Castel Sant’Elmo in Naples!
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