Visit Naples: what are the best things to do and see in Naples, one of Italy’s most vibrant cities?
Naples , the capital of Campania, is a city that cannot be fully explored in one go as there is so much to see and to visit. Whether you’re fond of architecture, cultural activities, and history, Naples has it all. Visitors enjoy visiting the city’s museums, or simply walk through the city, and indulge in shopping sessions. Naples is both fascinating and unbearable: you either love it or hate it. All in all, it is undoubtedly challenging to tame!
Naples is a tireless city: its dense traffic and frantic daily activity never seem to cease. And yet it retains the Mediterranean charm and warmth that makes it a top-rated destination. The friendliness and generosity of its inhabitants, the sense of feeling welcomed, will quickly make you forget the city’s relatively few negative aspects. And for those who love history, Naples offers you the opportunity to discover magnificent Greek-Roman ruins as well as majestic baroque palaces. Of course, Naples is also about enjoying the smell of a mouth-watering, freshly made Neapolitan pizza, while letting your mind drift back to the 1950s, during the golden age of Italian cinema. Discover the cosmopolitan and authentic side of Naples, it will certainly not leave you indifferent!
Here’s an essential guide to some of the best things to do in Naples:
1. Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscito is definitely one of the most beautiful and largest squares to visit in Naples. Located in the heart of the city, it sits not far from the Gambrinus café and close to the Royal Palace.
Now entirely pedestrian, the square has the shape of an ellipse. It should be noted that during the Christmas season, it is possible to attend open-air operas and concerts!
2. Galleria Umberto I
Although it closely resembles its counterpart, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, this public shopping gallery is one of Naples’ main tourist attractions. This huge shopping mall is famous for its shops and small cafés, but it’s also an excellent place to stroll around and get an eyeful of the marvelous Renaissance-style architecture that seems to flourish in every corner.
The mall boasts an impressively vast glass roof, with a central dome rising up to 57 meters high. You’ll notice that the floor is made out of a giant mosaic representing the zodiac. A pleasant place to visit in Naples, much appreciated by both locals and tourists.
3. Castel Nuovo
As a means to distinguish it from the oldest royal residence, the renowned Castel dell’Ovo, this medieval castle was hence named Castel Nuovo (the “New Castle” in Italian), also known as the Maschio Angioino. Castel Nuovo is an imposing and impressive five-towered fortress, dominating the entire port city of Naples. A majestic single-sided white marble triumphal arch, built in 1470, serves as the gateway to the castle.
4. Egg Castle (Castel dell’Ovo)
The Egg Castle (Castel dell’Ovo)) is located on the former island of Megaride, on the Gulf of Naples. Legend has it that a hidden egg supports the entire structure of the building. Enjoy splendid views of the harbor, the bay, and Mount Vesuvius from the ramparts of the castle. The castle also houses an Ethno-Prehistory Museum featuring ceramics and other ancient artifacts. And, who knows, maybe you’ll be the one to solve the famous enigma of the egg?
5. The San Carlo Theater
San Carlo Theater is one of the city’s most prominent theaters. Opened in 1737, the San Carlo Theater is considered to be the world’s oldest active opera theater and is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
6. The Royal Palace
Built in 1601, the Royal Palace underwent many transformations ever since its inception, finally settling for a doubtlessly Baroque style. Both the exterior and interior of the edifice boast an eyeful of impressive features, including marble stairs and columns, as well as statues of prominent rulers of the Kingdom of Naples since the 12th century. The Royal Palace is located in the heart of Piazza del Plesbicito.
7. The cloister of the Basilica of Santa Chiara
For those who want to relax in a beautiful and peaceful environment, make your way to theSanta Chiara Basilica is a real haven of peace home to the restored Majolica Cloister featuring 17th-century pastel frescoes on the walls. The garden is lined by 64 majolica columns decorated with animal and floral patterns that contribute to a charming rustic atmosphere.
You may want to take a break from the noisy and hyperactive part of Naples and Santa Chiara is the perfect place for that, letting you indulge in a relaxing “out-of-time” moment in the heart of the city.
The visit to Pompeii is undoubtedly one of the best things to do outside Naples. The world’s most visited archaeological site, Pompeii offers a fascinating glimpse of daily life in an ancient Roman city nearly 2,000 years ago. Buried under the ashes and frozen in time by the cataclysmic eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79, Pompeii has gradually revealed its secrets after several centuries of archeological excavations.
Listed as UNESCO World Heritage since 1997, the site has always sparked the interest of all history lovers from around the world.
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum was entirely destroyed by the terrible eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. The inhabitants that did not have time to flee were caught in the volcanic surges, their bodies buried under the ashes for eternity. In some areas, the volcanic surges preserved structures, objects, and victims almost intact. Although smaller and less famous than its sister Pompeii, the city of Herculaneum is much better preserved than Pompeii.
10. Capri Island
The cliffs and caves of Capri Island have amazed visitors since the first Greek settlements in ancient times. As you approach the island aboard a ferry, you will quickly understand why artists and writers have immortalized the beauty and history of Capri.
On the island, get on a boat to visit the Blue Grotto (“Grotta Azzurra” in Italian), a sea cave where the sunlight passes through an underwater cavity and bounces off the water, creating a blue reflection that illuminates the cavern. Make sure you visit the picturesque center of Anacapri in the lesser-known part of the island: enjoy a different atmosphere, far from Capri’s glitz and glamour, a place to wander through the quiet alleyways and peaceful piazzas, offering an eyeful of brightly colored geraniums and bougainvillea. End your day while indulging in delicious ice cream while strolling along Marina Piccola or Marina Grande, an old Roman fishing.
Vesuvius is one of the most famous volcanoes in Europe, mainly known for its great eruption in AD 79 which led to the burying and destruction of the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Rising at 1,281 meters, Mount Vesuvius towers above the spreading suburbs of Naples, which is located about 10 kilometers to the northwest. Several excursions to the Vesuvius leave from Naples: they are often combined with a visit to Pompeii or Herculaneum.
If you come to visit Naples, it may be interesting to discover the Palace of Caserta! Located only 30 kilometers north of the city, this former royal residence was built by the House of Bourbon-Two Sicilies as their principal residence as kings of Naples.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Royal Palace of Caserta is one of the largest royal residences in the world : explore this vast 61,000 m² palace, and take the time to stroll through the palace’s vast park, featuring an English Garden, impressive fountains, a Grand Cascade, as well as woods and hunting lodges!
Located on the Vomero hill, Sant’Elmo Castle – a former medieval palace and former fortified royal residence – is now a multicultural center that regularly organizes temporary exhibitions, concerts and shows.
The interior is unfortunately not open to visitors, but the site offers you a magnificent view of the city of Naples and its surroundings!
14. Other ideas for things to do in Naples
There is no shortage of things to do in Naples, as the city offers so much more than historic sites and monuments. Visit Naples to treat all your senses with delicious culinary specialties, experience Neapolitan folklore, and get an eyeful of the city’s artistic and cultural heritage. Here are a few tips to help you live your Neapolitan experience to the fullest.
- Taste Neapolitan pastries: go to the Galleria Umberto I and then enter the Mary shop where you can delight your taste buds with the extraordinary sfogilatelle. (The shop is easily recognizable by the long queue at its entrance).
- Discover Italian cuisine: of course, it would be a pity to be in Naples and not taste the authentic world-famous Neapolitan pizza! The pizzas of the Sorbillo pizzeria in via dei Tribunali are to die for. Though you won’t find many tourists in the restaurant, the restaurant is always crowded because real connoisseurs know where to go to eat a good pizza. Don’t forget to try Neapolitan ice cream either.
- Visit Naples and its churches: Naples is historically tied to Christian culture. As a result, Naples offers an eyeful of great treasures of artistic and religious heritage, such as the Santa Chiara convent (mentioned earlier) as well as Cappella Sansevero (16th-century chapel), San Gennaro cathedral or the church of San Gregorio Armeno.
- Neapolitan folklore: the city of Naples exudes a one-of-a-kind spirit. It’s an experience in itself to immerse oneself in its age-old, vintage atmosphere. For example, you can wander into the quaint bookstores in the Spaccanapoli quarter or along via Mezzocannone.
Also discover the small square of Piazzetta Nilo where you will find the Altarino di Maradona, a place of worship for all Neapolitans for whom the legendary footballer Diego Maradona is a quasi-mythological figure.
Take the metro to discover the large-scale works of art that adorn some of Naples’ subway stations.
- Palazzo Donn’Anna, located at the beginning of Via Posillipo, by the sea, which is one of the most famous palaces in Naples
- Visit the Capodimonte Museum in Naples, which is considered one of the most beautiful museums in Italy and the most beautiful art museums in Naples! The museum houses more than 3000 paintings from the 13th to 18th centuries
- Visit the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, with its extensive collection of regional finds
- Visit Naples in an unusual way by visiting its underground passages!
- Finally, there’s more to Naples than the city itself, its surroundings are a perfect change of pace and worth a visit on their own merit. Walk in Sorrento or on the Amalfi coast. Visit Naples to experience a different ambiance from that of other Italian cities: enjoy its unique, lively southern Italian atmosphere, replete with contagious energy.
How to get to Naples?
One of the largest cities in Italy (the second after Milan if you take into account the population of its urban area), Naples is therefore a fairly accessible city. Low-cost airlines offer direct flights at low prices from Newcastle, Birmingham or Paris Roissy-CDGand the airport is fairly accessible from downtown Naples. The airport is relatively small so you won’t get lost, but it has grown rapidly these last few years, the number of incoming passengers nearly doubling between 2013 and 2018. As such, flying to Naples is a convenient option and you’ll Skyscannerfind many available flights online.
How to get around Naples?
Once in Naples, you can choose between different means of transport to move about the city, each with their pros and cons. Personally we favored public transportation and walking, but we enjoyed rather clement weather at the time as well as a relatively low amount of visitors so our experience may vary from yours depending on dates.
The Metropolitana di Napoli doesn’t go to the airport yet as of 2019 but the line 1 will serve most tourist destinations as well as the main train station at Garibaldi stop.
By bus or Trolleybus
The city bus network doesn’t reach the airport itself but you can get on a shuttle from the airport to downtown. (For more information: ” target=”_blank”>the airport official website) Getting around by bus has its advantages : with several collection points spread throughout the city, buses can take you just about anywhere whereas the metro is still limited to the lain sites. However traffic can get hectic in which case some bus routes should be avoided as they routinely get stuck.
If you want to seize the opportunity of your trip to Naples to discover other parts of Italy, car rental is the way to go as you will be unconstrained in your ability to move about as you please. Rental cars are available at the airport, however, we recommend you go this route only if you plan on traveling along the coast or in the back country as Naples has dense traffic and driving conditions can only be described as chaotic at best. Parking in downtown Naples can be difficult as well, so be warned that you can visit Naples itself without a car and you’ll probably be better of for it.
Where to stay in Naples?
Like in most large cities, it is important to choose the right neighborhood to stay in Naples to make sure you enjoy the city and its surroundings. Many of the places we recommend you should visit are in downtown Naples and its historical center, but some are a bit out so make sure to plan accordingly to make your visit that much more fluid and pleasant. There is a large choice of accommodation in Naples, from luxurious hotels to cheap hostels so it should be easy to find and book the perfect place online.
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