With a history that stretches back to the Bronze Age, Naples is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places on Earth. The city boasts the largest Old Town district in Europe and has more historic churches than any other city in the world. There are plenty of cultural tourist attractions in Naples, often hidden behind the dirt, noise and chaos of everyday life in Italy’s third largest city.
From impromptu arias in cafés to domestic squabbles in the streets, Neapolitans aren’t shy about expressing their feelings. Built around the beautiful Bay of Naples, the city sits under the shadow of Mount Vesuvius, which perhaps explains why residents embrace life with such unpretentious and uninhibited attitudes.
Neapolitan cuisine is another considerable drawcard. From delectable pizzas to succulent seafood and mouth-watering pastries, your taste buds are in for a treat. At the same time, world-famous archaeological sites offer an insight into the havoc caused by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
While it’s not as polished as other tourist destinations, the things to do in Naples offer every visitor a rich and authentically Italian travel experience. No matter your interests, it will captivate your senses and leave you longing for more.
Map of Naples
In this post, we'll cover:
27. Piazza del Plebiscito
The grand Piazza del Plebiscito is an expansive square that boasts breathtaking architectural wonders, symbolizing Naples’ rich cultural legacy.
The square’s main attraction is the stunning neoclassical church, San Francesco di Paola, featuring an impressive colonnade and majestic dome reminiscent of Rome’s Pantheon. To the left and right of the square are the Royal Palace of Naples and the Palazzo Salerno, both bearing witness to the city’s royal history.
The Royal Palace, once home to the Bourbon kings, showcases opulent interiors and houses the National Library of Naples. Visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the elegant promenade, enjoying panoramic views of the bay and the imposing Mount Vesuvius.
A vibrant gathering place, Piazza del Plebiscito offers a glimpse into Naples’ past while providing a lively hub of charming cafes and shops.
26. Catacombe di San Gaudioso
Exploring the fascinating Catacombe di San Gaudioso, located beneath street level, is one of the most popular things to do in Naples. This underground burial complex is steeped in history and mystique, offering a unique glimpse into the ancient practice of Christian burial.
Named after the bishop buried there, Catacombe di San Gaudioso dates back to the 5th century. It boasts a labyrinthine network of tunnels and chambers adorned with frescoes, mosaics, and ornate tombs, creating a hauntingly beautiful atmosphere.
Visitors can explore various sections of the catacombs, including the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanità, an underground church adorned with exquisite Baroque artwork. The crypts and burial niches offer a poignant reminder of early Christians’ religious devotion and customs.
You’ll encounter an eerie sense of serenity and contemplation as you wander through the dimly lit passageways.
25. Napoli Sotterranea
Another place below the bustling streets of Naples you should visit is Underground Naples. Also known as Napoli Sotterranea, it features an intricate system of tunnels, caves, aqueducts, and catacombs dating back to ancient times.
Over the years, they have served various purposes, from Greek and Roman quarries to World War II air-raid shelters. Touring it offers visitors a glimpse into the city’s past.
Expert guides lead visitors on engaging tours that start at street level in Piazza San Gaetanotaking before taking them deep into the heart of this underground world.
Along the way, they will discover narrow passages, ancient cisterns, haunting sculptures, and artifacts, while learning captivating stories and insights that shed light on how those living here survived.
24. Castel Sant’Elmo
The impressive Castel Sant’Elmo fortress is a stunning medieval castle built in the 14th century. It is located on Vomero Hill and is notable for its imposing defensive walls and distinguished military architecture.
At the same time, its strategic location offers sweeping vistas of Naples, Mount Vesuvius, and the surrounding landscapes. The castle’s courtyard and ramparts provide arguably the best spot to capture memorable photographs of them.
Visitors can also explore the Museum of Contemporary Art inside the castle, which showcases a diverse collection of modern artworks. The castle’s underground passages and tunnels offer a fascinating glimpse into its military past.
You can tour the castle independently. But if you take a guided tour of it, you will learn more about the significant role it played in the city’s defense and history. You will even be privy to some of the most notorious secrets of its colorful past.
23. Trip to Procida Island
Located in the Bay of Naples, you might recognize Procida Island from films such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Something in the Air, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Notwithstanding, comprising charming, picturesque harbors, colorful buildings, and a tranquil atmosphere, it is an ideal retreat from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Things to do on the island include exploring the narrow streets and soak up the authentic Italian charm. Don’t miss the iconic Marina Corricella, a colorful fishing village that looks straight from a postcard.
The island’s pristine beaches, including Spiaggia del Pozzo Vecchio and Chiaia, offer crystal-clear waters that beckon visitors to relax and unwind. The 16th-century Terra Murata fortress is also worth checking out. It provides spectacular panoramic views of the island and its surrounding sea.
22. Gesu Nuovo Church
The Gesu Nuovo Church is a magnificent architectural wonder and revered city icon. Constructed in the 16th century, this Jesuit church features a unique facade created by alternating blocks of white marble and volcanic tuff. Giving it an appearance that is both distinctive and striking.
Inside, the Gesu Nuovo Church is a stunning combination of Baroque and Renaissance styles. The church is adorned with exquisite frescoes, ornate altars, and intricate sculptures, making it a visual delight and a testament to the artistic prowess of its era.
The Chapel of San Francesco Saverio, home to Saint Francis Xavier’s tomb is one of the church’s most noteworthy features. Its magnificent marble altarpiece and elaborate decorations make it a place of pilgrimage and reverence for believers.
21. Toledo Metro Station
The Toledo Metro Station is not your typical transportation hub. It is an architectural masterpiece that combines practicality and creativity.
Designed by Spanish architect Oscar Tusquets Blanca, the station is located on Line 1 of the Naples Metro and serves as a gateway to the bustling Via Toledo neighborhood.
As you step inside, you are greeted by a beautiful display of vibrant blue tiles covering the walls and ceilings, creating an immersive and visually captivating experience. The artistic design is inspired by water, reflecting Naples’ close relationship with the sea.
Not only is it a functional transportation hub, but it’s also an underground art gallery. The unique use of lighting, mirrors, and colors creates a sense of movement and depth, making it a special and picturesque location.
In addition to its aesthetic appeal, the station offers several amenities, including shops, cafes, and escalators that seamlessly blend with the artistic elements.
20. Museo di Capodimonte
If you love art, you’ll want to visit the Museo di Capodimonte.
It is housed within a magnificent royal palace, originally built as a hunting lodge for the Bourbon kings in the 18th century. However, it has since been turned into a museum, showcasing an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and decorative pieces. They include masterpieces by renowned artists like Caravaggio, Titian, Botticelli, and Raphael.
The museum caters to all artistic interests with diverse artwork on display, from religious and mythological paintings to stunning landscapes and portraits.
Aside from the art, its location is equally captivating, situated atop a hill that provides panoramic views of Naples and its surrounding landscapes. The palace’s interiors are also impressive, featuring opulent frescoes, tapestries, and exquisite furniture. You will need at least a day to take it all in.
19. Trip to the Royal Palace of Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta is one of the largest royal palaces in the world.
This magnificent royal residence dates back to the 19th century and features a vast façade adorned with elegant columns and statues. You’ll want to spend a bit of time taking in the grandeur of it.
Offering a glimpse into Naples’ Bourbon monarchs’ luxurious lifestyle, you’ll see lavishly decorated rooms, grand staircases, and beautifully landscaped gardens once inside. The palace also houses a rich collection of artwork, including stunning frescoes, intricate tapestries, and gorgeous, ornate furniture.
As well as the interior, exploring the palace’s vast grounds is a must. The sprawling gardens, cascading waterfalls, manicured lawns, and charming fountains are a tranquil retreat to immerse yourself in.
18. Galleria Borbonica
Want yet more underground tunnels and chambers to explore in Naples? Then check out the Galleria Borbonica.
Originally built as an aqueduct in the 19th century, this historical site later served as an air-raid shelter during World War II. Today, visitors can take guided tours through the labyrinthine tunnels to uncover remnants of the city’s ancient past, including Greek and Roman artifacts.
The tunnels also hold intriguing stories from World Wars I and II, with preserved wartime vehicles, bomb shelters, and poignant graffiti adorning the walls.
The tour’s highlight is the Bourbon Tunnel, a section of the Galleria Borbonica showcasing stunning architecture, including underground chapels and a hidden theater.
This unique attraction immerses you in Naples’ underground history, providing a fascinating and memorable experience.
17. San Martino Monastery and Museum
The San Martino Monastery and Museum is another must-see attraction atop Vomero Hill.
Founded in the 14th century, it is a former monastery transformed into a captivating museum showcasing the city’s rich artistic and religious heritage.
Visitors can admire the stunning architecture of the monastery, which features beautiful frescoes, grand courtyards, and a picturesque garden with breathtaking views of Naples and the Bay of Naples.
The museum has a diverse collection of artwork to explore, including religious artifacts, sculptures, and paintings by acclaimed Neapolitan artists. It is also home to a remarkable collection of Presepi, traditional Neapolitan nativity scenes famous for their intricate details.
The highlight of the San Martino complex is the Certosa di San Martino, a former Carthusian monastery renowned for its magnificent church and lavish chapels. The opulent interiors boast ornate marble, gilded decorations, and impressive Baroque artworks.
16. Galleria Umberto I
The Galleria Umberto I is a magnificent shopping arcade exuding elegance and architectural splendor.
Dating back to the late 19th century, this stunning glass-roofed gallery is a true testament to the grandeur of the era.
It features a cross-shaped layout, with shops, cafes, and restaurants lining its marble floors. Congruently, the central dome, adorned with intricate frescoes and ornate decorations, adds to the allure of the space.
The gallery’s architectural style is reminiscent of the Milanese Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, although it has a distinctive Neapolitan flair. It offers diverse shopping and dining experiences, from high-end fashion boutiques to traditional Neapolitan pastry shops.
As you explore the Galleria, you’ll revel in its opulent ambiance, while appreciating its fusion of history and modernity. Plan to spend a good few hours here.
15. Castel Nuovo
Castel Nuovo, or Maschio Angioino, is a medieval fortress on the waterfront.
This iconic castle has played a significant role in the city’s history for centuries due to its strategic location and imposing appearance.
The Angevin dynasty built it in the 13th century, and it features a striking mix of architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque elements. Its massive turreted walls, drawbridge, and imposing entrance gate create a sense of grandeur and strength.
Visitors can explore the castle’s interior, which houses the Civic Museum, showcasing a rich collection of artwork, including sculptures, paintings, and decorative arts highlighting Naples’ cultural heritage.
The castle’s ramparts offer panoramic views of the city, the Bay of Naples, and Mount Vesuvius, creating a breathtaking lookout spot.
14. Climb Mount Vesuvius
Climbing Mount Vesuvius, the infamous volcano near Naples is a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience for adventurous people.
This iconic landmark, known for its historical eruption in 79 AD that buried the city of Pompeii, offers breathtaking views and a glimpse into the raw power of nature.
The ascent begins at the volcano’s base, where a winding path leads visitors through the rugged terrain and volcanic ash. As you climb higher, the panoramic vistas of the Bay of Naples and the surrounding landscapes become increasingly captivating.
Reaching the summit, you’ll find a vast volcanic crater, reminding you of the volcano’s dormant yet unpredictable nature. The rugged landscape creates a surreal atmosphere with its rocky outcrops and volcanic ash.
Remember to wear sturdy footwear and carry water and sunscreen, as the climb can be steep and exposed.
13. Royal Palace of Naples
Representing a time when the House of Bourbon ruled Naples, the Palazzo Reale is a showpiece of pomp and power. Construction for the royal palace began in the 1600s, but most of the 30 rooms on display were completed in the 18th when Charles III of Bourbon took up residence.
Visitors climb a sumptuous marble staircase to view the court theater, throne room, the royal bedrooms and an assortment of other chambers, all lavishly decorated with tapestries, frescoes, porcelain and portraits painted by the likes of Titian and Francesco Liani.
12. Lungomare Caracciolo
Lungomare Caracciolo is another waterfront promenade you should visit. A popular spot for locals and tourists, it stretches along the Bay of Naples and offers breathtaking views of the sea, Mount Vesuvius, and the city skyline.
The boulevard has palm trees and plenty of benches, making it perfect for leisurely walks, jogs, or bike rides. As you stroll along the promenade, you’ll enjoy the cool sea breeze and the stunning azure waters. There are also several restaurants, cafes, and gelaterias where you can enjoy delicious Neapolitan cuisine while admiring the sea view.
The promenade bustles with activity at night as locals come together to enjoy street performances and watch the sunset.
Overall, Lungomare Caracciolo is a great place to unwind, engage in the Mediterranean vibe, and experience the coastal charm of Naples.
11. Santa Chiara complex
The Santa Chiara complex is a beautiful architectural ensemble with a real wow factor.
Featuring a church, monastery, and a serene cloister dating back to the 14th century, it is a testament to the city’s rich cultural and religious heritage.
The complex’s most significant drawcard is the Santa Chiara Church, which has stunning Gothic architecture and a beautiful majolica-tiled facade. Visitors can enjoy beautiful frescoes, intricate sculptures, and an overall serene atmosphere inside the church.
Adjacent to it, the Santa Chiara Monastery provides visitors with a glimpse into the daily lives of cloistered nuns. However, the highlight of the complex is the peaceful cloister adorned with vibrant ceramic tiles and lush greenery.
The Santa Chiara complex is not only a site of religious significance but also a cultural treasure. Visitors can appreciate its architectural beauty and serene ambiance while learning about Naples’ rich history.
10. Via San Gregorio Armeno
Located in the city’s historic district, this street is the best place in Italy for “presepi,” Italian nativity displays. Using wood or clay, street artisans create manger scenes here that range from the traditional to the deeply personal, often crafting figurines to represent family members or people from popular culture.
While the Neapolitan style of presepi began in the 18th century when Charles III commissioned woodcarvers to depict the royal family, the tradition dates back to a time when the street was home to a Greek temple to Ceres where devotees offered figurines made of clay.
9. Sansevero Chapel
Located near the city’s Archaeological Museum is one of the most unique attractions in Naples. Originally built in 1590 as a chapel for the Sansevero family, the structure was remodeled in the Baroque style in the 18th century by Raimondo di Sangro, the seventh prince in the dynasty.
An eccentric aristocrat, inventor, alchemist and freemason, Raimondo commissioned the artist Giuseppe Sammartino to craft a series of sculptures full of symbolic meaning and mystery, including a statue of Christ covered with a transparent veil made from marble.
Beneath the chapel is a room where the prince is said to have conducted experiments on his servants. The preserved bodies of two of his presumed victims are on display.
8. Pizzeria Da Michele
This pizzeria located the historic city center was famous long before Julia Roberts was featured munching on a slice in the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” In business for more than a century, Da Michele has earned a reputation for making the best pizza in Italy.
Every day, locals and tourists line up to sample one of the two kinds of pizza the establishment offers: marinara, served with tomato and spices, or margherita, which features the addition of creamy mozzarella. Both types are cooked in a wood-burning oven until the soft crust is crisply singed around the edges.
7. Castel dell’Ovo
The oldest castle in Naples, the “Castle of the Egg” owes it name to the poet Virgil who supposedly placed an egg under the foundations of the fortress. As the legend goes, the city will be protected from disaster as long as the egg remains intact.
Perched on a promontory jutting into the sea, the 12th-century castle is worth visiting for the breathtaking views offered from its ramparts. The castle is also home to the Ethno-Prehistory Museum, which features ceramics, earthenware and metal artifacts from the earliest days of Naples history. Entrance to the castle and museum is free.
6. Naples Cathedral
Dedicated to the city’s primary patron saint San Gennaro, the Duomo di Napoli is best known for the ceremony held within its magnificent structure three times each year. On these dates, the faithful crowd into the cathedral to see if a relic of the saint’s blood will liquefy as a sign that all is well in the city.
Built in the 11th and 12th century, the cathedral was later renovated using more than 100 columns salvaged from ancient Greek temples. A 4th-century church and 5th-century baptistery were incorporated into the cathedral as well.
5. Teatro di San Carlo
If you’re a fan of theater and music, visiting the Teatro di San Carlo is recommended.
Established in 1737, it is one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious opera houses. It is also one of the most elegant, with opulent interiors featuring ornate decorations, grand chandeliers, and plush red velvet seating that ooze sophistication and luxury.
The theater’s exceptional acoustics and rich history have attracted renowned performers worldwide, making attending a performance an unforgettable experience.
Throughout the year, it offers various productions catering to different artistic tastes, including opera, ballet, and classical concerts. Even if you cannot attend a performance, guided tours are available to explore the theater’s stunning interiors and learn about its storied past.
4. Catacombs di San Gennaro
Dedicated to Gennaro in the 5th century when the saint’s remains were entombed there, the Catacombs of San Gennaro are actually three different cemeteries that have blended together over the years.
The catacomb’s lower level includes tombs dating back to the 2nd century. Unlike other ancient underground burial sites, the catacombs feature spacious passageways with tombs that range from burial chambers for the wealthy to wall niches and floor graves for the less well-to-do.
Frescoes are adorned with pictures of saints and families. An early image of San Gennaro features Mount Vesuvius looming the background.
3. Visit Pompeii
The ancient Roman city of Pompeii is a must-visit destination for any tourist to the Campania region of Italy.
It is remarkably preserved, despite being buried by volcanic ash from Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Subsequently, it gives visitors a unique opportunity to witness daily life during the Roman Empire.
Walking through the sprawling archaeological site, you’ll see well-preserved homes, temples, theaters, and even a brothel. Intricate mosaics, colorful frescoes, and public baths also offer insight into the time’s daily routines and cultural practices.
Some highlights of Pompeii include the Forum, the city’s central hub, and the Amphitheater, which held gladiatorial contests. Don’t miss the Villa of the Mysteries, which showcases stunning frescoes depicting mysterious religious rituals.
Visiting Pompeii is like stepping into a living history book, offering a profound understanding of ancient Roman civilization and the catastrophic impact of the volcanic eruption. Be sure to take a hat or umbrella with you, as you are very exposed on a sunny or rainy day.
A long narrow street that bisects the historic center of Naples, Spaccanapoli gives visitors an introduction to the sights and attractions of the vibrant southern capital city. The street of many names has occupied the same place since the Greeks first established a colony in the region in the 6th century.
Representing 27 centuries of history, the neighborhood is a crowded mix of historic churches, lively piazzas, open-air cafés and one-of-a-kind shops. It’s also home to local inhabitants whose boisterous lives often spill onto the streets, providing visitors with a glimpse of what it means to be Neapolitan.
1. Naples National Archaeological Museum
One of Naples’ top attractions, the Naples National Archaeological Museum is the best place to view art and artifacts recovered from the Mount Vesuvius eruption of 79 A.D. Alongside the bronze statues, frescoes and mosaics rescued from the buried sites are everyday objects like shop signs and cookware.
The museum’s most famous artwork is the Alexander Mosaic, dating from circa 100 BC, originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. It depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia.
Other exhibits include relics unearthed from archaeological sites in and around Naples. The museum is also home to the Farnese Bull, the largest single sculpture from antiquity ever recovered. The Hellenistic piece featuring Dirce tied to a wild bull dates back to the 2nd century B.C.
Best Time to Visit Naples, Italy
While Naples is a great year-round destination, the shoulder seasons from April to June and September to October are the best time to visit. This means you avoid the summer’s high heat, humidity and huge crowds while enjoying warm weather and beautiful blue skies.
During these times, the temperatures average between 17°C (63°F) to 25°C (78°F) during the day. This makes exploring the Amalfi Coast, Capri and Pompeii much more enjoyable. The lower prices and smaller crowds also help! This period also sees the Maggio dei Monumenti (May of Monuments) festival take place when many old buildings are opened up to the public.
Although the summer months are scorching, averaging highs around the mid-30°Cs (90s in Fahrenheit), many still head here to top up their tans and enjoy some delicious al fresco dining. Countless festivals and events are also held, with a lively feel taking over the city, particularly when night falls.
One of the most important events in July is the Feast of Our Lady of Carmine. Religious ceremonies, public parties and fireworks displays are held, culminating in the church’s belltower being symbolically and spectacularly set on fire – safely of course!
As Naples enjoys over 300 days of sunshine per year, the winter months can also be a nice time to visit. Very quiet and cheap for the most part, it bursts back to life for Christmas and New Year’s when lots of celebrations light up its streets. While the temperatures are mild, there is a higher chance of rain though.