Naples is an ancient city along the Bay of Naples in the south of Italy. Considered one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world, the area is full of diverse art and architecture. Naples offers everything you’d expect from an Italian city and more, from pizza and gelato to ancient cultural attractions.
If you’re wondering what to do and what to see in Naples, Italy, here are 18 suggestions of the top tourist attractions and activities you won’t want to miss.
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San Domenico Maggiore
The San Domenico Maggiore is a Roman Catholic church and monastery in the historic centre of Naples. This Gothic wonder opened in 1324 and features a gorgeous coffered Baroque-panelled ceiling. There’s a lot of history to uncover here, with the church once being home to many philosophers and heretics. Ferdinand I and II of Naples are both buried here, as are other members of the Aragonese family.
National Archaeological Museum
One of the most important archaeological museums in Italy is the National Archaeological Museum of Naples. The coral-pink building in the centre of the city is easily noticeable. The collections here include ancient Roman remains and artefacts from the former nearby towns of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae. You’ll also find works from the Greek and Renaissance periods.
A staple at the museum is the Farnese Collection, which features marble sculptures of classic Greek figures. Other notable collections include the mosaics recovered from neighbouring Vesuvian cities, the bronzes from the Villa of the Papyri, and the Egyptian artefacts collection with over 2,500 objects.
Don’t miss out on taking a fascinating trip to Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano only 20 kilometres east of Naples. If you’re able and willing to go on the hike, summit 1,200 metres above sea level to the top and wander around the mouth of the crater. You’ll be rewarded with incredible panoramic views across the Bay of Naples.
You’ll also be able to explore the ruins of Pompeii, the ancient city which was buried under volcanic ash from an eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Wander around the uncovered structures that remain, including houses and parts of the forum, and see the intact frescoes and mosaics.
One of the city’s most-known attractions is Castel Nuovo, also called the Maschio Angioino. The 13th-century medieval castle is one of the main landmarks in Naples, with its marble triumphal arch standing 35 metres tall.
The enormous structure has been used as a royal seat for past kings and a temporary residence for esteemed visitors. It also features two main chapels as well as prison vaults, which once held a pit of crocodiles. Today, you’ll find a museum inside. You can view 15th to 18th-century religious frescoes on the first floor, and various portraits and landscapes from the 18th to the 20th century on the second floor.
Certosa di San Martino
Another of the city’s most prominent landmarks is the Certosa di San Martino, a 14th-century monastic complex. This expansive monastery turned museum is one of the most visited places in Naples for a number of reasons.
The highlight is the Neapolitan nativity exhibit, which is considered one of the best in the world. The scenes include over 160 people and were donated by royalty. The major cloister walkway encompassing the inner courtyard is also memorable and features Renaissance elements, marble columns and mosaic floors. Lastly, its location atop the Vomero hill makes for breathtaking views from the balcony.
Walking Food Tour
Indulge in the best street food Naples has to offer on a three-hour walking tour. Start your day by Castel Nuovo with an authentic espresso before you see the stunning historic sites and learn about the history of the seaside city. As you stroll through the vibrant squares and alleys, you’ll stop by street vendors and markets to sample local favourites like sfogliatella (a sweet layered pastry) and ‘o pére e ‘o musso (salted cold meats). Your tour will end at Piazza Dante, and you’ll leave with some tips on finding the best pizza in Naples.
Capri Island Day Tour
One of the most wonderful things to do in the Bay of Naples is to take an excursion to the gorgeous island of Capri. On a seven-hour day trip, you’ll cruise towards the island on a jetfoil, admiring the stunning coastal views. Explore the local towns via minibus, stopping at Anacapri for some craft and souvenir shopping.
This tour is great for admiring the area’s natural wonders, including the Faraglioni rocks and the incredible sea cave known as the Blue Grotto. You’ll also ride the funicular to Marina Grande, walk through the beautiful Augustus Gardens, and soak up the bustling energy of the La Piazzetta.
Royal Palace of Naples
An unmissable attraction in this part of the world is the Royal Palace of Naples, known in Italian as the Palazzo Reale. This palace and museum is one of four former residences occupied by Bourbon kings during the 18th and 19th centuries.
From the stunning main staircase made of marble to the opulent throne room, you will be truly amazed at all of the little intricacies inside. The halls are lovely to wander around and entrance costs only six euros. Fortunately, the palace is never too busy and there are no gimmicky, touristy vibes to be found. Be sure to get an audio guide to learn as much as you can about the history of the royal residence.
If you’re after more off the beaten path things to do in Naples, Italy, why not go underground? The Galleria Borbonica, better known as the Naples Bourbon Tunnel, is an underground passage with the aim of connecting the Royal Palace to the military barracks. Construction began during the Bourbon dynasty under King Ferdinand II yet was never fully completed.
Take a tour of the tunnel to hear interesting stories and explanations of artifacts. Your guide will tell you how the tunnels transformed into an air bomb shelter and a military hospital during World War II. Despite being abandoned for many years, the tunnel is very clean and well illuminated, so you can expect a fantastic and professional tour.
San Carlo Theatre
One of the best things to do in Naples, Italy at night is to see an opera show. The San Carlo Theatre is the oldest opera house in Europe and one of the most prestigious in the world. Despite fires and air raids since its opening in 1737, the theatre has always been quickly rebuilt and restored. Regardless of your interest in opera or ballet, the extraordinary interiors are a must-see, and its grandeur and architecture became a model for other theatres around the world.
Show schedules and ticket information can be found online on the English version of the website. Opera shows typically take place from January to May, with ballet season running from April to June. Guided tours are also offered in English multiple times per day to show you around the main hall, the boxes and the foyers.
San Gregorio Armeno
The San Gregorio Armeno is a magnificent church and monastery, and one of the most significant Baroque structures in the city. This attraction is very easily found, located on Via San Gregorio Armeno. Construction began on this Roman Catholic church in 1574, and the front facade features three arcades flanked by four Tuscan pilasters.
The church includes multiple interior houses for nuns, and altars and frescoes created by many renowned Italian painters, sculptors and architects. One of the most beautiful parts of the complex is the cloister courtyard. The marble fountain in the centre is adorned with dolphins and other marine life sculptures.
The stunning Amalfi Coast takes less than two hours to get to from Naples, so why not take advantage of this close proximity and go on another day trip? A small-group tour departing from the city is perfect for those who want to enjoy a day out without planning a thing.
From hotel pickup to drop-off, enjoy complimentary snacks and beverages as you travel via minivan to the scenic seaside villages. The Amalfi coastline is a 50-kilometre stretch, and you’ll stop primarily at the towns of Positano, Amalfi and Ravello. Stop and check out the extravagant Amalfi Cathedral, the immaculate Villa Rufolo, and the unique Museo della Carta, a museum of paper. You’ll also pass the Sirenusas, a nearby archipelago of small islands.
The chapel known as Cappella Sansevero in the historic centre is another attraction worth visiting. It contains a collection of 18th-century works of art by prominent Italian artists, including three idiosyncratic sculptures decorated in late-Baroque style. Many of the objects found here are a little peculiar and unexpected, including the famous Veiled Christ marble sculpture.
Also displayed are two unique anatomical exhibits by Giuseppe Salerno that are certainly not for the faint of heart. Two skeletons, a male and a pregnant female, are both encased in hardened arteries and veins, which were discovered to be made from beeswax, iron wire and silk. You should absolutely put this chapel-turned-museum on your to-visit list if you’re eager to see something unusual.
If you’re after romantic things to do in Naples, Italy, a lunchtime wine tour will make the perfect date. Not only will you get to sample a few of the best local wines, but you’ll also visit a traditional vineyard and learn how Italian wine is produced. The picturesque hills nearby provide a charming setting for the four-hour trip. Following the tour, a four-course meal is served up, including a homemade plum cake for dessert.
You already know about Mount Vesuvius to the east of Naples, but did you know about the supervolcano less than 20 kilometres west? The Phlegraean Fields are a regional park with 24 volcanic craters, though most of them are under the surface of the water. The blast that created the enormous caldera is estimated to have occurred over 37,000 years ago. Those with an interest in geology will enjoy learning about the three distinct geological phases, called Phlegraean Periods.
Described by some as a “sulfuric hellscape”, craters such as the Solfatara crater continuously emit steam containing sulphurous fumes. The crater of Lake Avernus was even once believed to be the gateway to the underworld.
The Ovo Castle is the oldest fortification in the city, built on the island of Megaride sometime in the sixth century BC. Despite its ancient origins, its current appearance is attributed to the Aragonese in the 15th century, as well as 20th-century renovations.
The seaside castle gains its name from a legend about Virgil. It claims the Roman poet had put a magical egg (ovo) inside the castle’s foundations. If the egg were ever broken, disastrous events would occur in Naples and the castle would be destroyed.
There are no tickets required here, so you can simply walk in and head to the top to see beautiful views across the bay.
One of the city’s best-known thoroughfares is Via Toledo. The street goes on for over a kilometre, beginning at Piazza Dante and ending at Piazza Trieste e Trento. As one of the top shopping areas in Naples, you can spend your time browsing the many stores, which range from cheap Neapolitan souvenir shops to high-end brands.
If you’d rather save your money, window shopping and people watching are just as fun, and there are many quaint cafes and gelaterias to stop for a break at.
A very eerie site to see in Naples is the Cimitero Delle Fontanelle (aka the Fontanelle Cemetery) in the Materdei district. The cemetery contains over eight million bones, with the charnel house holding skulls that date back to the plague of 1656. A cult-like interested in these skulls developed and local women began cleaning and assigning them names to assist the deceased’s souls in reaching heaven.
Rich with mysterious local folklore and pagan traditions, the cemetery is fascinating to explore and learn about. Whether you’re easily creeped out or not, a visit here will be one to remember!
Recommended tours in Naples
- Private Tour: Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello Day Trip from Naples
- Capri and Blue Grotto Day Tour from Naples or Sorrento
- Naples Street Food and Sightseeing Tour
- Naples City Walking Tour
- Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius Day Trip from Naples with Lunch and Wine Tastings
- Naples Food Walking Tour
- Capri and Blue Grotto Private Tour from Naples or Sorrento
- Pompeii and Amalfi Coast – Private Tour
- Private Tour: Truffle-Hunting Experience from Sorrento with Lunch
- Amalfi Cost Private Drive
- Capri Island Boat Tour from Naples – Easy Going
- Full-Day Private Capri and Pompeii from Sorrento
- Private Herculaneum Archaeological Site Tour
- Skip-the-lines private tour of Ancient Herculaneum and Volcano Vesuvius with local guide and driver
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