The iconic coastal city of Naples is one of Italy’s largest cities. The city looks over the azure waters of the Gulf of Naples and its skyline is marked by the shadow of the Mount Vesuvius, a volcano that remains active until this day which buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD, creating one of Italy’s most renowned historical and archaeological treasures.
Naples is a large, sprawling city which has a rich history both above and underground. The narrow streets were made for getting lost in and you can experience a perfect fusion of the past and present. This vibrant city had a reputation for its seedy mafia underbelly in the past which fortunately nowadays is not so evident, these days there is more likely to be corruption than crime in the streets and it is a safe city to visit.
Naples is also famous for being the birthplace of Italian pizza and boasts incredible culinary offerings with regional dishes that are famous all over the country. Naples is the perfect marriage between history, culture and food and there are endless things to discover in the city.
Best of all, Naples is only a short train ride away from Rome and is the perfect city to spend a night or two before heading onwards to explore the Amalfi Coast or visit the nearby islands.
Naples is the ideal Italian destination if you want to escape to the Mediterranean, in fact there is an Italian expression “Vedi Napoli e poi muori” meaning “see Naples and die” meaning that once you’ve seen the beauty of Naples you’ve seen it all and you can die happily. Hopefully, in this ultimate guide to Naples we will give you many reasons to keep returning to this incredible city for more!
This ultimate travel guide to Naples will show you all the most beautiful places in Naples and what to expect when visiting, which will help you in planning a trip to Naples.
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How to get to Naples
Naples can be reached by air and there are budget flights from airlines such as Ryanair that fly from Europe to Naples. You can also fly from major airports within Rome to Naples Airport. Alitalia has flights that go from Fiumicino Airport in Rome to Naples’ Capodichino Airport and take only one hour.
Alternatively, you can reach Naples from other parts of Italy by train and it is only a short train journey from Rome. There are three types of trains that you can take in Italy, the Regionale trains are the slowest and cheapest and take approximately three hours to get from Termini Station to Napoli Centrale. The faster trains such as the InterCity train (IC) takes two hours and the fastest option is the high-speed train, also called the Frecciabianca trains, they are also the most expensive and will have you in Naples in just one hour and fifteen minutes! Prices for the slow train start at only €20 and the first-class high-speed train may cost as much as €60 for a single journey.
What to expect in Naples
Naples is a large sprawling city that has a historic centre that is easily explored on foot. You will find mazes of winding streets and plenty of hills, so bring those walking boots! The atmosphere of the city will transport you back into its history and you will need a few days to fully explore the city.
The language spoken in Naples is Italian, however, due to tourism many people can speak English. The local currency is the Euro and tipping in Naples is not required, though the local waiters and taxi drivers have been long spoiled by tourists leaving tips despite having this include in the bill as a service charge.
Though Naples and its surrounding coastal towns have a reputation for being the holiday destination of the Italian jetset crowd, Naples is very affordable and a daily budget of €49 will go far. Meals cost around €7-€18 per person depending on what kind of food you eat. If you are on a serious budget, there are always pizza places which offer slice to grab and go.
Electricity in Naples is delivered at 230 volts and an adapter may be required.
Naples has a bad reputation as being the heart of the Italian Mafia but as a tourist you will not encounter many problems in Naples. The level of organised crime does not affect tourists and you will hear more complaints about corruption than any assassinations. Pickpockets are common and it is always worthwhile to keep an eye on your belongings and not leave them unattended, keep your wallet in your back pocket or leave your phone on a table whilst you’re out and about.
How to get around Naples
Public transportation in Naples seems confusing and daunting to first-time visitors. All the methods of transport such as bus and metro are managed by one organisation called Unico Campania which provides transportation tickets, which costs €4.50 per day and is valid for unlimited travel until midnight of the same day that the ticket is validated. You will find that most of the tourism around the historic city centre can be traversed by foot and despite Naples being a hilly city, the centre is relatively flat and easy to walk around.
A great alternative is the Naples Pass card which is a transport card that also includes entrance into museums and attractions and also gives discounts and reductions in restaurants and pizzerias as well!
The metro is an excellent way to get around the city and line 1 is the most useful line which will take you the historic centre and to the port. Line 4 is a funicular railway which climbs the hills to Vomero where you can enjoy some spectacular vistas. The Funiculare is an excellent experience in itself and you won’t regret heading uphill to see the amazing panoramas of the city.
Driving in the city itself is NOT recommended, apparently Neapolitan drivers are some of the worst in Italy and the hair-raising experience is not recommended. It is a good idea, however, to rent a car to get out of the city and explore the coastal towns.
The best time to visit Naples
The best time to visit Naples is in late Spring when the weather is mild or in the Autumn in September and October. July is one of the driest months but in the peak of summer you will have to brave the crowds that head to Naples and the coastal surrounding towns.
September is a great time to visit Naples as the crowds will have thinned and there are some different festivals which you can enjoy such as the Festa di Piedigrotta, Festa di San Gennaro, the Napoli Film Festival and of course, Pizzafest!
Things to do in Naples
Climb Mount Vesuvius
The shape of Mount Vesuvius is the dramatic backdrop for the Neapolitan skyline and was the volcano that buried the cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum under a layer of ash after its eruption in 79 AD, conserving the inhabitants of these cities in the moment of their death and creating one of the most well-known and well-preserved historical sites in the world.
Though the volcano hasn’t erupted in the last 100 years, it is still an active volcano and considered one of the most dangerous in Europe. The hike to the crater takes around 20 to 30 minutes and can be done by people in good general health and is a relatively easy climb. Visits to the neighbouring towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum can be done as part of a tour as well.
Visit the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum
The tragic fate of the residents of Pompeii has been frozen for centuries for all future generations to see, when Mount Vesuvius erupted, the lava and ash buried the citizens of this town and preserved them in their final terrifying moments. The extensive ruins of the city are well-preserved and you can see the amphitheatre, the Temples of Apollo and Jupiter and get a glimpse into what life in a Roman city might have been like in 79 AD.
The nearby city of Herculaneum was also devastated by the eruption of Vesuvius and is even better-preserved than Pompeii itself, here you can find some buildings with wooden structures and roofing intact! At Herculaneum you can visit some intact frescoes depicting life in ancient times at the House of Argus and the Villa of the Papyri, transporting echoes of memories of bygone days to the present.
A trip to Naples would be incomplete without eating the local specialty, Neopolitan pizza. The crust is the secret, thin and filled with pockets of air the delicious pizza is some of the best that you’ll taste in Italy. Naples is considered the birthplace of pizza and you can enjoy the wonders of all kinds of pizza, there is even a fried pizza that is the perfect snack to eat on-the-go.
Learn about the history of Naples
Visit the National Archaeological Museum to delve deeper into the history of the region, the collection includes artefacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum. This collection is housed within a beautiful building dating back to the 1750s, which once was a cavalry and military barracks. It was turned into a museum. You can find the museum just north of the Harbour and there is a metro station just next to the building itself.
Descend into the San Gennaro Catacombs
The eerie passageways of San Gennaro Catacombs form an intricate network of tunnels lined with crypts and tombs from Naples’ past. This site is the final resting place for over 3000 Neapolitans and is dark and dimly lit, making a visit to the catacombs a spooky experience. You can find the entrance to the catacombs near the Basilica dell’Incoronata and guided tours are organised daily.
Visit cathedrals and churches
Italy is an incredibly religious country and the numerous churches, chapels and cathedrals are testament to this. The centre of Naples has some spectacular churches and chapels such as the 15th century Sansevero Chapel which also houses an obscure and unusual collection of artifacts collected by Raimondo di Sangro, the Prince of Sansevero.
The collection includes strange anatomical machines representing the musculature and veins and arteries of the human body in minute detail and made with human skeletons, iron wire, silk and beeswax. Dark legends surrounded these machines and the skeletons were thought to have come from servants that he killed. The chapel also is home to the sculptures of “Veiled Truth” and the “Veiled Christ”, the later which looks rather like Han Solo trapped in Carbonite.
San Domenico Maggiore is a stunning church which was built in 1324, and is home to some beautiful examples of renaissance art and intricate frescoes.
Of course, the Naples Cathedral stands out in the city skyline. Built in the 13th century, the Cathedral de Duomo is absolutely stunning which fuses many architectural styles such as Renaissance, Baroque and Gothic, a culmination of centuries of renovations which added elements to this historic building.
Explore a castle
Naples has two notable castles that stand out against its skyline, the Castel Nuovo and the Castel dell’Ovo. Castel Nuovo was built in 1282 and tours will allow you to explore the castle ramparts where you can see incredible views of the coast, the intricate painted ceilings within the Baron’s hall and admire the five circular towers. Castel dell’Ovo was once an island off Naples but is now accessible by footpath. This military fortification dates back to the 6th century BC and offers stunning views of the harbour. Both of the castles can be found near Naples harbour and are easily accessible.
People watch at Naples Harbour and Santa Lucia
The harbour is home to bustling restaurants and cafes and you can sip on a coffee whilst taking in local atmosphere and watching the people go about their day. Here you can also see some stunning yachts docked at the harbour and it’s the perfect place to have a meal and wind down at the end of the day.
Santa Lucia is a window into life in Naples and is great for absorbing the local culture, the cobbled, winding streets are filled with shops, restaurants and cafes and you can while away the hours people watching and enjoying the local atmosphere.
Wander around the Palazzo Reale
The jewel of the Piazza del Plebiscito is the Royal Palace, this imposing yet opulent building houses statues of the past 12 rulers of Naples from Roger of Sicily to Frederick the Second. Inside you can take a guided tour and marvel at the elegance and wealth of Neapolitan royalty.
Visit the Secret Cabinet of Erotic Art
The Romans were lovers of the human form and erotic art, as we have discovered from their frescos and artwork and this museum is made up of a collection of erotic artworks looted from Pompeii. In the 1700s, King Charles III of Spain led the looting of Pompeii add to his private collection. Later rulers continued with the looting of Pompeii and most of the artefacts ended up in the Naples Archaeological Museum.
Some of the artworks were deemed to naughty and explicit to be seen by the public and were relegated to a secret cabinet by Ferdinand’s son, Francis the First, only to be viewed by scholars and male visitors, who bribed the staff to get a peek. The collection was kept hidden away from the general public and women visitors until 2000 when the Gabinetti Segreto was finally opened to the public.
What to eat in Naples
Naples is home to some incredible Italian food, not only the famous Neapolitan pizza! The food here is seasonal, cheap and local and there is plenty of seafood to savour due to the city’s proximity to the sea. There is also a mouth-watering street food scene which includes all kinds of fried snacks like rice balls, croquettes and fried fish.
Here is a list of the ultimate foods to try in Naples if you want to eat like a local:
No visit to Naples would be complete without having pizza, the dough in Naples is light and filled with pockets of air and is baked in a brick oven. The local classics include margarita with buffalo mozzarella and the simple classic, Pizza Marinera, served with garlic, olive oil, a sprinkle of oregano and fresh tomatoes. You can also try fried pizza, folded and stuffed with ricotta cheese or provolone at the Antica Pizza Fritta de Zia Esterina Sorbillo.
Mozzarella en Carrozza
Classified as a street food, this original leftover dish is made with bread and mozzarella is given a new lease of life by being covered in flour and glazed with egg and deep-fried.
Another street food classic, this dish is a mixture of fried fish such as anchovies, white fish and squid served up hot in a paper cone at Il Cuoppo Friggitori Napoletani or at the another famous fried fish place, Fritti di Serafino.
Pastry is shaped into the form of a shell and fits perfectly in the palm of your hand. The flaky dough is filled with a sweet almond paste or ricotta paste and this signature Neapolitan pastry is said to have originated from the Santa Rosa Monastery in the 19th century. This dessert is something you must try in Naples which pairs perfectly with the local coffee and the best can be found at Caffè Spaccanapoli on Via Duomo.
Neapolitan Pasta with Ragu
Feel like a true Italian by indulging in a pile of freshly cooked pasta topped with delicious ragù sauce just like grandma used to make! The best ragù can be found at the well-known Tandem restaurant. This restaurant is the typical Italian trattoria with red and white striped tablecloths, old photographs adorning the walls and generous portions. Booking in advance is highly-recommended.
Parmigiana di Melanzane
Eggplant parmesan is a traditional Neopolitan dish and it is absolutely calorific but mouth-wateringly delicious. Eggplants fried in tomato and basil sauce and layered with smoky provola cheese and buffalo mozzarella. It’s incredibly filling and heavy. One of the most famous restaurants that serves this dish is also a popular place for celebrities to dine, you can find Ristorante e Pizzeria Leon d’Oro, in Piazza Dante. Book in advance to avoid disappointment!
A soft and spongy cake soaked in rhum and filled with fresh fruit and cream. What’s not to love? Though this dish was invented in Poland and is renowned in France, the Neapolitan version is to die for! Check out the famous Pasticceria Scaturchio which serves up the best babà Vesuvio, a volcano shaped cake sitting on a mound of small mushroom cakes.
Where to stay in Naples
There are so many great options for accommodation in Naples and we have listed hotels to suit all budgets:
Hotel Casanova – This budget hotel suits backpackers and is located right next to Naples’ main train station, rooms are basic and minimalistic but clean and the staff are helpful, internet and bar is available onsite and the hotel is a short distance from the historic town centre. Prices start from €37 per night.
Hotel Garden Napoli – This no frills hotel is also perfect for backpackers and also has fantastic views of the city, rooms are bright and airy and the hotel is a short walk from the historic town centre. All rooms have air-conditioning and balconies from which you can take in the atmosphere of the streets below and the mountains in the distance. Prices start at only €45 per night.
Hotel Zara Napoli – This excellent hotel provides the perfect base for exploring the city, it is a little further from the centre and offers the opportunity to chill-out and relax away from the hectic sounds and atmosphere of Naples. The rooms have air-conditioning, flat screen TVs and WIFI and there is also a free bike rental service so that you can hop on a bike to explore Naples in a different way. The rooms are clean and well-decorated and the friendly staff are more than delighted to give you recommendations for excellent restaurants to eat at. Prices start at €55 for the night.
Portalba Relais Hotel – This Bed and Breakfast is effortlessly trendy, with stylish white rooms, with modern, neutral décor and contemporary artwork. The rooms have stunning views and bathrooms are equipped with Jacuzzi bathtubs, delicious breakfast is included. The location of the B&B is in the heart of historic Naples and prices start from only €68.
Hotel Piazza Bellini – This contemporary B&B has stylish rooms with floor to ceiling windows and plenty of sunlight. There is even a rooftop terrace where you can take in the views of the city. This is a great value-for-money hotel and rooms are spacious and clean. This elegant hotel is located in the historic centre of Naples and is only a 3-minute walk to the nearest metro and only 6 minutes from the archaeological museum. Rooms have balconies with panoramic views and WiFi and flat screen TVs are included in every room. Breakfast is included and parking can be booked at an additional cost. Rooms start from only €75 per night.
Tours to do in Naples
Naples has a wealth of history buried just underneath the cobbled stones of its streets. A honeycomb of passageways and ruins lie underfoot. This guided tour will take you 40 metres underground and you will be able to explore the Greek aqueducts constructed 2,400 years ago which later became converted into air raid shelters during the Second World War. You can even visit the ruins of a Roman Theatre deep in the belly of Naples where Emperor Nero once graced the stage.
Advanced booking is recommended and the tour is a steal at only €10 per person. The entrance into the underground has more than 100 steps so it is not accessible for strollers or wheelchairs.
Nearby you can also explore the Bourbon Tunnels also called the Galleria Borbonica, where parts of the tunnel network once served as an escape route for the Neapolitan Royal Family, having been commissioned by King Ferdinand the Second of Bourbon, who ruled Naples and Sicily during a tumultuous period of history.
The tunnels also served as an air raid shelter and is home to a collection of historic cars. The tour costs only €10 per person and the entrance is located near the entrance of the Naples Underground Tour.
This tour was made for foodies, combining exploration of the city on foot and stopping at various restaurants, you will be able to savour the best and most authentic flavours of Naples during this 2.5-hour tour. The tour includes some of the highlights of the regional cuisine such as sfogliatelle, pizza and ragù and you can learn about the history and food culture of this vibrant city.
Day trips from Naples
For those who are short on time, this tour is ideal as it covers three of Southern Italy’s important attractions in one day. You can take in the ancient Roman city of Pompeii and later take in the fresh sea air and sea views of Sorrento. Pickup and lunch is included in the tour.
These beautiful islands are a short boat ride away from Naples and if you want to get away from the city, head on this round trip tour to the islands and enjoy the scenery, sea views and a traditional Italian lunch. You can visit the Augustus Gardens, explore the streets of Capri and take in the spectacular views and explore the unmissable Blue Grotto before heading back to your hotel. Lunch and pickup are included.
Recommend budget tours in Naples
- Capri and Blue Grotto Day Tour from Naples or Sorrento
- Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii Day Trip from Naples
- Pompeii Half-day Trip from Naples
- Private Tour: Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Ravello Day Trip from Naples
- Naples Street Food and Sightseeing Tour
- Naples City Walking Tour
- Naples Food Walking Tour
- Full-day Sorrento, Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii Shore Excursion from Naples
- Pompeii and Amalfi Coast – Private Tour
- Herculaneum Private Walking Tour
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