Top Things to Do in Naples, Italy: Top Attractions and Activities

Melina Thalassinou
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Table of Content
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Key Takeaways

  • The top things to do in Naples depend on your tastes and preferences.
  • Explore historic sites and vibrant streets of Naples.
  • Marvel at iconic landmarks and cultural treasures.
  • Indulge in Naples' world-famous culinary delights.

naples cafeNaples Street - credits: Jack KPhoto/Shutterstock.com

Naples is a captivating blend of ancient history and modern vibrancy.

Visitors are drawn to its historic buildings, bustling squares, and picturesque churches, making it an unforgettable tourist destination.

Taking a stroll along the stunning Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli offers breathtaking views of the bay, while the historic Naples National Archaeological Museum provides a deep dive into the city’s rich past.

The Royal Palace and San Carlo Theater offer a glimpse into the opulent artistry and architecture that have defined Naples for centuries.

For those with a love for the unusual, the Museo Cappella Sansevero houses the famed Veiled Christ sculpture, a masterpiece not to be missed.

What's more, during the Christmas season, Naples is famous for its intricate and artistic nativity scenes, known as 'presepi.'

And, of course, no visit to Naples would be complete without sampling its world-renowned cuisine—get ready to taste some of the best pizza and seafood you'll ever experience.

Explore Piazza del Plebiscito

plebiscito square naplesPiazza del Plebiscito - credits: irisphoto1/Shutterstock.com

Piazza del Plebiscito is a focal point in Naples, offering visitors a rich blend of historical significance, impressive architecture, and vibrant activities.

This extensive square in downtown Naples is not only a hub for cultural events but also a gateway to some of the city's key landmarks.

Historical Significance

Piazza del Plebiscito has played a central role in the history of Naples.

In the 19th century, it was named to commemorate the plebiscite that unified Naples with the Kingdom of Italy in 1860.

The square has witnessed numerous historical events, rallies, and celebrations.

Its history is etched into its surroundings, with structures like the Royal Palace and the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola reflecting the architectural styles of different periods.

Visitors can appreciate how the square symbolizes both the city's past and its evolution over time.

Major Landmarks Around the Square

Several significant landmarks frame Piazza del Plebiscito, making it a must-visit spot for anyone in Naples.

The Royal Palace, a stunning example of Spanish architecture, faces the square and offers a glimpse into royal life with its opulent rooms and stunning artworks.

Across from the palace, the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola stands out with its neoclassical design, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. Its grand columns and dome create a striking image against the Naples skyline.

Additionally, the square's proximity to Via Toledo and the train station, the Lungomare Caracciolo allows easy access to other historical parts of the city.

Activities and Events

Piazza del Plebiscito is a vibrant spot for various activities and events.

It serves as a common meeting point and often hosts concerts, art exhibitions, and public gatherings.

Locals and tourists alike enjoy the open space for leisurely strolls, people-watching, and informal sports like soccer.

Seasonal markets and festivals frequently take place here, showcasing local crafts, foods, and traditions.

The large open area also makes it an ideal location for political rallies and public speeches.

Whether visiting during a quiet afternoon or a bustling event, there's always something engaging happening at Piazza del Plebiscito.

Visit the Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale)

royal palace naplesNaples Royal Palace - credits: Pasquale Senatore/Shutterstock.com

Palazzo Reale is a historic symbol of Naples' rich cultural and architectural heritage.

Visitors to this grand palace can explore its deep historical roots, impressive architectural features, and the various important rooms filled with beautiful artworks and sculptures.

History of the Palace

The Royal Palace of Naples has a long and storied history, beginning construction in 1600.

Initially commissioned by the Spanish viceroy Fernando Ruiz de Castro, it was intended to host King Philip III of Spain. Although Philip III never visited, the palace served as the residence of the Spanish viceroys for over 150 years.

Later, it became one of the four royal residences used by the Bourbon Kings of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies.

Over the centuries, the palace underwent numerous restorations and expansions. These renovations have maintained the palace's grandeur and historical significance, making it a vital landmark in Naples.

Today, it houses various cultural institutions, including the National Library and several museums.

Architectural Highlights

The architectural design of Palazzo Reale reflects a blend of styles due to the numerous renovations it has undergone. The original design was the work of Domenico Fontana, an acclaimed Italian architect.

The façade of the palace, with its grand entrance and symmetrical layout, showcases the Renaissance and Baroque architectural elements.

Visitors should not miss the intricately designed courtyard and the magnificent grand staircase, considered masterpieces of their time.

The balconies and arcades offer stunning views and are great examples of the craftsmanship of the period.

The palace's exterior, though less ornate than other European palaces, emanates a sense of historical depth and elegance.

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Important Rooms and Artworks to See

Inside, the Royal Palace contains various rooms that are rich in history and art.

The Throne Room and the Hall of Hercules are among the most notable. These rooms are adorned with elaborate frescoes, tapestries, and sculptures that reflect the opulence enjoyed by the former residents.

The palace also hosts an array of significant artworks, including paintings and sculptures from renowned artists of the period.

The Teatrino di Corte (Court Theater) is another highlight and is still used for performances today.

Visitors can also explore the palace's collection, which offers a glimpse into the artistic and cultural life of Naples throughout the centuries.

Discover San Carlo Theater

san carlo theaterSan Carlo Theater - credits: Maurizio De Mattei/Shutterstock.com

San Carlo Theater in Naples, Italy, is a significant historical and cultural landmark. It is renowned for its rich history, stunning architectural design, and remarkable performances.

Historical Background

San Carlo Theater, built in 1737, is one of the oldest and most prestigious opera houses in the world.

It was commissioned by King Charles III of Naples, aiming to create a grand venue that would reflect the city's cultural importance.

The theater has witnessed centuries of remarkable performances and historical events, maintaining its status as a symbol of artistic excellence.

Over the years, it has undergone restorations to preserve its historical charm and functionality.

Architectural Beauty

The architectural design of the San Carlo Theater is a blend of elegance and grandeur.

The interior features exquisite blue and gold decorations, complemented by intricate frescoes and sculptures.

The theater's horseshoe-shaped auditorium can accommodate nearly 1,400 spectators, offering an intimate yet grand viewing experience.

The stage is equipped with advanced technology, ensuring high-quality productions.

Visitors are often captivated by the opulent chandeliers and the luxurious ambiance that reflect the royal aspirations of its original patrons.

Notable Performances and Events

San Carlo Theater has hosted numerous legendary performances and events, making it a cultural beacon in Naples.

It has premiered works by renowned composers like Rossini, Verdi, and Donizetti.

The theater is also famous for its ballet performances and has seen the rise of many celebrated dancers.

Throughout the year, it offers a diverse program that includes operas, ballets, concerts, and cultural events, attracting art enthusiasts from around the globe.

Guided tours of the theater provide an in-depth look at its rich heritage and behind-the-scenes operations, making it a must-visit for anyone interested in the performing arts.

Stroll Along Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli

naples caracciolo lungomareCaracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli - credits: Creative Family/Shutterstock.com

Via Caracciolo and Lungomare di Napoli offer a beautiful seaside promenade complete with scenic views, popular activities, and ideal visiting times for both day and night excursions.

Scenic Views and Photography Spots

Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli is famed for its picturesque coastal views. Visitors can capture stunning photos of the Bay of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background.

The promenade is lined with cafes and restaurants, providing perfect vantage points for photography.

Best spots for photography:

  1. Castel dell'Ovo: Offers a medieval backdrop.
  2. Santa Lucia: Features charming fishing boats.
  3. Mergellina Harbor: Ideal for sunset shots.

Popular Activities

Walking along the Lungomare is a favored activity due to its serene environment and well-maintained paths.

Cycling is another popular pastime; bike rentals are available along the promenade.

Additionally, there's a range of organized activities:

  1. Boat tours: Explore the Gulf of Naples.
  2. Underground tours: Discover historical sites.
  3. Local events: Enjoy events like the Pizza Village festival or New Year's celebrations.

Best Times to Visit

The ideal time to visit is during the late afternoon when the sun casts a golden glow over the bay.

Sunset is particularly magical, offering breathtaking views and a cooler atmosphere.

Morning visits are also enjoyable, especially for those looking to avoid crowds.

Keep in mind that weekends can be busier due to local foot traffic and events.

Key visiting times:

  1. Morning: For a peaceful stroll.
  2. Late afternoon: For a vibrant atmosphere.
  3. Sunset: For the most stunning views and photography opportunities.

Marvel at the Museo Cappella Sansevero

veiled christ cappella sanseveroThe 'Veiled Christ' in the Cappella Sansevero Museum - credits: marcobrivio.photography/Shutterstock.com

The Museo Cappella Sansevero in Naples is a must-visit for art and history enthusiasts. This museum houses stunning sculptures, historic artifacts, and unique artworks, with its highlight being the famous Veiled Christ.

Overview of the Museum

Located at Via Francesco de Sanctis, 19/21, the Cappella Sansevero is a historic chapel transformed into a museum.

Visitors can marvel at its illusionistic fresco, which decorates the ceiling. This fresco, known as the Glory of Heaven, was completed by Francesco Maria Russo in 1749.

The chapel's intricate art and exquisite design captivate visitors and offer a glimpse into Naples' rich artistic heritage. The museum is considered a masterpiece of Baroque art and architecture.

Key Exhibits

The most renowned exhibit in the Museo Cappella Sansevero is the Veiled Christ, a breathtaking marble sculpture by Giuseppe Sanmartino.

This piece captures Christ in repose, covered by a delicate veil that appears almost transparent.

Other notable exhibits include the Anatomical Machines, which are two 18th-century anatomical studies showcasing the human circulatory system.

The chapel also features several other impressive sculptures, such as Disillusion and Modesty, each displaying remarkable craftsmanship and emotional depth.

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Historical Context

The Museo Cappella Sansevero was originally built as a private chapel for the noble Sansevero family.

Prince Raimondo, a scientist, inventor, and patron of the arts, was a key figure in the chapel's transformation. His vision brought together some of the finest artists of the time to create the chapel's stunning artwork.

The historical context of the chapel's construction and the life of Prince Raimondo provide a deeper understanding of its significance.

This rich history adds an extra layer of intrigue and admiration for visitors exploring the museum.

Explore the Naples National Archaeological Museum

naples arhcaeological museumNaples National Archaeological Museum - credits: Mikolaj Niemczewski/Shutterstock.com

One of Naples' most significant cultural attractions is the National Archaeological Museum.

It's known for its extensive ancient collections and historical artifacts from Pompeii and beyond.

Visitors can expect to encounter a rich blend of Roman and Greek pieces, as well as renowned art and sculptures.

Importance of the Museum

The National Archaeological Museum in Naples, or Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (MANN), holds a crucial place in preserving ancient history.

The museum's location in a former cavalry barracks dating back to 1585 adds historical depth.

Its collections span several millennia, providing insights into Roman and Greek civilizations.

Most notable are the artifacts from the nearby excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum, which were buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.

These artifacts offer a unique glimpse into life in ancient Rome.

Key Collections

The museum is famed for its Pompeii Artifacts, including mosaics, frescoes, and everyday objects that survived the volcanic eruption. These pieces paint a vivid picture of daily life in the doomed city.

Another highlight is the Farnese Collection, one of the most impressive collections of Roman sculptures.

Key pieces include the powerful Farnese Hercules and the striking Farnese Bull, both showcasing extraordinary craftsmanship.

Equally significant are the Greek artworks, which comprise statues, jewelry, and ceramics. Notable items include the Bronze Runners from Herculaneum, which capture the athletic spirit of ancient Greece.

Visitor Tips

The museum operates from 9:00 AM to 7:30 PM, offering visitors ample time to explore its vast collections.

Tickets can be purchased online or at the entrance, with discounts available for students and seniors.

Allocate a few hours to fully appreciate the museum's extensive exhibitions. Consider renting an audio guide or joining a guided tour for enhanced insights.

Wear comfortable shoes, as the museum spans various levels and requires significant walking. Also, be sure to check the special exhibitions and events, which often highlight specific aspects of ancient history.

Experience the Local Cuisine

naples pizzaPizza in Naples - credits: elvirkins/Shutterstock.com

From signature pizzas to rustic street food, when you visit Naples you will take on a culinary journey through its rich gastronomic heritage.

Dive into authentic flavors, famed dishes, and must-visit eateries catering to all appetites.

Famous Dishes

Naples is the birthplace of the iconic Pizza Margherita. Crafted with San Marzano tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil, salt, and extra-virgin olive oil, it's a symbol of Italian simplicity and perfection.

Another must-try is Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, a pasta dish made with tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, olives, capers, and chili peppers. This provides a balance of savory, spicy, and slightly sweet flavors.

Polpo alla Luciana, a traditional octopus stew with tomatoes, olives, and capers, offers a taste of the Mediterranean Sea. These dishes highlight the local ingredients and traditional methods cherished by Neapolitans.

Recommended Restaurants

For an authentic experience, visit Pizzeria Da Michele, where the pizza is a piece of history.

Another staple is L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, renowned for its perfect execution of the classic margarita and marinara pizzas.

Pizzeria Starita offers a diverse menu and a cozy atmosphere, making it popular among both locals and tourists.

For a more upscale dining option, La Cantina di Via Sapienza provides a refined take on traditional dishes.

Trattoria da Nennella is beloved for its rustic charm and home-style cooking, delivering authentic Neapolitan flavors that are hard to beat.

Street Food Options

Naples' street food scene is vibrant and varied.

Mozzarella en Carrozza, a deep-fried sandwich filled with creamy mozzarella, offers a delicious, quick bite.

Another favorite is Cuoppo di Mare, a paper cone filled with mixed fried seafood, embodying the essence of the Mediterranean Sea.

For a sweet treat, grab a Sfogliatella, a crispy pastry filled with sweet ricotta and citrus.

Pizza Fritta, a deep-fried pizza pocket stuffed with ricotta, provola, tomato, and pork, is a must-try that showcases Naples' creative street food innovations.

These options provide an excellent way to sample local flavors while exploring the city.

Final Thoughts

naples peopleNaples Street - credits: trabantos/Shutterstock.com

Naples, a brilliant gem of Southern Italy among other Italian cities, offers a range of top attractions and points of interest that cater to a variety of tastes.

From the historic center, known as Spaccanapoli, to the grandeur of the Archaeological Museum and the Church of Santa Chiara, the city is a hub of cultural heritage.

Visitors can explore the ancient ruins of Pompeii and climb the active volcano, Mt Vesuvius, for breathtaking views.

In addition to its historical sites, Naples is famous for its culinary scene. Don't miss the opportunity to taste authentic Neapolitan pizza; Naples is its birthplace.

For those interested in the arts, the Teatro di San Carlo hosts performances by Verdi and Puccini, offering a taste of royal entertainment.

The city's vibrant markets and shopping streets, like Via Toledo and Galleria Umberto I, provide a dynamic retail experience.

Whether it's immersing in history, savoring local cuisine, or enjoying the arts, visiting Naples offers lifetime experiences for every traveler.

Our Tailor-Made Trip Planning
Hop on a quick call with a local expert from our team
Receive a tailor-made itinerary for your journey
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