Best Things To Do in Naples, Italy
Naples is a sprawling city, but most of its best things to do are tucked in the pedestrian-friendly historic center. This UNESCO World Heritage site and its surroundings are home to churches like the Museo Cappella Sansevero, which doubles as an art museum, and the Galleria Borbonica, an underground tunnel filled with curiosities. The most refreshing place to stretch your legs and experience the warm, salty air is along the Via Carrociolo e Lungomare di Napoli, but for the best views, head up the funicular to the Certosa e Museo di San Martino, a monastery-turned-gallery.
Updated May 23, 2017
- #1View all Photos#1 in Naples, ItalySightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
For a nice seaside promenade, look no further than the Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli. Flanked by cafes and restaurants on one side and the Gulf of Naples on the other, this walkway serves as a relaxing place to stretch your legs and breathe in the fresh sea air. The views of nearby Mount Vesuvius and the island of Capri add an almost magical element to this pedestrian walkway.
Although recent visitors say a walk on Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli is a definite must-do, they recommend steering clear during the weekends when it gets "extremely crowded." Some also cautioned that vendors trying to hawk their goods can be a bit pushy, so be prepared to say a kind but firm "no, grazie" a time or two.
- #2 in Naples, ItalyMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The highlight of the Museo Cappella Sansevero is the "Veiled Christ," a statue created by the Neapolitan artist Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753. The famously realistic statue rests at the center of the chapel, but there are other works of art on display here, too, including the Statues of the Virtues, which portray themes like "Decorum," "Modesty" and "Sincerity." The chapel itself, in both its 18th-century architecture and design, is also a sight to behold. Once you've toured the chapel, head downstairs to the crypt, where the "Anatomical Machines" exhibit is housed. Not for the faint of heart, the exhibit features two glass cases with the skeletons of a man and woman that have their artery and vein systems exposed. It's believed these skeletons date back to 1763.
Recent visitors reported that the "Veiled Christ" is worth the long queues. Others highly recommend reading up on the chapel's artists and history before you go to get the most out of your visit, though purchasing the audio guide is another way to do the same. Audio guides are available in a variety of languages, including English.
- #3View all Photos#3 in Naples, ItalyChurches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Founded in the 14th century as a Carthusian monastery, the Certosa e Museo di San Martino sits high above the city on Vomero hill, leaving visitors in awe of its intricate exteriors, immaculately-designed cloisters and sweeping skyline views. The interior has undergone many alterations over its centuries of existence, including contributions by famous Italian masters Giovanni Antonio Dosio and Cosimo Fanzago. Visitors will also find 17th-century works by such famed artists as Francesco Solimena, Massimo Stanzione, Jusepe de Ribera and Battista Caracciolo. What's more, the Certosa e Museo di San Martino is home to an impressive collection of antique presepi (nativity scenes).
Recent travelers raved about the church's elaborate frescoes and its unbeatable views of the bay, the city and Mount Vesuvius. However, reviewers warned others not to make the same mistake they did by trying to walk to the monastery. After all, it's much easier (and inexpensive) to pay 1 euro ($1) to ride the funicular up the cliff and walk the rest of the way.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Naples, ItalySightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Catacombe di San Gennaro date back to the second century, but they became a pilgrimage site in the fifth century when San Gennaro – the patron saint who lends his name to the catacombs – was laid to rest here. Along with the underground graves, visitors will view art, including fifth-century mosaics and a third century, Pompeian-style room adorned with early Christian-themed paintings.
One recent traveler called the tour of the catacombs the "highlight" of his trip to Naples, citing the knowledgeable (English-speaking) travel guide who retells the fascinating history of the catacombs. But this reviewer isn't alone: Most visitors agreed that the guided tour makes this attraction really come alive. Along with comfortable shoes, you'll want to bring a light sweater (even during a summer visit), as the temperature underground can vary quite a bit from the street-level climate.
- #5View all Photos#5 in Naples, ItalyMuseums, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseums, ToursTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
The Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli is where you'll find artifacts rescued from Pompeii and Herculaneum. The collection includes everything from Greek and Roman sculptures to intricate mosaics. The building itself is also a sight to behold, as it once served as military barracks before it became the city's main university. It didn't become a museum until Charles VII declared it so in the late 18th century.
If you only have time for one museum on your Naples getaway, many recent travelers (and travel experts) recommend making the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli your pick. Still, more than one visitor lamented the lack of a museum cafe or other on-site refreshments (a valid complaint considering the size of the museum). Others complained about the signage, which is mostly in Italian. Though there is an audio guide available, reviewers said it only provides information on the museum highlights.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Naples, ItalySightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, ToursTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Galleria Borbonica – or Bourbon Tunnel – is an unfinished underground passageway commissioned by King Ferdinand II and carved back in the 19th century as an escape route that would link the Royal Palace of Naples to military barracks in Via della Pace (now Via Morelli). Though the tunnel was never finished, it was used in World War II as an air raid shelter and military hospital. Along your tour of the tunnel, you'll spot debris and period relics, including vintage cars.
According to recent visitors, the passionate (English-speaking) tour guides make a visit to the Bourbon Tunnel extraordinary. Reviewers say that although the entrances are narrow and may leave some feeling slightly claustrophobic, the tunnel widens inside.
- #7View all Photos#7 in Naples, ItalyMonuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing, ToursTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPENDMonuments and Memorials, Museums, Sightseeing, ToursTYPEMore than Full DayTIME TO SPEND
Two of the area's most iconic locales – Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii – can be found roughly 15 miles away from central Naples. Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano left on Europe's mainland, while Pompeii, which fell victim to one of Mount Vesuvius' eruptions in A.D. 79, is a UNESCO World Heritage city that was preserved by the volcano's ash. It was not rediscovered until 1748.
According to many travelers, the best way to view both of these sites is to see them together on a guided tour. During the tour, visitors will get to hike up Mount Vesuvius and wander around Pompeii. Tours offer more background about the locales than can be learned if exploring without a guide, but keep in mind that the hike up the volcano can be a bit strenuous.
- #8View all Photos#8 in Naples, ItalyMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseums, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Originally commissioned in 1738 as a hunting lodge for Charles VII, king of Naples and Sicily, this grand palace took more than a century to construct. These days, it serves as a museum, hanging works by names like Titian, Sandro Botticelli and Michelangelo da Caravaggio, among other well-known Italian and Neapolitan artists, as well as Andy Warhol.
Some travelers say the works housed here can feel monotonous, and one visitor notes that the placards describing the works of art are only in Italian. Still, most say that the view from the palazzo is magnificent, as is the surrounding park.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Naples, ItalySightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Nicknamed "Christmas Alley," Via San Gregorio Armeno bustles year-round with artisans hawking goods, such as nativity and celebrity statuettes, as well as the famous terracotta figurines created by Giuseppe Ferrigno. Visitors will find ornaments resembling everyone from the pope to popular football players to baby Jesus. Curiously, Elvis shows up here, too.
Some travelers call the shops that flank Christmas Alley cute and kitschy but say Via San Gregorio Armeno is worth a stroll. Even if you're not in the market to purchase any souvenirs, visitors say the area's architecture and overall ambience are perfect for a coffee, a gelato and an interesting glimpse into Naples culture.
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