Things to do in Naples

naples

Updated On: May 16, 2024 by   Ciaran ConnollyCiaran Connolly

Naples is one of the most beautiful cities in Italy; it is the third-largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan. The city has important tourist hotspots and is famous for being the home of the pizza industry, so tourists can enjoy touring it while sampling its delicious pizza. The city is a cultural hub and a perfect place to hear music in the streets and enjoy its churches, castles, and museums.

History of Naples 

Naples was founded by the Greeks in the 7th century, and they named the city Neapolis, which means ‘the new city’. There was a huge growth in the economy and culture in the Roman period. Naples had a beautiful beach coast, and due to that, it became popular for holidays. Many villas were built at that time, and they attracted politicians and intellectuals such as Cicero and Virgil.

The Byzantines ruled the region in 763 A.D., and their reign lasted for four centuries. After the Byzantines came the Normans, and Naples became part of their kingdom until it was annexed to Sicily. When Emperor Frederick II came to the throne, he fostered a prosperous and thriving cultural life that resulted in the founding of the University of Naples in 1224.

Naples sea
Naples is one of the most famous cities in Southern Italy.

After that came the Anjou dynasty. In this period, the city grew more in population, buildings and economy, living a period of prosperity, and had one of its greatest eras of artistic and cultural life. Many churches and monuments were built, and the city became a central meeting point for many foreign artists.

Through the centuries, Naples was coveted by many conquerors. After the Romans, Byzantines, and Normans came the Spaniards, and the city became a part of the great Spanish Empire. There was an unsuccessful revolution against the Spanish Empire led by Masaniello in 1647.

Then the Austrians came but their period in ruling Naples was short from 1707 until 1734; only 27 years, then Naples became an independent kingdom thanks to Charles of Bourbon. There was a period when the French ruled the city when Napoleon gave the throne to his brother Giuseppe Bonaparte until 1815. The Bourbon family returned to the throne of the two Sicilies, but their rule was demolished a few years later when Garibaldi entered the city in 1860. Then Garibaldi decided to make a referendum that the city of Naples should be annexed to the Kingdom of Piedmont, which then became the Kingdom of

naples landscape
The stunning Naples landscape with gorgeous sea views.

Italy in 1870. In World War II, Naples suffered greatly when it was bombed, causing great damage to the city.

Transportation in Naples

Naples has its own airport which is called Naples Airport and is also known as Capodichino Airport. You can take a bus from the airport with only two stops: Stazione Centrale (Central station), where there is a subway station, and Piazza Municipio, near the main ferry port.

Also, there is the train station, NaplesCentrale Piazza Garibaldi Station, which is connected to the Naples railway system. If you are in Rome and want to go to Naples by car, then it will only take two hours from there. However, due to traffic jams and a parking shortage in the city centre, it’s suitable for you to leave your car in a parking lot near the motorway exit or your accommodation and to use public transportation.

Things to Do in Naples

naples waterfront
Naples offers beautiful sea views at its waterfront.

Castel Nuovo

It is one of the most important attractions in Naples and an ancient landmark. The castle, founded in the Middle Ages, is surrounded by large green landscapes. It includes some ancient Roman monuments, artworks, a chapel, and the Arc de Triomphe.

The Castle Nuovo is a nice place for taking pictures, and when you enter the castle, you can get acquainted with the artefacts and archaeology in it through the accompanying description of each piece, which explains its history to visitors, and you can also see the castle rooms.

The Royal Palace of Naples

The royal palace is located in the centre of the city in Piazza Piplesito and is an essential landmark in Naples; its construction began in 1600 AD. It was finished in 1858 AD after it took its final form. The palace was built when the Spanish ruled Naples and served as the residence of the Viceroy of Spain, and it remained so for about 150 years. When you visit the palace, you can enjoy viewing a precious collection of Baroque furniture, luxurious furnishings and several beautiful artworks. At the base of the palace stands 12 statues of past kings of Naples, from Roger of Sicily to Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor.

Piazza del Plebiscito

It is located in the middle of a historical area where you will find the Royal Palace lined next to the Royal Church, a huge number of ancient historical buildings, and amazing statues of great importance in the history of the city. Some of the buildings that you will find there are the State Palace, the Palace of Salerno, and the statue of Charles III. All these historical monuments in just one place in the city made it one of the essential touristic locations in Naples.

Castel dell’Ovo

The castle was built by the Normans on the island of Borgo Marinaro in the 12th century, which is why it is considered the oldest castle in Naples. It is the headquarters of many events and art exhibitions, and the distinctive and unique view of the castle by the sea made it one of the most beautiful landmarks of historic Naples. If you visit this castle, you will be amazed by rooms, guard towers and walls, you also can rent a boat and spending an unforgettable fun time.

Teatro di San Carlo

The theatre was constructed by King Charles of Bourbon and is considered one of the largest in Europe.  It contains six levels of ornately decorated boxes surrounding the interior, highlighted by the even more lavishly ornate royal box, which makes it the oldest continuously active opera house in Europe. Besides the opera, there are other performances held in it, like concerts and ballet.

National Archeological Museum

The museum has one of the world’s largest collections of old antiques. It also has the art treasures of the kings of Naples, the Farnese collections from Parma and Rome, the collections from the palaces of Portici and Capodimonte, and material from Cumae and Herculaneum and many other places.

When you enter the ground floor, you will find marble sculptures, including the Farnese Hercules, a colossal 3.17-meter statue found in the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, and the Farnese Bull, the largest marble group that has come down from antiquity. Also, there is a collection of ancient mosaics from Pompeii, including the famous 6.20-meter Alexander’s Battle.

On the second floor, you will find a collection of bronze sculptures from Pompeii, and there is a collection of ancient wall paintings, mainly from Pompeii but also from Herculaneum and Stabiae.

Santa Chiara

The Monastery of Santa Chiara was founded in 1310. Its 66 octagonal columns surrounding its cloister are covered in animated colors and lively designs. Between the columns are long benches also covered in tiles. The walls on all four sides of the cloister are covered with 17th-century frescoes of Old Testament scenes.

When you enter the place, you can see the presepio set in a Roman ruin, incorporating mundane daily Neapolitan life along with the sacred creche scene; the figures are dressed in typical local 18th- and 19th-century clothing. While repairing damage after World War II, the remains of a 1st-century Roman thermic spa were discovered, probably part of a villa. This and other finds from the first through the 4th century comprise a small archaeological area and museum.

Galleria Borbonica (Bourbon Tunnel)

This tunnel was started to work in it in the 19th century by King Ferdinand II. It was used for him to escape from the Royal palace to the safety of the military barracks on what is now Via Morelli, but it was never finished. The tunnel was used as an air raid shelter and emergency hospital in World War II. Inside the tunnel, you will see the container and a set of relics and debris from its various uses, including old cars, Vespas, motorcycles, and fragments of statuary and architectural detail. I know it might be strange or unusual to visit this tunnel, but it is worth exploring and we are sure you will enjoy it.

Naples Cathedral

Another beautiful cathedral worth exploring in Naples, in the south aisle, is the sumptuous 17th century chapel of San Gennaro, patron saint of Naples. On its central altar, there is a silver bust that includes the skull of the saint, who was martyred in 305, in the time of Diocletian. There is also the tomb of the richly decorated Confessio under the high altar, you can see too the 4th century Basilica Santa Restituta, the oldest church in Naples, with superb ceiling frescoes and columns from a Roman temple.

The cathedral is surrounded by several churches, including the Gothic Santa Maria Donnaregina, the Baroque churches of San Filippo Neri and San Paolo Maggiore, and the restored Gothic church of San Lorenzo Maggiore.

San Domenico Maggiore

The church was built in 1300, and it’s one of the most beautiful churches in Naples. The ornate panelled ceiling leads your eyes directly to the high altar designed by Cosimo Fanzago. Each of its 24-sided chapels includes something of interest. Further on, the chapel devoted to Saint Thomas Aquinas is the sacristy, with a frescoed ceiling, Triumph of Faith over Heresy by the Dominicans, and a gallery displaying forty-five sarcophagi of the members of the house of Anjou.

Cappella Sansevero Museum

The museum is located in the middle of the city, it’s one of the city landmarks and the museum houses a significant collection of artworks and sculptures by Italian artists. One of the famous works in the museum is the statue of Christ, which was carved with great care by a young Italian artist from Naples. The statue represents Christ in death and is known as Jesus Christ covered, where this fantastic artwork embodies Christ and was covered with a cover as if it was accurate, except that the cover is in. It is actually marble and has been carefully carved out of fabric.

Capodimonte Royal Palace and Museum

At first, the palace was built to be a hunting lodge for King Charles III, but after that, it became a royal residence and a place for the king to house the Farnese collection. The palace contains portraits of ruling family members, and more than 500 pictures include works by Mantegna, Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli, El Greco, Bellini, and Neapolitan artists of the 17th and 18th centuries. If you walk outside the palace, there is the park, which was the royal hunting grounds, where King Charles III founded the Capodimonte workshops to produce ceramics.

Santa Lucia

It is located between the Piazza del Plebiscito and the slopes of Pizzofalcone and extends down to the sea. This district is an area of modern streets laid out on a regular plan, when you walk there you will see the narrow, stepped lanes and in the neighborhood there are shops and bakeries, artists workshops, cafés where locals down their espresso.

San Martino Monastery and Museum

San Martino Monastery

The monastery was built in 1325 and is decorated with marble and paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries. There are two monasteries, the Chiostro dei Procuratori and the main pillars, which are surrounded by 60 white marble columns. The museum contains porcelain and various historical relics from Naples and southern Italy in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Presepi Shops on Via San Gregorio Armeno

This is a great place to buy unique souvenirs; terra cotta Nativity figures are the best things to buy in Naples. During December, you’ll find Nativity scenes, called presepi, in churches and public places all over Italy, but nowhere are they as elaborate as in Naples. While there, you will find animals, buildings, shops, children, and entire villages of everyday activity surrounding the scenes, made of wood, ceramic, terra-cotta, plaster, and other materials, some dressed elaborately in sumptuous fabrics. The most exemplary of Naples are the figures made of terra-cotta, and you’ll find some of the most artistic at the studio of Marco Ferrigno and Giuseppe.

Port of Naples

It is beautiful place to visit where the port extends from the Castle of Novo to the Piazza San Giovanni and is divided into separate docks, also you will have a great time walking and reveling the fresh air. The port of Naples is considered an important attraction for tourists when they visit Naples. 

Galleria Umberto I

It is a shopping centre located across from the the San Carlo opera house and was built between 1887 and 1891. The building is part of the UNESCO listing of the Historic Centre of Naples as a World Heritage Site. This is one of the activities that tourists love to do in Naples, especially if they love shopping. The architectural designs of the district are so eye-catching that they are a massive draw for tourists who see it as a great photo-op. That’s why tourists should keep this place in mind when visiting the city. 

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius is a famous volcano in Naples that erupted and destroyed the famous cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Still, now it’s a famous attraction where tourists can experience interesting and exciting climbing and hiking opportunities. The natural landscape will make you amazed and love being in that place for a long time, if you are not afraid of heights, then you should climb till the top of this mountain and enjoy the fantastic view of the Mediterranean and the city of Naples from the top.

Catacombs of San Gennaro

The Catacombs of San Gennaro are a maze of passages and tomb chambers, mainly divided into two levels where the upper catacomb’s vaulting are frescoes from late in the second century. Here, too, is the tiny cellar of the Bishops and the sizeable underground basilica, with three naves cut into the stone and decorated with frescoes from the 4th through 6th centuries. The basilica was built near the catacombs in the 5th century, and although it has undergone several changes, it is a rare example of early Christian architecture.

Gaiola Island

The island is located just at the south coast of Posillipo, one of the most famous quarters of Naples, the island looks like a couple of small islands turns out to be just one, with the two big rocks connected by very a thin stone arch. The island became famous when there was a person called the Wizard who lived there, and that was in the 19th century. In 1871, the island was bought by Luigi Negri, owner of a vital fishing company and built a villa on it, but after that, he sold it when his company went bankrupt.

The island suffered various misfortunes during the 20th century. In 1978, it became a government property, along with the nearby marine reserve, the Underwater Park of Gaiola. The island has remained uninhabited for 40 years now.

Porta Nolana

Naple streets
Naples offers stunning streets to wander through.

Porta Nolana is one of the few gates remaining from the old city of Naples. It was built during the 15th century to replace an older gate in the Forcella district. The gate is a rounded arch and once contained frescoes that have long since faded. Porta Nolana retains its two large flanking bastions, which are largely composed of Piperno rock.The city widened way beyond the city walls, and the former gate of Porta Nolana was slowly engulfed by more modern structures.

Places to Stay in Naples 

After this long tour of the most essential attractions in the city of Naples, of course, there must be places to stay in so you can visit all these places, so let us see some of the well-known hotels in the city of Naples and it was divided into three levels.

Luxury Hotels

The Grand Hotel Vesuvio is a very famous hotel in Naples. Due to its location right by the sea and elegant style, many film stars and royalty have stayed there. In the same area, you’ll also find the Hotel Palazzo Alabardieri, a good choice for anyone planning to go shopping in Naples.

Mid-Range Hotels

Hotel Piazza Bellini is close to many attractions in the city, but its view is on a quiet courtyard, and from its uppermost rooms, you can see Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. There is also Eurostars Hotel Excelsior that is near to the bay and with sea views from many of its rooms.

Budget Hotels

Hotel Rex is steps away from the waterside promenade. Hotel Europeo & Flowers is a no-frills option on a quiet back street, around the corner from Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. The NaplesGaribaldi hotel is also near shopping and restaurants.

We hope we’ve given you a good overview of the city of Naples, its attractions and tourist hotspots, as well as a brief on where you can stay while you visit the city, depending on where you want to go and what you want to see. We wish all of you a safe trip there and a great time visiting the city’s beautiful attractions and taking pictures to commemorate the trip to one of the most beautiful cities in Italy and even all of Europe.

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