Naples is a city of contrasts, where the ancient and the modern coexist in perfect harmony. From the vibrant streets of the historic center to the stunning views of the Bay of Naples, this city is a true gem of the Mediterranean.
With its rich history, incredible food, and bustling atmosphere, Naples is a unique destination that should not be missed while visiting Italy. Here are the top ten things to do in this captivating city.
1. Eat the PIZZA
This had to be obvious, right? Famously known as the birthplace of pizza, Naples truly does have the best pizza in the world. From Sorbillos to Antica to Starita, there are tons of options to choose from. Neapolitan pizza is made with a soft, thin crust that is slightly puffed up around the edges, creating a tender and delicious base for the toppings.
In my short trip to Naples I was able to eat at two different places and it was honestly the best pizza I’ve had in my life. For the classic Naples dish, order the Magherita pizza.
2. Catacombe de San Gennaro
Just north of the main city center lies the Catacombs of San Gennaro, or in Italian Catacombe de San Gennaro. One of the most unique places you can visit in Italy, the Catacombs of San Gennaro are a network of underground burial chambers from the early Christian era. You have to take a tour to visit the Catacombs so plan accordingly.
Getting to the Catacombs can also be a little tricky as it is located a bit outside of the action, but you can read here How To Visit the Catacombe de San Gennaro. When I visited we took an uber to the Catacombs, and on the return trip we opted to walk back downhill to the city center.
Whether you're a history buff, a religious pilgrim, or simply looking for a unique and memorable experience, the Catacombs of San Gennaro are a must-visit destination in Naples.
3. Walk the Streets
Naples is a photographer’s dream. The streets are old, grungy, and authentically Italian. Walk around neighborhoods like San Greggio and Santa Lucia to immerse yourself into the culture of Naples.
With laundry hanging out to dry on nearly every balcony, wander through narrow alleys and listen to the sounds of the vibrant city. Find a hidden cafe that only the locals know or sit down for an unforgettable dining experience featuring some of the world’s best pizza. The people of Naples are warm and friendly, and it's not uncommon to see families gathered together in the streets, children playing, and neighbors chatting. Walking the streets of Naples offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of this vibrant and dynamic city.
4. Castel N’uovo (The New Castle)
Castel N'uovo (the New Castle), is an imposing and historic fortress located in the heart of Naples. Built in the 13th century, Castel N'uovo was once the residence of the Kingdom of Naples' royalty and served as a symbol of the city's power and prosperity.
Today, the castle is a popular tourist attraction and offers visitors a glimpse into Naples' history. Its unique architectural style, incorporating elements of Gothic and Renaissance design, makes Castel N'uovo one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. Inside, visitors can explore the castle's spacious courtyards, grand halls, and magnificent towers, which offer panoramic views of the surrounding city and bay. There are also skeletal remains buried in the castle which you can see through the floors.
5. Castel dell'Ovo (The Old Castle)
Castel dell'Ovo (the Old Castle) is one of the oldest fortresses in the city and is believed to have been built by the ancient Romans in the 1st century AD. Over the centuries, Castel dell'Ovo has played a significant role in the city's history, serving as a royal palace, a prison, and a military stronghold.
The castle is located right on the sea and is part of the Lungomare seaside path. The castle is a popular tourist attraction and offers visitors a chance to visit one of Naples' most iconic buildings.
6. Teatro di San Carlo
If you happen to be visiting Naples while there’s a show happening at the San Carlo Theater, this would have to move up the list. The historic opera house is something out of a movie. Founded in the 18th century, the Teatro di San Carlo is one of the oldest opera houses in the world and is considered to be one of the most prestigious theaters in Europe.
Even if a show isn’t happening during your visit, you can schedule a tour to see the theater. Check the theater’s website for more information on booking a tour or seeing a show.
7. Walk along the Lungomare
Located along the bay of Naples, this seaside boardwalk offers great views of the bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Take a stroll next to the water and visit Castle dell'Ovo, or grab some incredible pizza at Sorbillos or Antonio Antonios.
If you are getting dropped off at the ferry port, the Lungomare is a short walk away. Situated near the Santa Lucia neighborhood, this bustling boardwalk is lined with nice hotels including the Hotel Exelsior, where I stayed on my trip. As you walk along the Lungomare, you'll pass by colorful cafes, seafood restaurants, and lively street performers. On a clear day, head to the Lungomare to watch an unforgettable sunset illuminating Mount Vesuvius.
8. Palazzo Reale
The Palazzo Reale (the Royal Palace) was built in the 16th century when it was the official residence of the Kingdom of Naples' royalty. and is one of the most important architectural examples of Baroque style in the city. The palace is known for its baroque architecture, grand halls, and ornate frescoes, which reflect the wealth and power of the city's rulers. Today, the Palazzo Reale serves as a museum and cultural center, and you can purchase a ticket to tour the palace.
9. Galeria Umberto I
The Umberto I Gallery (or Galeria Umberto I) is a historic shopping center located in the heart of Naples. Built in the 19th century, the Umberto I Gallery was one of the city's first shopping centers and served as a hub for fashion and commerce for many years. Visitors can admire the gallery's stunning architecture and take a stroll through its bustling shopping area which includes a variety of shops, cafes, and restaurants.
10. Visit Pompeii
If Pompeii were actually in Naples, this would be the number one thing to do on this list. But it is about a 30 minute drive outside of the city and can still be seen on a day trip from Naples. It goes without saying, but Pompeii is one of the world's most important archeological sites as it gives us a screenshot of how life looked like for the Romans back in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried the city in ash. A visit here is an absolute must if you are in Naples. For more information, here is my Guide to Visiting Pompeii.
Naples may get a bad rap and be overlooked by many visitors, but just passing through to see Pompeii or the Amalfi Coast without spending some time in Naples would be a mistake. For more information on Naples, check out The Perfect Itinerary for First Time Visitors: Naples in a Day.
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