Capital of the Italian Campania, Naples is a city laden with preconceptions, and most bear some truth. It’s huge, filthy, crime-ridden and in some parts appears to be falling apart. At the same time, it’s edgy and atmospheric, with a faint air of menace; and it is definitely like nowhere else in Italy.
The best travel tips for visiting NaplesNaples has bags of charm, making the noise and disorder easily endurable, even enjoyable, for most first-timers. It doesn’t yet attract hordes of visitors, and is refreshingly lacking in tourist gloss. Yet it’s a grand and beautiful place, with monumental squares, world-class museums, down-at-heel churches crammed with Baroque masterpieces.
It is a large, sprawling city, with a centre that has many different focuses. The area between Piazza Garibaldi and Via Toledo, roughly corresponding to the old Roman Neapolis (much of which is still unexcavated below the ground), makes up the old part of the city – the centro storico. This is much the liveliest and most teeming part of town, an open-air kasbah of hawking, yelling humanity that makes up in energy what it lacks in grace.
Buildings rise high on either side of the narrow, crowded streets, cobwebbed with washing; there’s little light, not even much sense of the rest of the city outside – certainly not of the proximity of the sea. But it’s the city’s most intriguing quarter, and a must-see on any visit.
Naples’ main transport hub is Piazza Garibaldi, a giant, bustling square that cuts into the city centre from the modern train station. Designed by French architect Dominique Perrault, it now features a striking steel-and-glass canopy covering an underground, open-air shopping centre.
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Top attractions and things to do in NaplesFrom walking through the historic Centro Storico to visiting the sought-after sunshine spot of Capri, there are plenty of things to see in Naples, the best of which are described below.
If you are looking for less popular attractions, don't forget to read our list of unusual things to do in Naples.
#1 Check out the relics of The DuomoTucked away from the main street, The Duomo is a Gothic building from the early thirteenth century (though with a late nineteenth-century neo-Gothic facade) dedicated to the patron saint of the city, San Gennaro.
Precious phials of the saint’s blood have been preserved in an eye-bogglingly ornate chapel (the third one on the right as you walk into the cathedral), which also contains his skull in a silver bust-reliquary from 1305 (stored behind the altar).
On the other side of the cathedral, the Basilica of Santa Restituta is actually a separate church, officially the oldest structure in Naples, erected by Constantine in 324 and supported by columns that were taken from a temple to Apollo on this site.
Off to the right of the main altar, there is a small charge to visit the baptistry which also contains relics from very early Christian times, including late fifth-century mosaics.
#2 Venture through the magnificent Complesso Monumentale dei GirolaminiJust across the road from the Duomo is the entrance to the late sixteenth-century Complesso Monumentale dei Girolamini, the former home of the Order of Oratorians founded by St Philip Neri in 1561. Its enormous church has striped marble pillars and a large fresco by Luca Giordano above the west door depicting Christ casting the Merchants from the Temple.
The complex also houses a small picture gallery, on the other side of the cloisters, whose half a dozen rooms mostly contain paintings of the Neapolitan school – dark, brooding works. The best of works are Giuseppe Ribera’s depictions of St Andrew and St Peter and a handful of paintings by Luca Giordano and Battistello Caracciolo. There’s also a magnificent ancient library, though this is rarely open to the public.
#3 You’d be mad to miss Museo Archeologico NazionaleNaples’ Museo Archeologico Nazionale is home to the Farnese collection of antiquities from Lazio and Campania and the best of the finds from the nearby Roman sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
It seems to be under almost constant reorganisation, and to be honest the displays are tired and old-fashioned for the most part. But you’d be mad to miss it – it’s truly one of the highlights of the city.
The ground floor of the museum has sculptures from the Farnese collection, displayed at its best in the mighty Great Hall, which holds imperial-era figures like the Farnese Bull and Farnese Hercules from the Baths of Caracalla in Rome – the former the largest piece of classical sculpture ever found.
The mezzanine floor holds the museum’s collection of Campanian mosaics – remarkably preserved works that give superb insight into ordinary Roman customs, beliefs and humour.
#4 Discover the history of Herculaneum and PompeiiEast of Naples is Ercolano, the modern offshoot of the ancient site of Herculaneum, which was destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius on August 24, 79 AD. In its heyday, Herculaneum was a residential town, but much smaller than Pompeii, and as such it makes a more manageable size, more easily taken in on a single visit.
The most famous Roman town to be destroyed by Vesuvius – Pompeii – was one of Campania’s most important commercial centres. It used to be a moneyed resort for wealthy patricians and a trading town that exported wine and fish. In effect, the eruption froze the town’s way of life as it stood at the time.
Excavations, which have continued more or less without interruption from 1748 to the present day, have probably yielded more information about the ordinary life of Roman citizens during the imperial era than anywhere else.
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#5 Take in the mesmerizingly stunning island of CapriSheering out of the sea just off the far end of the Sorrentine peninsula, the island of Capri has been the most sought-after part of the Bay of Naples since Emperor Tiberius’ day. This mesmerizingly stunning island is worth braving the crowds to explore.
During Roman times Augustus retreated to the island’s gorgeous cliff-bound scenery to escape the cares of office; later Tiberius moved the imperial capital here, indulging himself in legendarily debauched antics until his death in 37 AD.
After the Romans left, Capri was rather neglected until the early nineteenth century, when the discovery of the Blue Grotto and the island’s remarkable natural landscape coincided nicely with the rise of tourism.
#6 Check out the thermal springs of IschiaLargest of the islands in the Bay of Naples, Ischia (pronounced Iss-kee-a) rises out of the sea in a series of pointy green hummocks, with the cone of a dormant volcano in the centre. German, Scandinavian and British tourists flock here in large numbers during peak season, attracted by its charming beach resorts and thermal springs.
Although its reputation has always been poorer than Capri’s – it is perhaps not so dramatically beautiful – you can at least be sure of being alone in exploring parts of the mountainous interior, and La Mortella, the exotic garden cultivated by the British composer William Walton and his wife Susana, is an unmissable attraction.
Indeed, if you’re after some beach lounging, good walking and lively nightlife within striking distance of Naples and the rest of the bay, it might be just the place.
#7 Watch a soccer match in NaplesFootball is something of a religion in Naples, and support for the local side, Napoli, reached its pinnacle in the 1987 season when they won the scudetto with Diego Maradona as their star player. Since then the team dropped two divisions after going bankrupt, but have recently been rescued by movie mogul Aurelio De Laurentiis and are thriving once more in the top flight winning the league in 2022/23.
The day before winning the 2014 Coppa, the whole team made a visit to Pope Francis at the Vatican, presenting him with his own blue Napoli jersey.
The club plays at the Stadio di San Paolo in Fuorigrotta; take the Ferrovia Cumana from Montesanto to Mostra and the stadium is right in front of you. You can always take Line 2 of the metro – the stadium is a five-minute walk from the Napoli Campi Flegri stop. Match tickets are available from the windows on the ground floor.
#8 Head underground to discover Naples catacombsRight by the church of Santa Maria della Sanità, elevators link La Sanità with Corso Amedeo up above, the main road to Capodimonte. From here, it’s about a ten-minute walk to the Catacombe di San Gennaro, next door to the huge Madre del Buon Consiglio church, halfway up the hill to Capodimonte.
This site is best known for being the final resting place of San Gennaro, whose body was brought here in the fifth century. It’s a Christian burial ground, where the wealthy were placed in chapels on shelves and the poor were dumped on the ground – a class system it’s easy to discern even now.
There are some early frescoes of San Gennaro and saints Peter and Paul in some of the niches, as well as earlier red Pompeiian-style ceiling frescoes next to a Byzantine Christ. Nearby, you can look down to the next level at Gennaro’s supposed tomb and a mosaic of the bishop that brought him here.
#9 Visit Teatro di San Carlo - the oldest opera house in ItalyThe Teatro di San Carlo is an oddly unimpressive building from the outside, but it was the envy of Europe when it opened in 1737, in time for the birthday of Charles of Bourbon, for whom it was built (it’s conveniently connected to the royal palace behind).
Destroyed by fire in 1816 and rebuilt, it’s still the largest – and oldest – opera house in Italy, and one of the most distinguished in the world. There’s a statue of the Naples-born tenor Caruso in the foyer, although oddly the singer was badly received on his debut in 1900 and never again sang in the city.
While the guided tours are informative, to properly appreciate the interior you should come to performance. You may also want to check out the adjacent Palazzo Reale’s exhibition of the opera house.
#10 Enjoy the views from Castel dell’OvoThe grey mass of the Castel dell’Ovo or “egg-castle” takes its name from the whimsical legend that it was built over an egg placed here by Virgil in Roman times. It is believed that if the egg breaks, Naples will fall.
Actually, the islet on which it stands – Megaris – was developed in ancient times, then in the fifth century by a community of monks. The citadel itself was built by the Hohenstaufen king Frederick II and extended by the Angevins.
The structure had various functions over the years and has been greatly modified. Inside, it’s just a series of terraces and empty echoing halls, sometimes used for temporary exhibitions. But the views from its battlements are among the best in town: the 360-degree panorama over the entire bay and back over Naples itself is quite a sight.
Come as late in the day as possible, clamber about on the cannons, take in the views as the sun sets over Posillipo, and then go for a drink or dinner at the quayside restaurants of the Borgo Marinaro below. Cheesy maybe, but the perfect end to a day in Naples.
Best areas to stay in NaplesAccommodation prices in Naples may come as a refreshing change after the north of Italy, but they’re still not cheap. Here’s where to stay.
The area around Piazza Garibaldi has plenty of budget options but you need to choose carefully among them as the quality can be poor.
A better bet is the lively and more atmospheric centro storico, with its good supply of boutique hotels and small B&Bs.
This pedestrianized neighbourhood has some of the city’s most affordable accommodation options.
Rough Guides tip: Check the best hotels in Naples.
Food and drinks in NaplesNeapolitan cuisine consists of simple dishes cooked with fresh, healthy ingredients. As Naples is not primarily a tourist-geared city, most restaurants are family-run places used by locals and as such generally serve good food at very reasonable prices.
There’s no better place in Italy to eat pizza than Naples, at a solid core of almost obsessively unchanging places that still serve only the (very few) traditional varieties, and you’re never far from a food stall for delectable snacks on the move at one of the city’s many friggitorie
Neapolitan nightlife is largely concentrated in two neighbourhoods – the centro storico and the Chiaia district, with the latter in particular a buzzing concentration of bars and clubs well into the small hours – though many clubs close down for the summer from June to Sept, when they move out around the bay to Posillipo, Bacoli, Fusaro or Pozzuoli.
Close to the water, Santa Lucia has plenty of decent pizzerias and terrace eating.
Surprisinly, there are some great places to eat near the Napoli Centrale. Head east from the station to the Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi to find good pizza
How to get around NaplesThe best way to get around central Naples is to walk. Driving can be a nightmare, and negotiating the narrow streets, hectic squares and racetrack boulevards on a moped or scooter takes years of training. Here’s how to get around Naples.
By metroThe metropolitana (metro) is generally the most useful way of getting around Naples. Two urban lines are handy for visitors, each snaking across the city centre from Piazza Garibaldi.
By busThough crowded and slow, buses will get you pretty much everywhere, but are most useful in areas where the metropolitana (Metro) has yet to reach.
By funicularThree funiculars scale the hill of the Vomero every 10min the Funicolare di Chiaia (from Piazza Amedeo), the Funicolare Centrale (from the Augusteo station, just off the bottom end of Via Toledo) and the Funicolare di Montesanto (from the station on Piazza Montesanto). A fourth, the Funicolare di Mergellina, runs up the hill above Mergellina from Via Mergellina.
By CircumvesuvianaThis train service runs from Porta Nolana station, on Corso Garibaldi, just off Piazza Garibaldi, and from Napoli Centrale, right around Vesuvius and the southern part of the Bay of Naples.
The Ferrovia Cumana and Circumflegrea these two train lines both depart from Piazza Montesanto: Cumana heads west along the coast to Bagnoli and Pozzuoli ending at Torregaveta, while the Circumflegrea follows a more inland route from Montesanto to the same terminus.
By taxiIf you need to take a taxi make sure the driver switches on the metre when you start, or request a flat fare at the beginning of the journey. There are taxi ranks at the train station, on Piazza Dante, Piazza del Gesù, Piazza Trieste e Trento, at Mergellina station and other places.
By carUnless you are picking up a rental car, driving in Naples should be avoided, particularly in the city centre, which is always congested and anarchic, even by Italian standards.
How many days do you need in Naples?A well-planned visit of 3 to 4 days is sufficient to cover the major highlights of Naples and get a good sense of the city's culture and history.
During a 3-day trip, you can visit iconic landmarks like the Naples National Archaeological Museum, Castel dell'Ovo, Piazza del Plebiscito, and the historic centre with its narrow streets and vibrant markets. You'll also have time to explore the charming neighbourhoods, eat some authentic Neapolitan pizza, and take in the stunning views along the bay.
If you have 4 days, you can delve deeper into Naples' cultural offerings and take day trips to nearby attractions like Pompeii and Herculaneum to explore the fascinating ancient ruins. Additionally, you might consider spending a day exploring the beautiful Amalfi Coast or the enchanting island of Capri, both easily accessible from Naples.
Best time to visit NaplesThe best time to visit Naples is during the spring and autumn months. Spring, from April to June, offers pleasant temperatures and blooming landscapes. Autumn, from September to November, provides milder weather and fewer crowds.
During these seasons, you can enjoy exploring the city's historical sites, tasting delicious Neapolitan cuisine, and strolling along the beautiful coastline without being overwhelmed by the crowds or what can be an intense summer heat.
Find out more about the best time to visit Italy.
How to get to NaplesNaples’ Capodichino airport is about 7 km north of the city centre. The official airport bus, Alibus, run by ANM connects with the Stazione Garibaldi) and the Port. Taxis take about as long as buses to reach the centre, and cost €18 between the airport and Garibaldi.
The most-used station is Napoli Centrale, which welcomes roughly four hundred trains/day. It’s on the edge of the city centre at one end of Piazza Garibaldi, which is the main hub for city and suburban transport services.
Some trains also pull into Stazione Mergellina, on the opposite side of the city centre, which is connected with Piazza Garibaldi by the old metro (line 2).
Ferries – to the islands and other places in the Bay of Naples, including Sorrento, and along the Amalfi Coast – run from the Molo Beverello main ferry terminal, next to Piazza Municipio.
In summer, departures are frequent enough for the main destinations that you can just show up at the port. Slow ferries generally depart from the adjacent Calata Porta di Massa, 200m to the north, while there are also a few hydrofoils departing from Mergellina.
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