These top things to do in Naples will have you jaw-dropping at art and history (and it's not the boring kind).
Naples, Italy offers some unique attraction all thanks to its incredibly old history. Since it dates back to the second millenium B.C., every corner and alley of Naples is packed with beautiful little artifacts and reminders of the centuries of life that have happened here. Trust us, the ancient history and archaeological gems are way more fun to check out here in Naples than your fifth grade history field trip. That’s partly because the history here dates back so far that it’s mind blowing, and the artifacts are actually ornate, beautiful, and oddly interesting. Therefore, the top things to do in Naples involve jumping right into the deep history.
Additionally, the setting of this art and history makes it even cooler. It's housed in beautifully ornate old buildings. Naples itself sits on the water (the Gulf of Naples) which means that you’ll find beautiful scenery. Colorful buildings line the mountainsides like bleachers, offering patios for dining and hotel balconies for enjoying the view. Throughout the town, you’ll see the towers of cathedrals, castles and Mount Vesuvius rising from the distance. Even for those who aren’t art museum fanatics, we think you’ll be impressed with some truly inspiring architecture, galleries, frescoes and archeological treasures. We’ll show you the top things to do in Naples when you’re ready to go sightseeing.
Tour the Capodimonte Palace and Museum
The exciting part about this museum and palace of Capodimonte is the fact that its contents are so varied. It’s not just an art museum, though the National Museum of Capodimonte and art gallery are inside. You’ll get to tour a royal residence originally intended as a hunting lodge and summer residence for the kings of the Two Sicilies. This means the building itself is beautiful, plus they’ve collected paintings and artifacts to show off in these astounding rooms! King Charles built the palace so he could house some of the art (the Farnese Collection) inherited from his mother. Inside the elaborately decorated rooms, you'll see collections of art by famous names such as Botticelli, Raphael, and Caravaggio. Additionally, there’s a whole room with porcelain, called the Salottino di Porcellana. It’s easy to see why it’s one of the top things do in Naples, and you could simply take a quick stroll through, or spend time discovering every ornate corner. Like most palaces at the time, the surrounding grounds include beautiful gardens. You can still stroll around them. The gardens have walkways, and once you begin exploring, you’ll find the fountain and some statues throughout!
Explore the Medieval Castle, Castel Nuovo
Credit: Sergey Ashmarin
Also called Maschio Angioino, this centrally located castle rises majestically from Piazza Municipio. This medieval castle dates back to 1282, and it is now the headquarters of the Neapolitan Society of National History. You can take a tour to learn about the history, construction, and life inside this castle. Additionally, you can choose to see the dungeons! We recommend the few extra euros to take the tour, since the tour guides will help bring more meaning to what you’re seeing. Within the castle, you’ll get to see Roman ruins under the glass floor, and collections of Neapolitan paintings. Throughout the castle’s windows, or turrets, you’ll get some good views of the city, as well as the sea and mountains. Though this castle isn’t lavishly decorated (like the Royal Palace), the old architecture is still pretty amazing. It's easy to spot this throughout town as one of the top things to do in Naples.
Climb to the Crater at Mount Vesuvius
Credit: Kris de Curtis
Just under six miles east of Naples, the base of Mount Vesuvius rises. Head out to this iconic volcano which erupted in 79 AD and buried Pompeii. It’s the only active volcano in Europe, and last erupted in 1944. To get there, you can take a train to the base, or arrive by car or bus. You can explore the crater by hiking, though its steep at parts, there are paved trails, or smooth dirt trails. You can choose to take a guided tour (free with your admission ticket), or just explore at your own pace. The views are incredible while you hike along the edge, overlooking the sea and towns below. Know that it may be chillier up here on the crater’s edge, and bring good walking shoes. Though it is not an incredibly strenuous hike, plan for it to take 1-2 hours roundtrip.
Tour the Royal Palace
Credit: Armando Mancini
Another of the top things to do in Naples includes the Royal Palace, or Palazzo Reale. It’s hard not to exclaim “Wow!” as you enter this palace. The palace was originally designed as a retreat for King Philip III of Spain, but then became the royal residence of Charles III. “Palazzo Reale’s” construction began in the 1600s, but wasn’t lived in until the 1700s. The entry hall is absolutely spectacular, with double staircases and arches. The domed ceiling, intricate details in the railings, niches, and overall vastness of the area are all reasons you’ll likely be wide-mouthed as you take it all in. Step into lavishly decorated, richly colored, and extravagantly furnished rooms on your tour through. You’ll feel like an explorer as you make your way through the many rooms. We suggest finding the royal theater, since that’s often a favorite of the rooms.
Catch a Show at the Teatro San Carlo
Opened in 1737, this opulent opera house has been the longest one continuously open. It’s incredibly beautiful, with royal, red colors and tiers of balcony seatings. Beautiful railings, details, art and curtains contribute to the luxury of seeing a show here Additionally, you can tour the place during the day. For a truly authentic experience, check out the schedule of events at the Teatro San Carlo. You might be able to catch an opera, concert, or ballet. Don’t forget to look up at the beautiful ceiling and pay attention to the intricate details all around.
Tour the Catacombs
Credit: Dominik Matus
Take a slightly spooky trip to the past with the ancient burial site known as the San Gennaro Catacombs in Naples, Italy. The title of these catacombs comes from Naples’ patron saint, San Gennaro. Underneath the city of Naples, you’ll get to explore a whole other world. The origins of these catacombs date back to the second century A.D. when it likely began as a tomb of a wealthy family. Since then, they’ve carved out more space for more bodies. Within the underground catacombs, there are two layers of tombs, the lower and upper, where the bishops were buried. In addition to carved out alcoves underground, you’ll also get to see some intricate details, paintings, and the saint’s chair.
These catacombs have been made easily accessible, and there’s lighting along the way (we think the backlighting helps add to the spookiness of everything underground here!) You’ll take a tour through the tombs, so you’ll want to check ahead for the timing. Tour guides will reveal the history, let you know who’s buried there, and highlight some neat frescoes for you. Additionally, Naples offers a second option for underground catacombs touring: the Catacombs of San Gaudioso. Find more information about tours of the catacombs in Naples, Italy here.
Check out the Naples National Archaeological Museum
This museum offers an impressive assortment of antique objects. To begin, the building itself is impressive, like most of the old ones in Naples. The ornate building dates back to the 1750s. The museum showcases artifacts in rooms with beautifully painted, high ceilings, long hallways with windows, and cozier small quarters. Collections include Greek and Roman artifacts, and things that were uncovered from Pompeii. You’ll get to see rooms of large marble statues, mosaics, and scenes from ancient mythology.
Additionally, the museum features an extensive collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt. Check out the Farnese Hercules, ancient mosaics from Pompeii, and the Farnese Bull, which isn’t just a bull, but rather a whole scene depiction. Overall, this museum in Naples is well laid-out, with plenty of space, and interesting arrangements. Check out more information about the Naples National Archaeological Museum here.
Stroll Along Lungomare
Credit: Nasreddine Nas'h
This section of Naples offers a wide path along the coast for pedestrians to walk along. A walk along this promenade means that you’ll be right up against the coast, so you’ll get to enjoy the views of the sea and breeze. Furthermore, on the non-coast side, you’ll find plenty of restaurants or bars. Head here to do some day-drinking, or enjoy a romantic stroll after dinner with the lamps lighting your way. In the summer, the promenade is bustling with walkers, bikers, and joggers. The promenade ends (or begins) with Castel dell’Ovo, and offers views of Mount Vesuvius in the distance. The walk is about three kilometers and wraps around the inside of the bay. You’ll pass the city park in this area, which is a beautiful place to take in some of the views of the bay and stretch out to relax on a warm day.
Naples, Italy's Rich History and Beautiful Art Will Likely Have You In Awe.
Credit: Michele Landi
Sure, one of the best things to do in Naples, Italy would be eating pizza all day. They’re famous for it, of course. However, we know that you couldn’t possibly do that all day long, as tempting as it may be. Make the most of your time to southern Italy with these top things to do in Naples. It’s incredible to try to comprehend just how old this city is, as well as how fascinating life here was. The museums, castles, and archeological treasures help to make that all a little bit more real. You’ll likely leave with a new appreciation of Italian (and world) history with these top things to do in Naples. Perhaps, even, this could be the city that reveals a love for art and history that you haven’t experienced before!
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