Naples is the place where pizzas were invented, so thank you Napolitano! Naples is also the soul of Italy and is close to several important UNESCO World Heritage sites like Pompeii and Herculaneum. The city also has small streets with laundry hanging across your head and a beautiful coastline, so is Naples worth visiting? Read on to find out 21 reasons to visit this city. Three days will allow you to enjoy everything Naples has to offer.
Where is Naples?
Naples is the third largest city in Italy after Rome and Milan and is located in the province of Campania in southern Italy.
Naples’ airport is located 6 km south of the city and you can use public transport to reach its centre. There is a bus service from the airport (Alibus shuttle) which departs 100 meters from the Arrivals Hall and costs 5 Euros.
What to do in Naples?
Castle Sant’Elmo is a medieval fortress which is located on top of a hill with good views of Naples and its surrounding area. The Castle has had many different uses during its history including a fortress to defend the city and a jail. Today, you can visit the Castle and walk around the ramparts. During your visit, take time to enjoy the views! From the ramparts, there is a 360-degree view of the Naples area.
2. Piazza Dante
Piazza Dante is not only the largest open space in the city, it is also a popular meeting place during the summer months for families to eat, chat and play. As you have probably guessed, the piazza is named after the poet, Dante. At the centre of the square, there is a big statue of Dante but the piece de resistance is the double curved building, Convitto Nazionale, built in the 18th Century for King Charles VII.
Whilst you are visiting this piazza, don’t miss the subway! Head to the underground station and travel one stop to Toledo Station. Trust me and let me know what you think in the comments below. I would love my Tube station in London to be as beautiful as this one. Once you leave the underground, explore the Quartieri Spagnoli where you will find narrow roads with plenty of laundry criss-crossing the streets above your head.
3. Galleria Umberto I
The Galleria Umberto I is built in a similar style to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan. This gallery connects the San Carlo Theatre to the Via Roma. Inside the gallery, you can of course shop. However, make sure you take time to appreciate the massive steel glass dome which is an impressive size.
4. Naples National Archaeological Museum
The Naples National Archaeological Museum is one of the largest archaeological museums in the world and boasts a collection from the Greek, Roman and Renaissance periods. Inside the museum, you will find unique artefacts from Herculaneum, Stabiae and Pompeii. The museum is a good choice if you decide to visit these nearby historical sites. In addition to the artefacts on display, some of the rooms inside the museum are splendid to look at.
5. Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace of Naples) and Piazza del Plebiscito
The first thing you will notice about the Palazzo Reale is the magnificent staircase. Actually, there are two; one on each size. There are also plenty of amazing rooms to discover as well as a theatre. The ceilings of the Palace rooms are literally pieces of art and offer a great view of the Piazza del Plebiscito and the Basilica of St Francis of Paola. To be honest with you, the Palace definitely deserves the name Palace! The rooms are beautiful, enormous and feature large domes.
The Piazza del Plebiscito is a very large public square which is home to four major buildings:
- The Royal Palace
- Basilica of St Francis of Paola
- And two symmetrical buildings – the Prefecture Palace and Palace of Salerno.
From time to time, concerts and other events are also held in the Piazza.
6. Museo Cappella Sansevero (Sansevero Chapel)
Located in the historical heart of Naples, this museum is a little jewel. I don’t really know how to explain this special place. Inside, it is like time has stopped and you are in another dimension. The Sansevero Chapel is considered as one of the most impressive monuments created by the human mind. One of the masterpieces contained within the Museo Cappella Sansevero is the stunningly delicate Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino.
7. Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle)
The Castel dell’Ovo was built on the coastline on Megaride which was once an island but is now a peninsula. Legend has it that Virgil put a magical egg into the castle’s foundations to support them. If the egg broke, the castle would have been destroyed.
Once you reach the top of the castle, you will have lovely views of the sea, the island of Capri, the harbour and the city. Perhaps you will notice something strange during your visit. The cannons face the town and not the sea. I don’t know why but maybe you can help by commenting below.
8. Climb Mount Vesuvius
The legendary volcano, Mount Vesuvius, is located about 9km from Naples. Mount Vesuvius destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum in AD 79. The volcano is still considered to be dangerous as it close to a densely population area. However, you can climb to the top of the volcano which is an amazing experience and offers wonderful views if you are lucky with the weather.
9. Cathedrale di San Gennaro
There are many reasons to visit the Cathedrale di San Gennaro. As soon as you enter this building, you will be captivated by the beauty of the Cathedral with its very high decorated ceilings and stunning dome. You can also visit the crypt of the Cathedral which is always slightly creepy and fascinating.
Another reason to visit this cathedral in particular, is to learn about the Miracle of the Blood. Every 19th of September, there is a ritual which consists of moving two hermetically sealed ampoules with dry blood and the bust of San Gennaro from the crypt to the altar of the Cathedral. The miracle is that the dry blood liquifies. Sometimes, this happens very quickly. Sometimes, it can take few days. Sometimes, it does not happen at all!
10. Napoli Sotterranea (Naples Underground)
Under the city of Naples are ancient subterranean tunnels and caves which make a great visit for all the family. The 280-mile (450km) network was created by the Greeks when they excavated the ground for stone to build their houses. Later, the Romans used the chambers and passages to create aqueducts, providing water for the city. However, the water became contaminated as Neopolitans used it as an enormous bin, throwing their cabbage inside. Over time, a floor has been built over the rubbish so that visitors can experience the history beneath the streets of Naples. This is a great experience and a fun place to visit.
11. The Ruins of Herculaneum
Herculaneum was destroyed by Vesuvius in AD 79 and was hit before Pompeii, making this town and its locals the first victims of the volcano’s eruption. Today Herculaneum is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is easy to imagine how the city was in the past because the volcanic material which covered Herculaneum did not carbonise, leaving it in better shape than Pompeii. As a result, the city is very well preserved. Even today, you can still see mosaics and frescoes in the public buildings and big houses.
12. Visit Pompeii
Pompeii is a great example of the Roman civilisation. Pompeii was destroyed at the same time as Herculaneum by Vesuvius. The town was buried under layers of ash which killed a lot of people but at the same time preserved the city. After lengthy, pain-staking work by archaeologists to remove the layers of ash, the town of Pompeii has been reborn. If you have time in your itinerary, a visit to Pompeii is a must to learn more about the Roman civilisation.
13. Naples Food
Naples is a great place to eat Italian food, especially pizza. Neapolitans are the creators of pizza and yes, they are delicious! The most famous place to eat pizza in Naples is at Sorbillo. Try to avoid weekend because the queue is very long. You can also enjoy gelato (ice cream) in Naples and, for me, gelato in Naples is even better than in Florence. Other specialities include:
- Arancini: Arancini is a Sicilian dish but Naples has its own version. In Naples, it is a fried risotto ball, the size of a tiny orange, which you eat as a snack.
- Sfogliatella: There are two types of Sfogliatella – riccia and frolla. To be honest, it doesn’t matter which one you choose because they are just delicious! Maybe try both? Sfogliatella is a shell-shaped filled pastry which is popular with locals who eat them all the time – at breakfast, after lunch or after dinner. The difference between riccia and frolla is the pastry. Riccia is a puff pastry and frolla is a soft pastry. The pastries are stuffed with ricotta, fruit, egg and sugar. You should definitely try Sfogliatella and one of the best places to do this is Sfogliatelab in Piazza Garibaldi.
14. San Domenico Maggiore Church
Located in the middle of the Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, you will find the statue of San Domenico Maggiore. The Gothic, Roman Catholic church of San Domenico Maggiore is considered to be one of the most beautiful churches in Naples. Therefore, take your time and enjoy your visit. Look around and you will find plenty of treasures. It is true that you will remember this church with the splendid light coming from the stained glass, its big dome and the painted ceilings which made you feel incredibly small.
15. Santa Lucia Area
The Santa Lucia area, or ‘rione’ in Italian, is an excellent place to wander around and explore. The name of the area is taken from the Basilica of Santa Lucia and this neighbourhood is situated between Santa Lucia street and the sea. Here, you will experience an authentic Neapolitan atmosphere as the locals love to wander around these narrow and cobbled streets which have plenty of shops, restaurant and cafes.
16. Chiesa di Gesu Nuovo (Gesu Nuovo Church)
Yes, the Chiesa di Gesu Nuovo is another church. In number 14 above, I mentioned that the San Domenico Maggiore is one of the best churches in Naples. However, the Chiesa di Gesu Nuovo is certainly a close second, or even the first, depending on your opinion. Located in the piazza of the same name, this church is worth a visit even if churches are not your cup of tea.
17. Monastero di Santa Chiara
The Monastero di Santa Chiara is a nice surprise. It is a Basilica with a museum, but the big surprise is the cloisters. Here, you will find wall paintings, 72 columns and a bench decorated with hand painted tiles. Don’t sit on the bench as it’s a stunning piece of beautiful art. The Monastero is definitely worth a visit for its unique cloisters.
18. Naples Harbour
I love to walk around a harbour. Perhaps this is because I sailed with my catamaran for a long time. Harbours are full of life and there is always something to watch. Naples harbour is big, and a lot of things happen here. If you want to eat, head to Porto di Mergellina.
19. Naples with Kids
Firstly, kids will love the food in Naples. Pizzas and gelato are some of the best foods to try in Naples. Most kids love pizza and they are going to be amazed by the quality of the dough and the fresh delicious toppings. You can also explain to them that they are eating original pizza as Napolitano created the recipe for pizza. The oldest pizzeria in Naples is Antica Pizzeria in Port’Alba which was founded in 1738.
If you want a visit to remember, the Campi Flegrei (Phlegraean Fields) is a regional park on a large super volcano where you can experience volcanic activity (7 Euros per person)! At first, you will smell the volcano. Then, you will see very hot gasses coming out. Tell your kids not to get too close to avoid them being burnt. Even though it’s a park, don’t forget it is a volcano! Before you visit the park, check that is open. Kids will definitely love exploring this place.
Lastly, as mentioned in number 10 above, Naples Underground is also an informative and entertaining place for kids. There is something about exploring the hidden world beneath our feet that is magical.
20. Best Wine Tasting and Winery Tours
When you are visiting Italy, you must taste the wine as well. Not only do the Italians have great food, but they also have some amazing wine too. There are plenty of wine tours you can enjoy but combining a wine tasting tour with a visit to Pompeii makes for a fantastic day out. We used GetYourguide and the tour of the vineyards and cellars around Pompeii was very good. In addition, you can taste some typical local products during your visit. See below for the link to this tour.
21. Capri Island
Capri Island is the home of many celebrities and Mariah Carey and Beyoncé like to stay here. Capri has the reputation to be a luxurious island where flip flops compete are with high heels. This island is a lovely place where you will experience tranquillity compared to Naples. The only problem is that Capri isn’t a well-kept secret, so you won’t be alone!
The best way to reach Capri is to take the ferry. On your arrival, you will see many restaurants and shops. As you might guess, these are typical tourist traps, so it’s much better to head up the hill to the real Capri. If you aren’t up for the walk, you can buy a ticket and use the funicular. One of the highlights of Capri is the Blue Grotto where the sea glows electric blue. Make sure you take a boat trip to experience this for yourself whilst you are visiting Capri.
Is Naples Worth Visiting?
We love Naples and yes, it is worth a visit. During our stay, we enjoyed the diversity of things to see and do in Naples and, of course, eating pizzas! The food and pizza are very good in Naples and we also loved our wine tasting tour in the Pompeii area. The Naples streets are very narrow, and everybody shares them, so at times it is a little bit chaotic. However, we enjoyed wandering around the old streets and seeing the laundry fluttering over our heads. Naples certainly has everything to entertain all the family and the historic subterranean network was a memorable experience. So, book your tickets for Naples now and check below the best hotel prices for this lovely city.