Forget all you've ever heard of Naples and prepare yourself to enjoy one of Europe's most vibrant cities that is also the gateway to some of the continent's most beautiful scenery. Looking at the Amalfi Coast or the island of Capri is like seeing a beautiful painting come alive, and is the perfect complement to a stay in the frenetic city of Naples or to a visit to the fascinating ruins of Pompeii.
Soak up the atmosphere at any of these places, admiring the spectacular cliffside villages, the deep blue sea, or the majesty of the Vesuvius volcano. Have a pizza where it was born, and experience some of Italy's finest hotels and restaurants.
It is not the fairytale that is Venice, the cosmopolitan center that is Milan, or the museum city that is Rome, but Naples and its surroundings are the very soul of Italy and the perfect escape that provides both urban excitement and sophisticated seclusion.
What to See and Do in Naples
Decide what you really want to see in Naples based on your interests -- whether that's art, architecture, street life or simply snapping a few photos by the main landmarks. We highlight the best attractions in different categories and, to help you plan, link you to their location on Google Maps () or to their official website or tour options ().
- The Landmarks, Icons, and Instagram Spots
- Classic Art and Top Museums
- City Life and Main Streets
- Day Trips
- Eating and Drinking
The San Francesco di Paolo Basilica - ©UCityGuides.com
The Castel Nuovo sits in the heart of Naples. It's a castle built with volcanic stone and with an arch of white marble standing as a city icon. The Palazzo Reale is located nearby, in the grandest part of the city. It's a monument built in 1600 that served as a royal residence until 1946, and faces the neo-classical San Francesco di Paolo basilica. It was built in the early 19th century, in a style inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. From there you can walk to Teatro San Carlo, the city's famous opera house and one of the most important in Europe. Down the street take a look at Galleria Umberto I, a glass-domed shopping arcade.
Another major landmark is the Duomo, the city's cathedral. It has a chapel dedicated to San Gennaro (Naples' patron saint) and a 4th century Christian basilica accessible from the north aisle.
If you only have time for one attraction in Naples, make it the National Archaeological Museum. It's home to one of the world's richest archaeological collections, with treasures from neighboring Pompeii and Herculaneum. The building used to be a cavalry and then a university, but was turned into a museum in 1777, and you can see splendid mosaics and sculptures, including various erotic works that for years were not available for public viewing. Another of Italy's finest art collections is found in Capodimonte, a vast royal palace. It contains works from the major Italian and European schools of painting, including pieces by Bellini, Caravaggio, and Raphael. There are also decorative pieces and modern art, including Andy Warhol's "Vesuvius." Also worth a look is the baroque Certosa di San Martino monastery, adorned with works by some of the greatest artists of the 17th and 18th centuries. It also boasts two fine cloisters and offers some spectacular city views.
Join everyone else down Via Chiaia, the main shopping street in the city, with both traditional local shops and international brands. Also popular for a stroll is the area around Castel dell'Ovo on the waterfront, with a lively atmosphere in its cafés and (touristy) restaurants.
The ruined city of Pompeii - ©UCityGuides.com
After a tour of Naples, take day trips to the nearby attractions. No trip to the city is complete without a visit to neighboring Pompeii. It's the world's most famous archaeological site, and can be easily reached by train or on a tour. It's a city frozen in time, and through its ruins you can learn about an entire culture before it was destroyed by the famous volcanic eruption in 79 AD. Naples is also the opportunity to drive around the Amalfi Coast, passing by some of Italy's most picturesque towns. Sorrento is one of the must-sees, with a charming old town attracting tourists who want to see what previous visitors Casanova and Goethe experienced. Nearby is Positano, a favorite of the rich and famous. It offers stunning views, as does Ravello, another elegant town located above this stunning coast. The largest town of all is the one that gives the coast its name -- spend at least an entire afternoon in Amalfi. Most visitors also don't miss a trip to Capri, the haunt of celebrities and politicians. It's actually a tiny island with no real sandy beaches, but a luxuriant and sophisticated place, with the beautiful Blue Grotto as its most famous attraction. Those fascinated by ancient cultures may also consider a day trip to Paestum, home to some of the best-preserved Greek temples anywhere, the oldest one probably dedicated to Hera and Zeus, and another to Neptune.
One of Naples' several pedestrian shopping streets - ©UCityGuides.com
Naples is not a shopping destination like Milan. However, there are some interesting shops as you walk down Via Chiaia, where you'll find some of the names of Italian fashion. A visit to the Galleria Umberto I shopping arcade is another must, as is checking out the many famous nativity scenes, even if you don't plan to buy any of them. You'll find many of the old workshops down Via San Gregorio Armeno by the Duomo, showing small figurines and life-size figures depicting not just the nativity scene but also historical and political events.
The famous Gambrinus café, one of the world's most beautiful - ©UCityGuides.com
The city where pizza was invented has some of the most authentic Italian food in the country. Drive down the Amalfi Coast or take the ferry to Capri and you'll also sample some of Italy's best and freshest seafood. Expect high prices in Capri but reasonably-priced meals in Naples.
In the center of the city, by the San Carlo Theater, stop by Gambrinus, one of the world's most beautiful cafés.