Naples, in Southern Italy, is an incredible place to visit. This vibrant city has a rich history that dates back to ancient times. As you’d imagine, Naples offers so much to do that you could easily spend months exploring the city. But alas, time is limited for most visitors, so let’s take a look at the 20 best things to do in Naples in 2021, from its historical attractions to its picturesque natural wonders.
Overlooking the beautiful deep blue Mediterranean Sea for over 800 years is one of Naples’ most iconic structures, Castel Nuovo. If these enormous, intriguing castle walls could talk, they would tell stories of centuries of Italian nobles and politicians who had held important historic meetings within them.
You could spend all afternoon admiring the telltale clues left over the centuries of battles, renovations, and power struggles within this fortress and reveling in the rich local legends surrounding the mysteries of this site. Hint: the pits surrounding this site’s grounds have been rumored to have been used for everything from storing grain to storing bodies of the deceased and even ravenous crocodiles!
National Archaeological Museum
Appropriately located between two of Italy’s most important archeological locations — Pompeii and Herculaneum — the National Archaeological Museum is a must-see while in Naples for anyone who wants to learn more about the history of the region. The National Archaeological Museum provides visitors with an insight into the rich history of Naples and Italy as a whole.
In addition to the collection of priceless Roman and Greek artifacts, the museum also houses troves of mosaics, sculptures, and paintings that survived the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. From art to history to wandering through corridors filled with busts of famous Greek Gods and Lumineers, this museum has something for everyone!
Piazza del Plebiscito
The most important public space in the entire city, the Piazza del Plebiscito, is the central hub of social life in Naples and is worth spending a day exploring everywhere that the square leads you to. To start, you’ll be smack dab in between the Palazzo Reale and the Basilica Reale, or the Royal Palace and Royal Basilica, respectively.
After you’re finished touring the palace and the basilica, you’ll be able to enjoy the massive open space and take in the beauty of everything around you. The square’s architecture includes countless columns all around, unique dome-shaped roofs on a few amazing buildings, and a seemingly endless open space for people to gather in and take in the full culture of Naples. So if you’re in Naples and ever in doubt about what to do, go to the Piazza del Plebiscito, and you’ll find something new to do!
Translating to English as the Royal Palace, it is pretty easy to assume that the Palazzo Reale will be decorated lavishly with ornate furnishings and gold in-lays everywhere you look. Situated on one side of the aforementioned Piazza del Plebiscito, the Palazzo Reale is nearby the Basilica Reale, giving you a second destination to explore when you make your trip to the Royal Palace.
When you walk up to the palace on the exterior, you’ll be greeted by twelve intricately-detailed statues of the past kings of Naples. As you pass these incredible statues and enter the building, you’ll be blown away by the ornate decorations and luxurious furnishings that you see all around you. So if you’re into Italian history and fancy architecture, then the Palazzo Reale is perfect for you.
Catacombs of San Gennaro
Experience the eerie and evocative thrill of touring Naples’ oldest and most sacred catacombs, the Catacombs of San Gennaro. In these tombs, Neapolitan greats, including its namesake, San Genarro, are laid to rest for all eternity. And lucky for you, you’re able to tour the catacombs and see firsthand how these historical figures are laid to rest.
This has been a Christian pilgrimage site since the 5th century, and there are several tours through the catacombs and surrounding area. Known as the Holy Mile, the tours through this area will share the reverence and incredible history of the site and showcase priceless arts dating back to the 2nd century. You can tour the catacombs on a walking tour with underground ruins.
San Martino Museum
The San Martino Museum was initially built as a Carthusian monastery nearly 700 years ago before being rebuilt in its more current form roughly 400 years ago. This incredible structure rests atop Vomero Hill, affording visitors incredible views of the surrounding areas of Naples as you peer out from the top of the hill.
The San Martino Museum is known for both the famous and priceless art collection it houses, as well as a collection of nativity scenes that you won’t find anywhere else. On a visit to the museum, you’ll see in between the stunning exterior, the views from atop the hill, the lavish designs on the interior, and the priceless collections within, the San Martino Museum has something for everyone, and you’ll be glad that you added it to your itinerary while in Naples.
Ruins of Pompeii
Anyone interested in incredible sightseeing or Italy’s history will want to spend an afternoon exploring the year 79 AD firsthand in this exciting one-of-a-kind archeological playground created by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. You can’t get any closer to history than you are when you’re walking through the preserved ruins of the ancient city of Pompeii.
While the origins of the city are a mystery, the moment Mount Vesuvius erupted and buried this site in ash is perfectly preserved for visitors to experience thousands of years later. People from all over the world and from all walks of life will enjoy learning about and discovering this unique site’s history. Spend a day of your Naples trip heading to the ruins of Pompeii and learning the deep history of the region.
Have you ever wanted to get up close and personal with an active volcano? Then taking some time out of your Naples vacation to visit the nearby Mount Vesuvius is the perfect way to spend a day for you. There are a variety of ways to discover one of the most iconic spots in Naples, and the views you get and the memories you make will be unforgettable. Arguably one of the best ways to experience Mount Vesuvius, and the entirety of Naples for that matter, is to climb the mountain. From the top of the iconic volcano, you’ll get unparalleled views of Naples and other parts of Italy that you will never forget.
Just 15 miles outside the city, you can experience the powerful Mount Vesuvius via numerous guided tours and even hike up the side of Mainland Europe’s only active volcano. While visiting this looming and historic site, you can see the aforementioned ruins of Pompeii, which famously fell victim to its force thousands of years ago when the volcano erupted.
As you will find out about nearly every major city in Italy as you plan your Italian vacation, there is almost always a Duomo of that city that is one of the mainstays of the culture there. Naples is no different, and the Naples Cathedral is one of the most incredible structures to visit on a guided tour that you’ll find anywhere in the city, both on the exterior thanks to astonishing architecture and the interior due to the amazing designs all around the cathedral.
From its original construction in the 1200s, the Naples Duomo has stood tall along the Naples skyline and acted as the core church of the city. The incredible stone construction features a tall, central tower near the front and large columns everywhere you look as it combines aspects of design from Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque. Although you might be taken aback by the cathedral’s exterior beauty, don’t forget to venture inside and see the stunning interior as well!
Explore the Bourbon Tunnel
Also known as the Galleria Borbonica, the Bourbon Tunnel is an unfinished underground tunnel that was originally slated to be used as a way for King Ferdinand II to escape to the military barracks for protection. Although the tunnel never got finished, it still proved to be useful to the Italian government and was used for a bomb shelter and also an emergency hospital for the wounded during World War II.
If you want to explore the Bourbon Tunnel, you’ll need to book a tour and go down with a guide, but it’s worth every penny and every minute you spend on it. A unique adventure for your Italian vacation, exploring the Bourbon Tunnel is something you’ll never forget and one attraction that many who visit Naples never even know about, much less visit themselves.
Sansevero Chapel Museum
Can’t decide between an afternoon appreciating incredible world-famous art or an afternoon of checking out creepy human skeletons in the basement? Sansevero Chapel Museum has the best of both worlds, offering visitors the ability to see some of the most unique museums in all of Italy.
Upstairs, visitors will be able to experience one-of-a-kind works of art known for depicting virtues such as “Modesty” and “Sincerity” in addition to the highlight of the exhibit, “Veiled Christ,” created by a Neapolitan artist over 250 years ago. Downstairs in the crypt, visitors will experience the “Anatomical Machines” exhibit featuring real human skeletons dating back to the 18th century, complete with veins and arteries. The museum is an ideal spot to visit on a downtown Naples tour. This museum is arguably one of the most unique experiences you can get from a museum anywhere in the world and is something you should check out while you’re in Naples.
Teatro di San Carlo
For anyone who loves seeing incredible architecture or for any of the theater lovers out there, the Teatro di San Carlo is an absolute must-do while you’re in Naples. Built in conjunction with the Royal Palace that you’ll read about shortly, this opera house is extremely extravagant, and it’s one of the biggest theaters not only in Italy but in all of Europe. As Italy’s premier opera house to this day, the Teatro di San Carlo still hosts operas and ballets commonly.
The lavish opera house comprises six levels of some of the most ornately-decorated theater seats you will ever see, and the acoustics were designed to be nearly perfect even to today’s standards. If you’re in Naples the night of a performance, you’ll regret it if you don’t spend that night taking it all in at this world-renowned opera house. Even if you’d prefer not to sit through an entire opera performance, just visiting the amazing structure is well worth the time.
Previously consisting of its own island only accessible by watercraft, the Castel dell’Ovo is the oldest fortification of Naples, built nearly 1500 years ago. This fortification has been connected to the mainland of Naples in the time since via a bridge and walking path, making it easy for visitors to tour the amazing structure while they’re in Naples.
Surrounded on nearly all sides by the vast Mediterranean Sea, views from the Castel dell’Ovo are picturesque water views that will stay with you for the rest of your life. While visiting the castle, you can also find fantastic artwork and plenty of displays detailing the castle’s history and how it’s changed over its incredibly long service life.
Capodimonte Palace & Museum
The Capodimonte Museum is actually part of the larger Capodimonte Palace, both of which are also known as the Museo di Capodimonte and Palazzo Reale di Capodimonte, respectively. The structure was initially supposed to be built as a hunting lodge for King Charles III but took more than a century to complete and never served its original purpose. You can visit the museum on a private guided tour.
Instead, over time, the grounds have morphed into the Capodimonte Museum that we all know and love today. Inside this museum, you’ll find works of art from some of the most famous artists the world has ever known, including Andy Warhol, Titian, Michelangelo, and more. Anyone interested in the lavish architecture Italy is known for, or the famous artwork within should pencil in some time out of their trip to spend time at this museum.
San Domenico Maggiore
One of the many churches in Italy, the San Domenico Maggiore was constructed nearly 700 years ago and is one of the staples of the skyline of Naples. Located right in the city center of Naples, the San Domenico Maggiore offers visitors a uniquely-designed church on the outside and one of the most ornate interiors that you’ll ever see.
Along with the massive stone columns that support the weight of the structure, you’ll find gold leaf all over the place and priceless artwork decorating seemingly every wall you look at. Don’t forget about the treasure room within the church that houses some truly priceless artifacts from Naples’ religious history.
Via San Gregorio Armeno
Once you’re done with some sightseeing in Naples for the day or if you just want to do something else, go for a walk along Via San Gregorio Armeno and take in the culture all around you. This route is dotted with local shops and stores all around that are ever-changing throughout the year, so every time you visit Naples, there’s a good chance that something along this vibrant route has changed since the last time!
While walking the Via San Gregoria Armeno, you’ll be able to experience just about anything you want from the culture of Naples. Along this route, you’ll find all sorts of clothes, food, toys, animals, and more. So while you’re in Naples, spend a few hours strolling down this famed walkway, and you’ll likely leave with more items than you started your walk with!
Quietly hiding among the quaint, relaxing niches throughout Naples, one can be surprised to discover the bustling beehive that is Naples Harbor. It’s easy to get lost in the longstanding history, the priceless works of art, and the scenic, once-in-a-lifetime photo ops that make Naples one of the most popular Italian tourist destinations. A trip to Naples Harbour will remind you that the city, like any other, depends on importing and exporting goods at an incredible rate.
Spend a few hours walking through the vast and fast-moving docks that are the backbone of Naples’ economy, or join a boat tour, and you might be surprised at the ever-buzzing hive that keeps the city operating. The time you take enjoying the Naples Harbor is time well spent, and you’ll never forget the exciting memories you made while doing so.
Ruins of Herculaneum
Similar to the aforementioned ancient city of Pompeii, Herculaneum was destroyed in 79 AD when Mount Vesuvius unexpectedly erupted, devastating everything in its path. Herculaneum is located further away from the volcano than Pompeii is but was still destroyed largely in the same manner except for a few wooden structures that managed to survive.
Herculaneum also has human skeletal remains preserved after nearly 2,000 years that belong to the unfortunate people who were stuck in the path of destruction when the volcano erupted. If you’ve visited the ruins of Pompeii before or you’re planning to on your trip, stop by the ruins of Herculaneum as well to get a different perspective on one of the most devastating natural events in Italian history.
Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli
One of Naples’ most remarkable places, enjoyed by tourists and locals alike, is the beautiful 3-kilometer route along the piercing blue waterfront nearby, Via Caracciolo e Lungomare di Napoli. Anyone who can appreciate the smell of fresh sea air while the warm sun shines on your face will enjoy this simple, relaxing taste of the Neapolitan lifestyle.
Whether you visit for an active afternoon, an adventurous day exploring the coast, or you just want to slow down and spend time taking in the picturesque shops and restaurants that line the promenade, you’re sure to find what you’re looking for along this quaint yet stunning route. So take a few hours out of one of your days in Naples and enjoy this relaxing walkway.
Anytime you’re in Naples and the weather permits, you’ll undoubtedly want to consider spending some time exploring the Amalfi Coast. Along the Amalfi Coast, you’ll find several marvelous beaches that you could easily make a whole trip out of on their own without even spending any time in Naples. But for the sake of your Naples trip, just plan for a day or maybe two along this incredible coast.
All along the coast, you’ll find pristine white sand beaches, piercing blue waters that seem to go on forever, and incredible views that you just won’t find anywhere else in Italy. The Amalfi Coast is a majestic place that you’ll regret skipping if you don’t go while you’re visiting Naples. The coastal towns all along the Amalfi Coast offer visitors a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and allow you to experience a day at an Italian beach that you won’t soon forget.