Looking for some fun things to do in Naples? Italy, like much of the Mediterranean, is blessed with a wealth of things to do, thanks to a richly diverse history dating back farther than most countries. Nearly three thousand years old, the city of Naples is today a bustling metropolis that has maintained its ties to its history thanks to the ancient tombs, churches, catacombs, and more that are prominent throughout the city.
Its proximity to sites and places of importance make it ideally located for day trips, while the city itself has a near-endless list of things to do. While there’s no possible way to list them all, we’ve compiled the best things to do in Naples, to make your trip there nothing short of extraordinary. Plus, when you’re visiting somewhere renowned for the quality of its pizza, you know you’re going to have a great time.
Best Things to do in Naples, Italy
Visit Pompeii & Mount Vesuvius
This is perhaps the most famous thing about Naples: its proximity to the site of the ancient volcanic disaster that buried the nearby town of Pompeii. Its ruins are perfectly preserved beneath the ash, and have been largely excavated by experts to reconstruct an image of what the town looked like just moments before it was struck by disaster.
Pompeii was an important trade and business city, and it’s fascinating to see that reflected in the reconstructed houses and streets.
You can also visit the site that caused the disaster: Vesuvius itself can be hiked, and you can even wander around the perimeter of the crater, with help from guides. Walking the crater is relatively low-exertion and remains the most popular route with inexperienced hikers.
- Location: Campania, Italy
- Insider Tip: If you only have time for either Pompeii or Herculaneum (not both), choose Pompeii. There’s more to see, and it covers more area, but combined, they are too much to do in one day!
Visit the Naples National Archaeological Museum
Italy and its surrounding countries and regions are a hotspot for ruins, and Naples’ own National Archaeological Museum is dedicated to housing and preserving entire collections of these ruins. It houses works from Roman, Greek, and Renaissance periods, and, of course, a wide variety of artifacts excavated and collected from nearby Pompeii after the city was destroyed by the volcanic eruption.
Wander through the rooms and explore the marble sculptures, bronzes, mosaics, and even an Egyptian collection. For visitors over the age of 14, there’s a Secret Museum – or Gabinetto Segreto (Secret Cabinet) – which contains works of erotic art and sculpture.
- Location: Piazza Museo, 19
- Insider Tip: The museum is known for closing key parts of the building during regular hours, so check before buying tickets that the full roster of exhibits are all open for the day.
Grab a Pizza at One of Naples’ Best Pizzerias
If you’re wondering what to eat in Naples – it’s pizza. You can’t come to Naples and not sample the pizza, it’s one of the best things to do in Naples. The city is known above all over places in Italy for their delicious pizza.
Some of the city’s best pizzerias offer the simplest options; in particular, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is a Neopolitan – or Margherita – pizza-only type of establishment, staying true to the national dish in its most basic form to take diners back to a simpler time.
This is a family-owned establishment since 1870 and is not a luxurious meal; the place is unremarkable aside from some four dozen patrons in line to eat, proving that this spot merits a second look. Frequently rated among the top five places to eat in Naples, if you’re a pizza lover, head here to try the most authentic pizzeria experience you can possibly have in Italy.
- Location: Via Cesare Sersale, 1
- Insider Tip: This spot was made famous by the American movie Eat, Pray, Love, as the spot where Julia Roberts’ character visited with her Swedish friend Sofi on their trip to Naples.
Take a Tour of the Royal Palace
Originally built in the 1600s for a royal visit from King Philip III of Spain that never took place, the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) is a beautiful construction of intricate rooms featuring red coverings and gold carvings.
As the Palazzo changed hands many times over its lifetime as a residence, more wings and rooms were added to the structure over time; this is apparent in the vastly different decor visible from one area to another inside the walls of the palace.
The entry hall is a muted but breathtaking foray into the building – all marble stairs and pale earth tones with frescoes and carvings adorning the ceilings and walls.
Don’t let the unremarkable exterior fool you; it betrays nothing of its jaw-dropping interior.
- Location: Piazza del Plebiscito, 1
- Insider Tip: The entrance fee is only €6, so for the architectural beauty you see, it’s well worth the money to get in.
Hang Out in the Piazza del Plebiscito
The Piazza del Plebiscito is an enormous public square in the heart of the city, named for the referendum (Italian: plebiscite) that took place and brought Naples into the Unified Kingdom of Italy almost 120 years ago. It sits in front of the majestic San Francesco di Paola, a basilica dating from 1860 and named for a monk who once lived at the monastery on the original site.
It is a no-car zone and is often the ‘venue’ site for outdoor concerts. These are generally local or Italian bands and singers, though the spot occasionally hosts much larger-scale artists, such as Elton John, Maroon 5, and, most recently in 2013, Bruce Springsteen.
- Location: Piazza del Plebiscito, 80132
Take a Day Trip to the Ovo Castle
Beautiful Ovo Castle is one of the best things to do in Naples. If the words “seaside castle” instill in you a sense of mystery, intrigue, and excitement, then this is the perfect day trip for you. In fact, it might not even take the full day, so close is it to the city center; you need only drive or transit to the south end of the city (half an hour at most), and you’re there. It’s connected to the mainland via bridge, so it really is easy access.
This is the oldest fortified structure still standing in Naples; the castle was built in the 1100s, and in this lifetime, has served as a royal castle, a treasury, and even a prison.
- Location: Via Eldorado, 3
- Insider Tip: The village that grew around the castle is now an area well-known for its restaurants, so head to the castle later in the day and finish your tour just in time for dinner.
Go to the Castel Nuovo
The Castel Nuovo (New Castle) was built not too long after Ovo Castle, which is what led to the former’s use as a treasury, prison, and more, as the royals moved their residence to Nuovo once it became available. While the Castel Nuovo became the seat of power for royalty, today it is the headquarters for Homeland Security.
The castle features frescoes, sculptures, and dazzling interior architecture that is largely untouched since its construction, save for some minor restoration. As it was more of a fortress than a palace (being on a shoreline), its interiors are not lavish, but are awe-inspiring nonetheless.
- Location: Via Vittorio Emanuele III
- Insider Tip: If you don’t speak Italian, grab an audio guide, as all the exhibit posters and explanations are in the local language.
Visit Museo Cappella Sansevero
The first religious site on our list of things to do in Naples is the Museo Cappella Sansevero. This chapel was originally built in 1590 and eventually converted to a family burial chapel. The chapel is known for its incredible works of art that have survived the centuries, most notably the Veiled Christ marble sculpture depicting Christ in death, lying on his back. Its realism is remarked upon even today.
The rest of the chapel contains equally impressive marble statues & sculptures, ceiling frescoes, and intricately-carved pillars and wall mounts.
- Location: Via Francesco de Sanctis, 19/21
- Insider Tip: Hopefully, you have a good visual memory, because no photos are allowed inside the chapel.
Explore the Naples Underground Geothermal Zone
Deep beneath the city of Naples, and extending to Pompeii, Herculaneum, and surrounding areas like Baia and Pozzuoli, is a vast network of underground tunnels.
Over thousands of years, geothermal pressure-formed something called tuff – a durable volcanic sandstone ideal for construction purposes thanks to its workability and durability. Over the centuries, a vast warren of tunnels was created to carry the tuff back to the surface. The Ancient Greeks even used the network to create aqueducts, which are still visible today.
Tours are available, and there is even an underground museum containing replicas of Greek subterranean rooms, as well as several thousand years’ worth of artifacts found during archaeological excavations.
- Location: Vico S. Anna di Palazzo, 52
- Insider Tip: Not a good place to go if you are claustrophobic, but if you can deal with small spaces, this is a great way to cool off on a hot day.
Wander Down Spaccanapoli Street
The name of this historic shopping street literally means “split Naples,” since the street seems to divide the city in two and is as straight as an arrow. It’s narrow, too, only about six meters – but the fact that it can get a little tight only adds to the charm as you navigate fruit sellers, pizza nooks, street vendors, cafés, and gelato spots.
This is an ideal refresh from the constant visiting of museums, castles, fortresses, and chapels—all you need to do is relax and enjoy the sensory overload of sights, smells, and sounds. This is a great spot for lunch, a wine tasting, or an afternoon gelato to cool down (or all three!)
- Location: Chiaia neighborhood
- Insider Tip: Overcrowded and narrow streets are a haven for pickpockets, so keep your wits about you and your bag close to your body.
Spend an Afternoon at the Galleria Umberto I
This public shopping gallery is one of the more modern examples of fine architecture in Naples, at only around 130 years old. Its main structure is shaped like a cross and features domed glass ceilings and tiled floor art that have returned the building to its former glory after decades of abandon and decay.
The gallery is a beautiful combination of cafés, restaurants, shops, and social life, and is brimming with energy; combined with the breathtaking design & architecture, this isn’t something you should miss.
- Location: Via San Carlo, 15
- Insider Tip: The San Carlo Opera House is at the exit of one of the gallery’s wings, so you can cross two things off your list if you happen to be visiting the Galleria Umberto I.
Visit the Phlegraean Fields
In case you weren’t dazzled enough by Vesuvius itself, exploring the Phlegraean fields could be another way to get your adrenaline fix. The reason for this is simple but enticing: the area is covered in craters that continuously release steam and gases as the subterranean levels quiver; below, a supervolcano sits and sighs.
The last time this supervolcano erupted, it destroyed the land and wiped out the last remainders of the region’s Neanderthals.
The area is, as of 2003, a protected regional park. Some of Italy’s finest wines – both red and white – originate from this area thanks to fertile growing grounds for wine grapes.
- Location: Antiniana, Italy
- Insider Tip: Nearby Pozzuoli provides even more daytime activities if you choose to extend your tour.
Walk the Halls of the Castel Sant’Elmo
Standing resolute against the skyline and overlooking the city of Naples, the star-shaped structure known as Castel Sant’Elmo is a sight to behold. Initially built in 1275, it was later extended into the structure standing today, and over the years, transitioned from a church dedicated to St Erasmus to a royal residence. As late as the 1970s, it was used as a military prison before being reopened to the public as a museum.
Its panoramic views of the city are well-known as some of the best views around, and the castle is also noted for its acclaimed interior museum, which showcases triumphs of Neopolitan art.
- Location: Via Tito Angelini, 22
- Insider Tip: If you don’t feel like walking, there’s a funicular railway to get you to the top.
Admire the Naples Cathedral
A staple of the city, the Naples Cathedral isn’t something you can skip, regardless of whether you consider yourself religious or not. Construction on the cathedral was finished in the 14th century; today, the cathedral is open to pilgrims and travelers arriving from all over the world. The Cathedral is the seat of power for the Archbishop of Naples.
The interior is a sight to behold, with the primary attraction being the Royal Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro. The chapel is known for its frescoes, high altar, bronze railings, and other artwork decorating the interior.
The cathedral is also famed for its thrice annual “Miracle of the Blood”, where a church-kept vial of the blood of Saint Januarius is brought out on September 19, December 16, and the first Saturday in May. Supposedly, if the dried blood fails to liquify, disaster will occur within the city.
- Location: Via Duomo, 147
- Insider Tip: The Baptistery is a hidden gem of the cathedral, often lost amid the Royal Chapel’s popularity.
Roam the Catacombs of San Gennaro
What originally was a network of tombs dating from the 2nd century AD became a site of Christian worship after Saint Gennaro was buried here in the 5th century AD. Visitors can explore the honeycomb of tunnels, tombs, and even preserved art that lies beneath the streets of the city.
Within the tombs, there are multiple levels of burial, depending on social class. Larger, mausoleum-like tombs were reserved for the upper class, while the lower floor sites were for the poor. There is even a small basilica where San Gennaro and the archbishop of the time, Giovanni I, are both buried.
- Location: Via Capodimonte, 13
- Insider Tip: Your ticket price also includes a tour of the catacombs of San Gaudioso, so be sure to inquire about how to cash that in for a second tour.
Explore the Cimitero Delle Fontanelle
Though the number of mausoleums, tombs, and burial sites may seem morbid, you can’t deny there’s a certain eerie fascination to them that makes them worth visiting.
The Cimitero Delle Fontanelle (the Fontanelle Cemetery) is an ossuary in a cave on a hillside of the city. The site originated to hold the bones of the 1656 plague victims, and today holds an estimated eight million human bones.
The subsequent 1837 cholera epidemic that followed turned the cemetery into the main disposal site for human remains at the time.
Rooms inside show thousands upon thousands of stacked bones from victims of disease throughout history. Though it is called a cemetery, the size of the rooms and the macabre stacking of the bones makes this feel much more like a crypt, with a somber presence. Regardless of the eeriness, it’s well worth a visit!
- Location: Via Fontanelle, 80
- Insider Tip: Avoid those offering tours at the entrance; instead, ask about this inside, as reputable tour guides result in a much more knowledgeable showing.
Visit the Archeological Site of Cuma
If you want to see an ancient archaeological site but you’re not keen on the crowds, we’ve got a spot for you. The archaeological site of Cuma is an ancient Greek settlement dating from the 8th century BC before being conquered by invaders and reducing the area to the ruins that still partially stand today.
Visit the ruined archways, tunnels, and temples dedicated to goddesses and oracles. Since the ruins lay largely forgotten until the 13th century, most of what stands today is Christian, except for the cave dedicated to the oracle Sibyl. It is fascinating to walk among these ruins and imagine life as it might have been some 3,000 years ago.
- Location: Via Monte di Cuma 3, Pozzuoli
- Insider Tip: Either before or after, spend some time in the beautiful waterfront park bordering the ruins.
Take a Trip to Gaiola Island
Does a cursed island sound cool? Hopefully, you’re not superstitious, because this is one of the coolest things to see in Naples. We say ‘see’ and not ‘do’, because you can only get so close to the island. Gaiola Island is one of the islands of Naples, though it is technically two separate rocky islands connected by a narrow stone arch. It’s an odd-looking structure, with strangely square rocks that have the appearance of sand dunes sanded into stairways and swirls.
The island has a long history of tragedy and bad fortune; having passed from owner to owner sine 1871, each has been plagued with tragic events, including family deaths, mental illness, suicide, bankruptcy, and murder.
Famous owners such as the CEO of the car company Fiat and Jean-Paul Getty owned the island at some point, and they too experienced terrible events. Eventually, the land became the property of the government, where it has remained uninhabited for four decades. Talk about spooky!
- Location: Forty minutes west of Naples
- Insider Tip: Snorkeling or boating is the best way to get as close as possible, though based on its history, you may want to keep your distance!
Visit the Parco Virgiliano
This is a great spot to get away from the city and relax away from the crowds, noise, and bustle of Naples.
The Parco Virgiliano is set high atop the city overlooking the glittering sea. The slightly unkempt nature of the park makes it a verdant haven that sets it apart from the stone city below. It even has a small amphitheater which is often used for shows in the warmer months. Generally, though, it is a quiet spot perfect for a book and a picnic.
Fun fact: this is where Brutus is said to have taken refuge to plot against his nemesis, Julius Caesar.
- Location: Viale Virgilio, 80123
- Insider Tip: Visit on a Thursday between 7 am and 2 pm for the Posillipo farmers market.
Take a Boat Ride to Capri
Capri is a well-known haven in Italy, so when Naples is so close, it’s a great chance to take a little boat ride over to explore the region. Once you’re there, the list of things to do is pretty long, so book your day accordingly.
You can visit the Blue Grotto (a sea cave where sunlight passing through the underwater area illuminates the water and turns it bright blue), Mount Solaro (a mountain on the coastline that is a prime spot for hiking & excellent views), and the Villa San Michele (a 19th-century villa set atop a high hill).
Once you’re done, grab a coffee and refreshment at the Piazza before catching your boat back to Naples.
- Location: Capri, Italy
- Insider Tip: Get up early for this one; you’ll want to aim to arrive by 9 am in order to get a full day’s worth of sightseeing.
Quick Travel Tips for Italy
- ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Italian: “Buongiorno” (formal) “Ciao” (informal) and “Grazie”
- Currency: Euro – (EUR) – €
- Visa: Schengen visa. Which is 90 days in Schengen countries visa free for most nationalities. Make sure to check with your embassy to see if this is you or not.
- What to Pack: All depends on the season – Style is key to Italians – Read what to pack for Italy
- Stay Connected: Tim and Vodafone sim cards are cheap and you can pick them up at the airport.
When is the Best Time to Visit Naples?
High season (June-September)
Like most places in Europe, Italy’s high season runs from June to mid-September. This is when you will find the best sunny weather as noted, but also crowds, crowds, and more crowds. Italy is one of the most sought after destinations in Italy! Especially places like Venice, Florence, and Rome. Days are longer, the weather is HOT, so being near the coast might be appealing. Hotel and car rental prices are at their highest.
Shoulder Season (April-May and October-November)
The weather in Italy is cooler during these months, some would consider it much more comfortable than prime summertime weather Short sleeve shirts and sandals are still completely okay now. It’s not as busy as the summertime, but you’ll still see lots of travelers lingering about. Prices on accommodation and car rentals will drop during this time. The shoulder season is typically a fantastic time to visit Italy.
Low Season (Late November- early April)
I’ve been to Italy in the winter three times now and it is just magical. Up in the Dolomites it’s truly a winter wonderland and lots of opportunity for skiing and snowboarding. In Rome, Florence, Venice, and south you likely won’t find any snow, just cool temperatures where a jacket is preferred. Costs are lower during this time and tourism is way down. Even around Christmas time we never found the streets too busy. A busy like Venice, especially, is at it’s best during the winter.
Transport To and Around Italy
Getting to Italy has never been cheaper with budget airlines such as RyanAir operating out of many Italian cities. If you are flying from a different continent the main hubs are Rome, Florence, and Milan.
Once in Italy, the best way to get around is via train. For long-distance routes, it’s best to book beforehand with Trenitalia and reserve a seat. If you are traveling shorter distances it’s also possible to show up at the train station a buy a ticket there. Or get around Europe with a Eurail.
We’ve rented a car numerous times in Italy and it’s a great way to get around on your own schedule. An automatic rental car can go for as low €15 a day in the low season up to €45 a day in the higher seasons and will ensure you get to all the best places in Italy. Knowing how to drive a manual car will often get you cheaper rates in Europe. If you’re traveling as a group it is worth your while to hire a car for your trip.
We traveled around Italy for one week and paid about $300 for a car rental in Italy, which was a pretty decent deal in my opinion! I generally like to check comparison sites so I can get the best prices.
My favorites to look at are:
- RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals in Europe.
- AutoEurope: I can often find deals here for car rentals in Europe.
- Discover Car Hire: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
What to Pack for Italy
What to wear in Italy is one of the first things to consider once you plan the basics of your first trip to the country. Packing can be simple.
Generally, Italians are stylish and we recommend dressing casually that way you’re comfortable when hanging out with locals.
We love to have a guidebook when traveling. We spend enough time attached to our phones in everyday life and planning our trips. Once we reach a destination like Italy, we put the phone away and pick up a guidebook to help with our trip.
We don’t travel without travel insurance and neither should you. You never know what can happen in a foreign country and it’s best to be prepared. World Nomads provides good short term coverage.