Naples, the capital of the Campania region, is the largest and the most famous city of Southern Italy: its wonderful historic centre of Naples preserves several treasures of such importance that has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Exploring Naples means crossing twenty centuries of history, as you can admire monuments of different styles and periods: from the Greek and Roman archaeological ruins, to the religious buildings – such as the Cathedral, which houses the famous Chapel of San Gennaro (the saint patron of the city) – and the numerous castles that dominate the city.
Choosing the best attractions in Naples is no easy task… But ItalyXP has managed to create a list of the ten (+1) sights you cannot absolutely miss if you visit Naples!
This magnificent semicircular square is the largest in all of Naples. Considered an authentic icon of the city, it is often used as location for public and private celebrations, cultural events and concerts.
The square is overlooked by the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, characterized by its imposing neoclassical colonnade, and the interior - inspired by the Pantheon in Rome - surmounted by a large dome. On the opposite side of the square is the Royal Palace, which can be visited passing through the Museum of the Historical Apartment).
Recently become a pedestrian area, Piazza del Plebiscito is the ideal spot to have a nice stroll: from there you can easily reach the bay (“Lungomare” in Italia) and the most picturesque districts of Naples.
The Castel dell’Ovo (literally “the Egg Castle”) is the oldest and most impressive castle in Naples. Its massive structure of tuff stands on the islet of Megaride, linked to the mainland by a small bridge from which you can admire the romantic scenery of the coastline.
This gigantic fortress of Norman origins (12th century) rises in the same area that in the far 5th century was occupied by a Roman villa. One of the most imaginative Neapolitan legends would trace its name (“Ovo” in archaic Italian means “egg”) to the egg that Virgilius would have hidden inside a cage in the basement of the castle.
The spacious halls of the Castel dell’Ovo are today used for exhibitions and conferences, and they can be visited through guided tours. Under the walls and the towers of the castle is the ancient harbor "Borgo Marinari", full of picturesque restaurants and bars. The ideal spot for a nice stroll to breathe the magical atmosphere of Naples.
Located along the appositely named Via Duomo, this 14th century Roman Gothic Cathedral was commissioned by King Charles I of Anjou and it was completed in the early 14th century.
Underneath its structure are hidden Greek, Roman and Paleochristian ruins that were revealed during the excavations in the 1970s. Also, the underground houses the oldest surviving baptistery of its kind, the Byzantine San Giovanni in Fonte, which can be visited for free.
The splendid interior of the Naples Cathedral houses important examples of Renaissance architecture, such as the Crypt of San Gennaro. On one side of the building is the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, where takes place the Festival of San Gennaro (the Saint’s blood liquefaction ceremony). On the opposite side is the 4th century AD Basilica Santa Restituta commissioned by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine I.
The National Archaeological Museum is not just one of the must-see attractions in Naples, but it is considered one of the most important museums in the world for what concern archeology and classical art.
The museum boasts over three thousand artifacts of priceless value, obtained from private collections or from the excavations carried out between Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. Among the most representative works are the Farnese Bull (the largest marble sculpture ever found), the Farnese Hercules and the Egyptian collection.
A guided tour of the Archaeological Museum is an unmissable opportunity to discover the glorious origins of Naples and the whole Roman Empire.
Located in the characteristic street of Spaccanapoli, which divides the historic centre of Naples in two parts, this large square is surrounded by important monuments. In its centre stands the Guglia della Immacolata, a white obelisk, soaked with reliefs of saints and biblical episodes.
The square is dominated by the Gesù Nuovo Church, from which it takes its name. The façade of this church, faced with rustic ashlar diamond projections, has become one of the landmarks of Naples. The interior is typically sumptuous Neapolitan Baroque, glorious adorned by colored marbles and frescoes.
The church also preserves several art works of great importance: at the back of the façade, above the main door, is the Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, a baroque masterpiece by Francesco Solimena. On the four pillars which support the dome are frescos of the Four Evangelists, by Giovanni Lanfranco.
Also called Maschio Angioino, the Castel Nuovo was commissioned in 1279 under the reign of Charles I of Anjou and complete in 1282. It was named "New Castle" to distinguish it from two older castles in Naples that were too small to house the Angevin court.
Over the centuries it has been rebuilt and enlarged by successive rulers, and it continued to serve as a royal residence, but also a fortress thanks to its strategic position.
Its exterior architecture is characterized by five rounded towers and a Renaissance-period triumphal arch, built in 1443 by King Alfonso I to commemorate his triumphal entry into Naples. Its interiors are filled with sumptuous halls befitting of the kings that have lived here.
Today, the castle hosts exhibitions and cultural events, but is open to the public as a museum: through a guided tour you can visit the Armoury Hall, the Palatine and the Saint Barbara Chapel.
Located in Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, on the western part of the historic centre, Santa Chiara is one of the most imposing and beloved churches in Naples. Set in a walled complex, the monastery is a rare example of austere Gothic architecture and its structure creates a stunning contrast with the highly ornamented churches of the Baroque era.
The complex was commissioned in the early 14th century by King Robert. The courtyard behind the church houses the enchanting Majolica Tiled Cloister, redesigned by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro and adorned in hand painted Neapolitan ceramic tiles (we highly suggest to visit it!). From there you can reach the Museum of the Works which houses a fine collection of sculpture, pottery, reliquaries and decorative art.
Located in a tiny alley around the corner from San Domenico Maggiore, in the very heart of the historic centre, you might not even notice this inconspicuous chapel from outside. In fact, among the main attractions in Naples, this one has to be the most difficult to find.
Built in the 17th century, the Sansevero Chapel was completely restructured in 18th century by the Prince of Sansevero VII: a nobleman, inventor, alchemist, scientist, and patron of the arts, who called on the most renowned artists of that time to embellish the chapel. The result was magnificent.
The chapel’s most known masterpiece is the Veiled Christ, a marble sculpture conceived of by the Prince, designed by the Venetian sculptor Antonio Corradini, and re-imagined and carried out by a relatively unknown Neapolitan artist, Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753.
A visit to the Sansevero Chapel is a prerequisite for anyone visiting Naples.
Located in a splendid panoramic position, the renowned Capodimonte Museum was commissioned in 1738 by King Charles of Bourbon.
Over the centuries, the Capodimonte Museum has been enriched by a variety of other works of art, acquired by the collections of the most influential families of the Renaissance.
The museum houses an extraordinary succession of artistic masterpieces, made by artists such as Tiziano, Caravaggio, Carracci and others. Other sections of the museum exhibit drawings, sketches, and even an armory with antique firearms.
Make sure to visit the section devoted to contemporary art, which houses art works performed by world-famous artists such as Andy Warhol.
Nestled atop the beautiful Vomero Hill, the Castel Sant’Elmo characterizes the Naples skyline, overlooking the San Martino Charterhouse just below. The complex of those two imposing buildings create an unrivaled scenery that has greeted travelers arriving from the sea for centuries.
Carved into and out of Naples tuff rock, this star-shaped military fortress was originally a church dedicated to Saint Erasmus. Later, in the early 14th century it was converted into a castle by the Angevins. Over the centuries its structure has been rebuilt and enlarge, to become the six-pointed fortress we can admire today.
Considered an absolutely unique example of 16th century military architecture, the Castel Sant’Elmo is now famous for its breath-taking panorama and the Museo del Novecento, dedicated to 20th-century Neapolitan art.
With the sea on one side and the enchanting buildings of the historic centre on the other, the Lungomare (literally meaning “along the sea”) is a lovely pedestrian street, beloved by both locals and tourist, and it is considered the very heart of the city.
Along the Lungomare you will find Castel dell’Ovo juts out along the tiny islet of Megaride, the Villa Comunale Park, but also lots of restaurants and fashionable pubs.
Also, the Lungomare will offer you some of the most beautiful panoramic views of Naples, with the Vesuvius in the background dominating the skyline. In the middle of the bay, you can see the unmistakable shape of the Capri Island rises out of the sea pointing towards the promontory of Posillipo, which enclose the western end of the Lungomare.