1. Stroll through Spaccanapoli
For the quintessential old Italian cobbled street, you need to visit Spaccanapoli. This road, translating literally as ‘Naples Splitter’, cuts a line right through the city and forms a central hub for locals. Lined with palatial architecture and dozens of quaint shops, this is where to buy packets of pasta in any shape, size or colour, stop for a coffee and a pastry or drop in at any number of specialist stores, from a doll’s hospital to a limencello merchant. Running parallel to Spaccanapoli is the Via dei Tribunali, another authentically Italian street bustling with markets and local patisseries.
2. Pizzeria Brandi
The story goes that margherita pizza, bearing the red, white and green colours of the Italian flag, was created here in Naples, especially for King Umberto’s queen, and has since of course become the most popular pizza topping in the world. It is no exaggeration to say that the food here, which is surprisingly affordable, is amongst some of the best in Italy. The restaurant is divided over two buildings across from each other in a picturesque side street, where street musicians serenade you as you enjoy your food. The ultimate Italian cliché, but hard to resist! For more on the best regional food in Italy, check out our guide.
Opening times: Daily, 12:30pm – 3:30pm, 7:30pm – 12am
Location: Vico Sant’Anna di Palazzo 1-2
3. Cappella Sansevero
Even if you’re not the artistic type, you can’t fail to be impressed by the sheer craftsmanship of Capella Sansevero’s famous sculptures. The most renowned of all, the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe Sanmartino, features a superlative level of stone carving which renders the marble almost translucent. On the lower level you’ll find the mysterious Anatomical Machines, an incredible lifesize depiction of the human circulatory system on two human skeletons; it’s still not known how it was done, or what materials were used. Also not to be missed are the dramatic ceiling frescos in the vault, by Francesco Maria Russo.
Opening times: 9.30am – 6.30pm (closed Tues)
Location: Via F. De Sanctis 19 / 21
Price: Adults €7, Concessions €5
4. Teatro di San Carlo
The oldest active opera house in the world is both a once-in-a-lifetime show venue, and a work of art in its own right. With productions like Carmen, La Traviata and the ballet of Alice in Wonderland on their books, it’s definitely worth seeing what’s on during your city break and booking tickets in advance. If you can’t fit in a performance, take the daytime guided tour for a good look at the breathtaking rows-upon-rows of boxes which ring the main hall. Tours may change depending on the theatre schedule, but generally run six times daily, Monday to Saturday, except holidays.
5. Naples Cathedral
Tucked between other buildings off the Via dei Tribunali, the Duomo di Napoli (Naples Cathedral) is by far the most impressive and humbling of all churches in Naples. There’s been a religious site here since the fourth century but the medieval Gothic cathedral’s construction began in 1272, and over the centuries many styles of architecture were blended as earthquakes destroyed parts of the building and various architects worked on the cathedral. Despite these complications, the building is a quiet haven for admiration and meditation. There are also some fascinating archaeological excavations to explore, including the fourth century church of Santa Restituta. Ladies, cover your shoulders: it is compulsory for entering the Duomo.
Opening times: Mon to Sat 8am – 12:30pm & 4:30pm – 7pm; Sun & holidays 8:30am – 1pm and 5pm – 7pm
Location: Via del Duomo 147
Price: Free for Duomo, €3 for Santa Restituta.
6. Castel dell’Ovo
For history lovers, Castel dell’Ovo is one of Naples’ top attractions. Standing on an islet, the Castel is an old fortress: the city’s oldest, in fact. The roofs are long gone, which gives the place an otherworldly atmosphere. It’s free to enter, and popular with both locals and tourists, who like to wander its corridors at leisure, listening to seagulls and the waves smashing against the castle’s foundations. The spectacular views of the surrounding Mediterranean Sea are worth the trip alone.
Opening times: Mon to Sat 8am – sunset; Sun & holidays 9am – 1pm (may change according to season)
Location: Via Eldorado 3 (Via Partenope seafront area)
7. Royal Palace of Naples
The Palazzo Reale looks out over the Mediterranean Sea and Naples harbour, as well as the San Francesca di Paola church. The palace is an impressive piece of architecture, beautifully renovated as a museum after it was bombed in the Second World War and featuring a spectacular showpiece staircase ascending to the Royal Apartments. Nearby are the magnificent Galleria Umberto I with its glass roof and cool interior (a relief to walk through in the summer heat) and the opera, if you fancy extending the cultural escapades into the evening. It’s one of the loveliest areas of the city to take a peaceful stroll and blend in with the locals.
Opening times: Daily 9am – 8pm (closed Weds)
Location: Piazza del Plebiscito 1
Price: Adults €4, Concessions €3
8. Caffé Gambrinus
Once the haunt of writers and artists, Caffé Gambrinus is the perfect place to enjoy a traditional Italian coffee while indulging in some people-watching. But really, everyone goes there for the gelato. Hardly a gelateria in the world compares to the dozens of flavours offered at Caffé Gambrinus; the creaminess of the ice cream is just unbelievable. You can save a little money and time by getting yours to take away.
Opening times: Sun to Thu 7am – 1am, Fri until 2am , Sat until 3am
Location: Piazza del Plebiscito 1
9. Catacombs of San Gaudioso
Naples has two important early Christian burial sites, though San Gaudioso is the easiest to visit on a short break, being in the centre of the city, underneath the Basilica of Santa Maria della Sanita. Named after a revered North African bishop and saint, Gaudioso became a tomb in the fifth century but there are graves from right up to the seventeenth century. Members of the nobility from this time were interred in an unusual way: their skulls were displayed and their bodies frescoed on the walls in a kind of ‘hall of fame’. If you have time, you can also visit the larger Catacombs of San Gennaro, to the north of the city.
Opening times: Mon to Sun 10am – 1pm
Location: Piazza Sanità 14
Price: Adults €9, Concessions €5-6
10. Ruins of Pompeii
A short train journey from Naples Central Station, the ancient ruins of Pompeii await floods of tourists every year. Its popularity is reflected in the price, but for any history geek this visit is a must. The guided tour and audio tour are both thorough and enjoyable, but don’t forget to admire the fantastic views of Mount Vesuvius, the volcano that destroyed the town in 79AD and preserved its victims – and many shops and buildings exactly as they were – as a chilling legacy. The ‘bodies’ located around the site are in fact plaster casts made from the hardened ash which encased those who died. Bring a bottle of water with you and sensible shoes for walking – there’s a lot to see here.
Opening times: Summer 9am – 7.30pm (closes at 5pm during winter)
Location: Modern Pompeii
Price: Adults €13, Children €7.50 (€22/12 including Herculaneum)
11. Naples National Archaeological Museum
Housed in a grand seventeenth century palace, you can place Pompeii and its ruins into context at Naples’ impressive archaeological museum. There are thousands of exhibits from prehistoric and Classical periods, as well as the stars of the show – the huge mosaics found at Pompeii and artworks from nearby Herculaneum. The museum also features collections from the Bourbon and Borgia dynasties, including some well-preserved Egyptian antiquities.
Opening times: Wed to Mon, 9am – 7.30pm
Location: Piazza Museo Nazionale 19
Price: Adult €12, Concessions €6
12. Visit the seaside in Positano
Naples itself doesn’t have a beach, but Positano, a charming town carved from the cliffs of the Amalfi coast, offers all the seaside fun you could want. Cheaper and quieter than Sorrento, it’s easily reached by car or public transport (train to Sorrento and bus from there to Positano), although it’s recommended to stay the night there and wake up to the sound of the waves crashing on the shore. Take some time to wander along the cobbled streets of this quaint town, and don’t forget to buy a bottle of limoncello while you’re there! Want to uncover more secret beaches in Europe? We’ve got some inspiration right here.
13. Go shopping on Via Toledo
What’s a short break in Italy without a bit of shopping? The Via Toledo is the gateway to the heart of Naples, and along this street you will notice more than a few examples of the legendary Italian fashionista, bedecked in sunglasses and glamorous jewellery. If the high street doesn’t appeal to you, walk along to Via Chiachia, where designer (and pricier) shops line the cobbled streets. If you’re a shopping fan, look no further than our guide to city breaks in Italy’s fashion capital, Milan.
For the ultimate romantic day out, get yourself to the stunning island of Capri. Although guide books will suggest a number of monuments and views to behold, the best way to enjoy Capri is to simply take the funicular from Marina Grande to the island’s centre and spend the day leisurely strolling along the Giardini di Augusto, admiring the breathtaking panoramas, eating gelato and drinking refreshing cocktails. Escape the crowds by going in the autumn and staying the night (most day-trippers leave before evening). There are regular ferries between Naples and Capri throughout the day (Molo Beverello ferry terminal). Capri is also unsurprisingly one of the world’s top luxury honeymoon destinations; read our full list to find out more.
15. Museo di Capodimonte
Look out for works by Caravaggio, Titian and other Italian art heavyweights in the Capodimonte Museum, located at the top of a hill, north of Naples. There are significant works from other European artists like Van Gogh in the extensive collection, right up to modern masters like Andy Warhol. If not for the world-class art, then go just for the picturesque grounds and unrivalled views overlooking the Bay of Naples below.
Opening times: 8:30am to 7:30pm (closed Weds)
Location: Via Miano 2. Take the City Sightseeing shuttle bus, or walk (uphill!) from Piazza Cavour
Price: Adults €7.50, Concessions €3.75, under 18s get in free
How to get to Naples
Naples International Airport is located just under 6km from the city centre, linked by a straightforward bus service that stops at Naples Central Station and ferry port.