Naples is usually known for its famous pizza and food scene but what many people don’t know is that it’s packed with other attractions too. From world-class museums such as the National Archeological Museum to ancient castles full of hidden gems and breathtaking churches.
It’s best to visit Naples during spring when the temperatures are mild and the crowds are few or in autumn where temperatures are even cooler but you’ll miss the Christmas rush. Naples has a great public transport system so try to avoid renting a car as parking in the city center is expensive and usually quite difficult to find.
The cloister of the Monastery of Santa Chiara was founded in 1310 and looks more like a seaside resort than a retreat for nuns. Hundreds of vividly colored Majolica tiles cover the 66 octagonal columns that surround its cloister with tiled benches in between each of them. Within the monastery there are scenes of everyday life from the mid-1700s, it really is breathtakingly beautiful. Other than the beautiful cloister, you’ll also find a presepio (Nativity scene) set in a Roman ruin with figures dressed in typical 18th and 19th-century clothing. The beautiful Santa Chiara should be on your list even if you only have one day in Naples.
Palazzo Reale or the Royal Palace is along the east side of Piazza del Plebiscito. This former Royal Palace was built in 1600 by Domenico Fontana and restored from 1837 to 1841. The palace is one of four places in the area that were once used by the Bourbon Kings. You’ll find eight marble statues of the various kings who ruled Naples along the long facade. This is one of the most interesting and unsung attractions in Naples. When you’re inside you’ll be able to explore more than two dozen rooms on a free audio tour. The grand staircase of white marble, built-in 1651 is breathtaking.
The Bourbon Tunnel
If you’re looking for one of the more unusual things to do in Naples then exploring the unfinished underground passage known as the Galleria Borbonica or the Bourbon Tunnel is a must-do. The tunnel was started in the 19th-century, as ordered by King Ferdinand II who wanted a way to escape from the Royal palace to the safety of the military barracks on what is now Via Morelli.
The passage was never finished but the carved tunnels were later used as an air-raid shelter and emergency hospital during World War II. You can explore its huge galleries and spooky tunnels on a guided tour.
Teatro di San Carlo
This is one of the largest theaters in Europe and also one of Italy’s premier opera houses. It was built by King Charles of Bourbon, adjoining his Royal Palace. The opera house was completed in 1737 and it’s not only the oldest continuously active opera house in Europe but it was also the model for opera houses everywhere. Inside you’ll find 6 levels of ornately decorated boxes and an even more lavishly ornate royal box. Along with its outstanding acoustics, San Carlo has the reputation of attracting the noisiest and worst-behaved audiences in Italy.
This next top attraction in Naples dates back to the late 13th-century, although it’s been altered over the years due to earthquakes and restoration, especially after the 1456 earthquake. On its main altar, you’ll find a silver bust that contains the skull of the saint, who was martyred in 305, in the time of Diocletian. You’ll be able to see the saint's tomb in the richly decorated Confessio (1497-1506) under the high altar, and in the underground archeological area, you’ll find the 4th-century Basilica Santa Restituta, the oldest church in Naples, where you can admire the excellent ceiling frescoes and columns from a Roman temple.
Situated at the end of Via Francesco Caracciolo is the 12th-century Castel Ovo, this top attraction is the oldest castle in Naples. This is a great attraction in Naples to explore with the whole family and there is no charge for admission to the castle and museum, which makes it a great free thing to do in Naples.
You’ll be able to enjoy views of the harbor, bay, and Mt. Vesuvius and you’ll be able to explore its ramparts. Inside the castle, there is an Ethno-Prehistory Museum full of ceramics and other interesting artifacts from ancient Naples.
Put on a good pair of shoes, grab a hat and plenty of water and take a hike up Mt. Vesuvius. The hike is safe, not too difficult but it can be quite dusty. It’s best to hike up in the early morning to avoid the hot midday sun.
There’s no doubt that the whole family will enjoy staring down the crater that spewed lava hundreds of years ago. It’s definitely a worthwhile experience and fun thing to share back in school. Not everyone can say they hiked up a mountain that once destroyed Pompeii.
On the slopes of Pizzofalcone and to the west of Piazza del Plebiscito you’ll find the district of Santa Lucia. In this district you’ll find a picturesque huddle of narrow, stepped lanes where you can see–and be part of–traditional Neapolitan life and blend in with the locals.
This is one of the best neighborhoods in Naples with so many quirky shops, bakeries, and artisan workshops waiting to be explored. It's a colorful place any time of day, but especially lively in the evening, making it one of the best things to do at night in Naples.
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