While most visitors to Italy make a beeline for Firenze, Veneto, and Roma, my heart belongs to Napoli.
Whether you are visiting over a weekend or planning to stay for a week-long adventure, there are plenty of things to do in Naples.
Let’s start with some basic information, like when to visit, where to stay, and how to get around.
When to Visit:
I had the opportunity to visit Naples in September and the weather was absolutely perfect. July and August are the busiest for tourism, but the sights are crowded and the weather is too hot for me. I recommend visiting during the shoulder season (April through mid-June, or September to October).
In order to avoid a very long, very boring transatlantic cruise, you’re going to need to book a flight if you’re coming from North America. If you’re savvy, you can bundle your flight and hotel together in order to save money.
Where to Stay:
Naples has a bit of a reputation for having some not-so-great neighborhoods. While pick-pocketing isn’t uncommon in any major city, it’s best to have your wits about you while you’re wandering about town.
Most tourists end up staying in the Decumani area. This part of Old Town is filled with shops and restaurants, but it can be a bit more expensive to stay here.
While I was there, I stayed on the border between the Decumani area and the Stella/Rione Sanita neighborhood. I loved that it was a bit out of the hustle and bustle. It was a quick walk to the Botanical Garden as well as the National Archaeological Museum.
Another popular choice is to stay down near the waterfront. Here you’re near the Opera House, both of the waterfront castles, and the Port of Napoli (great for day-trips to Capri and Sorrento!).
Fortunately, Naples has a great public transportation system so no matter where you choose to stay you’ll be close to the action.
Looking for the perfect place to stay? Expedia offers great hotel options throughout Naples!
How to Get Around:
Italy has a fantastic public train system. You can purchase tickets in advance or at any station. I’ve never had trouble getting a ticket last minute, but often times the fares can be cheaper if you purchase in advance.
he trains are quite efficient, carrying you from Rome to Naples in just over an hour! Trains run frequently (usually every twenty minutes or so for the main routes), so don’t panic if you miss a connection.
Once or twice while I’ve been traveling in Italy there are been strikes which interfered with train operation. It’s always good to have a back-up plan, and luckily there’s plenty of buses (both inter-city and local) as well as taxis. Just remember to make sure there’s a license on the window and a working meter in the cab of the taxi!
You can also use your favorite ride-sharing app to get around the city. Italian taxi drivers actually launched their own app a few years back to make their services more appealing. The app is available for Android and iPhone.
Things to Do in Naples:
Okay, now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s talk about some amazing things to do in Naples!
Find a little ristorante and eat a Neopolitan Pizza.
Okay, you knew food had to be at the top of my list.
I ate at least three entire pizzas (#noregrets) while I was in Naples, and let me tell you: they did not disappoint.
Start yourself off with a classic Margherita-style pizza and appreciate the superb combination of delicate tomatoes and robust buffalo mozzarella.
There are lots of places that claim to be the “best” pizza in Naples, but I recommend you try out a few different places to get the full experience.
Enjoy the view from Castel Sant’Elmo.
Take the Aerial Tram to Morghen or the train to Montesanto, then walk down to this stunning 14th century fortress.
From up here you are rewarded with unparalleled views of both the city and the coastline.
After exploring, follow Largo San Martino until you find the grand staircase on your left. Follow the steps all the way down to the Spanish Quarter.
Wander the Spanish Quarter
The Spanish Quarter is a great place to spend an afternoon.
Enjoy a lunch of pasta e fagioli, do some window shopping, and sip an espresso at a cafe.
Hike Mount Vesuvius
In case you want something a bit more challenging, why not hike to the top of an active volcano?
To accomplish this feat, you’ll need to either take the train from Naples and hike all the way up, or join a group tour and cut the hike time in half (they park half-way up).
Explore the Ruins at Pompeii
If you visit in the shoulder season, you should be able to avoid the huge crowds at Pompeii.
If you want to get a bit off the beaten path still see an incredible site, head to Herculaneum instead.
Visit the Local Markets
Why not take a stroll through the bustling neighborhood markets?
If you’re just visiting you might not need to buy groceries, but you can still enjoy the vibrant atmosphere of the market.
Many of the neighborhoods hold their own markets on various days and times, so you might just encounter one by accident.
Alternatively, you can visit the beloved La Pignasecca market in Montesanto, Naples’ oldest street market. This is also a great spot to try some authentic street food!
Take the Ferry to Sorrento
While many people head straight for the island of Capri, I prefer the laid back vibe on Sorrento.
Sorrento is a quick one-hour ferry ride from the Port of Naples.
It’s a beautiful place to wander around — and be sure to sample the local limoncello!
Tour Underground Napoli
Underneath the Spanish Quarter lies a subterranean world begging to be explored.
Meet up with the tour group to gain access to the bowels of the city!
I don’t want to give away too much, because you should really see it for yourself. This was one of the best things I did in Naples!
A Night at the Opera
The San Carlo Theatre, opened back in 1737, is the oldest continuously running opera house in Europe.
You can either purchase a ticket to see a show or, if opera isn’t your thing, visit during the day time for a tour.
Escape to the Botanical Garden
Sometimes you just need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
The botanical garden, located just Northeast of the popular Decumani district, is a little oasis unto itself.
It’s quite near the National Archaeological Museum, so I recommend visiting the museum in the morning, followed by lunch and a long walk in the garden.
Discover the Waterfront Castles
If Castel Sant’Elmo just wasn’t enough for you, never fear. Naples has not one, but two waterfront fortresses for you to see.
The first, Castel dell’Ovo, was originally located on an island which is now a peninsula. The oldest standing fortification in Naples, this site has history dating back to the first century BCE.
The second, Castel Nuovo, was built as the ‘new castle’ in 1279. Not so ‘new’, right?
People Watch at Piazza del Plebiscito
Last, but certainly not least, one of my favorite things to do in any Italian city: find a big piazza and people-watch.
La dolce vita!