View of Naples, the Bay and Vesuvius from a Panoramic Viewing Platform

What to See in Naples

What to see in Naples? Absolutely everything! The city is a treasure-trove of wonders, which have delighted travelers, artists, writers and thinkers for centuries.  

Perhaps no one sang in praise of Naples as highly as writer and naturalist Goethe, who enthused about ‘the shore, the creeks, and the bay, Vesuvius, the city, the suburbs, the castles, the atmosphere… I can pardon all who lose their senses in Naples!’ 

Although 300 years have passed since Goethe’s time, Napoli is no less intoxicating. A medley of different periods – from the Ancient, to mediaeval Gothic and Baroque – rub shoulders in a lively modern city, where scooters rush by and the smell of pizza dough is carried on the air from kitchens.  

This list encompasses the best of what to see in Naples. 

National Archaeological Museum of Naples 

Detail from a Statue of Naples Archaeological Museum
Detail of a statue from Naples Archaeological Museum.

Lovers of the Ancient world will be enchanted by the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, which has some of the best artefacts of Ancient Greece and Rome in the world. Many of these were claimed from the bathhouses from Ancient Rome, including the impressive Hercules and Farnese Bull

Others were taken from Pompeii, including the Alexander Mosaic. Keep your eyes peeled for the Secret Cabinet; a collection of classical erotic art owned by the Bourbon Kings!  

Choose our Naples in One Day Tour to discover the National Archaeological Museum, alongside the city center of Naples; we’re the only tour provider which offers both in a one-day experience.

Sansevero Chapel

Veiled Statues in the Sansevero Chaples, Naples
Strange veiled sculptures in the evocative Sansevero Chapel

Italy is a country full of churches, and Naples is a city full of them; but none of them, in country or city, are quite like the Sansevero Chapel.  

The interior design of the Sansevero Chapel is rich in occult symbolism, due to the influence of its eccentric patron Raimondo di Sangro. Raimondo di Sangro was certainly a mason, but may also have practiced black magic – which is why some Neapolitans believe the chapel is cursed. 

Inside you’ll find unique artwork like The Veiled Christ and the eerie Anatomical Machines, which show a full map of the human nervous system; scientists still don’t know how di Sangro did it.  

Piazza del Plebiscito

The Church of San Francesco de Paola, in Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples
The Church of San Francesco de Paola, in Piazza del Plebiscito, Naples.

In a country positively brimming with impressive squares, Piazza del Plebiscito takes it to the next level – it takes epic scale and grandeur to new heights. This is in no small part thanks to the Basilica Royal, which wraps a wide colonnade on either side of the square, in a glorious, excessive pastiche of St Peter’s Basilica. 

Basilica Royal was not intended to be a church, but rather a construction in honor of the Emperor Napoleon. The whole effect is entirely appropriate for a man who wanted to be a God, more than a King. Among what to see in Naples, this sight is the most epic.  

Gesù Nuovo

The richly decorated interior, with gold, marble and vaulted ceilings, in Gesù Nuovo Naples
The richly decorated interior, with gold, marble and vaulted ceilings, in Gesù Nuovo Naples.

Naples’ Gesù Nuovo is perhaps one of the most excessively decorated Baroque churches in Italy. All the drama of Italian Baroque, with its heavy reds, golds and voluptuous’ cherubim, impose themselves on you in the vaulted interior space of this former palace.  

Take note of the intricate inlaid marble – a craft typical of Campania. Make sure to find the room of votive offerings dedicated to Saint Giuseppe Moscati; the walls are covered in silver hearts, lungs, arms, and legs, in hope the saint will heal them. 

Cloister of Santa Chiara

Santa Chiara Cloisters in Naples, Naples in One Day
The beautiful cloister of Santa Chiara, decorated with Majolica tiles

Santa Chiara church is a wonder in itself – an elegant French Gothic church, from the mediaeval period, when Naples was ruled by France. However, the real highlight is the wonderful cloister, decorated richly in Majolica tiles. 

Majolica tiles are a traditional craft of Campania and are hand-painted in rich colors. Those in the cloister of Santa Chiara show scenes of traditional peasant life; men out fishing, men and women drinking and making merry in the towns of Campania. It’s always a pleasure to imagine the somber nuns walking among these playful scenes, done in oranges, blues and greens. 

Castel dell’Ovo

Image of the Castel dell'Ovo atop the Bay of Naples
Discover the Castel dell’Ovo, with an ancient lineage.

Naples is positively brimming with castles (the city has over 7) but none are as old – or shrouded in mystery – as Castel dell’Ovo. The Castle we see today was built by the French rulers of Naples in the 12th century, but was constructed atop a much older Roman Fortress.  

Legend has it that the Roman poet Virgil placed a magic egg in its fortifications; an egg which would protect the city of Naples, as long as it survived. Hence, the name: ‘The Castle of the Egg.’ 

 Visit to enjoy spectacular views of Naples’ harbor and the Bay. 

Catacombs of San Gennaro 

The darkened interior of the Catacombs of San Gennaro
Enter the darkened interior of the Catacombs of San Gennaro.

Head underground and discover the largest network of Catacombs in Southern Italy. This early Christian burial site became a place of worship, as the fervor surrounding early-Christina saints grew. Inside, you’ll find a confessional, a baptismal font and small chapels. 

San Gennaro Catacombs have not only been a city of the dead in their long and illustrious history – they also protected the citizens of Naples from air raids during WWII. Among what to see in Naples, the Catacombs of San Gennaro are among the creepiest. 

Toledo Metro 

The beautiful glimmering escalators, evocative of the sea, in Toledo Station, Napoli.
The beautiful glimmering escalators, evocative of the sea, in Toledo Station, Napoli.

When Naples’ city refurbished their metro, they made the decision to dedicate some stations along the busiest lines as Art Stations. These Art Stations were intended to be especially beautiful and comfortable for commuters, and among them, none is as beautiful as Toledo. 

Toledo Metro advances well below the depth of the Bay; in fact, it is the station with the greatest depth in Naples. So, architect Oscar Tuquets Blanca, designed the station to mirror, the earth, sky and water; of which water is the most impressive.  

The underground of Toledo Metro glimmers in dazzling blues, in curves like the waves of the sea; it’s a real sight to behold.  

San Carlo Theater

The rich red and gold interior of San Carlo theater, Naples
The rich red and gold interior of San Carlo theater, Naples.

A visit to San Carlo Theater is like taking a journey back in time to the peak of Baroque grandeur. San Carlo is the oldest still active opera house in the world; all the Opera houses in Europe are based from its design.  

If you visit from January to May, you’ll be able to see an Opera, the likes of which have been performed here for 300 years. If you miss that window, there are still dance shows and other entertainments on throughout the year, so there’s always a show to entertain. 

However, chances are you’ll be admiring the gilded interior as much as you are the performance! Even if cultural performances aren’t your thing, you should definitely poke your head in for a look around; it’s among the most impressive sights that make what to see in Naples.  

Castel Nuovo 

Exterior view of Castel Nuovo, Naples
The exterior of Castel Nuovo, Naples.

Castel Nuovo’s name may delineate it as the ‘new Castle’, but it’s not so new by our standards. This mediaeval castle was constructed in 1273, and has been an iconic feature of the Neapolitan skyline ever since.  

Visit Castel Nuovo to discover the evocative fragments of frescoes by Great Master Giotto in the chapel. On the upper floors, discover great pieces from the Carravagesque period and the Neaopolitan Baroque.

Gran Caffè Gambrinus 

A barista hard at work, preparing coffee via the traditional methods, in Gran Caffè Gambrinus.
A barista hard at work, preparing coffee via the traditional methods, in Gran Caffè Gambrinus.

All that history got you thirsty? Why not pay a visit to one of the oldest – and most loved – cafés in Naples, Gran Caffè Gambrinus. Enjoy the city’s finest coffee in the incomparable atmosphere of the Gran Caffè, just to the side of the monumental Piazza del Plebisicto.  

Enjoy a perfect coffee in a haunt beloved by artists, writers, poets, thinkers, debonairs and aristocrats from the 18th century up to the present day.  

Now you know what to see in Naples…

And amazing discoveries await, in this beautiful Baroque city, framed by Mount Vesuvius and the Tyrrhenian sea. Discover a wealth of historic treasures in this enchanting town, with influences as diverse as Ancient Greek, French Gothic and Spanish Baroque.

Lose yourself in the incomparable atmosphere of this lively modern city, as you discover Naples’ historic wonders.  

by Annie Beverley

The Roman Forum at Pompeii with Vesuvius in the background

A Normal Morning, in Vesuvius’ Shadow: Pompeii’s Eruption

The residents of Pompeii had no idea what would happen on that fateful Fall day in 79 AD. The sun rose on a bright and unremarkable October morning, on a busy merchant town below Mount Vesuvius. Those who lived in Pompeii had no idea the mountain was a volcano; they though the lofty heights of Vesuvius housed the God of wine, Bacchus, because of the abundance of vineyards curling around it.  

Until 1 o’clock in the afternoon, life in Pompeii carried on as normal. Slaves were collecting bread from the bakeries for their masters, legal cases were discussed in the law courts, and Gods were worshipped in the temples. After that first eruption on that early Autumn afternoon, the region would never be the same… 

The Eruption That Changed Everything  

The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 1944

When Vesuvius erupted at 1pm, it looked like a pine tree made of fire was bursting from the mountain top. Lava, pumice and molten ash shot into the atmosphere and lingered, waiting for its later fall upon the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum – destroying them completely.  

The sky went completely black. People tried to flee the town, but when they reached the beach, boats could not depart because of thick pumice stones floating near the shore. A tsunami followed, making escape by sea impossible.  

Morning turned to afternoon, and no real horror had yet met the town. Those who had initially fled returned, as the quiet mountain tricked them into feeling safe. As afternoon turned to evening, that all changed. First, pumice stones the size of golf balls rained down upon the town. Wooden ceilings collapsed, leaving people trapped inside – but the worse was not over yet. 

The Dead of Pompeii

Plaster cast of one who died in Pompeii
A plaster cast of one of Pompeii’s citizens who died in the eruption

The first pyroclastic surge touched Pompeii at 6 am the following morning. Originally, scientists believed that ash filled the lungs of Pompeii’s citizens, and they suffocated. However, the tranquil repose of the plaster death casts always disrupted this theory. We now know that a pyroclastic surge kills people with a sheer wave of heat. The surge is over in a millisecond – and in that millisecond, everyone who had remained in the town, and survived the earlier trials, was dead; cooked alive at 325°C.  

Over 1,000 bodies were found in the town, and by pouring plaster into the shapes they left behind, life as it faces the moment of death has been preserved in the most evocative casts, on display in the town.  You can see these evocative plaster casts on a private tour of Pompeii – where you’ll learn even more about Ancient Roman life, and the horrific eruption of Vesuvius.

by Annie Beverley