What to see in Naples in one day
Many tourists think of Naples as a great transportation center from which it is convenient to get to Pompeii or to the resort coast – Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi.
I was in Naples for almost three days and would have spent a couple more, but Rome was waiting for me. Having seen many cities in Italy, I can say with confidence: Naples is the most atmospheric of them all. It’s a vibrant and full of life city without the artificial tourist gloss. If you want to feel Italy, you’re here. It’s in Naples where the stereotypical Italians live, waving their arms picturesquely, sipping limoncello lazily and always ready to compliment a pretty girl passing by.
Even if your only goal is Pompeii, I suggest staying in Naples for at least a day. It won’t hurt your budget: Naples has reasonably cheap accommodation and even cheaper food, and it’s a great experience.
The main sights can be seen in a day. I made a comfortable itinerary for the walk. It starts at the National Archaeological Museum and ends at the Castle of the Egg. On the way you will see St. John’s Cathedral, San Domenico Maggiore, Dante Alighieri Square, Castel Sant’Elmo, Castel Nuovo Royal Palace and the San Carlo Theater.
The volcano in the distance is Vesuvius. Naples also has the Tyrrhenian Sea. Entrance to some beaches costs 10 €, but this does not guarantee the purity of the water. The most famous beaches within the city are on Via Posillipo
How to get to the center. The airport of Capodichino is only 6 km from Naples. The most convenient and cheapest way to get into town is by bus. The trip to the center will take no more than half an hour. The schedule is on the official website of the carrier. To construct the route, in a special form on the site in the upper right corner, enter “Capodichino-Arrivi” in the “Da” field and “Garibaldi” in the “A” field.
Then go out into the city and walk along Piazza Cavour to the first point of the route, the National Archaeological Museum.
The National Archaeological Museum will appeal to those who love ancient Greek and ancient Roman sculptures and frescoes. Most of the exhibit are original specimens found during the excavations of Pompeii. They are perfectly preserved. There is also a detailed model of the ancient city.
In Pompeii itself there are almost no decorations on the buildings: they were taken to the archaeological museum during the excavations and are now stored in more sparing conditions than under the sun and dust. Only the drawings of the frescoes were left in the city. So a trip to the museum is a great way to assemble a complete picture of the ruined ancient city in your head.
Sometimes the museum hosts temporary exhibitions not at all related to archaeology. In the fall of 2019, for example, visitors could see an exhibit about the evils of global warming.
There’s also the Secret Room, the world’s oldest museum of erotic art. There aren’t too many exhibits, but visitors linger to take a closer look.
All the exhibits can be photographed. At the ticket office they give out an audio guide in English and Italian, but it’s useless because it tells you about just a few exhibits.
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St. Januarius Cathedral is the Neapolitan duomo, that is, the temple of the city’s main saint and patron saint. It stands between ordinary houses. On the steps of the cathedral, children play soccer and older ladies keep watch.
The outside of the temple looks ascetic, but inside – expensive and lush, as in most Catholic cathedrals of Western Europe. I promise: when you get inside, you’ll be amazed by the height of the vaults, which seem to fly upwards. The views are breathtaking. If you’re lucky enough to attend a service, you’ll find that the sound of the organ will add to the excitement of the vaults.
The Cathedral of St. Januarius contains the relics of the patron and an ampule of his dried blood. On the first Saturday in May, September 19 and December 16, it is taken to the square so that everyone can see the so-called miracle of St. Januarius: the blood becomes liquid and boils. They say that if the miracle does not happen, Naples is in trouble. But the blood didn’t boil in 2016, and Naples is still doing well.
The Catholic Church does not allow scientists to examine the contents of the ampoule, so there is no credible scientific explanation for the phenomenon yet. But researchers are modeling the blood of Januarius and speculate that it is a special thixotropic gel that becomes liquid when shaken.
The cathedral is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admission is free.
San Domenico Maggiore was built by Dominican monks. It’s worth going into if only to be surprised: the facade is hidden in alleyways. When you see the entrance, the church seems very small, but in fact it is huge. The decoration of the church is much more pompous and richer than that of St. Januarius Cathedral. I was shocked by this contrast.
In the 13th-16th centuries, the church was part of a complex that included the University of Naples. Its most famous students were Thomas Aquinas, Giordano Bruno, Tommaso Campanella. Here, in the Chapel of the Crucifixion, there is a wooden miraculous icon from the 13th century by which the Neapolitan students still ask for good luck in their exams.
Piazza Dante Alighieri used to be a market. Today all that is left of it are a few fast food and newspaper stands. In the center there is a monument to the great Italian poet.
At the square begins a popular tourist street Toledo. There you can eat, buy anything, see about a hundred small churches and historic buildings and get a sense of touristy Naples.
Get off at the Morghen terminus station. It is located on one of the main hills of Naples, Vomero. It is the perfect place to see all of Naples from above.
Castel Sant’Elmo is located on the hill of Vomero. From the 17th century until the mid-20th century it was a prison for political prisoners. Near the castle there is the monastery of San Martino, where you can see the life of monks and their arrangements. But mostly tourists come to the castle for the observation deck that overlooks Vesuvius and the whole of Naples.
From the observation deck down a panoramic staircase of 414 steps Pedamentina San Martino. There are dozens of picturesque views of Naples.
When you come down from the stairs, follow Via Vittorio Emanuele to the funicular station of the same name and go to Augusteo station. From there it is literally 5 minutes to “Galleria Umberto I”, a classic European mall. It’s not worth stopping in for the shopping, but to marvel at the beauty and light it’s filled with.
The Royal Palace of Castel Nuovo is located in Piazza del Plebiscito, the largest square in Naples. It can be accessed directly through the “Galleria Umberto I”.
The view of Castel Nuovo from the park nearby. The palace has been in a state of very slow restoration for several years now. In addition to the interiors you will find a lot of dust, dirt and crumbling plaster
Worth a half-hour tour of the theater
Castel del Ovo, or Castle Egg, is the last point of our day trip. From it it is equally pleasant to look at Vesuvius and the sunset. I recommend walking to the castle along the promenade, so you can explore the volcano from different angles, take pictures against its backdrop and be surprised that tourists are also swimming at the pier where the ships are standing.
Entrance to the castle is free, on weekdays – from 9:00 to 18:00, on weekends and holidays – until 13:00. In addition to several viewing platforms there are cannons in the castle. Sometimes exhibitions are held there. In my opinion, there is nothing interesting inside. The main thing is still the surrounding scenery.
The legend says, that the castle walls are standing only because of a magic egg, which magician Virgil had hidden under the base of the fortress.
Food: Naples is the homeland of classic pizza: Margarita with basil, tomatoes and mozzarella and Marinara with tomatoes, garlic and oregano. In addition to these, Naples makes several dozen different pizzas. You can eat them absolutely everywhere: all establishments are equally delicious.
The guidebooks recommend pizzeria Da Michele, where the movie with Julia Roberts “Eat, Pray, Love” was filmed. The pizza there is the same as everywhere else. But there’s a special cinematic atmosphere for those who have seen and love the popular movie.
Very tasty pizza at Gino Sorbillo. There’s usually a huge line for it. If you sit at a nearby bar, a waitress from Gino’s will come up to you anyway. You can order take-out pizza from her and not have to wait in line.
Money. Naples is a city of cash. Cards are not accepted everywhere.
Cons. Naples is not considered the safest city. Even in the center there are neighborhoods that vaguely resemble ghettos – it is better not to go there. If you walk along the main streets and do not turn into dark alleys, the risk of being robbed is reduced. As in any tourist city, it is best to keep a close eye on your personal belongings. But I myself have not encountered any theft.
Naples is very dirty in places. Trash falls right out of the bins and sometimes lies in piles near the historic center. I was surprised by this, but it did not change the positive impression of the city.
The road to Pompeii. From Naples, many people go to Pompeii to see the ancient city destroyed by a volcanic eruption and to climb Vesuvius. Pompeii is about 25 km from Naples and takes about 40 minutes to get there. You can take a bus tour or take a train.
If you decide to get to Pompeii on your own, you need to take train Circumvesuviana, the end station is Sorrento. Get off at Pompei Scavi Villa Dei Misteri. I suggest you get on at the Porta Nolana terminus station so you have time to take free seats.
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After I withdrew money from my card in Naples, I got a message from the bank: “Change your pin code, after withdrawing cash in Naples many people lose money from their card” I, however, was also lucky not to run into fraudsters. About the dirt: it’s there. There is a lot of it. There’s a lot of it. All the trash cans and garbage cans are full of trash, trash covers the sidewalks with a fairly even layer, trash is flying in the streets, trash is everywhere. And sidewalks, by the way, are often absent as a fact or very narrow, such that even a dystrophic cannot squeeze through. So in the center, with its narrow medieval streets, people walk directly on the roadway. From time to time scooters whiz between people, which also crowds up all over Naples. They are very popular with the locals, because the roads are narrow and there is nowhere to park cars. The city is on a hillside, so it’s a lot of cardio to walk around on foot. There are a huge number of wide, very long stone staircases, along which there are tall houses with colorful courtyards (as in the photo with the dog). It looks very nice, but to go up kapet as hard (at least untrained person like me (especially in the Italian heat – I was in late September, and then just melted)). Somewhere instead of stairs they put escalators in the open air, hallelujah. In the meantime, Naples is exceptionally beautiful, with a rich culture and history. It is definitely worth checking out the San Severo Chapel for the statue of Christ underneath the shroud. It is a miracle of human genius, it made a very strong impression on me. In Pompeii it is better to go on a tour, because just “walk around the ruins” and “walk around the ruins to the stories of how this city lived and breathed” are two big differences. I could, of course, read all sorts of information in advance, and maybe it would have been even more complete and accurate than what I heard on the tour, but it would still be completely different, as far as I am concerned. You can go to Vesuvius, too: there’s a beautiful panorama and some cool smoke from the volcano’s crater. No special effects, but I got a powerful shock just from the very realization that this is the Vesuvius, and I’m standing on it. Then I didn’t wash my sneakers from volcanic dust until returning home And yes, Naples is very tasty and the people are very hospitable. Naples reminded me something of a young gypsy. Beautiful, unceremonious, smelly and wearing some kind of rags (in the historical center you will be greeted by someone’s knickers waving from every balcony). I’m glad I was there, but I don’t think I’ll go a second time. Not my city – beautiful, but not mine.
20 sights of Naples: a great guide to the city
Naples is the capital of the mafia, garbage, pizza and mozzarella. Those who first enter this city feel as if they are falling into middle Asia or India, but with the addition of European architecture.
Let’s run through the city and see the main attractions of Naples and just the interesting places to visit. And at the same time, you’ll learn what’s best to avoid in the city.
It’s convenient and advantageous to travel around Naples by tourist bus, here it is. The bus route doesn’t cover the whole list of interesting places, but you’ll see the most important ones.
Pizzeria Da Michele
Before we get to the architectural sights yet, we need to visit the most popular pizzeria in Naples. Despite the constant hype, the food here is delicious and high quality. Take a line, wait for your pizza and enjoy!
Unexpected: the gamblers of the ’90s
About 100 meters from the station you will meet crookish-looking guys who will offer you to play “thimbles. Even if you just watch others play, thieves can pick your bags and pockets.
Spaccanapoli is a crack street that divides Naples into two parts. It is about 2 km long. There are many cafes, pizzerias and shops. An interesting point: the name of this street is not on the city maps, and you can see it only from one place – the next point of interest.
San Martino Lookout and Sant Elmo Castle
The Castel Sant Elmo is located on top of the Holy Mountain (Montesanto) in the prestigious Vomero district of Naples. The castle of San Elmo is one of the main defenses of the city against enemy attacks from the sea.
To get there you can take the funicular to the station “Montesanto” or take the metro to the station Vanviteli (Linea 1). At the top is a large observation deck with the best views of Naples, Vesuvius and the sea.
Piazza del Gesu Nuovo
At the end of Via Spaccanapoli you emerge into a spacious square with a monument. Be sure to stop by the church of Gesu Nuovo and ask Dr. Moscati for health!
Inside there is an indescribable beauty – columns, sculptures, stucco and a large organ. The church was built in 1470.
Pizzeria Gino e Toto Sorbillo
It is one of the oldest pizzerias in the city. Its history began in the early 1900s when a family with 23 children started baking pizzas for sale to survive the hard times.
Some people might think that Galleria Umberto looks like something. And indeed this landmark of Naples is a replica of Milan’s Galleria Victor Emmanuel II.
Not only the vaults of the gallery are of interest, but also its floor. In the center of the arcade is the zodiacal circle. Do not forget to find your zodiac sign and make a wish!
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
When people hear of an archaeological museum, they involuntarily start yawning. But the Neapolitan museum, the largest in Southern Italy, is really interesting.
It contains historical treasures of Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia Villas. In addition to sculptures, frescoes, jewelry, dishes and coins, of interest is the “Secret Room”, where unique findings of erotic and pornographic nature are on display.
Tickets to the museum with an audioguide can be purchased in advance at the link.
Teatro di San Carlo
Naples has one of the oldest theaters in Europe. It is a favorite place of European nobility of past centuries, and today the San Carlo Theater is modern and restored, and world stars perform on its stage.
The New Castle (Castel Nuovo)
Castel Nuovo impresses by its scale, although it was built in 1282 by Charles of Anjou in just 3 years. It is located in the center, next to the waterfront. Now inside is a museum with several rooms.
You can’t say there’s anything impressive there: the armory, the hall of barons, the chapel, halls with frescoes and bas-reliefs. Some of the halls can only be accessed with a guided tour. Individual entrance 6 euros. If you are interested in history, be sure to get an audio guide right there in the museum for 1 euro.
Another castle in Naples with a similar name. The poet Virgil wrote that in this place, deep in the ground, buried a kind of magic egg. The castle was built much later, 11 centuries later, and now the egg lurks beneath its foundations. It is believed that as long as the artifact is there, Naples is safe.
The fortress is connected to the city by a narrow embankment that you can walk to. At various times it has withstood many attacks and bombardments, including by French cannons.
The castle is said to be haunted by the ghosts of people who died in its dungeons. For example, a headless Saracen and a sorceress who sold her soul to the devil.
Especially beautiful here in the evening, when the lanterns and illumination are lit. Inside Castel del Ovo is a museum with paid admission and a free viewing platform at the top.
Opening hours are 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays (6 p.m. in winter) and 2 p.m. on weekends.
Royal Palace (Museo di Capodimonte)
The Royal Palace of Naples is surrounded by a beautiful and ancient park. For tourists it is a tourist attraction, but for locals it is a favorite place for walks. You can go for a jog or have a picnic on the grass.
The whole palace is a spacious museum with a very large collection of ancient weapons and art galleries.
The ticket costs 15 euros.
Piazza del Plebiscito
You can’t miss it because it is the biggest square in the center of Naples. Here you can see the Royal Palace of Naples with its 169 meters long colonnade. On the other side is the church of St. Francis.
In antiquity, in Piazza Plebiscito stood the city walls and the castle of Lucilius.
Cimitero Delle Fontanelle
European cemeteries often become landmarks, as it happened in Naples. The ancient city cemetery of Fontanelle is located in a real cave on the outskirts of the city.
Naturally, it is now not used for its intended purpose. But it is still quite a scary place. In fact, it is a large crypt where the remains of those who died during plague and cholera epidemics were stored for many years. After each epidemic, the crypt was walled up and then opened again. The last burials were made here in 1837.
Of course, the version of the crypt that you can see is far from the original: all the skulls and bones in it are ordered and placed in crypts.
Catacombe di San Gaudioso
Here was buried St. Gaudioso, a bishop from North Africa, who was exiled and sent to Naples, where he lived until his death. The bishop was buried in 451 or 452, after which the place was named after him.
The price of the entrance ticket is 10 euros.
Buy a ticket for a tour of the catacombs here.
Underground Naples (Napoli Sotterranea)
In our humble opinion, this is one of the most interesting places in Naples. Yes, there are no magnificent frescoes and church shrines, but certainly a lot of mystery.
It is an underground city with its passageways, galleries and rooms at a depth of 30 meters. It appeared as early as 470 BC, when the Greeks used underground wells and reservoirs to collect rainwater for drinking.
Over the centuries, the dungeons have grown and expanded, they were mined tuff for building houses, and during World War II they were used as a bomb shelter.
You can see the dungeons only with a guided tour – just come to the entrance and wait for the next stream. The ticket price is 10 euros.
We recommend wearing comfortable shoes: inside all the passages are slippery because they are covered with mold.
The infamous city buried under the ashes. Many people think it is small, but its size is amazing! Everything here is almost as it was before the eruption in 79 BC. Sidewalks, walls of houses, interior furnishings, frescoes and mosaics.
The most interesting thing about Pompeii are the figures of the inhabitants, frozen for centuries in bizarre poses. Scientists filled the voids in the volcanic rock with plaster, and now we can see how the Pompeii people died. Some of the figures make your blood run cold.
The Ancient Roman city of Herculaneum (Italian: Ercolano) also belongs to the attractions of Naples, as it is only 15 kilometers from the city.
The city is even better preserved than Pompeii. You can wander its streets for a long time, studying the life of people who lived here 2,000 years ago. It’s very interesting!
The ticket price is 13 euros.
Vesuvio is an integral part of the panoramic photos of Naples. This volcano is active, but scientists say that it will wake up no sooner than 100 years.
The price to climb to the top of the volcano is 10 euros. The rest of the trails around the crater are free.
Anfiteatro Flavio in Pozzuoli
Since we made it outside of Naples itself, check out the coastal town of Pozzuoli as well. Here is the ancient amphitheater Flavio.
It is little written about it in the tourist brochures, but it is the third largest amphitheater in Italy, after the Roman Colosseum and Capua. We advise to go there. Moreover, Pozzuoli has a nice beach:)
The ticket price to the amphitheater is 4 euros.
We hope that this article was useful, and from our list of attractions in Naples you will choose those that you must visit.
Do you know other interesting places? Write in the comments, let other travelers know about them too!