Attractions and Things to Do in Naples, Italy
Naples is a vibrant city steeped in history and brimming with incredible sights | © Artur Bogacki / Alamy Stock Photo
Naples, the birthplace of pizza, is a loud, idiosyncratic city full of unexpected elegance – think Renaissance art, ancient frescoes and world-class Italian shopping, surrounded by coastal beauty and in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius.
There’s so much to experience in this bustling southern city, whether that’s browsing contemporary art, exploring underground caves or tunnels, heading out to sea in a kayak or settling in to watch an opera. And that’s without even getting started on the pizza. Here, our local insiders have picked out their top attractions and things to do in Naples, Italy.
The Bourbon Tunnel
Historical Landmark, Museum
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If you’re looking to scratch that spooky, underground itch while escaping the hordes of tourists, the Bourbon Tunnel is for you. Built as a secret escape route for the city’s royal family in 1853, the tunnel connects the Royal Palace to the Villa Vittoria. After being used as an air-raid shelter during World War II, it became a dumping ground for all sorts of unwanted debris, from fascist statues to lines of vintage cars and scooters, all untouched since the 1970s. It’s atmospheric and fascinating in equal measure, and a guided tour is a must.
Museo Madre (Donnaregina Contemporary Art Museum)
Museum, Art Gallery
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Medieval meets modern at the Donnaregina Contemporary Art Museum, housed in a restored, 19th-century palazzo. Explore the historic building while taking in contemporary artworks from the past 100 years, with permanent collections displaying the likes of Franz West, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramović. There’s a strong focus on recent local art movements, and the museum also hosts some high-profile exhibitions.
Teatro di San Carlo
The opera season at the Teatro di San Carlo runs from January to May each year, while ballet performances take place from April to June. Culture enthusiasts will enjoy a behind-the-scenes look at this grand, prestigious opera house – a 30-minute guided tour is a fantastic way to explore the theatre’s 300-year history and majestic architecture, with centuries-old anecdotes woven in for good measure.
Park, Theatre, Natural Feature
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Need a break from all that sightseeing? Relax in the Neapolitan sun, and gaze out over the gorgeous Bay of Naples and Gulf of Pozzuoli from the Parco Virgiliano. The islands of Ischia and Capri are also visible in the distance, creating a perfect backdrop for running, walking and cycling (hire e-bikes for a lower-effort activity). For an idyllic evening, look out for the outdoor concerts the park hosts during summer.
Cimitero delle Fontanelle
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The Cimitero delle Fontanelle comprises natural caves, tufa mines and ancient Greek and Roman tunnels. They were used to hold the bodies of thousands of Neapolitans who died in the Naples Plague of 1656 – burial space had run out in churchyards around the city. In the centuries since, a cult has developed around these towering piles of skulls, with rosaries, candles, gifts and special requests dotted among the remains, acting as secret prayers for favours, health and even lottery winnings.
What better way to experience the famously gorgeous coastline in Naples than by a kayak tour? Paddle your way around the bay – powered by all that delicious pasta you’ve been eating – with Kayak Napoli. Kayak, canoe and paddleboard excursions are all available, and beginners are welcome, too, with instruction provided. With a variety of tours, including sunset and full-moon paddles, visits to marine nature reserves and coast-hugging routes that take in the city’s Roman villas, there’s something for everyone.
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Pizza was invented in Naples, making it a pilgrimage worthy for any foodie, and if you’re visiting for the cuisine, a Cookly class should be a top priority during your trip. Get hands-on experience, and learn how to cook your favourite Italian staples, taste local wines and visit produce markets, all guided by locals eager to share their love of food with you.
These recommendations were updated on July 22, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.