Built around a wide, gracefully curved bay and towered over by Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a stunning place by anyone's measure. Italy's third largest city is a work of beauty, a cultural gem and a gastronomic destination like no other.
If you've ever wondered what authentic pizza tastes like, a visit to Naples allows you to go straight to the source, and pizzerias like 50 Kalò and Da Michele will redefine your idea of a real pizza. But if carbs aren't your thing, the seafood at restaurants like Trattoria Castel dell'Ovo is just as enticing.
But you can't spend your vacation eating, and in Naples, there's no need. You can tour the fantastic Museo di Capodimonte, catch an opera, take the train to the Roman ruins at Pompeii, or board the ferry to Capri. There are magical experiences awaiting everyone in Naples.
Naples is one of the world's great gastronomic destinations. Famous for being the birthplace of pizza, you can find mouth-watering margheritas in every neighborhood pizzeria, but the pasta and seafood is just as delicious.
Naples (Neapolis in Roman times) is over 3,000 years old. That's a lot of history, and visitors can explore the huge collection of artifacts at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli or head to nearby Pompeii, an incredibly well-preserved Roman city destroyed by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD.
Naples is bustling, exciting, and full of appeal, but getting out is a pleasure as well. With the Amalfi Coast and its beautiful ports a short drive away and the idyllic island of Capri just off the coast, you can laze on the beach and see the urban sights in the same day.
Naples has always been a city of music and art lovers. If you want to experience an authentic Italian opera, there's no better venue than the Teatro San Carlo, while galleries like the Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte house masterpieces by legends like Caravaggio and Titian. The city is a cultural feast.
Bar hoppers, clubbers, and live music fans will also be in their element in Naples, particularly on the long central street known as Spaccanapoli. Dine and clink cocktails at Clu, tap your feet to the music at the Bourbon Street Jazz Club, or experience a wide variety of DJ styles at Moses Club in the historic center.
At the heart of one of Europe's most ancient cities, the Historical Center is intriguing through every lively alleyway. Walk Spaccanapoli for access to the greatest sights left and right. From the Cathedral, to San Domenico Maggiore, to Cappella Sansevero, each church staggers more than the next. Meanwhile, tours of Underground Naples reveal layers of history through neverending catacombs and caverns. Above ground, the Archaeological Museum can help make sense of this mysterious archaic maze.
Enjoy a cable-car ride up to this monastery-turned-museum, overlooking the Gulf of Naples with stunning views and an art collection to match. Every Neapolitan Master left their mark here as the complex expanded over the years. Wander the cloisters and admire gorgeous frescoes, artwork detailing the saga of local history, and the world's most stunning nativity scene - fitting for the city of churches that it overlooks from Vomero Hill. Next door, the Castle Sant'Elmo should not be missed either.
This regal palace is jaw-dropping from tip to toe, and the lavish halls filled with centuries-old furnishings are open for visitors to let their imaginations run wild. Tours lead up the grand staircase of white marble through the dozens of ornamented rooms, every inch fit for a king. You can practically hear the music playing in the restored ballroom, and the golden and velvet home theater puts your dream-home to shame. Teatro San Carlo is the public theater of equal majesty next door.
Caravaggio, Raphael, Botticelli, Bellini... These are now the residents of this royal palace in the hills above Naples, their masterpieces lining the walls of its 160+ chambers. Capodimonte was once a massive hunting lodge, and now the halls comprise the largest museum in Italy. Nearby, the underground Catacombs of San Gennaro reveal the ancient past of this volcanic corner of Italy - the holy burial place is unforgettable, filled with tombs and basilicas complete with frescoes and a baptismal font.
The legendary city of Pompeii was destroyed by the eruption of the Vesuvius in the 1st Century, and its eery yet moving remains are a window far into the past. The foundation of this ancient civilization was preserved by volcanic material. The paved streets lead to residences, temples, amphitheaters and even a brothel - identifiable not only thanks to architectural evidence, but also to the casts of perished bodies found within, on display throughout the ruins.
Naples tends to become extremely hot in the summer, so unless you are happy to wander around in temperatures approaching 100 degrees, spring or fall might be preferable. April is the ideal month to go, as it will be warm enough to hit the beach and crowds at Pompeii or the major palaces won't be too large.
Naples International Airport (NAP) is the city's major airport, and getting from there into town shouldn't be hard. There's no train connection, but you can take the Alibus service into town at a cost of EUR3. There's also a slightly cheaper bus (the 3S), which takes a little longer.
Naples is easily reached by train from Rome, Florence, and other major Italian cities. Most trains get into Piazza Garibaldi station, which is on the city's subway system; this is the quickest route into town. A single fare costs EUR1.50.
If you are driving to Naples from the north, take the E45 highway from Rome and it will take you virtually into central Naples (you'll have to briefly transfer onto the A3). The A3 is the road to take from the Amalfi Coast, while the E842 runs across Italy from Brindisi.
Major bus companies running services into Naples include Flixbus and Baltour, and most buses terminate at Piazza Garibaldi, very close to the center of town. You can get to Naples from almost any part of Italy by bus, and it's a cost-effective alternative to trains.
Naples isn't short of high-class hotels, but there's something to suit anyone's price range. At the highest level, the Romeo Hotel has a striking design by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, while Grand Hotel Parkers is a stately 19th-century establishment in the city center and the Excelsior has stunning views of the harbor. Cheaper options worth looking at include the centrally located Hotel Europeo and smaller hostels like Giovanni's Home, which always provides a warm Neapolitan welcome.
Centro Storico - the historic center of the city, Centro Storico is where you'll find the Opera House, the Gothic beauty of the 13th-century Duomo, masterpieces by Caravaggio in the church of Pio Monte della Misericordia as well as the entrance to the Neapolitan catacombs. It's the kind of neighborhood that can take weeks to properly tour, so set aside plenty of time.
Lungomare - if the center of Naples can seem hectic, Lungomare is the opposite. Built around a 1.5 mile-long promenade, Lungomare offers Europe's oldest aquarium, a beach that buzzes with volleyball and soccer matches, seafront cafes and stunning views across the Bay of Naples.
Chiaia - right next door to Lungomare, Chiaia is also next to the sea and it's one of the city's most prosperous, upmarket neighborhoods. It's the kind of area to look for once-in-a-lifetime pizzas and seafood at restaurants like Lord Tonino or Il Carnaio, and it has excellent links to the center of town.
Naples has a handy mix of subway, tram, suburban train bus, and funicular railway services, so getting around town shouldn't be tough. Planning can be complicated by the fact that the network consists of a variety of companies, but it all seems to work. Fare options include a EUR4.50 day pass or a week's travel for EUR15.80.
Neapolitan taxis are plentiful and cheap, but they aren't always predictable. Try to negotiate a price before you travel as sometimes drivers can use their creativity to add on extra mileage. Meter drop is typically EUR3.50 and then the price is about EUR2.50 per mile. Be aware that fares into the Centro Storico can be higher due to the city's controlled traffic zones.
Naples isn't an easy city to drive around, not least because of the erratic local motorists, but if you are bold enough to take on the challenge, there's street parking around the Piazza Mercato and a number of centrally located car parks. However, be aware that Naples operates something called the ZTL Zone, which limits access to the Centro Storico to local residents. You'll need to stay out of the ZTL Zone to avoid a fine. Car rental companies active in Naples include Hertz, Europcar and Sixt, and rates can be as low as EUR18 per day.
Naples is a wonderful city to hunt down souvenirs. Streets to head to include the Via Toledo where you'll discover jewelry boutiques like Pandora and apparel vendors like Dieci Dieci along with the stunning Galleria Umberto I shopping arcade. The Via San Gregorio Armeno is the place to look for antiques (including Christmas toys and decorations all year round, a local tradition).
If you are self-catering, buying groceries in Naples should be simple. There are plenty of supermarkets like Carrefour along with smaller delicatessens like Gastronomia or Gran Gusto. Don't miss La Pignasecca either, the city's largest outdoor food market. Prices are usually low. Expect to pay around EUR2.50 for 12 eggs and as little as EUR5 for a good bottle of wine.
Great food is everywhere in Naples. It's one of the city's crowning glories, so explore as many restaurants as possible. Some of the very best include La Stanza del Gusto on the Via Costantinopoli and the seafood specialists at the Trattoria Castel dell'Ovo. Most visitors will also feel compelled to gorge on pizza during their stay, so go for elite restaurants like Pizzeria Starita to avoid even the slightest disappointment. Meals aren't expensive given the general quality on offer and shouldn't come to more than EUR30 even at high-end places. Solo pizzas can even be as little as EUR5, so the challenge is restraining yourself, not overspending.