Naples’ historic center stretches across 14 city districts, but most of the city’s cultural highlights are concentrated in its heart. With more than 2,500 years of history, the centro storico is a mix of influences from a number of ages, beginning from the stick-straight Roman thoroughfare of Spaccanapoli and the 13th-century Castel Nuovo fortress, and ending with the elegant Teatro di San Carlo and Piazza Plebiscito, both dating from the last few centuries. Greek and Roman ruins are hidden beneath the modern city streets, and spectacular artifacts from the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum are displayed in the city’s National Archaeological Museum.
Take a deep dive into the culture and history of Naples with a walking, bike, or Segway tour or shore excursion in the historic center, touching on magnificent landmarks like Piazza del Gesù, the Duomo, and the Church of Santa Chiara, as well as charming corners like Via San Gregorio Armeno, famous for its artisan nativity scenes. Tours can even head below ground to take in Naples’ underground ruins and ancient crypts. No visit to Naples is complete without sampling the city’s traditional cuisine, and many tours combine sightseeing with pizza tastings and introductions to local street food. With the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum just outside the city, combining a visit to these famous archaeological sites with a tour of the historic center is an attractive option.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Wear sunscreen and a hat if touring the historic center in summer, as you will be spending most of your time outdoors.
- Much of the historic center is pedestrian and must be explored on foot or by bike, so choose comfortable footwear.
- Modest attire that covers knees and shoulders is required to enter Neapolitan churches.
- Some sights in the historic center aren’t wheelchair accessible, and the streets are paved with cobblestones and have no sidewalks.
How to Get There
The historic center of Naples covers much of the downtown along the waterfront, and is easy to reach on foot from the port and main train station. Naples is an important transportation and cruise ship hub, with direct trains connecting from most Italian cities and ferries from Salerno and Sorrento.
When to Get There
Temperatures soar in Naples in the summer, and the city is much more comfortable to tour in spring or fall. If visiting in summer, take on the city center in the early morning. Naples is particularly lively during its annual festivals, most importantly the Festa di San Gennaro (September 19) that celebrates the city’s patron saint with eight days of religious processions, markets, and other festivities.
The Ruins of Pompeii One of the most important archaeological sites in the world is located just outside Naples. Pompeii was a booming Roman city buried in AD 79 by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The archaeological excavations at Pompeii have unearthed houses, restaurants, shops, temples, and public buildings, many decorated with surprisingly intact frescoes, mosaics, and other decorative features.
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- Pio Monte della Misericordia
- Naples Cathedral (Duomo di San Gennaro)
- Basilica di San Lorenzo Maggiore
- Naples Underground (Napoli Sotterranea)
- Via San Gregorio Armeno (Christmas Alley)
- Sansevero Chapel (Museo Cappella Sansevero)
- Basilica of San Domenico Maggiore (Basilica di San Domenico Maggiore)
- Naples Historic Center (Napoli Centro Storico)
- Naples Piazza del Mercato
- Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale)
- Piazza del Gesù Nuovo
- Church and Monastery of Santa Chiara (Chiesa e Monastero di Santa Chiara)
- Gesú Nuovo Church (Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo)
- Church of Sant'Anna dei Lombardi (Chiesa di Sant'Anna dei Lombardi)
- Via Toledo