Things to do in Naples

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by Hertz - 14 September 2018

Pizza, palazzos, Pompeii – there’s an endless list of reasons to make Naples your next city break. Nestled on the Bay of Naples, it’s a shining jewel of the Italian coast dripping in history with a collection of castles and churches that reveal its long and rich past.

You might be experiencing the city with a loved one, looking to wine and dine in bustling pizzerias, or on a cultural holiday with the family, passing through during a larger tour of Italy. But even when you’ve enjoyed the gems of Naples, fashionable Sorrento and the rest of the striking Amalfi Coast are easy to explore, just a short distance away by car.

There’s always a good reason to visit this slice of Italy, which buzzes with life. For inspiration, check out this guide to some of the fantastic experiences you can enjoy in Naples.

Discover Naples’ history

History buffs will be in heaven in Naples, with the centre boasting UNESCO World Heritage site status. The Greeks made their mark here during the 8th century BC, the first in a long line of conquerors to rule this city.

Seek out the soul of Naples through its treasure trove of history. Start with one of the most fascinating sights, the sacred catacombs, which can be traced back to the 2nd century. This ancient site takes you through a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels and passageways, giving you a glimpse into eerie tombs and early Christian paintings decorating the crumbling walls.

Back on street level, you’ll find the historical museums around the city cover just about every aspect of Italian culture. Explore the country’s National Archaeological Museum for the chance to see its outstanding collection of noteworthy artefacts. Relics from ancient Greece, the Renaissance and Pompeii and Herculaneum are showcased through informative and interactive exhibits. Gaze in awe at the 3rd century Farnese Hercules statue, meticulously crafted from marble, and the impressive number of excavated Roman mosaics.

Naples was once a city of seven castles and you can discover their remains nestled among the winding streets. With most of the original foundations intact, Castel Nuovo is one of the most atmospheric. The huge stone structure, with its five foreboding towers, overlooks the glittering Gulf of Naples and is the perfect place to learn more about the city’s past.

Though if it’s spectacular views you seek, along with a bucket load of history, make your way up to the unique star-shaped Castel Sant’Elmo at the top of Vomero Hill. As well as providing sweeping vistas across Naples, its medieval heritage can be explored through the castle’s museum.

If you want to squeeze one more castle into your trip, make it the Castel dell’Ovo. This beauty of a fortress takes pride of place by the harbour. The sight of the castle is even more magnificent at night, as the sun sets behind this grand Norman structure.

Things to see and do in Naples

As the city is bursting with historical charm, there are plenty of memorable buildings and landmarks to see in Naples. With so much to explore along the cobbles, it makes this destination a great place to visit.

Architectural beauties litter the city, one of the finest being the Santa Chiara Monastery. This monastery-cum-museum is home to some of the most breathtaking cloisters in all the land. Admire the 17th century columns, clad in majolica tiles, before exploring the lush gardens within its heart.

The beauty continues at Museo di Capodimonte, housed inside an exquisite 18th century royal retreat. Tear your eyes away from the striking pink-tinged exterior and head inside for a dose of world-class art. Botticelli, Michelangelo, Raphael, Titian and Warhol are among the heavyweights with works showcased here.

Naples, like much of Italy, has two major passions – food and football. The latter is showcased in the historic San Paolo stadium in the western Fuorigrotta area. Visit the stadium to watch a match and savour the vibrant atmosphere.

Best beaches in Naples

Holiday here in summer and make the most of this sunbaked part of Italy. The rustic charm of Naples can be best experienced through its urban beaches. Dotted along the coastline, between the harbours, are quaint sandy beaches known locally as ‘spiaggetta’ and small stone beaches, which are translated to ‘scogliere’. Although you’ll find fewer sandy beaches in Naples, there are plenty of bathing platforms for you to use.

In true Italian style, the beaches in Naples offer something completely unique. One of the most famous is Gaiola Beach. Even though there’s no sand here, just a rocky platform and a scenic park for bathing, this beach is often photographed due to the mysterious villa perched on the rocky island near to the shore. The crystal-clear waters that surround the islands are perfect for a refreshing dip when temperatures soar.

For a picturesque stroll, meander along the Lungomare promenade, a pedestrianised walkway that hugs the dramatic coastline for more than a mile. Enjoy an evening walk, taking in the picturesque views of Mount Vesuvius, the captivating island of Capri island and the vibrant sunsets across the Bay of Naples. Head west from the city centre to Bagnoli, where you’ll find a lively atmosphere with nightlife and restaurants sprinkled along the shore. The sandy beach is beautiful and looks out to the islands.

Where to eat and stay in Naples

Indulge in Italian culinary traditions in some of the very best restaurants in Naples. Italy is widely regarded as the gastronomical capital of Europe so you can expect hearty dishes packed full of flavour. Make the most of your time in the city and stay overnight in luxurious hotels in Naples.

Naples’ best restaurants

Think Naples, think pizza. Fluffy bases, wood-fired and then topped with garlicky tomatoes. Pizzerias are dotted all throughout the city, but one of the best is Pizzeria Lombardi. This historic eatery has been serving up slices since 1892 – get a bite of the action and try the traditional Margherita.

The Neapolitan pizza isn’t the only culinary export of this city. With Naples positioned so close to the water, you can’t leave without sampling the seafood. Feast on spaghetti alle vongole, a classic clam and pasta dish, at Enotrattoria Casetta Rossa, one of the best restaurants in the area for seafood.

For a light bite and a rich Italian coffee before you settle into an evening of entertainment at the magnificent opera house, visit the Gran Caffe Gambrinus. This historic cafe is home to the Neapolitan coffee tradition that was formed in the 19th century. Enjoy the regal atmosphere and decor while sampling scoops of creamy gelato and freshly baked pastries.

Street food stalls are also peppered throughout the city where you can tuck into Neapolitan favourites. A freshly cooked pizza al forno, delicious folded pizza, is a beloved delicacy or try a bag of arancini, bite-size rice balls oozing a rich tomato Bolognese sauce.

Best Naples hotels

The grand Eurostars Hotel Excelsior is opulent in design and service. Gleaming marble hallways, decorated with twinkling chandeliers, and twirling staircases take you to antique-inspired rooms. Some overlook the Castel dell’Ovo on the Santa Lucia waterfront, perfect for a romantic retreat.

If sleek, contemporary furnishings are more your style, the Hotel Piazza Bellini is the one for you. Located in the famous shaded square near to many attractions and museums, this hotel is just a stone's throw away from plenty of dining and dancing options. Or, you could choose to upgrade your accommodation to the Romeo, in the port area of Spagnoli, for an oasis of chic design.

Housed inside an historic building, the UNA Hotel Napoli has both style, sophistication and fine dining. Wake up here and step straight out into the heart of the city, with religious monuments, such as the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata Maggiore, close by. With a delightful roof terrace and both Neapolitan and Mediterranean dishes on the menu, you can unwind taking in the peaceful setting.

Hiking in Naples

Sitting at the base of Mount Vesuvius, Naples is a great point for exploring Italy’s rich countryside. One of the most memorable hiking routes to take is up to the summit of the volcano itself. You can either walk from the bottom near the Via Cifelli road entrance or you can drive to the 1,000 metre point, park up and walk a further half an hour. At the top, peer down into the smoky rocks below.

Take a walk around the entire rim of the crater and look out at the exceptional views from the top. You’ll be able to see across the whole of Naples, taking in the surrounding green countryside and the blue waters of the gulf. As the volcano is active, you may find that smoke will disrupt how much of the beautiful surroundings you can see. In some cases, you may not be able to get up to the summit at all, so do check before you visit.

Day trips from Naples

One of the most famous cities in Italy is the ancient archaeological site of Pompeii, sandwiched between Sorrento and Naples. Explore the Roman ruins and see the preserved foundations that have been uncovered from this once thriving city, following the devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. Visit the museum to learn more about the local lives of Pompeii and to see excavated artefacts from the city.

Further down the coast is gorgeous Sorrento, one of Italy’s true stunners. The journey will be worth it as you’ll be treated to stunning views across the bay, with dramatic gorges and buildings that shelve into the hills of citrus groves. Explore the historic old town, taking in the atmospheric streets, and relax on the idyllic bathing platforms. Finish off with dinner along Marina Grande, the waterfront stretch home to the city’s top seafood restaurants.

For something a little off the tourist track, catch a boat from the Pozzuoli ferry terminal and journey across the glittering sea to Procida, just over an hour and a half from Naples by car. Colourful houses add charm to this beautiful island, an unspoilt spot with plenty to see and do. Explore the winding narrow streets and the ancient abbey, before feasting on seafood by the marina. If you’re itching for a longer stroll, the Vivara Nature Reserve can be accessed via a footbridge from the Procida coast, which means the volcanic crater and its interesting wildlife can be explored.

 

Explore more of the energetic culture and history of this fascinating part of Italy when you book car hire in Naples with Hertz.

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