Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast are among our top destinations, and frequently our travelers ask if they should also take time to visit Naples.
Our answer is always a resounding yes.
The sprawling southern metropolis is unlike other parts of Italy. Whether you visit it for a day or a week, you will see a completely unique Italy full of culture, history, food, and friendly people.
I’m not saying there aren’t parts of Naples to avoid. Just like any large city, there will be areas that are best left unexplored. But if you stick to the historical center and the main tourist sites, you will see a truly remarkable city.
Check out our top three sites to see in Naples below, and follow our simple tips for maximizing your visit!
What to See in Naples
1. The Museo Archeological Nazionale di Napoli (National Archeological Museum on Naples)
The Museo Archeological Nazionale di Napoli (MANN for short) is not only a top site in Naples, but in all of Italy. As one of the best archeological museums in the world, the museum hosts interesting temporary exhibits, but what is really special is its permanent exhibit of Ancient Roman art and artifacts.
This is where the gems that were recovered from nearby Pompeii and Herculaneum have come to live, and they are as breathtaking now as they must have been two thousand years ago when they were created. The mosaics, frescos, statuary, and ancient papyrus from these buried cities are the main draw in the museum, as is the “Gabinetto segreto,” or Secret Cabinet that is home to the erotic art recovered in Pompeii and Herculaneum (you must be 14 or older or with an adult to enter).
The museum also houses one of the most prized collections of ancient Egyptian art in the world.
Getting there: The MANN is located in the historical center. You can reach it by taxi, by taking line 1 of the metro to the Museo stop, or by taking a number of public buses including lines 147, 182, and 201.
Hours: The MANN is open daily except for Tuesdays, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day, from 9 am to 7:30 pm.
Cost: The standard ticket is €18.
Tips: avoid visiting on holidays or the periodic “free” days, as the museum can get overly crowded.
2. The Veiled Christ Statue
It might seem strange to seek out a small church and wait in line to see a single statue, but the Cristo Velato (Veiled Christ) is one of the most famous works of art in the world.
Created by the Neapolitan artist Giuseppe Sanmartino in 1753, this late Baroque masterpiece depicts a life-sized Christ in dead repose and covered by a transparent shroud. What is remarkable is that the shroud is carved from the same marble as the statue, creating a sense of lightness and movement that make you forget you are seeing stone and not fabric. The veil is so delicate in places that light can pass through the stone.
The body underneath the veil is also spectacular, with the traces of Christ’s torture and death visible beneath the soft covering. The effect is a dramatic and strangely compassionate depiction of Christ in death. You can see images of the statue on the chapel’s official website: https://www.museosansevero.it/en/.
The statue is located in the Cappella Sansevero (Sansevero Chapel) in the heart of the historical center.
Getting there: It is reachable on foot if you are already in the historical center, or walk from the Piazza Cavour top of Metro line 2. Or, take but C82 from the train station to the Porta di Massa stop.
Hours: Open daily except on Tuesdays from 9 am to 7 pm.
Cost: A standard ticket is €8.
Tips: The last entry is 30 minutes before closing. If you buy tickets at the ticket window, the line can be quite long. We strongly recommend pre-purchasing tickets with the €2 skip the line surcharge, which can be done up to 3 months in advance. These tickets let you bypass the ticket window (although there will still be a shorter line for entry). Holidays and weekends are especially busy. If you can’t prepurchase tickets, we recommend trying to go around lunchtime (between 12 noon and 2 pm).
OK, I know this is not actually in Naples, but in the town of Ercolano about 5 miles away, but it is so easily reachable from Naples and so worth seeing that it definitely makes our list.
Herculaneum (Ercolano) was an ancient Roman city of about 4000-5000 inhabitants that was destroyed in the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius – the same eruption that buried the more famous city of Pompeii. But while the larger Pompeii was buried in ash, Herculaneum was buried in volcanic ash and pumice, and then covered by a torrent of mud and lava. This means that it was better preserved than Pompeii, including wooden objects such as roofs, doors, and beds, as well as papyrus and even food.
Herculaneum was a smaller and wealthier town than Pompeii, which makes it far easier to visit in a day. This doesn’t mean that Pompeii is not also worth visiting, just that the lesser known Herculaneum is, in our opinion, at least as fascinating, if not more so.
Getting there: You can easily reach Herculaneum from Naples by taking a taxi or by taking the Circumvesuviana train toward Sorrento to the Ercolano Scavi stop, a trip of about 25 minutes. From there you can walk the 10 minutes to the park entrance or take a shuttle.
Hours: Open daily except Wednesdays mid-March through mid-October 8:30 am to 7:30 pm, mid-October through mid-March 8:30 am to 5 pm. Closed December 25 and January 1.
Cost: A standard ticket is €13.
Tips: We recommend arriving early, or otherwise pre-purchasing your ticket with skip-the-line access (even if there is a surcharge of a few euros).
In the summer the site can be quite hot, so if going in summer months plan an early or late departure to avoid the mid-day heat.
Wear appropriate footwear, as the terrain can be quite uneven.
And we highly recommend booking a private or group tour, especially if you are not normally interested in archeological sites. A guide can explain what you are looking at, although if you have a good guidebook you can also do it on your own.
Of course, these are just a few of the top sites to see in Naples. There are castles, piazzas, churches, and fascinating neighborhoods to explore as well in this vibrant city. If you are interested in a booking a walking tour of Naples, or a street food tour, please contact us!
By Peg Kern
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