Looking for things to do during a short stay in Naples? From exquisite espresso to stunning sights and ethereal pizzas, discover how to spend three perfect days in the Italian city with our handy travel guide.
Rich in dazzling architecture and culture, the chaotic charm of Campania’s capital should be squeezed into any European tour. But with a lengthy list of things to do in Naples, it can be tricky to plan the perfect visit – especially if you’re doing it all in one whirlwind of a weekend.
From daytime delights to Naples at night, here’s our three-day guide to how you should make the most of this wonderful city on a tight schedule.
Day 1: History, caves & jazz
Every day is sweeter when it starts with coffee. Grab the metro towards Piazza Dante and visit Caffè Mexico for arguably the best espresso in Naples. The city’s most popular coffee bar is much-lauded for its traditional zuccherato (sweetened) caffeine boost.
Jaw-dropping churches and cathedrals are in ready supply around the corner at Piazza Bellini. From the gorgeously Gothic San Lorenzo Maggiore to the majestic Santa Maria Assunta, you can get your fill of architectural eye candy.
You’ve spent the morning getting to see the most popular sights for visitors – now it’s time to live like the locals do, with a spot of traditional lunch at Passione di Sofi. Here, you can enjoy anything from fried pizzas to pasta frittatas and crunchy, ricotta crusts – all uniquely Neapolitan choices.
Once you’ve had your fill of Italy’s finest, take a stroll down Spaccanapoli – the famous, narrow street dividing Naples’ historic centre. Rich in antiques, quirky stores, street vendors selling handcrafted wares and cosy cafes and bars, it’s one of the best things to do in Naples to truly soak up the city’s unique culture.
While you’re in the area, pop down the Via San Gregorio Armeno – Naples’ permanent Christmas market. Watch top artisans creating miniature figurines for the classic nativity display and grab a special festive souvenir.
Now you’ve seen what’s above ground, it’s time to peek below. Take a tour of Napoli Sotteranea, the hidden labyrinth of caves lying beneath the city surface, where you’ll discover fascinating (and slightly eerie) relics and ruins at every twist and turn. Don’t forget to book your tickets in advance.
For a dinner that would dazzle even the toughest food critic, dip into L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele. Its legendary pizzas are adored by locals and Hollywood alike, having famously featured in the movie Eat, Pray, Love.
Ready to sample some of Naples’ nightlife? Start off with a finger-snapping visit to Bourbon Street Jazz Club, where music fans both young and old jam to the city’s best live jazz. Snuggle up at the bar to enjoy cocktails as smooth as Billie Holiday’s voice, or let the sounds of the double bass wash over you on the dance floor.
Day 2: Beaches, wine & royalty
Begin your day with a heavenly brioche con gelato – a sweetened bun that’s both topped with cream and crammed with oozy ice cream. After all, you are on vacation. You’ll find this nugget of otherworldly bliss at the iconic seaside chalet, Chalet Ciro Mergellina, based close to Mergellina train station.
Head on down to the beachfront to collect shells and paddle in the crisp ocean waves. This idyllic area is also full of large, smooth rocks near the shore, if you feel like a spot of sunbathing. You can always stay closer to the waters by booking a night in a Naples’ beach hotel.
When you’re ready to move on, seek out the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn Napoli, an atmospheric 19th-century aquarium located in the park nearby. Families looking for things to do with kids in Naples will love it here. Get up-close and personal with some of the local sea life, which includes colourful squid, seahorses and sea turtles.
After another short scenic wander, expand your Instagram collection with a quick stop at Piazza Vittoria – a public square jammed with some of the city’s finest statues and monuments that’s tucked between the Chiaia and San Fernando districts. It’s named Victory to commemorate the defeat of the Ottomans at the Battle of Lepanto way back in the 16th century.
Combine a late lunch with a little wine-tasting at Terrazza Calabritto, where your waiter will help you match your meal to the perfect bottle of red or white. With over 250 varieties to choose from, you’ll definitely be spoilt for choice. Just be sure to leave your rental car at the hotel. Book in advance to grab a table outside, where you can enjoy a dazzling view of the Gulf of Naples while you dine.
Now you’ve feasted like a member of the Italian royal family, continue your day in that vein with a fascinating visit to the Royal Palace of Naples. Its lavish rooms, dripping with ultra-luxe artwork, will transport you to another time, while its sweeping gardens make for yet another blissful stroll in the sun.
Giardina del Molosiglio offers the best early-evening amble in town. Pause to appreciate the Fontana dei Papiri and Fontana dei Leoni, two more wonderful feats of Neapolitan sculpture, along the way.
Keep the day’s beachy vibes alive with a visit to Koi Sushi, where spectacular sashimi and punchy wasabi flow freely. Considered one of the best sushi restaurants in Naples, its fresh fish dishes should leave you satisfied.
It’s time for another dose of Naples’ nightlife. Head back down to Piazza Bellini for drinks and coffee at Intra Moenia – part bookshop, part coffee shop, part bustling bar, it’s the best place to sit back, relax and end your day.
Day 3: Museums, pastry & opera
Perfect Italian-style pastries are in abundance at Mazz, a beloved breakfast spot that’s right in the heart of Naples city centre. Try a sfogliatella (filled pastry) or babá (rich sponge cake) for a taste of something truly traditional.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale – Naples’ National Archaelogical Museum – serves up one of the world’s finest collections of Greco-Roman artefacts. Head straight towards the ground-floor Farnese collection to see the Toro Farnese, an awe-inspiring sculpture once restored by Michelangelo himself.
A quick trip to the Museo Cappella Sansevero before lunch is worth it to see Giuseppe Sanmartino’s Cristo velato (Veiled Christ) first-hand, but don’t forget to look up – this baroque-style chapel is also famous for its phenomenal frescoes.
Home comforts are dished up hot at Tandem Ragú – one of Naples’ best-loved eateries. For dessert, nurture your sweet tooth with a quick visit to Gay-odin, a chocolatier serving up everything from Neapolitan chocolate cozze (mussels) to miniature cocoa-replicas of Mount Vesuvius.
Yet more artistic wonderment awaits at the Certosa e Museo di San Martino, a stunning Carthusian monastery-turned-museum. The pinnacle of Italian artistry, stunning architecture and fantastic scenery, it’s bound to blow any culture lover’s mind away.
For some of the best shopping in Naples, take the metro down to Municipio, where contemporary shops and boutiques sit side-by-side. For a coffee break with an unrivalled view, grab a window seat at Il Chicco d’Oro directly opposite Castel Nuovo.
It’d be crazy to leave Naples without enjoying a final pizza. Visit Brandi Pizzeria, the birthplace of the margherita pizza, for a slice of the very best.
Make your last night in Naples truly special by catching a show at Teatro di San Carlo, the city’s spectacular opera house. Lavishly luxurious from head to toe, this enchanting experience is one you won’t want to miss. It’s one of the hottest tickets in town, so reserve your seats in advance.
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