The historic center of Naples was declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO, in 1995. It holds twenty-seven centuries of history and is the largest in Europe extending over an area of seventeen square kilometers, where you can admire a particularly high number if work of arts as obelisks, monasteries, cloisters, museums, catacombs, archaeological excavations and the amazing underground of the city.
Only in the historic city center are located more than 200 historical churches. Here are the main attractions to see.
And if you want to learn more, I invite you to click on our blog. The blog is constantly updated and will offer you not only ideas on what to visit, but give you technical details of the individual monuments of Naples.
Sant Chiara Church
Sant Chiara is a religious complex that includes the Church of SaInt Chiara, a monastery, tombs and an archeological museum. The Church faces Benedetto Croce St, which is the easternmost leg of Spaccanapoli St. The double monastic complex was built in 1313–1340 by Queen Sancha of Majorca and her husband King Robert of Naples. Both of them are buried in the complex, and the legend says that from that day on, her ghost roamed the monastery with her hands clasped in prayer and the face covered with tears. Whoever tried to disturb her is now dead.
You can visit the church at any time of the day. It’s practically impossible not to decide to enter when you pass in front of it, its majesty and beauty will conquer you.
Near the church there are many bars, to be attended especially for a drink after dinner.
- 7:30AM / 1:00PM
- 4:30PM / 8:00PM
- Standard: € 6,00
- Reduced: € 4,50 (students, teachers , over 65, groups with more than 25ppl)
- Special ticket: € 3,50 (Schools)
- Free: for people with disability and children under 6 years old
New Jesus Church
New Jesus is located just outside the western boundary of the historic center of the city. The square is a result of the expansion of the city to the West beginning in the early 16th-century under the rule of Spanish viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo. It was originally a palace built in 1470 for Roberto Sanseverino, Prince of Salerno.The new church retained the unusual facade, originally built for the palace, faced with rustic ashlar diamond projections, called bossange.
The Bossage (uncut stone that is laid in place in a building, projecting outward from the building) and the external portal were not modified and are still visible today, while the interior and the garden were completely overturned. The interior has all the characteristics of the Neapolitan Baroque: numerous of frescoes, sumptuous decorations in gold, complex ornaments of the pavement and the cupola.
The legend said that the church was cursed from the signs made on the main façade. On each “dowel”you can indeed notice musical notes, identified as esoteric symbols that, according to a legend, were placed on the wrong side. Indeed, the church underwent various misfortunes in time like the fire in 1639 and the collapse of the dome in 1688. It was also severely damaged during the Second World War when a bomb, currently preserved and exposed in the building, crashed on the church but did not explode!
- Morning: 7:00AM — 1:00PM
- Evening: 4:00PM —7:30PM
The Sansevero Chapel is a chapel located on St Francesco de Sanctis, just northwest of the church of San Domenico Maggiore, in the historic center of Naples. Its origin dates to 1590 when John Francesco di Sangro, Duke of Torremaggiore, after recovering from a serious illness, had a private chapel built in what were then the gardens of the nearby Sansevero family residence, the Palazzo Sansevero. The building was converted into a family burial chapel by Alessandro di Sangro in 1613.
The chapel is a place where you can feel the true essence of Naples and it houses almost thirty works of art, among which is the Veiled Christ, a marble sculpture made by Giuseppe Sanmartino and it is considered one of the world's most remarkable sculptures. Raimondo di Sangro’s fame as an alchemist has spawned various legends about him. One of these regards the veil of Sanmartino’s Christ. For over two-hundred-and-fifty years, in fact, travelers, tourists and even a number of academics, incredulous at the transparency of the shroud, have mistakenly thought it the result of some chemical process of “marblisation” worked by the Prince of Sansevero. The chapel also displays two early examples of what was long thought to be a form of plastination in its basement. These “anatomical machines” were thought to be examples of the process of “human metallization” as implemented by anatomist Giuseppe Salerno. The exhibit consists of a mature male and a pregnant woman. Their skeletons are encased in the hardened arteries and veins which are colored red and blue respectively.
The Anatomical Machines have fueled the so-called “black legend” about the Prince of Sansevero. According to popular belief, Raimondo di Sangro “had two of his servants killed, a man and a woman, and had the bodies strangely embalmed so that they showed all the viscera, the arteries and the veins”. The origins of the Sansevero Chapel are also closely connected to a legendary incident. Cesare d’Engenio Caracciolo tells in his Sacred Naples of 1623 that, in 1590, an innocent man who was being led to prison in chains passed before the garden of the di Sangro palace in Piazza San Domenico Maggiore, and saw a part of the garden wall collapse and an image of the Madonna appear. He promised the Virgin Mary to offer her a silver lamp and a dedication if only his innocence might be recognized. Once released, the man was faithful to his vow. The sacred image thus became a place of pilgrimage and prayer, and many other graces were received there.
It is better to visit the Chapel Sansevero in the morning to avoid the crowd of tourists, and at the same time discover the surrounding area and eat a tasty pizza in Tribunali St.
- Every day: 9:00am — 7:00pm. Last entry 30 min. before closing.
- Closed on Tuesdays.
- Standard: €7,00
- Young people aged 10-25 years: €5,00
- Artecard: € 5,00
- FAI members: € 5,00
- Schools: € 3,00
- Children up to 9 years: free
- Audio guide: €3.50
The Cathedral that we see today was commissioned by the Ajou family in 1200 on the foundations of the old temple dedicated to the Roman god Apollo. During the centuries it was subject to several renovations, and what we see today is a mix of different architectural styles: Gothic from the fourteenth century, seventeenth-century Baroque, and the nineteenth-century Neo-Gothic, as evidenced by the white marble facade. The Cathedral stores unbelievable treasures that are renowned all over the world as a gold Byzantine mosaic and priceless paintings from Luca Giordano.
Without a doubt, the main attraction for tourists and residents is the crypt of Saint Gennaro, the city patron saint. The crypt stores the skull of the saint and the idolized vial that preserves the blood of the Saint himself, blood that is at the center of the miracle of Saint Gennaro. The ceremony consists of a procession up to the Duomo, where a pastor turns the two ampoules containing the blood and verifies the dissolution. If the blood of Saint Gennaro does not melt, according to legend it could mean that something really bad it’s about to happen, like, for example, an eruption of the Vesuvius.
La cappella dedicata al santo patrono della città è quella in cui tre volte l’anno si realizza il rito per il miracolo di San Gennaro. Il rito consiste in una processione fino al Duomo, luogo in cui un parroco gira le due ampolle contenenti il sangue e ne verifica lo scioglimento. Se il sangue di San Gennaro non dovesse sciogliersi, secondo la leggenda potrebbe accadere qualcosa di veramente brutto come l’eruzione del Vesuvio.
Walking the same street you would find an unmissable graffiti portraying Saint Gennaro, by the Neapolitan artist Jorit. The Duomo can be visited at any time as it is in a strategic spot that allows you to visit the rest of the old town very easily.
- Monday to Saturday: 8:30AM —12:30AM / 4:30PM — 7:00PM | Sundays: 8:00AM — 1:30AM / 5:00PM — 7:30PM
- Excavations: Monday to Saturday: 8:00AM —12.30AM / 4:30PM —7:00PM | Sundays: 8:00AM — 1:30PM / 5:00PM — 7:30PM
- Standard €2.58
- Reduced €1.55
Museum of the Treasure of Saint Gennaro
The Treasure of Saint Gennaro is composed of art works and donations collected in seven centuries of Popes, Kings, Emperors, famous and ordinary people. The museum was opened in December 2003 thanks to a project funded by private companies, European funds and local institutions.
According to studies done by a pool of experts who have analyzed all the pieces of the collection, the Treasure of St. Gennaro would be even richer than the crown of England's Queen Elizabeth II and the Czars of Russia. The museum exhibits his works in an area of 700 square meters below the Chapel of the Treasure: a series of collections of art including jewelry, statues, busts, fabrics and paintings.
Among the more interesting items are a mitre (bishop's hat) in which diamonds, ruby and emerald are embedded, and a collection of silver busts, composed of about 70 pieces made between 1305 till the modern era. The museum is a fundamental visit to fully understand what ties Neapolitan to their patron saint.
- Monday to Friday: 9:00AM — 4:30PM
- Saturday and Sunday: 9:00AM — 6:30PM
- Standard Ticket: €6
- Guide tours: €8
The undergrounds of Naples are one of the main testimonies of the Naples’ origins, where the Greeks obtained the materials for their first city and where today are preserves four cisterns and the remains of a Roman aqueduct. More recently the undergrounds were used by the population during WWII as shelter from the bombing. The itinerary begins from the stairs leading into the darkness of the undergrounds of the city, and just from the beginning, you can spot the signs of life as dark spot, that people says are the sign of delivery occurred on the same spot during the bombing.
Following on the itinerary you’ll encounter the remains of a cistern and a Roman aqueduct. All around in the tunnel’s walls you will see graffiti, requests for help, prayers and pieces of memories written during war times. My suggestion is to visit Naples underground in the morning and then continue to walk in the historic city center where you can decide to have an ice-cream, a pizza or a coffee in one of the many restaurants and coffee shops available.
New Jesus Square and Immaculate Conception Obelisk
This square is one of Naples' most beautiful. Its peculiarity is that it was never designed as such but was formed after the construction of the surrounding buildings. While walking through the old town is impossible not to come across this beautiful square.
The Baroque style Obelisk of the Immaculate Conception is located in the center of the square and is dating back to the middle of the 17th-century.
The square is enjoyable at every hour of the day and night it’s a popular meeting point for the young Neapolitan who attend the schools of the old town and for the large number of bars and restaurants that characterize it. Among these, the “Hopea caffè 900” a perfect place to taste an excellent coffee or a happy hour.
Saint Domenico Square
Along the way of Spaccanapoli you arrive in one of the most important places of the city: Piazza San Domenico Maggiore. The square was the eastern boundary of the Neapolis Greek walls and takes its name from the church that can be glimpsed behind the obelisk. The square was commissioned by the Spanish king Alfonso I, who also owes the grand staircase to the side of the basilica.
Saint Domenico Maggiore is surrounded by ancient noble palaces and is the crossroads that allows you to reach all the most important monuments of the historical center of Naples and the main alleys that characterize it in all its folklore. At the center of the square is located the obelisk of San Domenico, a sculptural work of Baroque origin and the second taller in the city.
The historic center of Naples is wonderful during the day, with the sun illuminating the city and the traditional open shops reminiscent of a nativity scene, street performers, cheerfulness and singing. The friendliness of Neapolitan during the day drags anyone who visits Naples for the first time. Naples at night instead is charming, eventful and above all always awake and alive. Numerous dining outlets like Sorbillo, Vesi and Da Michele pizzerias coffee stores and bars are open until late night.
A ghost story — Near Saint Domenico Square it was killed the noblewoman Maria D’Avalos from her husband, Prince Charles. The reason for the murder was an illicit affair with the Duke of Andria, Fabrizio Carafa. The legend said that on the nights of full moon it is possible to spot the ghost of the woman screaming and sobbing.
Saint Gregory the Armenian
Saint Gregory the Armenian Street is one of the most amazing street in the city due to the numerous shops with creative nativity scenes located here.
You should definitely visit the street during Christmas time when more than half a million tourists from all the world come to see the shops with the original miniature figurines, not only Jesus, but also of politicians, singers and football players.
A few steps from Saint Gregory are located the best pizzerias in the city.
National Archeological Museum
The National Archeological Museum is one of the most ancient and important museums for the abundance and uniqueness of its heritage and for the contribution it offered the European cultural survey. The origin and the constitution of its collections are connected with Charles III of Bourbon, on the throne of the Kingdom of Naples since 1734, and his cultural policy.
The museum hosts extensive collections of Greek and Roman antiquities. Their core is from the Farnese Collection, which includes a collection of engraved gems (including the Farnese Cup, a Ptolemaic bowl made of sardonyx agate and the most famous piece in the “Treasure of the Magnificent” and is founded upon gems collected by Cosimo de Medici and Lorenzo The Magnificent in the 15th-century) and the Farnese Marbles.
Among the notable works found in the museum are the Herculaneum papyri, carbonized by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, found after 1752 in Villa of the Papyri. With 2,500 objects, the museum has also one of the largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in Italy after the Turin, Florence and Bologna ones. The Hall of the Sundial, is named after the sundial placed on the floor. Designed by Pompeo Schiantarelli, it is made up of a brass strip among marble panels where painted medallions depicting the twelve signs of the zodiac are embedded. At local midday, the sunlight, penetrating the hole placed on the top in the southwestern-corner, falls on the meridian line of the floor, going along it accord to the seasons.
The museum is open until late afternoon, so you can visit it in the early afternoon and have a late dinner with one the best pizza in town at the “Concettina ai tre santi” restaurant.
- Monday to Sunday: 9:00AM — 7:30PM
- Closed on Tuesday
- Standard: €12
- Reduced: €6
- Evening Entry: €2