A local’s guide | One day in Naples

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

One day in Naples - a view of the gulf of Naples with Mount Vesuvius in the background

Naples is a very popular port for the best cruise ships, as well as one of the most loved stops for the cruisers interested in foodie tours to taste the traditional Neapolitan dishes. I know it for a fact: during my recent European cruise on the Norwegian Epic, I had the chance to spend one day in Naples, just like a tourist. Because I love my city and I always write so much about it, I was asked by several fellow cruisers to be their guide. When I got back I decided to write the same itinerary on this blog: if you don’t have enough time, exploring using tips from a local can be the perfect way to experience the city. There are so many things to do in Naples, so let me help you with an easy to follow itinerary!

 

 

While so many decide to stop for one of the several Pompeii tours that the cruise ships offer once they disembark at Naples port (I’ve got you covered: you don’t need to book an expensive tour to visit, check out my Pompeii guide for a self guided tour), others were wondering if they could see Naples in a day. Of course it’s not ideal, I always suggest people to plan at least three or four days to visit Naples, using our public transport and enjoying the Art Stations of the Naples Metro, to experience even the less touristy areas like Christmas Alley at via San Gregorio Armeno, but if you only have one day in Naples because you’re on a cruise or in the middle of a road trip in Italy, then let me show you in detail all the things to see with this free walking tour of Naples (so you won’t have to buy a very expensive tour with a travel agency)! Of course this tour is doable also if you spend the whole weekend in my city: if you have a couple of days I’d suggest you find lodging in Naples Via Medina, which is also close to the harbor!

In case you are visiting Naples in winter, know that our Christmas decorations are lovely!

On this trip I also had the “pleasure” to meet a British journalist who was adamant that us girls didn’t have to disembark in Naples. She was absolutely sure that my city is very unsafe for female travelers and that I was lying in telling everyone that they could explore on their own. Please, don’t be that kind of person.

Naples is a very safe city, whether you are visiting with your family or on your own.

 

One day in Naples - Map of the self walked itinerary
A map of your free walking tour of Naples from Molo Beverello to Via Toledo

One day in Naples: start at Naples port “Molo Beverello”

The starting point of our walking tour of Naples is the harbor, shown on the above map as “Molo Beverello” (you could be a bit closer to the city than that, but it depends from your cruise ship or from your starting point). This is also where you have to head to in case you’re planning to hop on a ferry to visit Capri island. Whether you arrive from one of the great cruise ships or not, getting there isn’t difficult. Public transport in Naples is in fact easy to use. From the Central Station in Piazza Garibaldi, several buses, trams and metros get to the Molo Beverello area. In this case you might want to buy a daily ticket for unlimited rides. The TIC Napoli Giornaliero is a ticket that will cost you 4.50€, saving you a lot of hassle. You can buy it at every station, and at several newsstands in Naples. Yet let me remind you that this is a free walking tour of Naples, that I specifically created so you won’t have to walk too much to get from one point to the other (and to explore on the cheap). Buy a daily ticket only if you are staying in a different part of Naples (other than the harbor). Naples sightseeing while walking is one of the best parts of exploring my city. If you follow this guide, the top things to do in Naples will just fall into your lap, so you will stop now and then for a sweet break or to take some pictures. Of course, if you are too tired, you can count on public transport to get back to your cruise ship or to your hotel. In this case I’d suggest you buy an hourly ticket (TIC Napoli Orario) at only 1.60€. Remember that you won’t be able to use the hourly tickets on the buses to Mount Vesuvius!

 

 

From the harbor you will immediately notice the unmistakable shape of the castle Maschio Angioino, “Castel Nuovo”, which dominates the scenic Piazza Municipio. It was built between 1279 and 1284 by Charles I of Anjou, and has hosted important figures as Giotto, Petrarch and Boccaccio over the years. The Palatine Chapel, which is today the seat of the Civic Museum, is still intact. According to the legends, in the underground prisons of this castle there was a huge crocodile that fed on the prisoners who had earned a death sentence: of course there never was a crocodile in Naples, but the prisoners were still terrified of being sentenced “to death” (by the crocodile)!

One day in Naples - Maschio Angioino castle (Castel Nuovo)
You can read about the other castle in Naples “Castel dell’Ovo” in my article for Helene in Between!

 

One day in Naples: Royal Palace and San Carlo Theatre

Walk past the Town Hall and you will find one of the most beautiful fountains in Naples: the Fountain of  Neptune, recently restored and absolutely breathtaking. I’m guessing that you’re also looking for instagrammable places to share the Naples must see with your friends and followers. This is one of those places. It’s worth spending some time here to relax, eat Italian gelato or drink some Neapolitan coffee and take some pictures.

When you’re ready to go, take the promenade along the Maschio Angioino: right next to it you will find the Royal Palace of Naples. Designed in 1600 by Domenico Fontana and completed, among others, by Luigi Vanvitelli, it was the residence of the Spanish viceroes for over one hundred and fifty years. Today it’s home to the National Library (now you know why I always had an excuse to study at the library in stead than at home). If you think you have enough time (plan wisely what to do in Naples beforehand: if you want to shop and take pictures you might not have time to visit museums and historical buildings), you can visit the Royal Apartments and the gardens. The view from the gardens is beautiful and one of the highlights of the visit is the ladder of honor. The ticket will cost you only 4€ and it doesn’t include the exhibitions that may take place inside at the time of your visit.

One day in Naples - The inside of San Carlo Theater in Naples
Image by Teatro San Carlo
Inside the Royal Palace of Naples you will be able to see the small court theater. It is very nice but as much as I like it, it’s nothing compared to the San Carlo Theatre. This is one of the most famous lyric theaters in the world, the oldest still active (even older than Teatro alla Scala in Milan!). Founded in 1737, in the past it had a seating capacity of 3.285 people, later reduced to 1386. Given its size, structure and importance, several other theaters tried to copy its style during the years. Nowadays this is the preferred stage in Italy for many lyric singers and famous stage actors.
There is nothing in all Europe, I won’t say comparable to this theatre, but which gives the slightest idea of what it is like…, it dazzles the eyes, it enraptures the soul… (Stendhal)
Tickets for the auditorium and the balconies are absolutely affordable and the big names on the billboard make them very appealing (in fact they are often sold out). If you decide spend more time in Naples, have a look at their official website: you could definitely add a night out at an historical theater to your list of things to do!
One day in Naples - Galleria Umberto I with its luxury shops
The Galleria Umberto I in Naples is full of shops, cafes and restaurants

One day in Naples: Galleria Umberto I and sfogliatella break

To step inside Galleria Umberto I you just have to cross the street from the San Carlo Theater. In front of the entrance (one of 4 entrances, actually) there’s a popular bus stop and several taxis. The covered gallery dates back to the eighteenth century, and in 1896 it was chosen as the location of the first movie theater in Naples, in which they showed the Lumière brothers movies. For more than 50 years the highlight of Galleria Umberto I was the “sciuscià“, the shoe-shiners: it was common practice that wealthy men went there to have their shoes cleaned.

Over the years, the Galleria has never lost the title of Naples’ world center, and has been “modernized” thanks to the arrival of a number of stores that make it particularly appealing to the shopping enthusiasts. On the second floor of the main side there is a coral museum, but then again, because you don’t have much time and there are lots of things to see in Naples, unless you are a coral enthusiast, I think you can skip this small museum.

Galleria Umberto I is the perfect place for a sweet treat. Next to the exit overlooking Via Toledo, you will find a tiny pastry shop, Sfogliatella Mary, where they sell probably the best sfogliatella in Naples. Sfogliatella is the sweet symbol of Naples together with the babà with rum (which you will also find, in many different versions, at this tiny shop). Whether it’s the shortcrust pastry (sfogliatella frolla) or crunchy (sfogliatella riccia) version, it will be served hot, fragrant and irresistible, for less than 2€. During my university years, Sfogliatella Mary was a mandatory stop for me and my friends, almost every day! Another delicious pastry they often have is “Santa Rosa“. It’s like a sfogliatella, topped with custard and cherries in syrup. This is a pastry which originated in one of the towns on the Amalfi Coast.
In case you’re buying a sfogliatella to go, as you do at Mary’s, there’s no need to apply the tipping guidelines for Italy. You should do it in case you sit at a table or you have a coffee.
Let me also add that the queue is never a problem here: they are very quick and you won’t have to wait too long!

One day in Naples - The world famous Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscito is one of Naples must see

 

One day in Naples: Piazza del Plebiscito

After our delicious sweet break, we can finally walk towards Piazza del Plebiscito.

It is the most famous square in Naples, located in the heart of the city. It overlooks the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola, the Royal Palace, the Palace of the Prefecture and the Salerno Palace. The area is pedestrian and thus you can walk around and take as many pictures as you want. Tourists and locals love to take pictures of the statues of the Kings of Naples in the eight niches built by Vanvitelli, or the majestic equestrian statues of Charles III and Ferdinand I built by Canova: you won’t have to pay a ticket to see them!

In this square there are often musical shows and concerts (including the magnificent Bruce Springsteen concert on May 23, 2013: it was raining hard and yet we all had so much fun!) and artistic installations, especially during the holiday season. Many music videos, tv shows and movies have been filmed here.

 

One day in Naples - View of the Gambrinus Café near Piazza del Plebiscito
Gambrinus Café is where you want to go if you want to meet politicians or celebrities

One day in Naples: art and espresso

From Piazza del Plebiscito you can also take some beautiful pictures of the Gulf of Naples, walk along Via Chiaia… or stop for a coffee. Espresso, of course!
Espresso coffee in Naples is almost like a ritual. Hot cup, inebriating aroma, a cookie or some chocolate (dark!), together with a glass of water that you have to drink before your espresso.

The Gambrinus is a historic café, opened in 1860. During the Belle Epoque its golden rooms were filled with artists and writers who wanted to attend the Café Chantant in a liberal and modern setting. Today it looks like an art gallery, where you can easily meet important politicians or celebrities. However, espresso coffee at Gambrinus might be a bit expensive, since the price is far higher than that of the nearby bars. That’s why I suggest to move over to the next one, a tiny cafe called Bar del Professore. This tiny bar, with its walls covered with photographs of the celebrities who have had coffee here, is less classy than the Gambrinus, but it’s also the Neapolitan response to Starbucks. Not only espresso, but so many delicious variations on the theme, with white chocolate, hazelnuts, pistachio and many more (with far better results than the American colossus… did I mention that espresso here is a ritual?)!

One day in Naples - Via Toledo, the shopping street in Naples, at sunset
Via Toledo is one of the most famous shopping hubs in Naples

One day in Naples: Via Toledo

The last stop of your free walking tour of Naples is Via Toledo. One of the main arteries in Naples, famous among the shopping addicted, was commissioned by the Viceroy Pedro Alvarez de Toledo in 1536. Once the traffic here was overwhelming, but today this is a pedestrian area that intersects historic buildings, noble palaces, churches, banks and boutiques. The Toledo Metro station has been nominated by The Daily Telegraph as the most beautiful in Europe, also confirmed by CNN. This station has won countless awards all over the world and definitely deserves a visit. It has a marine theme, and travelers are greeted with classical music, blue and white lights, and mosaics that make them feel like they are walking under the sea.

From Via Toledo the fastest way to return to the port is to cross the Galleria Umberto I again, or to cut through Via S. Giacomo (not far from the Desigual store), thus arriving directly to Piazza Municipio.

If you still have a couple of hours, you can add a visit to the historic city center and “Christmas Alley” to this itinerary. Via San Gregorio Armeno, where the artisans build presepi with ancient techniques, is open every day of the year! Naples also offers some of the most romantic places to go in Italy, where many decide to propose, from all over the world!

 

From Naples you can plan a day trip to the Amalfi Coast, to explore all the best beaches along the most famous Italian coast and enjoy the best of our Country!

 

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The very best self guided, walking tour of Naples (Italy) written from a local in love with her hometown! Useful also if you're disembarking in Naples during a European cruise, this guide will help you to make the most out of your trip to Napoli. Doable by everyone and easy to follow, it is a loop tour with the best sights, including a few goodies. Like the best shop to buy sfogliatella or the most instagrammable spots! | #Naples #Italy #Europe

68 Comments

  1. Diane from Boston

    I was so excited with your article on Naples. I have been there twice on tour and only get to spend the afternoon. In June we went to Gambrinus Cafe and a little shopping on (I think) Via Toledo. We are going back late September 2019 on our own and am thrilled to spend a few days in Naples. It reminds me so much of my neighborhood where I grew up. Thank you so much for your information!

    1. Ciao Diane! I’m SO glad you liked your trips to Naples! If you’ve been to Gambrinus Cafe and then walked around (I talked about Gambrinus recently in my article on Neapolitan coffee) then it’s definitely Via Toledo. It’s the oldest shopping street in Napoli, with all the fancy shops and the very old ones! I’m also happy to know you’re coming back, yay! Many people don’t realize how many things Naples can offer so they never tend to stay for a few days… and end up regretting it! Do you already have plans for your September 2019 trip?

  2. Himanshu

    This is my second post on your blog and loving it. You have fully developed the art of preparing itinerary. I am more into history and heritage and Naples seems a perfect destination for me. I would love to explore royal palace some day. Naples looks like an open art gallery. Have bookmarked your blog for future ref.

    1. Aw thank you! I’m very glad you’re enjoying the blog! I’m trying to provide useful information so I’m always adding to my articles the things I look for when I’m getting ready for a new trip. As for Naples, I live there so I’m very biased: I’m in love with my city! It has so much to offer, stay tuned for more articles but I’m not done with Naples, the Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast 😉

      1. Ilana

        I fell upon your guide as I was looking for information about a Naples port day while I will be ther by cruise in a few months. It was a very interesting read.

        I am torn… we would love to visit Sorrento but I would also love to take a couple of hours and roam the streets of Naples. I feel like both can`t be done (on a cruise day). Am I wrong?

        Thanks!!

        1. Ciao! I’m glad you found it interesting, I love to write about my city! Actually it takes about 45 minutes to get to Sorrento, so you also have to consider that! If you spend the day to Sorrento you will probably get tired (especially in summer as here it’s very hot) and if you also have to get ready for dinner once you’re back, I don’t think you’d have enough time to walk around Naples! So if you want to do a self guided tour of Naples like this one (no need to pay the cruise company), you can just walk around, with no hurry at all, maybe do some shopping in Via Toledo, try the real pizza, (here you can find a list of places where the locals eat in Naples) eat some gelato (again, it will be hot!) and get back to the ship in the late afternoon. Otherwise you can opt to pay for a trip to Sorrento with the cruise company, but unfortunately the two of them can’t be done together…
          If you ask for my opinion I’d say visit a bit of Naples on your port day and then plan a different trip, on another occasion, to see Sorrento, the Amalfi Coast and maybe also Capri. All of those are closer together so you can do them all in less than a week!

  3. Kavita Favelle

    I have only been to Naples once and it was long before I refined my research and pre-trip planning so we didn’t see a lot of the sights in your local’s guide. Now I need to go back, especially for Piazza del Plebiscito, which we somehow missed, though at least we did see the Castel!

    1. Of course! If you’d like to visit the South (the weather is very nice in Spring, already warm enough to tan) you can include Naples, Pompeii, a hike on the Vesuvius and the Amalfi Coast as well, in your itinerary. There’s not enough time to see the rest but consider that Rome is just 2 hours away by car and 1 via fast train, so you can easily add also Naples and the rest if you visit Rome! Check out the “Italy” menu on the blog, I have a few articles that I think might interest you, including one on the Art Metro in Naples 🙂

  4. Marissa

    The San Carlo Theatre looks like it’s straight out of a movie! I’d love to see a performance there and imagine how life was back in the 1700s. Having espresso outside on the patio while people watching also sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon in Naples.

  5. Catherine

    I really enjoyed reading about Naples! When visiting other Italian cities, I particularly enjoyed the Italian piazzas. This will have to be on my next trip to Italy, and I definitely won’t pass up the opportunity to poke around that shopping district.

  6. Alli

    Espresso in Italy! How amazing. The Italians in Toronto refer to it as “Espress!” “Can I get you some espress?” Haha! I sadly missed out on Naples when I was in Italy, but this guide is fantastic for those who are short on time in the area. I would love to return and travel here!

    1. That’s awesome, I had no idea! Are the Italians in Toronto from the South? There was a huge number of people who left Italy to move to the US or Canada, most of them from the South. I even happened to met a man in Idaho Falls who had been living next door to my grandma until he was 11 so when I met him in the middle of nowhere I was like… what? Meeting someone from your own little city on the other side of the globe is always awesome!

  7. Jenna

    We’ve been to Italy but haven’t made it to Naples yet. We really need to get there sometime for sure! Really looks like a great city. Castel Nuovo is really pretty and the San Carlo Theatre is gorgeous—I love how grand it looks! And can’t resist the espresso in Italy either—so many great suggestions!

  8. Megan Jerrard

    A great guide to 24 hours – we spent 5 days, and used Naples as a base for day trips into the surrounds, but I think we could have definitely fit in our exploration of the city itself into a day. As you’ve said though, more is probably required if you want to check out the non touristy parts of the city.

    I think I spent the majority of my time jumping between resturants because the food was so good lol as opposed to seeing the actual city.
    Would love to head back and visit the Royal Palace and San Carlo Theatre – that theatre is stunning!

  9. Sandy N Vyjay

    Naples is a place that seems to retain its old world charm. We would love to visit Naples next time we are in those parts. Till now our Italian adventures have been restricted to Venice, Florence, and Rome. I love the look of the Galleria Umberto. So fascinating to know that the Lumiere Brothers movie was screened here.

  10. Carol Perehudoff

    What a great guide. My husband and I are thinking of visiting Ischia, so Naples will be on our list. I love Giotto, so anything in his footsteps like the Castel Nuovo would be great to see. That’s so weird about the crocodile!

    1. Ischia is SO beautiful! We have friends who have a house there and thus we visit often! Capri is also a tiny little beauty, so I’m sure you’ll have lots of fun! Unless you have booked already, plan at least a couple of days in Naples, especially in the summer, so you can enjoy also a romantic night walk on Lungomare Caracciolo near the sea 😉

  11. Jas

    Hmm seems like most people only visit Naples for a day eh. I used to think there’d be so much to do that one day isn’t enough but looking at your itinerary, it seems perfect! And you’d think tickets at such a fancy theater would be expensive but no. Will definitely be adding night out at a historical theater to my list of things to do!

    1. Yep they do, unless they use it as a base to explore the surrounding area or if they decide to stay for some nice sun’n’sea. Naples is a city packed with monuments and things to do, so my opinion is that if you only have one day you can see this chunk of things as they are all on the same walking itinerary, but it’s better to stay for a few days longer, as I’ve stated in the article, so you can see the many faces of Naples 🙂

  12. Kiyoko

    I never feel like I have enough time in a particular place, so thanks for giving me the “here’s-what-to-do-when-short-on-time.” Good way to make sure I hit all the highlights. The Castel dell’Ovo would be a must for me.

  13. Damien McGuigan

    I was in Naples many years ago, mainly as a gateway to the surrounding area I’m afraid, but your photos bring back memories of walking the streets, especially Galleria Umberto and Piazza del Plebiscito (I had forgotten that I was there!).

  14. Julien Mordret

    I have been to Naples twice before and I really loved its atmosphere and narriw streets. I have beautiful memories of the Galeria Umberto I. I did not know the story about the crocodile, that’s interesting! I’m happy to learn a little something new 🙂

  15. Kavita Favelle

    Your cruise friends were sooo fortunate to have you on their trip and for you to be their personal guide to the best of Naples within a short time! I’m saving for when I next visit!

  16. Kerri

    Could it get any better? Imagine being able to have you as a personal guide whilst being part of a cruise! They would have thought they’d found a pot of gold! I’m so sorry we skipped by Naples when we were last down that way. There was (of all things) a garbage truck strike going on and it was causing issues in the city and it was gridlocked and we simply couldn’t get off the motorway. We ended up going to Sicily instead. I’d be right at home in the Piazza probably drinking prosecco :0 or eating sfogliatella which I just love.

    1. I remember that time, the garbage strike I mean! It happened many years ago, and while the city has completely changed, so many people still believe it’s a thing, while, on the contrary, Naples is now much more clean than cities like Rome or Milan, for example! Come and see, you won’t regret it 🙂

  17. Robert K Volk

    Dany, Your blog and the writeups about your home town Naples
    are just superb! We have spent time in northern Italy, particularly Lago di Como but we need to come to Naples!
    Ciao,
    Jenny & Bob Volk
    Sarasota, FL.

    1. Ciao Jenny and Bob!!! Thank you so much for writing! I’m glad you liked my article: I’m in love with my region and I’m always trying to lure peoplehere! 🙂 I’m sure you’d have fun in the Naples area! Do let me know if you decide to plan a trip here! Grazie!

  18. Castel Nuovo sounds amazing as does the rest of Naples actually. Having spent an enormous amount of time in Italy, it's probably time I stopped avoiding Naples. Have driven past it, enroute to Sicily but never stopped in. Thanks for sharing some of the highlights of your home town!

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