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Italy’s most theatrical city, an open air museum of Greco-Roman ruins, baroque churches, and vibrant natives. Spaccanapoli, that splits through the historic center, is a perfect starting point, with stops at the Church of Gesu Novu, Santa Chiara Cloisters, and Cappella Sansevero to see the amazing veiled Christ sculpture.
Extraordinary museums include the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale, where sculptures, mosaics, and frescos from ancient villas are displayed, and the Capodimonte, for decorative arts and paintings by such greats as Titian and Caravaggio. Also, don’t miss a step back in time to Napoli’s elegant 18th century days with a tour of the Royal Palace.
Napoli’s most unique shopping experience is on Via Gregorio Armeno, home to the traditional art of presepe (nativity scenes)—where you can pick up everything from angels to figurines of popular political figures. Of the many stores, Ferrigno, a family run workshop that’s been in business since 1836, is tops.
For fashion, Via Toledo is Napoli’s main shopping spot for mid-range brands and specialty shops, including Talarico, for extraordinary umbrellas. Toledo leads to luxurious Via Chiaia, where you’ll find glamorous boutiques such as Marinella (for ties) and Tramontano for leather goodies.
There’s an array of open markets all over the city, where you can score clothing and accessories for bargains. Outstanding are the easily accessible and huge Porta Nolana (near Garibaldi station, daily, mornings, also features fab fish displays), Mercato di Poggioreale (Friday-Sunday mornings, loads of shoe stalls) and the chic Posillipo Market (Thursday mornings, for designer clothing).
Naples is the birthplace of such Italian classics as pizza and spaghetti sauced with ragu (tomato/meat sauce), prepared to perfection all over town, and there are also plentiful seafood offerings. Pricey Da Dora is worth it for fish specialties, served with soulful guitar serenades (reservations essential). Also in the upper price range is Ciro a Santa Brigida, for excellently prepared classics. Less expensive, with delightful outdoor seating, is Ristorante Bellini, that serves a fantastic linguine with seafood baked in parchment. And for a casual lunch, the boisterous, family run Trattoria da Nennella or Cantina di Via Sapienza, offer delicious menus that change according to what’s in season. Stellar pizzerias abound in Spaccanapoli, with the local’s favorite being Sorbillo.
For a typical Neapolitan snack (baked pasta, cheese or meat filled tarts), head to L.U.I.S.E., or if you want something sweeter, chocolate and fab gelato are to be found at Gay Odin. Both of these places are conveniently located in Napoli’s major shopping areas.
Save room for extraordinary pastries—sfogliatelle (seashell shaped, ricotta-filled, served warm) or rum soaked babas are divine at Scartuchio.
Splurge for a cocktail at Gran Caffe Gambrinus, (from 1860), an ultra-elegant spot, often featuring live music in the backroom or an orchestra to entertain outside tables. Popular wine bars fill the Chiaia neighborhood, including the welcoming Enoteca Belledonne.
Piazzas in the historic center are packed with fun drinking spots, particularly Piazza Bellini, where choices range from the cozy Intra Moenia, to the St. James and Internet Bar, both great for beer. A quieter place nearby is Perditempo, a used book and record store/caffe. If you’re up for mixing it up with the young fashionable set to drink Mojitos, head to Grooming in Vomero.
For old world luxury, Grand Hotel Vesuvio (on the Santa Lucia waterfront) or Parker’s (perched hillside) are grand choices—both have spas and exquisite restaurants. If you’d rather walk out your door and be steps away from the main attractions and best trattorias in town, there are many 3-star options in the historic center, including the Chiaia Hotel de Charme–a restored 18th century Palazzo, the Hotel Il Convento–in the lively Spanish Quarter, and the Decumani Hotel de Charme—a Spaccanapoli bishop’s residence that’s been modernized. B&Bs are plentiful and two of the best are in the Spanish Quarter: Maria Mari and I Fiori di Napoli, featuring cozy rooms and extraordinary hosts who are enthusiastic about sharing “their Naples” with guests.
A sunset or Sunday afternoon stroll along the Lungomare (waterfront) from Santa Lucia to Mergellina is sublime, particularly if you stop at Chalet Ciro for a splendido gelato. Or extending from the Chiaia zona is Villa Comunale, a lovely landscaped promenade surrounded by fountains, and further up you can enjoy the terraced gardens and monuments of Parco Virgiliano.
A peaceful oasis for families is the Parco del Poggio di Capidomonte, set on a hillside with great views, a lake, and playground. Alternatively, a fascinating time can be had walking through Underground Naples, exploring the Greco-Roman ruins and WWII air raid shelter that lies beneath the historic center.
Ferry away to the enchanting island of Capri, to stroll through the Gardens of Augustus or tour the magical Blue Grotto. Or boat to Ischia, an island famous for thermal baths, where Negombo spa awaits.
A trip on the Circumvesuviana train to discover the ancient ruins of Herculaneum, Oplontis, or Pompeii, is a fantastic experience to wander amidst remains of opulent villas, admiring colorful mosaics and frescos that survived Mount Vesuvio’s 79 AD eruption. For an energetic adventure, go to the Parco Nazionale del Vesuvio, where you can hike to the top of the volcano’s crater, weather permitting.
Naples offers all styles of top quality music. The gorgeous Teatro San Carlo (built in 1737) offers opera, symphonies, and dance. Classical music can also be enjoyed at Centro di Musica Antica Pieta di Turchini (in a deconsecrated church) and the Associazione Scarlatti presents chamber music concerts in venues throughout the city.
Bluestone Club is beloved by jazz fans, and Goodfellas is a great pub for rock and rollers.
S’Move is one of Napoli’s hottest clubs for dance music, and in summer, the disco scene on the waterfront at L’Arenile di Bagnoli is spectacular.
Becoming paranoid about Napoli’s reputation for crime. Things have vastly improved in recent years, though it’s still wise to guard your valuables as you would in any large city, and if you get into a taxi, pre-negotiate an estimated fare with the driver and be sure the meter works.