5 Must-See Naples Neighborhoods and How to Visit
The feisty port city of Naples stretches from the coastline of its eponymous bay to the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, and its vast area and relentless energy can be overwhelming at first glance. Sample the city in smaller bites, exploring one neighborhood at a time to appreciate the unique vibe of each. Here are our picks of the must-sees.
Historic Center (Centro Storico)
The heart of the city.
The pulsating heart of Naples is its historic center, stretching from Castel Nuovo on the bay to the National Archaeological Museum, and from Via Toledo and the Spanish Quarter to the Porta Nolana fish market. This is where the city’s most important historic and cultural sights are concentrated, beginning with the Spaccanapoli thoroughfare and ending with the San Carlo Theater (Teatro di San Carlo) and Plebiscite Square (Piazza Plebiscito). The focal point of the centro storico is New Jesus Square (Piazza del Gesù Nuovo), home to the New Jesus Church (Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo) and Church of Santa Chiara, with the artisan shops of Via San Gregorio Armeno nearby.
Spanish Quarter (Quartieri Spagnoli)
A glimpse into real Neopolitan life.
To get a feel of an authentic Neapolitan neighborhood, stroll through the Quartieri Spagnoli on the edge of the historic center. This warren of narrow lanes, thick with shops open to the street and lines of colorful laundry flapping above, is wedged between Via Toledo and the San Martino hill. Neighbors have animated conversations between balconies, housewives lower baskets on a rope from upper-floor windows to haul up the day’s shopping, kids kick soccer balls in the street, and mopeds roar by day and night. In addition to its gloriously gruff charm, the neighborhood is home to the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli and Palazzo Serra di Cassano.
Santa Lucia and Borgo Marinari
Seafood fans won't want to miss these villages.
Today these two historic fishing hamlets are home to more yachts than nets, but locals and visitors alike enjoy walking along pedestrian-only Via Mazzuro Sauro and Via Partenope to enjoy the view across the bay toward Capri. The time-capsule atmosphere is particularly charming across the bridge in Borgo Marinari, the tiny islet that is home to a clutch of historic buildings at the base of Castel dell’Ovo, many now home to excellent fish and seafood eateries that are delightfully romantic at night.
Striking views and excellent art.
Getting to the elegant hilltop neighborhood of Vomero is half the fun, as the easiest way to climb the hillside is with the Funicolare Centrale. This historic cable railway has been transporting passengers from the historic center to Piazza Vanvitelli in the heart of Vomero since 1928. Once at the top, you can take in the tiny shops and restaurants, as well as enjoy bird’s-eye views stretching over the city rooftops to the bay. The most striking sight in Vomero is the massive Certosa di San Marino, a former monastery that is now a museum dedicated to Naples’ art and history from the 15th to the 19th century.
Swanky vibes and archaeological appeal.
Catch the scenic funicular from the Mergellina neighborhood to the top of Posillipo Hill, one of the most well-to-do neighborhoods in Naples. Meander past beautiful villas, landmark restaurants, and luxury shops and boutiques to savor the view across the bay to Mt. Vesuvius. Halfway down the hillside, the Posillipo Archaeological Park beckons with remains of an ancient Roman villa and theater directly over the coast, accessed through the Grotta di Seiano tunnel.