Compared to Rome, Venice, Milan, and Florence, Naples, Italy's third-largest city, is less expensive but no less magnificent. Incredibly rich in art and history, la dolce vita is alive and well in Naples yet within reach for travelers on a limited budget.
Many of the best things to see and do here are free and can be found in the walkable historic center, a Unesco World Heritage site. Dining out is cheaper here in the city that invented pizza, too, and the street food is affordable and unforgettable. Here are ten don't-miss Naples' experiences that cost next to nothing.
Explore Naples Centro Storico, a Unesco World Heritage site
Naples Centro Storico (historic center) is a Unesco World Heritage site. It's easy — and delightful — to get lost among its bustling, narrow streets. Grab a bite to eat from one of the many street food vendors, step inside a tiny artisan workshop to see traditional craftspeople at work, or visit one of the many famous churches here, including the circa 1470 Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo and the Cappella Sansevero, renowned for its marble sculpture by Giuseppe Sanmartino, the Veiled Christ.
Catch a free concert at the Piazza del Plebiscito
Piazza del Plebiscito is the largest piazza in Naples and one of the largest in Italy. Construction of the Vesuvian volcanic rock-paved piazza began in 1809 as a tribute to Emperor Napoleon. The circa 1600 Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) and the neoclassical Basilica di San Francesco di Paola face the massive square, while a monument to Charles VII of Naples (later Charles III of Spain) stands at its center.
The piazza often hosts free concerts and other cultural events: check the city's calendar of events to see what's on during your stay.
See the history of Naples unfold in San Lorenzo Maggiore
Located at the exact geographic center of the historic ancient Greek-Roman city Neápolis, San Lorenzo Maggiore is Naples's oldest basilica. The city's history unfolds in the basilica's details: the façade features a wooden door that dates back to the 14th century, the bell tower rose in the 15th-century, and Marco Pino's Adoration of the Magi was painted in the mid-16th century. Don't forget to head beneath the market to an ancient marketplace, the only large-scale Greek-Roman site excavated in Naples' Centro Storico.
Enjoy a peaceful moment among the citrus fruit trees and majolica tiled columns of Santa Chiara
Built between 1313 and 1340 by Queen Sancha of Majorca and her husband King Robert of Naples, the Santa Chiara monastic complex includes the Baroque-style Basilica di Santa Chiara, tombs, and an archeological museum. Stroll the complex's peaceful garden, the cloister of the Clarisses, with its many citrus fruit trees and majolica-tiled columns and pergolas.
Catch a breath of fresh air at Villa Floridiana
Enjoy a morning or afternoon stroll through the many oaks, pines, palms, and cypresses that dot the neoclassical gardens surrounding Villa Floridiana, a 19th century Bourbon palace built atop Vomero Hill, an affluent neighborhood known for its luxury boutiques. At the rear of the Villa, breathtaking views of the Gulf of Naples await. The Villa itself houses the National Museum of Ceramics, home to one of the most comprehensive collections of Italian ceramics, where entry costs less than 5 euros.
Celebrate the Italian passeggiata tradition by strolling the Lungomare, Naples’ seaside promenade
The passeggiata is a time-honored Italian tradition that calls for a stroll in the evening, usually after dinner. A casual social event, the passeggiata is a moment when friends spontaneously meet up, when lovers walk hand in hand, when kids are treated to a gelato by mom and dad. Naples Lungomare, a promenade situated along the Mediterranean Sea, is perhaps the most popular place for the evening passeggiata. Stroll the Lungomare to see the busy Naples port and admire the many ships that dock in the harbor.
Step inside the Duomo di Napoli, the church that houses a vial of Saint Gennaro's legendary blood
The Duomo di Napoli, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, is the main Roman Catholic church of Naples and the seat of the Archbishop of Naples. Built upon the foundations of two early Christian basilicas, the church is a complex mix of architectural styles from several eras. The church is widely known among locals as the church of San Gennaro, the patron of Naples, and a chapel dedicated to the saint is lined with frescoes by the best artists of the Baroque Neapolitan movement. The chapel also holds a vial of the blood of San Gennaro, which is brought out three times a year when the dried blood usually liquefies. If the blood fails to liquefy, legend states that disaster is imminent.
Enjoy splendid vistas of the Bay of Naples from the Castel dell'Ovo, Naples' seafront "Egg Castle"
Naples' seafront "Egg Castle" is the oldest standing fortification in Naples. Legend states that the Roman poet Virgil put a magical egg into the foundation. Built by the Normans in the 12th century, it has housed a fortress, a royal palace, and a prison throughout its long history. While the castle itself is closed, you can stroll the tiny island that it stands on for jaw-dropping vistas of the Gulf of Naples with Mount Vesuvius looming in the distance.
Stop and smell the flowers at the Orto Botanico di Napoli (Botanical Garden of Naples)
Founded in 1810 by Joseph Bonaparte and Prince Joachim Murat, the Orto Botanico di Napoli (Botanical Garden of Naples) is always free. The colorful, 30-acre gardens are home to exotic plants from all over the world, including an extensive succulent and cacti collection. The site doubles as a research facility of the University of Naples. Stop and smell the many lovely flowers that call the garden's varied, inspired landscapes, including a Mediterranean beach, a mountaintop, and a desert, home.
Catch some rays at the beach
Though Naples is not typically considered a resort destination, there are a few spots where you can enjoy a lovely day at the beach. The volcanic rock Scoglione di Marchiaro (Marechiaro Cliffs), located just off the coast in Naples' Posillipo neighborhood, can only be reached by boat, with boats departing round the clock from the Marechiaro Port. A stand rents sunbeds, which can be set up along the rocky cliff, where enchanting views await.
For a more centrally located beach, the Rotunda Diaz is a small stretch of beach located along the city's downtown lungomare (waterfront). Catch a couple of hours of sunshine, take a quick swim to cool off from the summer heat, or enjoy a cold beer and dip your toes in the sea.