Naples, the third-largest city in Italy, is the regional capital of Campania. This city has a rich, complex history that you can readily enjoy by getting out there and visiting the neighborhoods, basilicas, parks, streets, and museums.
If you’re looking for free things to do in Naples, you will find there’s plenty to see and do.
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If you’re using the metro to get around Naples, plan to take a trip on Metro dell’Arte. Sixteen Metro stations along lines 1 and 6 feature permanent and temporary art exhibits – it’s like going on a fast art crawl. Simply step on and off at different stations to view the artwork up close.
Featuring roughly 180 art pieces created by over 100 artists, both local and international, this may be the most visually exciting metro ride you’ll ever take.
For example, Museo Station (line 1) features ancient artifacts discovered when the station was under construction. Whereas Università Station, on the other hand, features colorful full-scale artwork meant to symbolize the digital age.
MADRE (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina)
Located in the heart of Naples, the MADRE (Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina) Museum of Contemporary Art is free to visitors every Monday. The museum, which spans three floors, is housed in the Palazzo Donnaregina and features contemporary artists’ works.
This museum has extensive exhibition space, a library, a bookshop, and a cafeteria. Spend the day learning about the Campania region’s history through this museum’s extensive art collections and exhibits.
The museum continually updates its exhibits frequently so you can see something new each time you visit.
The MADRE is conveniently located close to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale, the Duomo di Napoli, and the Accademia di Belle Arti. You can also walk to the San Lorenzo district.
San Lorenzo Maggiore
One of Naples’s oldest basilicas, San Lorenzo Maggiore, is located in Naples’ historic center. Due to constant rebuilding and remodeling over many centuries, this basilica features an eclectic mix of Franciscan and French Gothic architecture. The basilica has a single nave surrounded by chapels, an apse, and 23 side chapels.
Some of the unique architectural details of San Lorenzo Maggiore include the Baroque façade of San Felice completed in 1742, a wooden door attached to the façade dating back to the 14th century, a 15th-century bell tower, Marco Pino‘s Adoration of the Magi, created in the mid-16th century, and numerous fresco’s from the 14th century.
Located underneath the church is an ancient outdoor market called the Macellum of Naples, first constructed during the 4th or 5th century. A mudslide covered the Macellum during the 5th century, which led to the building of a Christian basilica on top of it.
Visit the San Lorenzo Museum, which occupies three floors above the courtyard, to learn more about this site and its rich, quirky history.
The Duomo di Napoli
Similar to San Lorenzo Maggiore, the Duomo di Napoli, also known as the Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary, is a Roman Catholic cathedral and the main church of Naples. This church is a complex mix of various cultural styles that create a unique sightseeing experience.
You can learn more about Naples’ rich history by walking through this church to see the spiritual, cultural, political, and religious influences.
Stop by the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, which houses a variety of artwork, including Baroque frescoes as well as two vials of the patron saint’s coagulated blood.
When you need to take a break from sightseeing, consider heading to Villa Floridiana, a monumental house built-in 1817-19 on Vomero Hill, located in a large park next to Chiaia, an affluent neighborhood known for its luxury shops.
Walk along one of many scenic paths to the back of the house to take in breathtaking views of the Gulf of Naples. Enjoy some refreshments, have a seat, or take a leisurely stroll through this park.
While on your walk, you will discover various foliage that includes cypress, pines, palms, planted oaks, and flowers. Along the way, you will see many Roman and Ionian ruins (these are fake but still historically representative) and other impressive architecture, including columns, pillars, and the Verzura Theater, a small amphitheater.
Located inside Villa Floridiana is Museo Duca di Martina, also known as the National Museum of Ceramics, Naples. Since 1931, this museum has housed some of Italy’s most important collections of decorative art.
San Gregorio Armeno
Take a stroll down San Gregorio Armeno to see local artists at work crafting statues, figurines, and other artwork inspired by Neapolitan nativity scenes.
Famous worldwide for artists who make shepherds for the crib, San Gregorio Armeno is a great place to shop for unique artwork, grab a bite to eat, or enjoy an afternoon of people-watching.
While this famous street attracts many locals and tourists alike during the Christmas season, this street feels like Christmas all year long.
If you want to see the artisans at work, it’s best to visit San Gregorio Armeno during the off-season when the street isn’t as crowded so you can watch the artists work uninterrupted.
Historic Centre of Naples
Put your walking shoes on to enjoy a day of off-the-beaten-path sightseeing. The Historic Centre of Naples is a UNESCO cultural heritage site that celebrates Naples’ history and mystery. Wander down the numerous alleyways to find small churches, underground caves, and ancient catacombs.
This area is home to folk artists and craftspeople of all kinds, from painters to sculptors to woodcarvers – you never know what you’re going to see or meet. Grab a quick snack from a fruit vendor and keep walking.
You don’t need a map – just go where the streets lead you.
Naples Botanical Garden
If you want to spend the day inspecting (up-close) over 9,000 plant species and 25,000 plant samples, visit the Naples Botanical Garden.
Broken up into different ecological areas such as the orchard, the arboretum, the desert, the rocks, the bog, the palm grove, and the greenhouse, the Naples Botanical Garden (Orto Botanico di Napoli) allows you to explore different climates to learn more about various plant species (both common and exotic) found throughout the world. These different climates are simulated in Naples using greenhouse technology, temperature controls, regional soils, etc.
Considered one of the most influential scientific institutions globally, the Naples Botanical Garden is a must-see for any nature lover.
You can visit the Naples Botanical Garden for free, but you must call to make a reservation first.
No matter what your interests, I hope that this guide on free things to do in Naples will help you during your stay in this historic city. For more free advice and tips on what to do in Naples for first timers check out our article here.
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