A trip to one of Europe's great cities doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Read up beforehand on free or cheap attractions and focus more on the scenic marvels, and you’ll enjoy a lovely holiday without paying a king's ransom. This is especially true for the Campania region's capital city of Naples, a metropolis whose streets overflow with historic, artistic and cultural heritage, but which is also famed for its breathtaking views. In Naples, you can enjoy unforgettable days out without constantly reaching for your wallet. Here are 10 of the main free (or almost free) attractions you can see in the city at the foot of Vesuvius – be sure to check them all out!


    Streets of art: an open-air museum

    Naples city centre: a magnificent open-air museum

    Follow the Vie dell'Arte (Streets of Art) guided itinerary, produced by the Museo Aperto (Open Museum) initiative, comprising streets, lanes, alleys, squares and open spaces in the historic centre, including up to 16 prestigious buildings and religious sites. This carefully marked and fascinating route features stunning spots that are also historically and architecturally significant. There's the unmissable Santa Chiara (Saint Clare) and San Lorenzo Maggiore (Great Saint Lawrence) monasteries, as well as lesser-known gems like Sant'Eligio (Church of Saint Eligius) near Piazza Mercato, or Saint Caterina a Formiello (Saint Catherine in Formiello). Between these free visits, take time to stroll through the most atmospheric parts of Naples' centre, like Piazza Plebiscito and Piazza Mercato, and soak up their charming, unique atmosphere.

    Location: several points of interest in Naples' historic centre, 80100 Naples, Italy

    Open: Most sites can be visited Monday–Saturday from 8 am to 3 pm


    photo by Armando Mancini (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Egg Castle

    A building with 2,000 years of history

    The splendid Egg Castle is a historic site that you can visit for free. Dating back to the 1st century BC on the islet of Megaride, it’s as much of an iconic Neapolitan landmark as the Bay of Naples and Vesuvio Vesuvius. The castle’s events are inextricably linked to the city, and it encompasses centuries of history. There's the Sala delle Colonne (Hall of the Columns) in the Villa di Licinio Lucullo (Licinio Lucullo's Villa), the building’s former nucleus, plus remnants of the Byzantine monastery, and fortifications and rooms added by Normans, Suevians, Angevins, Aragonese and Bourbons. Finish with breathtaking views from the bastions and terraces, then stroll along the harbour of the adjacent Borgo Marinari, home to the most prestigious Neapolitan sailing clubs and a hub of bars, kiosks and restaurants.

    Location: Via Eldorado, 3, 80132 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 9 am to 6 pm, Sunday and holidays from 9 am to 1 pm

    Phone: +39 08 1795 6180


    photo by Luca Aless (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Naples Cathedral and Church of Gesù Nuovo

    Visit the faccia 'ngialluta

    Naples Cathedral is also known as Cattedrale di San Gennaro in honor of the city's patron saint, St Januarius. San Gennaro is known in Naples as 'faccia 'ngialluta' (yellow face), in reference to the handsome bronze statue in the saint's crypt, joined to the magnificent Duomo (Cathedral). 3 times a year, his blood miraculously liquefies during a solemn religious ceremony held by the archbishop. Inaugurated in 1272, this unmissable building has been continually enlarged and altered, and is completely free to visit. The same goes for Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo (Church of Gesù Nuovo), one of Naples' main religious buildings. Despite its austere grey ashlar facade, its interior is an unparalleled feat of baroque art and architecture. Be sure to also visit the 2 temples by crossing the ancient and evocative Via dei Tribulani, the main decumanus of the ancient Greek structure.

    Location: Via Duomo, 147, 80138 Napoli NA, Italy; Piazza del Gesù Nuovo, 2, 80134 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: Monday–Saturday from 8.30 am to 12.30 pm and 4.30 pm to 7 pm, Sunday from 8 am to 1.30 pm and 5 pm to 7.30 pm

    Phone: +39 08 1449 097; +39 08 1557 8151


    photo by Allan Parsons (CC BY 2.0) modified


    Royal Wood of Capodimonte

    Where history and nature meet

    The Royal Wood of Capodimonte, flanking the magnificent Capodimonte palace, includes 134 hectares and over 400 flora. It includes several must-see gardens whose themes include Anglo-Cinese (Anglo-Chinese), Tardo Barocco (Late Baroque), Paesaggistico Pastorale (Pastoral Landscape) and Torre (Tower), as well as 17 historic buildings including residences, churches and cottages, e.g. Palazzina dei Principi (Princes' Apartments), Real Fabbrica della Porcellana (Porcelain Factory), Chiesa di San Gennaro (Saint Januarius’ Church), Eremo dei Cappuccini (Capuchin Hermitage), Scuderie Reali (Royal Stables), Fagianeria and Capraia. Wander freely through the forest or follow one of the marked routes, like that of the porcelain factory, Fontana di Mezzo (Middle Fountain) or Statua del Gigante (Statue of the Giant). This favourite of Neapolitans, especially on hot summer days, is entirely free.

    Location: Via Milano, 2, 80131 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: October, February and March: from 7 am to 6 pm. November–January: from 7 am to 5 pm. April–September: from 7 am to 7.30 pm (closed on Easter Monday)

    Phone: +39 08 1749 9111


    photo by Mentnafunangann (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Tombs of Leopardi and Virgil in Vegiliano Park

    2 famous tombs in one of the most atmospheric parts of the city

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    The Tombs of Leopardi and Virgil in Vegiliano Park are home to 2 famous poets. No one really knows if the Roman mausoleum in the historic park behind Mergellina Station is the real tomb of Virgil. It wasn't until about a century after the writer of the Aeneid and Eclogues died that the monument became a pilgrimage destination for admirers and a must-see spot for culture vultures. This was intensified in 1939 when the remains of Giacomo Leopardi, another universal literary giant, were placed nearby. There’s also the breathtaking view of the city, bay and the Crypta Neapolitana (Neapolitan Crypt), a 711-metre Roman military tunnel dug out of rock, sparking countless myths and legends. The park's free, but don't confuse it with the nearby Parco Virgiliano (Park of Remembrance) on the hill of Posillipo.

    Location: Salita della Grotta, S/N, 80122 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: Daily from 9 am to an hour before sunset (closed Christmas, New Year's, Easter and 1 May)

    Phone: +39 08 1669 390


    photo by Armando Mancini (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Art stations on the Neapolitan metro

    The transport system that's also an underground museum

    The art stations on the Neopolitan metro on lines 1 and 6 feature 15 ultramodern stations designed by world-famous architects. Around 200 installations and contemporary works of art adorn the entrances, walkways, tunnels and platforms. It's an authentic underground museum where travelling by train takes you from one exhibit to another. Don't miss the central Toledo Station. It's received numerous awards and mentions from international magazines and guides for being one of the most beautiful suburban stations in the world, just like the Salvator Rosa, Quattro Giornate, Vanvitelli, Università and Dante stops. Visiting this one-of-a-kind architectural and artistic complex won't cost much: just the price of a metro ticket!

    Open: Daily from 6 am to about 11 pm (varies slightly from station to station)


    photo by Andrea favia (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Fontanelle Cemetery

    Adopt a ‘pezzentelle’ soul

    The Fontanelle Cemetery is a historic place to visit if you're not squeamish about skulls, vertebrae, shins and femurs. From 1656 (the last plague) until 1836 (year of the choleria epidemic) it was used as an ossuary. Corpses of those who couldn't afford a more dignified burial in a church or consecrated cemetery were thrown inside. The impressive network of underground pits and tunnels lies beneath Rione Sanità, one of Naples' most vibrant districts in terms of popular traditions. Until the 1970s, the ‘pezzentelle (beggar) souls’ rite was observed here: a Neapolitan family would adopt and care for a skull in exchange for protection and, most importantly, a dream where the soul appears and reveals the next lottery numbers!

    Location: Via delle Fontanelle, 80, 80136 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 5 pm

    Phone: +39 08 1795 6160


    photo by Dominik Matus (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Belvedere of St Martin

    The postcard view par excellence

    Belvedere of St Martin, near the splendid Certosa di San Martino (Charterhouse of St Martin), offers the types of spectcular views that Naples is known for. To get there, take the Montesanto Funicular and get off at via Morghen (last stop). Notice the neat line of Spaccanapoli, the ancient Greek lower decuman gate, dividing the historic centre in 2. Spot historic buildings scattered right and left, including Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) in Piazza Plebiscito, the Duomo (Cathedral), Monastero di Santa Chiara (Monastery of St. Clare), Quartieri Spagnoli (Spanish Quarters) and Maschio Angioino (Angevin Keep).

    Location: Largo S. Martino, 1, 80129 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: 24/7


    Pausilypon Archaeological Park

    Ancient emperors loved to be pampered

    Pausilypon Archaeological Park features the remains of the incredible imperial complex inhabited by emperors in the ancient Roman villa of Pausilypon. It also includes the ancient, 2,000-seat Odeon theatre, a dramatic nymphaeum and a vast thermal complex. The descent from the belvedere that overlooks the sea off via Coroglio, through the impressive Grotta di Seiano (Cave of Sejanus), is worth visiting in itself, as is the unforgettable view spanning the city of the Sorrento Peninsula, Vesuvius and Capri. Note: the area can only be accessed as part of an accompanied (free) or guided visit, which must be booked beforehand.

    Location: Discesa Coroglio, 36, 80123 Napoli NA, Italy

    Open: Daily from 10 am to 2 pm. On weekdays accompanied visits take place at 9.30 am, 10.30 am and 11.30 am, while the guided tour starts at noon.

    Phone: +39 08 1240 3235


    photo by Armando Mancini (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified


    Village of Marechiaro

    In the beating heart of the dolce vita

    The Village of Marechiaro is a classic seaside village that's world-famous as one of the favourite meeting spots for Hollywood stars during their visits to Italy in the '50s and '60s. Think VIPs, paparazzi and dolce vita! It's easy to see why: its classic eateries directly overlook a gorgeous panorama of the gulf, and iconic beach and the mighty ‘scoglione’ (big cliff, only reachable by boat or swimming). And then there are the picture-perfect alleys and streets, and the ever-welcoming, relaxing and serene ambience. What could be more special than watching the moonrise from Marechiaro (just like in the famous song named after this pretty neighbourhood), preferably in one of the numerous cafes or restaurants (even if these aren't exactly free).


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