When visiting Naples, you can be overwhelmed because there’s so much to do and see. The biggest city in Southern Italy sits in the shadow of Mount Vesuvius and charms numerous tourists each year with its rich culture, history, art, and architecture. And that’s before you head out to Pompeii!
Naples is the home of the delicious, thin crust, famous Margherita and Marinara pizzas as we know them today, invented here in the late 19th century. However, the city’s history goes back way further than that. Over time, Greeks, Romans, and feuding families have conquered the city, seeing curious legends develop, giving the city a spellbinding aura.
As well as this, the city is home to three castles, two royal palaces, and numerous piazzas where you can take a break from city life, which can get pretty hectic!
In this article, we’ll be exploring the 6 best museums in the capital of the Campania region!
1. Capodimonte Museum
The first museum on our list will need at least half a day to take in the very best of its treasures – the Museo di Capodimonte is the largest art gallery in Southern Italy and sees over 160 rooms spread across 3 floors, showcasing some of the finest artworks from the Italian Renaissance, masterpieces from local Neapolitan artists spanning the centuries, right up to Andy Warhol’s pop art of the 21st century.
However, it’s not just artwork that’s on display at this palazzo that took more than a year to construct. You can visit the royal apartments on the 2nd floor, which really show the utmost in regal excesses. The highlight is undoubtedly one of the finest examples of 18th century Chinoiserie, the outrageous Salottino di Porcellana, transferred to Capodimonte in 1867 from Portici’s Palazzo Reale.
When you’ve tired of the art, take a stroll in the 134 hectares of the Real Bosco di Capodimonte, the estate which surrounds the palazzo. There’s an hourly shuttle bus between the centre of Naples and the museum.
For a complete visit of the Museum, check our exclusive tour of Capodimonte Museum with a private guide, skip the line tickets included.
2. National Archaeological Museum
For those interested in Greco-Roman artefacts, the National Archaeological Museum is not only one of the best places to visit in Naples, but the entire world. It was built in the late 18th century by Bourbon king Charles VII (the same king that the Museo di Capodimonte was designed for as a hunting lodge) as a home for the collection of antiquities and treasures he had inherited from his mother Elizabeth Farnese.
Some of the most interesting pieces on display you’ll find here are treasures looted from Pompeii and Herculaneum, including epigraphs (stone engravings) which pre-date the Roman Empire – all the way back to the time when Southern Italy was ruled by the Ancient Greeks.
The National Archaeological Museum is also home to Italy’s second largest collection of Egyptian relics, mosaics, and frescoes from Pompeii.
There’s a lot to fit in in just a day, but luckily, it’s right in the city centre – next to Museo subway station.
Visit the Museum with our expert private guide!
3. Museum of Cappella Sansevero
This atmospheric, baroque chapel is yet another exquisite museum not to be missed on any Neapolitan itinerary. It was originally built as a tomb for the di Sangro family in the late 16th century, but its purpose shifted in the mid 18th century, when Raimondo di Sangro commissioned fine artists to decorate the interior.
The most famous attraction here is undoubtedly Sanmartino’s sculpture The Veiled Christ (Cristo Velato) which has an astoundingly realistic marble veil. Other artwork not to be missed includes Queirolo’s Disillusion, Corradini’s Pudicizia, and a number of colourful frescoes by Russo.
The only downside to this museum is the queues. There’s a way round that though – online you can book a fast-track entry into the chapel. Please contact us for a customized quotation of a guided tour of Cappella Sansevero.
4. Madre (Museum of Contemporary Arts)
Museo d’arte contemporanea Donnaregina, better known as MADRE, offers something a little different from the religious artworks and classical sculptures found in the other museums on this list.
Guarded from the roof by local sculptor Mimmo Paladino’s Trojan Horse, the museum has over 7,000 square meters of exhibition space across its 3 floors. The 2nd floor is where you’ll find MADRE’s permanent collection of installations, including paintings, photography and sculptures by artists of this century and last. The most notable include international artists Andy Warhol and Cindy Sherman, as well as Italian artists Mario Merz and Ettore Sottsass.
This museum is a great choice if you want a break from the religious art and sculptures of the other museums on the list.
5. PAN (Palace of Arts)
Another of Napoli’s excellent art galleries, PAN (Palazzo delle Arti Napoli) offers rotating temporary modern and contemporary art exhibitions in the 18th century Palazzo Carafa di Roccella. It has been house to pThe diverse initiatives help to make art in Campania more accessible.
Since its opening in 2005, it has hosted several exhibitions and opportunities for research including contemporary cinema, design, video, cartoons, photography, sculpture, and architecture.
The museum is a great place to come if you’re travelling as a family, as there’s a new initiative of kid’s events. While the children are kept busy, you can visit one of the creative events, art axhibitions, workshops, or film seasons that are regular held here.
6. The National Museum of San Martino
This 14th century monastery is centred around one of the most beautiful cloisters in the whole of Italy and has an unrivalled view of Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. This feast for the eyes continues inside with some of the finest artistry from Naples and the whole of Italy on display.
In the monastery’s church and sacristy, there are a number of frescoes and paintings by great Neapolitan artists including Caracciolo and de Ribera. However, the highlight is the Great Cloister (Chiostro Grande). The marble statues are punctuated by colourful camellia flowers against the backdrop of Tuscan-Doric porticoes. Over the balustrade a small cemetery with ornamental skulls.
Other exhibits in the museum include Neapolitan nativity scenes, a pictorial history of Naples, and a small collection of royal Bourbon barges, amongst many other things. Plus, from the Certosa di San Martino, you can enjoy one of the most beautiful panoramas over Naples!
It’s definitely worth the funicular ride to get here!