The Naples hop-on hop-off Guide

Exploring Italy's most beautiful city in a day or two... 

 

 

Naples, Italy's most beautiful city, is best explored with the Naples hop on hop off bus tour

This is why they used to say "See Naples and die"...

 

What sets Naples apart from other Italian cities is not only its size (it’s the third largest city in the country) but also the fact that it’s close to so many exciting fabulous sights, including ancient Pompeii and the spectacular Bay of Naples, which is home to a number of popular seaside resorts, including picturesque Sorrento. So aside from its own charm, this lively city is also the ideal base from which to explore Southern Italy.

 

The city is famous not only for its historic and artistic treasures, but also for its beauty and its stunning location, on the northern edge of the Bay of Naples, with Mount Vesuvius as its backdrop.  Naples also boasts an excellent climate, friendly people and superb food… Who can ask for anything more?

 

There is so much to see and do in Naples, that we have compiled not one, but four fascinating sightseeing tours. Some of them are interlinked, which means you can personalise your sightseeing to visit exactly what you want to, and when. All you have to do is take a look at what is on offer on each route, then hop on the relevant bus to visit your chosen destination, and hop off to discover its magic. Once you’ve had your fill, you just hop on the bus again until you reach your next destination.

 

 

How much does it cost?

At the time of writing, a 24 hours unlimited travel ticket costs US$ 29 for an adult and US$ 14.5 for a child (5 – 15). You can also go for a family ticket, which covers up to a maximum of 2 adults and 3 children

 

A view towards the Bay of Naples: Hop-on Hop-off Naples bus tour

The Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius

Departure times

Route A: The bus departs from Largo Castello at 9.45am and approximately every 50min after that. The tour is 61 minutes long.

Route B: Bus departs from Largo Castello at 9.30am and approximately every hour after that. The tour is 71 minutes (1 hour 11 min) long.

Route C: Bus departs at 10.30am and approximately every 95 min (1 hour 35 minutes) thereafter. Tour is 95 min (1 hour 35 min) long.

Route R: Bus departs at 10am and approximately hourly after that. The tour is 28 minutes long.

 

Places to see and things to do along the route

 

A) The Red route ("Luoghi dell'Arte"): From Largo Castello

 

1. Your tour starts at Largo Castello (Piazza Municipio), a central square in the city that is home to quite a few points-of-interest, including the 19th Century Palazzo San Giacomo, the 16th Century Chiesa San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, where the Spanish viceroy Don Pedro de Toledo and his wife Maria are buried, and, of course, the impressive medieval Maschio Angioino (Castel Nuovo), which was first built in 1279 and is dominating the square and its environs.

 

 

The imposing medieval fortress of Maschio Angioino (Castel Nuovo) is where the Naples hop-on hop-off tour departs from

Castel Nuovo (Maschio Angioino)

 

Take a short stroll on Via S. Carlo to nearby Piazza del Plebiscito, and visit some other fascinating sites like Galleria Umberto I, Naples' elegant shopping gallery, which was built at the end of the 19th century, as well as Teatro di San Carlo (St. Carlo Theatre) which was built in the 1730s and prides itself for being the oldest continuously active venue for public opera in Europe (Teatro Mercadante, next to the square, is also an old opera-house that started operating in 1779).

 

Also in Piazza del Plebiscito is the imposing Palazzo Reale di Napoli (Royal Palace of Naples), which was built in the early 1600s, for the Spanish king Filippo III, and the impressive church of San Francesco di Paola, which bears a remarkable resemblance to Rome's Pantheon.

 

2. Hop off at the next stop to explore the Chiesa del Gesù Nuovo, an elaborate church that was built in the late 16th Century. Originally used as a palace, it was seized by Pedro of Toledo in 1547 and donated to the Jesuit monks. In the church’s majestic interior you’ll see statues, frescoes and marble decorations as well as hundreds of tiny silver images that were hung on the walls to give thanks to the saint.

 

In the square in front of the church you can see a beautiful monument called the Guglia dell'Immacolata, which was created in 1750 to invoke the Virgin Mary's protection from the plague, in the 17th century.

 

The Church of Santa Chiara, just across the street from Gesù Nuovo, is a Gothic style church that was originally built in the early 1300s for the wife of Roberto I d'Angió, King of Naples, and boasts Naples' most famous basilica, as well as an interesting museum, dedicated to the history of the monastery and the attached basilica.

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3. Next stop along the route is at Piazza Dante, a very popular square, close to the Ingresso Ai Decumani, three ancient city streets that were originally built in the 5th Century BC. These streets, which run parallel to each other, are located in the city’s historic centre. They have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are home to a number of palaces, churches, monuments and archaeological sites that are all worth exploring.

 

You should also visit the church of San Michele Arcangelo (or San Michele a Port'Alba), adjacent to Piazza Dante.

 

Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) is home to one of the world's best collections of Greek and Roman antiquities

Mosaic in Naples National Archaeological Museum

4. Hop off the bus to explore the Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli), which boasts one of the best collections in the world of Greek and Roman antiquities. Here you will see items including mosaics, sculptures, jewels, glass, silver, magnificent frescoes, religious items and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii called the Secret Cabinet. Many of these items were found during excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum and other nearby archaeological sites. Highlights include a 19th Century detailed model of Pompeii and over 200,000 coins and medals from Ancient Greece, Rome, medieval times and the Bourbon area. The museum itself is housed in a 16th century palace, and according to the fashion at the time, many of the precious antiquities were actually embedded into the building as decoration.

 

In front of the museum you’ll find the Galleria Principe Di Napoli, literally Naples’ oldest shopping arcade. This ornate shopping gallery was built in the late 19th Century and houses quite a few stylish boutiques. The structure’s roof is made of cast iron and glass and its walls are decorated with splendid sculptured decorations.

 

5. Next hop off point is at Chiesa di Santa Maria della Sanità, an early 17th Century church with a dome tiled in striking green and yellow that houses magnificent paintings by Vaccaro, Beltrano, Giordano and Forli.

 

The main thing here, however, are the labyrinthine catacombs on top of which the church was built. Known as Catacombe di San Gaudioso, they were initially meant to be water cisterns, but were used as a burial site from the fifth century onwards.

 

Angelica Kauffman, Portrait of Ferdinand IV of Naples, and his Family, National Museum of Capodimonte (Naples)

A paint in Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte

6. Explore Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte from the next hop off point. Located in a neoclassical 18th Century palace, this museum boasts a fine collection of decorative art, many of which are displayed in the museum’s Galleria Nazionale and Farnese Gallery. Amongst the artworks on display are pieces by Dutch and Spanish masters, as well as Italian artists like Martini, Titian and Caravaggio. You can also visit the palace’s magnificent Royal Apartments, decorated with fine antique furniture and numerous portraits. The museum is located in the lush Bosco di Capodimonte, or 'Hilltop Wood', once used as a royal hunting ground and then as the site of the Capodimonte porcelain workshops, where ceramics were created.

 

Near the palace you’ll find the complex that makes up the Osservatio Astronomico, or Astronomical Observatory, built in 1819 to house scientific equipment for astronomical observation. There’s an archive, restoration laboratory, library and a museum showing astronomical instruments including prints, maps and clocks.

 

7. Still around the area of Capodimonte, your next stop is at Catacombe di San Gennaro, where you can explore what are possibly the most important underground paleo-Christian burial sites (catacombs) in the whole of Southern Italy, boasting some rare second-century frescoes.

 

You can also enjoy the beautiful panoramic views from the small piazza outside.

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8. Explore the Teatro Bellini from your next stop. This is the city’s theatre, which was first built by Carlo Sorgente in 1864, and then burnt down 5 years later. It reopened in 1878 and was beautifully restored in 1992. Today it’s the venue for stage musicals, concerts and dramatic theatre productions. In the centre of Piazza Bellini you’ll find the Mura Greche, Ancient Greek walls dating from the 4th Century BC that were found in an archaeological excavation in 1954.

 

While there, you can also visit the Accademia di belle arti di Napoli (Naples' Academy of fine arts), which is just a few steps from the theater (via the pedestrianised street).

 

Another visit-worthy site around this area is the complex that houses the Church of San Pietro a Majella and the neighboring Music conservatories of Naples (Chiesa e conservatorio di S pietro a majella).

 

9. Next hop off point is at the Museo d'Arte contemporanea Donnaregina, or simply MADRE, which opened in 2005 and, as its name denotes, focuses on contemporary art. It boasts magnificent artworks by local and international artists including Warhol, Horn and Manzoni.

 

 

Beautiful Castel Capuano is one of the attractions on the Naples hop-on hop-off tour

Castel Capuano, near Porta Capuana

10. Explore the 12th Century Castel Capuano from your next hop off point. This Norman castle was a royal residence in the 15th Century, and became the seat of the city’s civil courts a Century later. Inside are some beautiful artworks by Caccaiapuoti. Across the square from the castle is the Porta Capuana, one of Naples’ main medieval gates, built in 1484.

 

11. The last stop ontoute A is at Piazza Bovio, close to the city’s University whose huge main building was built in 1908. Behind it you’ll find a Jesuit college that dates back to 1605, which was the only university building in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Nearby you’ll find the Chiesa (Church) dei Santi Severino e Sossio, that was first built in 1494, and next to it is one of the oldest and richest monasteries of Naples. Both the church and the monastery boasts beautiful 16th-, 17th-, and 18th-century art decorations.

 

 

B) The Dark Blue Route ("Le Vedute del Golfo"): From Largo Castello

 

1. Just like all other routes, the tour begins at Largo Castello on Piazza Municipio. This centrally located square and its surroundings are home to a few of Naples nicest buildings and places-of-interest.  Click here to learn more about it.

 

Castel dell'Ovo is one of Naples' best known castles, and can be visited as part of the hop-on, hop-off Naples bus tour

Castel dell'Ovo is one of Naples' best known castles

2. The bus stops in the old part of Santa Lucia, close to Castel dell'Ovo, first built in the 9th Century. This is one of the city’s most famous sights. It’s name, Castle of the Egg, refers to the magic egg that the classic poet Virgil apparently placed under its foundations. It has been remodeled and rebuilt a number of times since it was first built, and was a Royal residence since the Middle Ages.  Today it’s home to the Museum of Ethno-Prehistory, where special exhibitions are held. The rest of the castle is also open for viewing: you can visit two architectural masterpieces here - the Hall of the Columns and the Loggiato, and enjoy spectacular views over the city and the gulf from two towers, the Torre Maestra and the Torre Mormanna.

 

3. Hop off the bus at Piazza Vittoria, from where you can enjoy luxury designer shopping along Via Calabritto. You can also walk through Villa Comunale, Naples' largest and most beautiful park, to the beach promenade, which is lined with excellent restaurants.

 

4. Villa Pignatelli is your next stop along the route. Currently occupied by one of Naples' best museum, the villa itself is a landmark along Riviera di Chiaia, a road close to Villa Comunale Park on the seafront.  Built in 1826, the villa is surrounded by beautiful gardens and boasts a number of fascinating collections, including one comprising French and English vehicles from the 18th and 19th Centuries, plus a superb collection of coaches – and then there are the magnificent furnishings inside the house itself, as well as silverware, ornaments and everyday items. Up the grand staircase you’ll find a fine art collection with treasures from the 16th to the 19th Centuries and a superb collection of ceramics. You can also explore the sumptuous ballroom and the villa’s elegant salons, a library, which is decorated with gold and leather, and a dining-room with exquisite tableware.

 

Villa Comunale is the city's beautiful seaside park, and can be visited as part of the hop-on, hop-off Naples bus tour

Villa Comunale is Naples' beautiful seaside park

5. Next stop is the scenic area of Mergellina, near Piazza del Leone. Part of the area is on the hillside, where you can find beautiful villas tucked away between the trees. There are small trails that lead down to the sea, and from the coastline there are breathtaking panoramic views.

 

There is also a small public park nearby, called Parco Virgiliano (or Parco della tomba di Virgilio), which is a monument tribute to the poet Virgil, who is believed to be buried here.  This is also where you can see the so-called "Neapolitan Crypt," an ancient Roman tunnel that led through the hill to connect to a major road leading north to Rome.

 

6. Next stop along the route is at Capo Posillipo, whose main road, Via Posillipo, begins at the port of Mergellina and extends along the coast, almost parallel to the coastline. Along here you’ll find the famous Veduta Panoramica, where the view of Naples and its surrounds is the most beautiful. There are a number of excellent restaurants here, too.

 

7. Hop off the bus to explore Discesa Marechiaro in Posillipo, the famous Window of Marechiaro where, legend has it, a lady called Carolina used to stand and look at the sea. The window, which is decorated with a red carnation, inspired Salvatore Di Giacomo to write a Neapolitan love poem called Marechiare in 1885. The best view of this window, which is a symbol of the romance of the district of Marechiaro, is from the water. You can also enjoy a boat tour of the shoreline from one of the local fishermen, to view some spectacular villas and cliffs.

 

Parco Virgiliano offers some of the most stunning views towards the Bay of Naples: Hop-on Hop-off tour of Naples

Parco Virgiliano offers beautiful views of the Bay

8. You can get off the bus to explore Parco Virgiliano at your next stop. This pretty terraced park, which is also known as the Garden of Remembrance, provides splendid views over the Bay of Naples, from Cape Miseno to the Sorrento Peninsula, as well as the island of Procida, Ischia and Capri.

 

9. Our next hop-off point is on Via Petrarca, just outside the city centre, where you can enjoy magnificent views of the Bay of Naples.

 

10. Next place you can hop off the bus is on Via Caracciolo, in Mergellina, from where you can embark on an adventure, a trip to explore the lovely islands in the Bay of Naples, namely Procida, Ischia and Capri. The smallest island is Procida, whose scenic beauty is so famous it’s been used as the location for a number of movies. Here you’ll find quiet beaches, a town with narrow streets lined with fascinating old buildings and churches. The island of Ischia is half an hour away by boat. It’s the largest of the Campanian islands, with a fascinating historic centre as well as a tiny fishing village called Ischia Porto. The island is home to the Aragonese Castle, built in 474BC, and the Cathedral di Santa Maria Assunta, which boasts magnificent frescoes by Giotto. The island’s many natural springs have attracted thermal bath parks and spas, which you can also visit. The island of Capri is a highlight of a visit to the islands. This spectacular isle is famous for a number of sights including the Blue Grotto (Grotta Azzurra), Gardens of Augustus, the Basilica di San Giacomo and marvelous villas surrounded by beautiful flowers.

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11. The bus stops at Borgo Marina, next to Castel dell’Ovo, giving you another opportunity to explore this 9th Century castle (see point 3 above, for all the information).

 

12. Last stop on route B is at Stazione Marittima, Naples’ Maritime Station from where one can embark on a cruise to explore the islands of Ischia, Capri and Procida. For all the details on these islands, see point 10 above.

 

 

C) The Green Route ("San Martino"): From Largo Castello

 

 

1. Just like the other three routes, the Green Route ("San Martino") also begins at Largo Castello on Piazza Municipio. As already mentioned above, this centrally located square and its environs are home to some of Naples most imposing buildings and places-of-interest.  Click here to learn more about it.

 

2. Stop No. 2 along the Green Route is the same as stop No. 2 along the Dark Blue Route above  - at Castel dell'Ovo (click here for the details).

 

 

Piazza dei Martiri in Naples

Piazza dei Martiri in Naples

3. Next stop is at Piazza dei Martiri, home to the famous monument of the Column of Martyrs, which was built in memory of different events in Naples’ history – the revolution of 1799, the Carbonari martyrs of 1820, and the uprisings in 1848 and 1860. These are currently being restored to their former glory.

 

4. Hop off to explore the Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, also known as PAN, in Via dei Mille. It’s home to impressive displays of contemporary art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, multimedia, design and architecture. The museum is located in a 16th Cetnury pink palace, which also contains an experimental art laboratory, multimedia library, archive and café-bookshop.

 

5. The next hop off point is at Piazza Amedeo, near the 17th Century Palazzo Mannajuolo, one of the city's sumptuous palaces and home of the Bourbon kings during their rule of the Kingdom of Two Sicilies between 1730 and 1860.

 

6. Your next hop off point is at Villa Floridiana. Surrounded by lush gardens, this beautiful 1816 villa used to be a residence belonging to a duchess, and is currently housing the Museo Nazionale della Ceramica Duca di Martina, a museum which boasts a collection of over 6,000 items that include European, Chinese and Japanese china, ivory, glass, coral and a fine collection of Capodimonte porcelain.

 

7. Next stop along the route is at the Museo Nazionale San Martino. Located in a former Carthusian monastery, it’s home to one of the most extensive collections of Neopolitan art and historic items in the world. The monastery was first built in 1,325, and restored in the 17th Century. When you enter from the courtyard you’ll find a church with a marble floor, paintings, sculptures and frescoes by Giordano. The presbytery is decorated with precious lapis lazuli and agate, and the Capella del Tesoro boasts a rich altar also decorated with these gems. You can visit an elegant apartment where important people used to stay, called the Quarto del Priore, which also boasts some masterpieces including sculptures by Bernini. The museum itself is divided into different sections, full of beautiful paintings, sculptures, porcelain and precious objects. One of the most famous sections is the Prints and Drawings Collection on the second floor, which contains over 8,000 pieces.

 

Castel Sant'Elmo is an imposing medieval fortress that can be seen from all over Naples

Castel Sant'Elmo

Castel Sant'Elmo, right next to the museum, is a hilltop star-shaped medieval fortress that can be seen from all over Naples. When it was built in 1,329, it was called Belforte. It was then rebuilt into the present structure in the 16th Century. The fortress was used as a prison in 1,799 during the Masaniello Revolution, and it has recently been restored. You can explore the fortress to see its prisons, dungeons and some of its terraces, from where you can enjoy magical views over Naples and its beautiful bay.

 

8. The fascinating church, Basilica di Santa Maria della Pazienza, awaits you at your next hop off point. Located in Via Salvator Rosa, the church, which was built in 1625, is commonly called the Cesarea and was attached to a hospital that closed in the late 1800s. The church has a beautiful bell tower decorated with yellow and green mosaic tiles and an 18th Century clock. Inside are a number of artworks and some special treasures including two fonts in multi-coloured marble that date from the 17th Century. In the first chapel on the right you’ll find a fresco of the Madonna created between the 5th and 6th Centuries, which is the oldest known image of Mary in the city. In another chapel you’ll see a painting by Giordano and in the fourth chapel, dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary, is a magnificent altarpiece by Azzolino, created in 1612.

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9. The last stop on this route is at Decumani, three ancient city streets that were originally built in the 5th Century BC. Situated in Naples’ historic centre, the streets run parallel to each other. They have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You will find a number of palaces, churches, monuments and archaeological sites here that are all worth exploring. This point is also close to Piazza Dante, where the bus stops along Route A, which means you can continue on that route if you like.

 

 

R) The Blue Route ("Donnaregina"): From Largo Castello

 

 

1. Just like the other three routes, the Blue Route ("Donnaregina") also begins at Largo Castello on Piazza Municipio. As already mentioned above, this centrally located square and its environs are home to some of Naples most imposing buildings and places-of-interest.  Click here to learn more about it.

 

Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli) owns one of the best collections in the world of Greek and Roman antiquities

Naples National Archaeological Museum

2. Hop off the bus on Via Duomo to explore the Museo del Tesoro di San Gennaro (literally "Museum of the Treasure of St. Gennaro"), which is located right next to Naples’ famous Duomo (Cathedral).  The Duomo was first erected on the site of a temple to the god Neptune in 1,272 and was consecrated in 1,315. It’s been rebuilt a number of times since then, resulting in a number of different architectural styles. But it’s a delight to explore, home to a number of famous treasures, including decorations in the nave and the transept by Giordano, numerous paintings and frescoes by masters and a fascinating archaeological area where tunnels burrow underground to reveal some of the original Greek and Roman buildings that once stood on the site. The baptistery is the oldest in Western Europe, and boasts some extraordinary mosaics from the 4th Century.

 

The Museum itself is full of gifts made to the city’s patron saint, St Januarius over the centuries, including sumptuous paintings, bronze busts and a gilded 18th Century sedan chair.

 

3. Next stop is at the Museo d'Arte contemporanea Donnaregina, or simply MADRE, which opened in 2005 and contains magnificent works of art by local and international artists including Warhol, Horn and Manzoni. On the first floor you’ll find artworks by international and local artists while the upper floors host temporary exhibitions. This is also stop no. 9 on Route A, so you can continue along Route A if you prefer, or hop back on the bus and continue along Route R.

 

4. Hop off at the next stop, in Piazza Cavour, on Via Foria (which is actually next to point as Stop 4 on Route A above), and you can explore the Naples National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli), which boasts one of the best collections in the world of Greek and Roman antiquities. Here you will see items including mosaics, sculptures, jewels, glass, silver, magnificent frescoes, religious items and a collection of Roman erotica from Pompeii called the Secret Cabinet. Many of these items were found during excavations at Pompeii, Herculaneum and other nearby archaeological sites. Highlights include a 19th Century detailed model of Pompeii and over 200,000 coins and medals from Ancient Greece, Rome, medieval times and the Bourbon area. The museum itself is housed in a 16th century palace, and according to the fashion at the time, many of the precious antiquities were actually embedded into the building as decoration.

 

In front of the museum you’ll find the Galleria Principe Di Napoli, literally Naples’ oldest shopping arcade. This ornate shopping gallery was built in the late 19th Century and houses quite a few stylish boutiques. The structure’s roof is made of cast iron and glass and its walls are decorated with splendid sculptured decorations.

 

5. The last stop on the blue route is at Decumani, three ancient city streets originally built in the 5th Century BC. Located in Naples’ historic centre, the streets run parallel to each other. They have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are home to a number of palaces, churches, monuments and archaeological sites that are all worth exploring. This point is also close to Piazza Dante, where the bus stops along route A, as well as a hop-on hop-off point along the Green Route (C), so you could continue on any of these two routes if you like.

 

And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...).

 

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