Whether you are in town for business or fun, you should check out the museums in Naples while you are there. Some of the museums are unique to this part of the world so you may never get this opportunity again. The National Archaeological Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale) of Naples is one of the most famous museums in Naples and the Capodimonte Museum is one of those that you cannot see anywhere else, just like the Museum of Naples.
The Bourbon Tunnel (Galleria Borbonica) boasts several collections unique to the country where you can learn more about the heritage of Italy. This special place was created for King Charles VII, the Bourbon King of Naples. The Charterhouse of St. Martin (Certosa di San Martino) was a monastery and is now a famous museum of Naples with Castle St. Elmo right next to it.
The best thing to do if you have limited time is to make a list of all the museums in Naples you want to visit and try to group them close together so you get to see more. For example, the National Archaeological Museum of Naples is just a few blocks from the Sanitary Arts Museum and the MUSA - Museum University of Sciences and Arts. But first, drop off your large bags at a luggage storage site in Naples because you cannot bring them into the museums with you. Store them, and enjoy each attraction to the fullest, worry-free.
Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano
This baroque palace in the San Ferdinando Quarter of Naples is also known as the Palazzo Colonna Stigliano and features items dating back to the 1600s. It is the sister museum to the Palazzo Montanari in Vicenza and the Gallerie di Piazza Scala in Milan.
The stunning building was created in 1638 and has been renovated several times. However, most of the original facade and building remain the same. The palace has one of the largest art collections in Naples with pieces by Caravaggio, Angelo Caroselli, Giuseppe Recco, and Francesco De Mura. You can also see temporary exhibitions from all over the Naples area inside.
The National Archaeological Museum
One of the most popular museums in Naples, The National Archaeological Museum has the best and most complete archaeological items from ancient Greek and Roman times. It opened in 1777 but the building was built in 1585 to use as barracks for the calvary. Until 1the late 19th century, it was known as the Royal Bourbon Museum and boasts huge collections of antiquities from excavations at sites in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Stabiae.
The main attraction is the art of Farnese, which has engraved gems such as the Tazza Farnese or Farnese Cup, a bowl from the second century made of agate featuring cameo carvings. The museum also has a list of marble and bronze sculptures including the Farnese Hercules, Atlas, and Aphrodite Kallipygos as well as the Seated Hermes and bust of Thespis. Besides the vast number of artifacts from Pompeii, do not miss the Egyptian Collection with more than 2,500 pieces dating back to 2700 BC.
The Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte
At the National Institute for Astrophysics of Italy, this observatory on Capodimonte Hill is not just a fantastic place to see the stars but also has a spectacular panoramic view of the city including St. Elmo Castle, Mount Vesuvius, and the Bay of Naples. It is one of the most important Italian institutions for space science, astrophysics, and astronomy with some of the most important findings in the world.
Besides all that, the observatory was built in 1812, making it the oldest scientific institution in Naples, and features a stellar planetarium as well as a 40-cm telescope among other ancient astronomical artifacts. In the library, you can find a plethora of rare books and documents. Space lovers should make sure this is one of the museums on their list of those to visit in the city.
City of Science
The Museum of Science of Naples, also known as the Citta della Scienza, was created by the IDIZ Foundation and is located in the Bagnoli District of Naples, which used to be the industrial district. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is like an open-air museum with different stations and phenomena to explore.
The Science Center was the first of its kind in Italy and features an interactive center for children and adults to get a more hands-on approach to science. In fact, it is one of the most renowned science centers in the world to hold such history. Some of its most popular experiences include the Bugs House, The Sea, and the Human Body Museum. It even has a planetarium dome where they show 3D films. The kids will love this place!
San Severo Chapel Museum
In the heart of Naples, this chapel was created in 1590 and features art dating back to the 1700s. One of the most popular is the Veiled Christ by Giuseppe San Martino. It is one of the most visited sites in Italy as well as the world. Most of the art inside is Rococo artwork done by leading Italian artists from the 18th century.
Some of the best pieces in the museum include the Monument to Giovan Francesco Paolo de Sangro by Antonio Corradini, La Liberalita by Francesco Queirolo, and the Veiled Truth by Antonio Corradino. There are even anatomical exhibits in the basement, thought to be a form of plastination. For those who love history as well as art, this is one of the experiences you do not want to miss during your trip to Naples.
Donnaregina Contemporary Art Museum
In the middle of Old Naples, near the Archaeological Museum and the Duomo, this art museum in Palazzo Donnaregina was built in the 1200s and then rebuilt for Queen Mary of Hungary in 1325. Being inside a palace, this art museum is not just a piece of history, it is an Italian work of art holding four floors of artwork and other artifacts.
Some of the artworks include paintings and sculptures by Francesco Clemente, Anish Kapoor, and Andy Warhol as well as Giulio Paolini, Olafur Eliasson, and the sculpture of Cavallo by Mimmo Paladino. In addition, the second floor holds a number of temporary exhibits all year long so there is always something new to discover. This museum in Naples is worth the trip for anyone.
The Bourbon Tunnel
Located under the streets of Naples, Italy, the Bourbon Tunnel is a historical tour where you can see an ancient aqueduct system from 1853 as well as the main room where there are vintage vehicles. The ancient tunnel was created for Fernidand II of Bourbon to give him an escape route in case of riots and as a bomb shelter for the public in World War II.
The vehicles were stored there as a sort of impound lot until the 1970s but they are still there to see. Other items to see during your trip include artifacts and sculptures dating back to the 1400s. For any of their guided tours, you will don a helmet and go underground through the tunnels under the city of Naples. It is a fascinating piece of history with sites you cannot see anywhere else in Italy. It's like a hike underground!
National Museum of San Martino
The Museum of San Martino, also known as Charterhouse of St. Martin, was built for Charles of Anjou in 1325 and features a plethora of religious and historic items such as Italian nativity scenes of more than 150 angels, animals, and people as well as 450 Neopolitan miniatures. Although it was the living quarters for Carthusian monks, the building holds much history about the city as well.
With more than 70 halls to explore, your trip takes you from the 1200s to the 1800s. There are two cloisters. One of them has a cemetery with balustrades decorated with skulls and bones and a pharmacy. The cloister of the procurators has a well at its center and boasts a collection of coats of arms, sculptures, sundials, and ancient inscriptions.
Palazzo Reale Of Naples
Also known as the Royal Palace of Naples, this huge baroque building is a popular tourist attraction as well as a museum dedicated to the people and Italian history. It was built for King Philip III of Spain in the 1500s although he never visited and it ended up housing Fernando Castro of Lemos in the 1600s until the Bourbons took over in 1734.
Before you enter the palace, you will notice eight sculptures on the facade. These represent the sovereigns of the dynasties of Naples including Victor and Murat Emmanuel II, Charles III of Bourbon, Charles V, Alphonse of Aragon, Charles of Anjou, Frederick II of Svevia, and Roger the Norman. Be sure to take a guided tour so you can learn more about the city and its rulers.
Caserta Royal Palace of Naples
Designed by Luigi Vanvitelli for Charles of Bourbon III, this baroque Italian palace has 1,200 rooms and the park spans over 11 acres including gardens, fountains, and pools. Considered to be the best English Garden in the city, the design was mirrored from the gardens of Tuscany, Rome, and Versailles.
The Court Chapel and Palatine Library are also inside as well as four courtyards and a vaulted arcade with three vestibules. The palace is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the largest royal residences in the world. It is also one of the most popular sites in Italy decorated with fancy paintings, sculpted ballasts, and a garden with numerous sculptures and fountains.
Capodimonte Museum of Italy
Also known as the Real Bosco di Capodimonte, this museum has more than 47,000 works and is considered to be one of the greatest collections in Europe. Overlooking the Bay of Naples, the palace features art from Artemisia Gentileschi, Ribera, and Carracci as well as Titian, Raphael. and Luca Giordano.
Most of the artwork at the Real Bosco di Capodimonte dates back to 1738 when King Charles VII built a hunting lodge that ended up being a palace. The art gallery is full of plastic arts, sculptures, paintings, and depictions of the Palace of Capodimonte. Some of the highlights include the Crucifixion painted in 1426 by Masaccio and the Toulouse Altarpiece from 1317 by Simone Martini.
Santa Chiara Monastery and Museum
Right across from the Church of Gesu Nuovo, the Santa Chiara Monastery was designed in Gotico Angioiano style for King Robert of Naples and Queen Sancha of Majorca. The architecture of the English monastery is stunning with a double complex built back in the early 1300s. The prior home of royalty also features an archaeological museum from excavations of the area when the fire destroyed it in 1943. You can see a nice collection of nativity scenes as well.
Some unusual features include the rectangular shape due to the lateral chapels and the fact that it does not have an apse. Behind the altar, you can see the tomb of King Robert as well. The cloister of the Poor Clares from 1742 boasts tin-glazed pottery tiles from the 1400s with a vibrant floral decoration, rarely seen in religious establishments.
Discount Cards and More
Whether you are in town for business or pleasure, take the time to see some of the museums in the city. You can not only learn more about Naples but you can also learn about Italy as well as Europe. The architecture alone from some of the buildings in the city takes you way back to the 13th century and beyond.
Art galleries, exhibitions on Italy, and spectacular buildings that royalty called home are all found in Naples. With artifacts found in excavations from a site in Pompeii to the home of royalty and religious leaders in castles and palaces, you will leave Naples a little bit more educated than when you got there. Be sure to look into the discount cards; the Naples Pass gives you discounts on many attractions and even skip the line privileges in some cases.