Piazza del Plebiscito (Martha de Jong-Lantink)
List Words : Christine Fleitz | 19 January

10 things to do for free in Naples

Save your last few Euros for another world-famous Neapolitan pizza by exploring this culture-rich city for free, with these top tips from Christine Fleitz

1. Browse the 'Christmas Alley'

Curious artisan workshops line Via San Gregorio Armeno, and if you peer through their open-doors you can see craftsmen at work – creating statuettes and scenery for the famous Neapolitan nativity scenes. Marvel at their detailed creations, from baby Jesus and Mother Mary figurines, to miniature meals, and entire landscapes. This charismatic street is a must for any visitor to the city – offering shopping opportunities, numerous places to grab a bite, and amusing people-watching possibilities.

2. Savour the views at Park Virgiliano

A stroll through The Garden of Remembrance is sure to deliver unforgettable memories. With a series of terraces overlooking the Bay of Naples, this green oasis offers stunning views from Cape Miseno to the Sorrento Peninsula. Visitors to this scenic park will stumble upon a few sporadic sculptures and an intimate amphitheatre, where events are organised in warmer months. Be sure to take your camera and enjoy the panoramic views.

3. Tickle your taste buds at Gay-Odin

This local artisan chocolatier has been concocting some of the city's finest cocoa creations since the early 1900s. Following all the rules of home made chocolate, using traditional recipes and quality ingredients, Gay-Odin is heaven for those that appreciate a real chocolate treat. With several retail outlets all over the city, you will undoubtedly pass one on a day out. Be sure to pop in and ask for a taste. For something simple, try a chocolate foresta, or for something with a kick, sample a fiery peperoncino-cioccolato.

4. Marvel at contemporary art

Hidden in the heart of Naples, the MADRE Museum of Contemporary Art juxtaposes modern creations with the ancient backdrop of the city's historic centre. Every Monday visitors are welcomed to explore the museum's installations and art pieces free of charge. Housed in the antique Palazzo Donnaregina, the interior of MADRE is a functional modern space for contemporary artists, and is forever evolving and changing.

5. Visit St Elmo just before closing time

This Neapolitan castle is steeped in history and is one of the city's most visible landmarks. After a quick elevator ride up to the rooftop, stroll along the cobbled pathways and savour the breathtaking views of the city and the Bay of Naples.

You will also find an small but interesting art museum, which is worth a quick look around. Entry to St Elmo normally costs a few Euros but if you go an hour before closing, the friendly staff will let you in for free.

6. Wander the historic centre

Wind through the narrow alleyways of the city's historic centre to discover mysterious churches, ancient catacombs and underground caves. Pass by craftspeople wielding tools of their trade, see laundry flutter above your head and hear the far-off calls of fruit vendors. The Neapolitan historic centre is the heart of the city and a UNESCO declared cultural heritage site. Put aside your map and see where the streets take you.

7. Brush up on your prehistory

The Ethno Prehistory Museum in Naples displays artefacts from every cultural prehistoric phase, and demonstrates the relationship between climate and man's evolution. You''ll find carved stone, bone, ceramics, earthenware and metal artefacts. Hosted in the rooms of the Castel dell'Ovo, a visit to this museum also allows you to get a feel for the castle interior. Entry to the museum is free, but you must make an appointment beforehand.

8. Rest stop in Piazza del Plebiscito

Translated as the square of the people, this semi-circular piazza is the largest in Naples, and a testament of old-fashioned continental grandeur. Enclosed on one side by the royal palace, and on the other by the neoclassical façade of the church of San Franceso di Paola, it is impressive from every angle. It is the perfect place to stop for a bite to eat or a rest, as it is strangely serene and calm compared to the crowded streets nearby.

9. See art on the move

If your main means of travel around Naples is the metro, then make sure you take a trip on Il Metro dell'Art, where everyday each station have been transformed into miniature art museums. Numerous stations along Line 1, have been upgraded to display both permanent and temporary art exhibits. Don't miss Museo Station, where ancient artefacts – discovered during construction – are on show, and Università Station, a colourful, and surreal, work of art in itself.

10. Marvel at the Duomo di Napoli

The extravagance of the Duomo in Naples may be no match to the richly decorated structure dominating the Florentine skyline, but once you step through its heavy doors you are sure to be captivated. Numerous modifications and changes over the centuries have resulted in a mish-mash of architectural and religious elements, all telling the complex spiritual, social, political and cultural history of Naples. Be sure to take a peak at the Chapel of the Treasure of San Gennaro, featuring Baroque frescoes and others artworks, as well as holding two vials of the patron saint's coagulated blood.

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