This post has been updated on December 11th, 2020
Talking about one of the best periods of the year, we thought that we have never written about it in our home town on our blog. Christmas in Naples, Italy is something really special. We think that there is no better period of the year to visit Naples, more than Christmas. The atmosphere of the city, change completely. The scenario is of a big party, with events that are taking place all over for the whole month of December and over in January after the New Year’s Eve.
This will be a guide made by local, to the best things to do at Christmas in Naples. An insider itinerary on how to spend Christmas in Naples, Italy. Forget about the classic things, Naples is special, and even if we highlighted a pizza tour, it is not the only things where to go.
Chrismas in Naples, a guide by locals
A proper inside guide to Naples in Christmas will include some of the best-hidden gems of the southern city. Some of the traditions that Naples and the inhabitant are following from generations and sims to be timeless. Christmas in Naples is unique, with glimpse lights sparkling everywhere.
The boroughs of the city dress to impress and everywhere the people are more happy than usual. You can clearly smell, see and feel the atmosphere. Every alley of Naples is full of stands selling any kind of goods in Christmas style. From the classic ball for the typical Xmas tree, to the handmade nativity figures.
The food is another point of view over Christmas in Naples. The long culinary tradition of one of the most known cities in Italy come across with some of the best food for the period. Typical are the sweets, like the struffoli or roccocò, but also the cassata. Not everybody knows that Naples has got some of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
San Gregorio Armeno, the little alley in the core of the old town of Naples, the well known SpaccaNapoli, is the best example of art that winter in Naples has to offer. The old alley is where are all the nativity scene makers.
San Gregorio Armeno – Nativity Master alley
Close to the historic Via dei Tribunali, where all the best pizzerias of Naples are, there is San Gregorio Armeno. The well-known street of the old town of the city, is the best place to visit in Naples at Christmas. The narrow alleys are where the character masters expose the masterpieces.
The nativity is a traditional representation of Jesus born place. Following the tradition, every family in Naples has one of it in their own house. San Gregorio Armeno is where you go to find unique pieces handmade.
Nativity scene at the Chiostro of Santa Chiara
Talking about the nativity scene, another location that you can’t miss in Naples at Christmas is the Chiostro of Santa Chiara. The cloister is dated back to 1300, and is one of the most suggestive places in the entire city. During the Christmas time, the cloister host an important and huge Nativity scene, with over 200 metres exposition.
Stroll around Via Chiaia – Christmas in Naples
What is better than go shopping in the streets of Naples. Via Chiaia is one of the poshest areas of Napoli, just among the popular Via Roma and Via Toledo. After a visit to the close Piazza Plebiscito, you have to walk all the way down towards the Area of San Pasquale a Chiaia. During Christmas time the entire area is always filled with lights glittering and stripes of red and gold colour.
Write wishes in Galleria Umberto I
Walking through Via Roma, another important shopping street of Naples, you can see the amazing architecture of the Umberto I Gallery. This is a popular meeting point for locals, full of famous boutique and food shops. During Christmas time in Naples, in the middle of the Gallery, there is Xmas Tree. Locals use to write on a letter the best wishes and attach it to the fir. This a kind of a tradition for everybody in Naples.
Attend a ballet show at Teatro San Carlo
This is one of the oldest theatres in Europe and the World. Dated back to 1737 is one of the biggest in Italy was used as a model for some of the best theatres in Europe. The building is close to Piazza Plebiscito, in an amazing square called Piazza Trieste e Trento. This is must-do in Naples for opera lovers. During Christmas, the theatre is open to the public with important performances like the Schiaccianoci. It is not easy to find tickets, but you can try on the website in advance.
Eat the Cuoppo in the middle of the street
It is not the perfect visit to Naples without trying the food. This is not just one of the best cultural cities in Italy, but also a culinary “Mecca” for food lovers. Naples has a rich tradition in street food, made by the passion for handmade dishes and quickest way to cook it and eat on the way. You can see all the best street food tours in Naples, and take part for around 20 Euro. This is the best way to taste food from Naples.
The “Cuoppo” is actually coming from the fisherman origins of the city. It is mainly made with fresh seafood, like prawns, ring squids and baby squids, anchovies. Everything is fried in hot oil at high temperature. The packaging is what give the name to the product. The cuoppo is a cone shape, severely made in the paper, that can absorb the excessive oil. In origin, it was made by old newspaper pages rolled in a cone shape.
Try the typical Roccocò or struffoli – Christmas in Naples
Naples is for many the city with the best street food in the whole of Italy. Many people love to take food tours for a small group, going around the little alleys of the city, tasting delicious traditional Neapolitan food. (Check some tours that we suggest)
The Roccocò and the Struffoli are typical Christmas sweets. Kind of cake, hard to chew. The roccocò is a rounded kind of cake with almond in it. The preparation is really hard, and any family has its own way to serve it, coming from the tradition handed down in the family. The same is for the Struffoli, that is instead, small sweet rounded pieces, with a glaze of honey around. So good.
There are many bakeries in the city that prepare it for the whole Christmas period. Those are called “Pasticceria”, you can buy portions of any size.
Walk in the Vomero Christmas Market of Naples
This area of Naples in Christmas time reminds me when I was just a kid. With my family, every weekend we use to walk up and down the Vomero Streets, enjoying the Christmas Market. The stands are filled with all the typical products of the period, for you will be the best occasion to buy a little souvenir from Naples. There is everything to fill your desire for Christmas shopping. From street food as Pizza to handcrafted Christmas balls.
Vomero is not ideal just at Christmas time, because of the typical market. It is one of the poshest areas in Naples, and you will find yourself to random explore the surrounding, enjoying it. There are a few bars that are always busy, with locals buzzing inside and outside, one of them that we feel to suggest you is the Archivio Storico. Taste a great glass of wine in a typical Neapolitan cellar with a salumi dishes, is the perfect Christmas Aperitief in Naples.
Admire the city from the terrace of Castel Sant’Elmo
Just going up the hills of Vomero, the area where is one of the most charming Christmas Markets in Naples, you will see an amazing Castle. On the top of Castel Sant’Elmo, you can enjoy a perfect view of Naples, with the Bay and the Vesuvius main subjects of this beautiful picture. In front of the castle, there is a terrace, where locals love to hang out with a beautiful panorama.
This is one of the most romantic places in Naples. If you are exploring the city like a local, Castel Sant’Elmo needs to be on the places to visit, even for the first time in Naples.
Naples Fish Market Christmas Eve
This a proper tradition in any family of the city and surrounding towns. The night before Christmas Eve, every family goes to the Fish Market in central Naples.
It is hosted in the borough close to the central train station Piazza Garibaldi. This beautiful, colourful, buzzing, busy and folkloristic market has one of the wides selection of fish, oysters and shellfishes. Here is where you can find the proper Neapolitan liveliness. The market is open every day, it is one of the most known fish markets in the city, but at the Christmas Eve night, it becomes lively when the lights go down.
This is when the boats come with fresh products ready to be sold. If you want to visit this place, you have to look for Porta Nolana. It is an awesome scenario, with the old walls of the city and the main entrance door as view. This is the perfect place to practice your street photography with enhanced colours and lively scene.
Bonfire Night at the “Befana” in Piazza Mercato
Not properly in the Christmas period, you will say. But in Naples, by tradition, the Christmas period will start around the 22, when there are school holidays until the 6th of January. Such a long period, it is true, but it carries a time of the year dedicated to the celebrations for Christmas, New Year’s Eve, the first day of the year and the Befana.
The last of this list is known as the wife of Santa Claus, or in Italian Babbo Natale. This is a typical tradition in Italy, that you can’t find in any other part of the world. It matches with the arrive of the arrival of the three kings at the Jesus cave. In Naples, this traditional day is known as the Befana, where every good kid has got as a present a sock full of sweets.
In Naples, there is a huge celebration that attracts people from everywhere. A bonfire night, with the lighting of the witch in the middle of the square. If you are interested in it, you have to go to Piazza Mercato. There is a huge market selling any kind of good, especially toys for kids. It is busy, and is not easy to reach in that night. But the scenario of one of the major churches of Naples is stunning.
The Real Napolitan shapes in the Catacombs of San Gennaro
If you don’t know who is St. Gennaro, you need to start from here to understand Naples. There is an essential link between the patron saint of the city and the inhabitants. Visiting the Catacombs of San Gennaro, you will enter in the heart of Naples, understanding and learning about the close bond of faith between the city and its Saint. It is a trip in the tradition, religion and history that will leave you breathless.
Check the ticket for the Underground of Naples!
Take a day trip to Sorrento in Christmas
Sorrento is one of the most underrated cities close to Naples. This post will enhance the beauty of this city on the coast especially in Christmas time. The best time to visit Sorrento is in Summertime, when you can enjoy the beaches and the long stretch of coastline, with the high cliffs towards Amalfi. But Sorrento is more.
You will be surprised that locals from Naples, use to enjoy a couple of nights in the Christmas period in Sorrento. The city is surprisingly beautiful with lights everywhere that attract many people. Staying in Naples, Italy on Christmas, will be a good idea to plan a short trip in Sorrento at Christmas.
Book a table at one of the fancy restaurants with an amazing view and enjoy the shops in the little alleys of the historic city centre. Sorrento is away just an hour from Naples, taking the train. The Vesuviana will take you from the main train station of Naples, Piazza Garibaldi to the centre of Sorrento, for less than 5 euro.
Watch the Christmas lights in Salerno
Salerno is the city of the Christmas Lights. It is estimated that the city attracts millions of tourists every year in the Christmas period just to watch the amazing lights. The city council, start to organize this event months before. The lights are proper artworks, with artists from everywhere. There is a light garden with animals, a sky of lights, the churches completely lighted and many more attractions. There is a properly planned itinerary around the lights, that you can follow from a starting point to another.
Salerno is worth a visit in Christmas, the second city of Campania, is away just an hour taking a train from the main train station of Naples, Piazza Garibaldi. From the same train station, you can take even the fastest train, with Italo, that will take you there in half an hour.
Cava de’ Tirreni – Christmas in an old hamlet
Cava de’ Tirreni is a hamlet on the mountains around Salerno. This is one of our favourite borough in Napoli Area. The city overlooks the valley, with a natural surrounding that will be beautiful to snap. In Christmas time, the little borough attracts mostly locals, with lights and special events for the period.
The city centre is mainly made by one alley, with arcades on both sides and the little shops selling any kind of goods. Cava de’ Tirreni is a little hidden gem in Italy, not many know this city. If you are here you are looking for insider tips, and local knowledge to have the best Christmas time in Naples.
Visit the Archeological site of Herculaneum
Obviously many people will argue that Pompeii is the most known archaeological site in the World. But, maybe not everybody knows that one of the most preserved is actually Herculaneum, that is even closest to Naples. Herculaneum was the old roman city, covered by magma and ashes by the eruption of the Volcano Vesuvius. Today this city is called Ercolano and it’s born by the ashes of the prestigious roman town.
Visiting Herculaneum you will also discover the museum dedicated to the eruption. It is an interactive path, worth to be visited. The ticket to the entrance for the Archeological site of Herculaneum is also cheapest than Pompeii. A fast-entrance ticket with an Archeologist will cost around 35 euro (Check it here!)
Go for a pizza tour in Naples
Here we go for the first thing you are looking for once you have booked the trip to Naples. Is always time for pizza in Naples. We can assure you that pizza at lunch is incredible, and we enjoy more than an evening. For a proper local guide about the best pizza in Naples, check it here.
Pizza is coming from Naples, and you can actually eat it in any kind of version. It is born as street food, and the best way is to eat at “portafoglio”, basically folded in four pieces. Recently are opening gourmet pizzerias in Naples. Revisited versions of the tradition, but really good and tasty as well. We suggest you go for a pizza tour in Naples, in order to experience the real taste. If you want a full experience check for our list of the best Pizza Masterclasses in Naples.
Naples Arte Card – Access for 3 Days to Museums, Archeological sites
Looking at a cultural and relaxing time in Naples at Christmas, we suggest you buy an Arte Card. This is an insider tip that will save you a few bucks. With Naples Arte Card you will have access to almost all the museums in Naples, included the Royal Palace and some of the best churches. Also, you can go for free, included in your pass to visit the Archeological sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum, also hiking the Vesuvius and visit some of the best Villas on the coastline.
If you like this, you might also like:
What to see in Naples in 2 days
Naples to Capri, easy and cheap guide
How to reach Positano from Naples
How to spend one day in Naples, Italy
Visit Rome in winter – Enjoy the snow in Rome
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