Art museums are one of the biggest draws of visiting Naples, and they certainly don’t disappoint. Although Italy is known for classical and religious art—which Naples has plenty of—the city also has amazing contemporary art museums and unique smaller galleries. Whether you want to check out the most important artistic works of the city or feel like you’re discovering a more under-the-radar spot, read on to find out the best museums for you.
Classical Paintings and Historical Art Museums
Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli
You can’t talk about art museums in Naples without talking about the Archeological Museum, in Italian called Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. You could spend an entire day here. It’s home to frescoes and mosaics from Pompei and Herculaneum, an Egyptian collection with mummies, and relics of Mediterranean history spanning from the paleolithic era to modern day. One of the most popular collections is the “secret room” that houses numerous works of erotic art discovered during the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Formerly Palazzo Zevallos, Gallerie d’Italia Napoli is a medium-sized museum home to one of the three Caravaggio pieces in Naples. The permanent collection has many paintings of Naples and its surroundings in the 1800’s and before. It’s a cool experience to compare the historical paintings of Naples to the city today. Some scenes are almost unchanged!
The museum is home to an amazing bar and restaurant called Luminist. If you’re visiting the museum in the morning, pop in beforehand for an exquisite pastry and cappuccino. (Save money by eating breakfast Italian style at the bar instead of sitting at a table.)
Pio Monte della Misericordia
One of the other majestic Caravaggio pieces in Naples is housed in the museum of Pio Monte della Misericordia (Via dei Tribunali, 253). The stunning museum is located in a 16th century building and includes a small but beautiful chapel and a grandiose staircase. The building itself is a work of art, which makes this museum so special! The paintings inside span mainly from the 15th to the 18th centuries. They also have a contemporary section, though.
Museo Capella San Severo
If you want to have a museum experience without being overwhelmed by massive collections of art, check out Museo Capella San Severo. It’s a small but impactful baroque chapel built in 1613. It’s home to the Veiled Christ (1753), widely considered to be one of the most impressive sculptures in the world. The marble sculptures present in the chapel have a level of detail, precision, and beauty rarely seen.
Contemporary and Modern Art Museums
Museo Madre provides a contemporary counterpoint to all the classical and historical museums Naples has to offer. It’s in the repurposed monastery of Santa Maria Donnaregina originally built in the 14th century. The museum collection contains site specific works that make the building itself an interesting work of art. The collection includes pieces from international artists like Jeff Koons as well as Italian contemporary artists like Luciano Fabro.
Palazzo delle arti Napoli
PAN, also known as Palazzo delle arti Napoli (Via dei Mille, 60) is one of the best places to see contemporary art in Naples. It’s home to a permanent exhibition and rotating temporary exhibitions. Recent shows include a series of photos of David Bowie’s life and an extensive exhibition of works by M. C. Escher. They often showcase interesting themes of street art and modern pop cultural history.
Unique and Unexpected Galleries
Made in Cloister
Made in Cloister is a cultural and artistic space created by a local foundation with the aim of revitalizing an abandoned cloister. The cloisters have a purposefully gritty feel, but that makes it all the more interesting. Every Thursday, they stay open until 10pm to let the public make use of their bar for an aperitivo. They host many social events in the space, so be sure to check the calendar before visiting.
Hermann Nitsch Museum
One of the most unexpected museums in the city is a museum dedicated to the artist Hermann Nitsch. For those unfamiliar with his work, Nitsch was part of a group called the Vienna Actionists, a group of provocative performance artists in the 60’s and 70’s. His performances and philosophies are archived in this Neapolitan museum because of his close friendship with local gallery owner Giuseppe Morra. The museum is wonderfully eclectic and definitely off the beaten path.
Another art gallery with a social bent is Spazio Nea, right in the historical center. It’s a tiny gallery with only a few exhibitions at a time, but it’s worth checking out for the atmosphere alone. At the end of the gallery space there’s a small bar that spills out into a lovely terrace area. It’s a perfect place to end your day with a relaxing spritz.
Another unique museum in Naples is PLART Napoli, dedicated to the history, art, and design of all things plastic. Weird, right? If you think about it, though, plastic is a major part of our lives. This museum is definitely a bit niche, but great for those interested in the design and beauty of everyday objects.
Important Tips when Visiting Art Museums in Naples
- If you want to visit multiple museums and historical sites during your visit to the Naples area, consider getting an Artecard. There are many options to help you save on transportation and site visits. For example, a 3 day Campania pass gives you 3 admissions to museums and historical sites, plus free transport. (P.S. That includes Pompeii and Herculaneum!)
- Public museums are free every first Sunday of the month. Not all museums in this list are public, so make sure to check the culture minister’s website for the full list.
- Naples has a long and epic history of art, and it also offers plenty of places for contemporary art aficionados. The city is full of surprises, and has some really unexpected and unique museums. Plus, there are some great spaces to enjoy a bite and a drink surrounded by artistic energy. We’re spoiled for choice here. Buon viaggio!
No need to go all the way to Pompeii – you can see frescoes and art from this city without leaving Naples. Photo credit: Nick Fewings
by Chelsea NewmanView more by Chelsea ›
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