10 Things to Do in Naples at Christmas

The town at the foot of Vesuvius is an up-and-coming tourist destination. It is worth a visit during the Christmas season to enjoy both its traditions and the local gastronomy.

Matteo Gramegna

Matteo Gramegna

8 min read

10 Things to Do in Naples at Christmas

Christmas lights in Naples | ©Christine Ho

Have you bought a ticket for the month of December and are wondering what to see and do in Naples? Well chosen! The capital of Campania fills up with lights and takes to the streets its traditional nativity scenes.

Our top 10 starts with the icon of the Neapolitan holidays: those traditional nativity scenes. However, in Naples there is much more...

1. Admire the Nativity Scenes of Via San Gregorio Armeno

Maradona figurines| ©Esquiu
Maradona figurines| ©Esquiu

In Naples, nativity scenes are not simply a representation of the birth of Jesus but a cultural phenomenon that blends religion, history and current events. During the Christmas season, Via San Gregorio Armeno is filled with nativity scenes made by the old artisan stores.

You can buy everything from entire nativity scenes to individual figures, including details such as huts and ceramic animals. To help you in this difficult task we have compiled a short list of the most typical souvenirs:

  • Maradona figurines. It's no secret, Neapolitans are crazy about soccer and the Argentinean is by far the most beloved player. The Pibe de Oro led SSC Napoli to two championship wins in the late 1980s and is still very much loved. The figurines of San Gregorio Armeno include famous people and Maradona could not be missed.
  • Scio Scio, a character that ward off the evil eye. He is represented with the typical buatta, an incense burner that was used to spread aromas.
  • Corno Rosso, a bright red lucky horn. According to local tradition it should always be given as a gift, you don't have to buy it for yourself!
  • Bella 'Mbriana, a good but capricious spirit. She lives in houses and favors only people she likes. She is traditionally portrayed as a beautiful woman wearing a long white dress.
  • Pulcinella, the Neapolitan character from the Commedia dell'arte. She wears a wide white tunic girded by a black belt. The hat is also white and contrasts with the black mask that covers her face. His main characteristic is the irony he uses to mock the powerful.

While you decide what to buy, you can treat yourself to a calzone napoletano, a pizza stuffed with ricotta, tomato, mozzarella and salami. It can be baked or fried and in both cases is a classic Christmas street food. After the walk you can visit another neighborhood landmark, the Veiled Christ of Naples.

2. Skate on the ice at Edenlandia

Skating in Naples| ©Manuel R
Skating in Naples| ©Manuel R

Edenlandia is a theme park in the Fuorigrotta district. There is a little bit of everything: bumper cars, a Ferris wheel, escape room, roller coasters and much more. It also has a large skating rink called "Regno di Ghiaccio".

As usual, a ticket costs around 5 € for both adults and children. Edenlandia is open from Monday to Friday from 15:00 to 21:00 and from 10:00 to 24:00 on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

Getting there is quite easy, it is located very close to the Cavalleggeri Aosta metro station (line 2). If you are interested in other activities with the kids, I recommend you to read the post about visiting Pompeii with children.

3. Stroll under the tree of Piazza del Plebiscito

Tree of Piazza del Plebiscito| ©William Verguet
Tree of Piazza del Plebiscito| ©William Verguet

The most majestic square in Naples is located halfway between the promenade and the central Via Toledo. At Christmas time you should not miss a stroll in the area.

Its structure is somewhat unique: it consists of two bodies, one semicircular and one rectangular. At each corner stand the Basilica of San Francesco di Paola and the Royal Palace.

It is the hall of Naples and hosts every December a gigantic Christmas tree. It can be a fir tree or an artificial cone but the result is equally charming. Given the large size of the square, it is often complemented by a Santa Claus of lights or other decorations.

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4. Visit the fish market of Porta Nolana

Porta Nolana| ©Sergioizzo
Porta Nolana| ©Sergioizzo

On thenight between December 23rd and 24th, Neapolitans have only one goal: to buy the freshest fish. To do so, they usually go to the Porta Nolana fish market, which is popularly known as "mercato ncopp'e mura". It is worth a visit just to see the locals crowding the stalls to buy lobsters, prawns, clams and the "capitone, the adult female eel used in a typical Christmas recipe.

In the meantime, you can liven up the walk by trying the "pizza a portafoglio", a small pizza that is wrapped and closed as if it were a wallet. It is an icon of Neapolitan street food and if you feel like repeating, I recommend the creations of Antica Pizzeria Port'Alba (Via Port'Alba 18) and Pizzeria Fortuna (Via Mancini 8).

To learn more about this topic, I suggest you read the post about the best gastronomic tours in Naples.

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5. Meet Santa Claus

Santa Claus| ©Efecto Glum
Santa Claus| ©Efecto Glum

In the month of December, Santa Claus arrives at the foot of Vesuvius. You will find him in Parco Robinson, a green area with both Mediterranean and tropical trees and plants. It is located on the perimeter of the Mostra d'Oltremare, the main fairground in southern Italy.

The Christmas village is a must-see stop if you are traveling with children. In addition to Santa Claus, the little ones can decorate a tree and gingerbread men, write a letter to Santa Claus, listen to stories and enjoy the Christmas Circus.

The price is usually around 13 € for adults and 10 € for children. You can buy tickets both at Ticketone and at the box office.

6. Find a souvenir at the Vomero flea market

Naples Market| ©Guillerme
Naples Market| ©Guillerme

Like other cities in the world, Naples also installs some Christmas markets when the holidays arrive. Strolling through them and doing some shopping is something that both adults and children like. In this case, I recommend you to go to the one located in Il Vomero.

Il Vomero is a neighborhood on top of a hill overlooking the historic center. In the 17th century, aristocratic families moved to the hill to escape the plagues that plagued the city. The neighborhood has maintained its essence and is dotted with tree-lined avenues, gazebos and Art Nouveau buildings that house luxury stores.

Every December, the neighborhood hosts a Christmas market with the typical wooden houses. You will find handicrafts, nativity scenes, home decorations, paintings and much more.

The stalls are located in the streets Via Luca Giordano, Via Enrico Alvino and Via Merliani, in Muzii square, inside Mascagna park and in front of the covered market in Via Kerbaker.

You can easily reach it by metro line 1 (Quattro giornate and Vanvitelli stops).

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7. Have an aperitif in Chiaia

Piazza dei Martiri| ©Mister No
Piazza dei Martiri| ©Mister No

Before sitting at the table for Christmas Eve dinner , it is traditional to go for drinks in the Chiaia district. The epicenter of Neapolitan nightlife is concentrated around a square and three streets: Piazza dei Martiri, Via San Pasquale, Via dei Mille and Via Gaetano Filangieri.

This area is within walking distance of the coast and has a wide range of bars. Here are my favorite places:

  • Barril, a lounge bar with a beautiful garden. Here you can enjoy a glass of wine or an original cocktail while listening to jazz and bossa nova. Neapolitans say they make the best mojito in town (Via Fiorelli 11).
  • Chandelier Cafè, where every glass is a work of art. Often on December 24 they organize a very coveted brunch (Vico Belledonne a Chiaia 34/35).
  • Birdy's Bakery, the American bakery in the heart of Naples. It was so successful that they opened a second branch in Portici, a town hall in the urban belt (Vico Belledonne a Chiaia 14).

8. Sit in the stalls of the San Carlo Theatre

San Carlo Theater| ©Udine2812
San Carlo Theater| ©Udine2812

Did you know that Naples hosts the oldest opera house in Europe? It was inaugurated in 1737, 39 years before the Teatro alla Scala in Milan! King Charles III of Bourbon commissioned the work to Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, one of the leading architects of the Renaissance. The building is located in the heart of the city, a stone's throw from the castle and the royal palace.

In December, the Teatro San Carlo hosts festive shows such as the famous Neapolitan comedy "Natale in casa Cupiello", Christmas concerts, jazz jam sessions, Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" and other exhibitions.

Normally, the Christmas program starts at the end of November and ends in early January. For more information I recommend you consult the official website.

9. Savor Christmas sweets

Struffoli| ©Clarita82
Struffoli| ©Clarita82

Naples is known for pizza, yet its gastronomy goes far beyond that and includes desserts with a long history. The first on the list dates back to the time of Magna Graecia, an expression indicating the areas of southern Italy colonized by the Hellenic city-states:

  • Struffoli, dumplings made with a mixture of eggs, flour, sugar, butter and a liqueur of choice between limoncello, anise or white rum. Once fried, they are garnished with pieces of cedar, candied fruit and colored sugared almonds. To try the best, locals suggest going to the old pastry shop Giovanni Scaturchio
  • Divino Amore, soft pastries made with almonds, sugar and candied fruit. You will recognize them by the typical pink icing although there are modern versions covered in dark chocolate. They were invented as a tribute to Beatriz de Provence, mother of King Charles II of Anjou.
  • Raffiuoli, sponge cakes covered with apricot jam and almond paste or with ricotta dolce cream (sweet ricotta) and chocolate grains. According to folklore they were invented in the 18th century by the Benedictine nuns of San Gregorio Armeno. Many claim that the best are found at Pasticceria Capparelli (Via Dei Tribunali 327).
  • Zeppole di Natale, tasty fritters made with boiled potatoes, eggs, flour and butter. Once fried, they are sprinkled with vanilla sugar and cinnamon. You will find the real thing at Pasticceria Ranaldi in the Quartieri Spagnoli neighborhood (Vico Lungo Gelso 97).

10. Visit the National Museum of Capodimonte

National Museum of Capodimonte| ©Mentnafunangann
National Museum of Capodimonte| ©Mentnafunangann

During the Christmas season, the cultural institution is usually open in an extraordinary way in the evenings. It is the ideal occasion to stroll among the European works of art of the last seven centuries.

The royal site of "Capo di Monte" was born in the 18th century as a hunting reserve of Charles of Bourbon and is surrounded by a large park. For more information on how to get there, opening hours and tickets, I recommend you take a look at the official website.

What is the temperature in Naples during the Christmas period?

From the top of Vesuvius| ©Kārlis Dambrāns
From the top of Vesuvius| ©Kārlis Dambrāns

In the last month of the year, the weather is generally mild. Speaking in silver, temperatures fluctuate between a minimum of 5° and a maximum of 15°. With an average of 120 mm of rainfall, December is the third rainiest month of the year, while snowfalls are very rare and are mainly concentrated on the summit of Vesuvius.

If you are lucky enough to see this beautiful scenery live, I recommend visiting Vesuvius with an organized excursion. You will see an atypical landscape where the candid surfaces contrast with the blue Mediterranean Sea and the islands of Ischia and Procida in the background.

Book your excursion to Vesuvius from Naples