Closed to traffic and opened to the public at the end of the 1900s, Piazza Plebiscito is not only an elegant space where some of the city’s busiest streets converge, but also an open-air museum of architectural treasures and a highlight of most sightseeing tours in the heart of Naples.
The Royal Palace (Palazzo Reale)
The magnificent Palazzo Reale di Napoli lines an entire side of the square. This sweeping palace was in turn residence of the Spanish viceroys, the Bourbon kings, the Austrians, and the French over the 150 years after Charles III of Bourbon decided to make it his seat in 1734.
Until the unification of Italy, the palace was an important setting in the long history of Naples and its people, hosting royalty and nobles of different dynasties and nationalities. The 19 arches on the main facade house the statues of the most famous rulers in the history of Naples, from King Ruggiero II the Norman to Vittorio Emanuele II of Savoy.
Since 1919, the Royal Palace has belonged to the Italian state and today houses one of the city’s top museums. Visitors can marvel at the grand staircase and tour the Royal Apartments, as well as admire the National Library with attached gardens. The sumptuous Teatro San Carlo opera house, overlooking the nearby Piazza Trieste e Trento, is also part of the palace complex.
The Basilica di San Francesco di Paola
Just opposite the Royal Palace, the neoclassical Basilica di San Francesco di Paola is one of the most famous churches in Naples. Its unique 19th-century architecture features a semicircular colonnade that lines the square and a dome similar to that of Rome’s Pantheon .
The Basilica di San Francesco di Paola has long been one of the most popular and beloved local churches for the celebration of weddings, in part because Piazza Plebiscito offers a stunning backdrop for wedding photos. Visitors to the church and square often come across a newly married couple and their guests being photographed in the piazza.
Other Piazza del Plebiscito Highlights
The square is bookended by two identical buildings, Palazzo della Prefettura and Palazzo Salerno (on the side nearest the waterfront). Gran Caffè Gambrinus, one of the oldest and most famous coffee houses in Naples, is just off the square. Stop here for an authentic Neapolitan espresso and a delicious sfogliatella.