Herculaneum is an exceptionally well-preserved archaeological site dating back to Roman times, located only about 15 kilometers from Naples. In our opinion, this is a must-see during your trip to Naples, for several reasons that we will mention below.
To be completely honest and transparent, as always, we definitely preferred this site to its famous neighbor Pompeii.
You will also find at the end of the article our map with our itinerary so as not to miss anything on the spot as well as our good addresses, as always our goal is to help the future travelers to organize their trip easily.
- Why you have to go?
- The incredible history
- Visit Herculaneum: ideal itinerary to see the best (on map) :
- 1. Terms suburbane (suburban baths)
- 2. La casa dei Cervi (deer house)
- 3. La casa del Relievo di telefo (House of the Relief of Telescope)
- 4. The thermopolium (taverns)
- 5. Casa del bel Cortile (The house of the beautiful court)
- 6. Casa di Nettunoe Anfitrite (The store and the house of Neptune and Amphitrite)
- 7. Decumanus maximus (street)
- 8. Casa del tramezzo di legno (The house with the wooden partition)
- How to get to Herculaneum?
- Where to buy tickets to visit Herculaneum ?
- Should you book a guided tour ?
- Hôtel and restaurants
- How to continue to Mount Vesuvius?
Why you have to go?
The town of Herculaneum (Ercolano) was closer to Vesuvius, so the town was buried under a more important layer of material (15 to 20 meters of ashes and stones).
This thick layer allowed for excellent conservation. As you can see, there are still paintings on the walls of almost all the houses, wood and furniture have been found almost intact.
The floors have also been better preserved than in Pompeii, which will give you a precise idea of the volumes of the houses of the time.
You will have the impression to walk through a city which was recently abandoned by its inhabitants, whereas it was built 2 millenia ago!
Its moderate number of visitors
300,000 visitors come to the site every year, which is less than the 3 million visitors to Pompeii.
We started our exploration as soon as it opened, as is often the case, we were almost alone for the first few hours, and when we left at around 12:00, there was a line at the ticket office.
We also enjoyed Pompeii less because of the many groups that visit it, knowing that the streets are narrow and the houses generally small. The crowd effect is more noticeable.
Its small size
Only a quarter of the site has been unearthed and excavated, as the new city was built on top of the old one.
You will access it by a footbridge from which you will have an excellent overview . This will help you to understand quickly the organization of the excavated part, which allows you to enter quickly in the visit.
In 3 hours you should have time to explore almost the entire site.
The site is ideally located
You can easily include it in your itinerary since it is located between Naples and Pompeii.
You can leave Naples in the morning, either sleeping there to be able to do Vesuvius the next day or to reach Pompeii after your visit.
We even met travelers with vehicles, who did Herculaneum in the morning and Vesuvius in the afternoon. The sites are so close to each other that you won’t lose time in travel.
The incredible history
Herculaneum was a small agricultural and fishing village, where about 4000 people lived in Roman times. This city, once on the sea, also attracted the rich Romans of the region, as evidenced by the magnificent mansions found on the waterfront.
In October 79, the city was completely buried under 20 meters of ash and stones, following the violent and sudden eruption of Vesuvius that affected the entire bay of Naples.
As mentioned above, it was the closestcity to Vesuvius, so this thick layer has allowed an excellent conservation that will allow you to understand how the Romans lived.
Note that, the public and religious buildings are still buried under the current city, that’s why we find that Pompeii brings a complementary reading to the life in antiquity.
Visit Herculaneum: ideal itinerary to see the best (on map) :
Before your visit
We advise you to watch this video of a few minutes which explains the organization of a Roman domus (house)
We also recommend that you go to the Virtual Archaeological Museum the day before your visit. Unfortunately we could not go there because it is closed at the beginning of the week.
The 3D film projected, seems perfect to better understand the eruption of Vesuvius, and the life at the time of Pompeii and Herculaneum. If you have the chance to go there, you will tell us if it is an interesting museum (entrance fee 4€)
As mentioned above, the view of the site from the footbridge allows us to understand the organization of the excavated area. Your tour will start with the port area and then you will go to the city .
We suggest you simply stroll through the streets of Herculaneum, so well preserved. Project yourself into life in Roman times, observing the houses, terms, shops and taverns still in excellent condition.
The explanatory panels are non-existent in Herculaneum. If you don’t have time to prepare your visit or if you want to optimize your visit and get information and anecdotes, don’ t hesitate to book a visit with a English speaking guide.
Here are some of the most important places not to be missed in our opinion:
1. Terms suburbane (suburban baths)
They are extremely well preserved, you will be able to observe the various basins as well as the beautiful mosaics on the ground.
2. La casa dei Cervi (deer house)
It is according to us the most beautiful house of the site, beautiful mosaics on the floor and walls, frescoes on the walls and a magnificent garden (Peristyle) with a view on the sea (in the Roman period).
3. La casa del Relievo di telefo (House of the Relief of Telescope)
It is the second largest villa in the city, with many red paintings still on the walls and on the well restored columns, surrounding the impluvium (rainwater collection basin).
4. The thermopolium (taverns)
These small taverns are generally well preserved, the earthenware jars (which held the hot dishes) are still in place integrated in the counter. You will find several of them during your visit to the site.
5. Casa del bel Cortile (The house of the beautiful court)
Go to the bottom to take the stone staircase and reach the upper floor. It’s impressive, we were close to missing it, because it’s a bit hidden.
6. Casa di Nettunoe Anfitrite (The store and the house of Neptune and Amphitrite)
Extremely well preserved store, it gives an excellent idea of the structure of the shops of the time. The wooden floors have been reconstructed from the remains found during the excavations and beautiful amphorae are stored. In the background, beautiful mosaics on the wall with still shells.
7. Decumanus maximus (street)
The street is located at the bottom of the site, it is the closest to the actual city. We found it extremely interesting because there are many stores (with still pieces of wood found during the excavations) and even inscriptions on the walls still well preserved.
You can also imagine that after this area, there are all the ruins still buried under the new city.
8. Casa del tramezzo di legno (The house with the wooden partition)
Here you will see a remarkably preserved wooden panel that separated the atrium from the tablinum, where the owner talked business with his clients, as well as the remains of a bed.
How to get to Herculaneum?
As mentioned above, this site is ideally located, equidistant from Naples and Pompeii (about 15 kilometers from each city). There are several options for getting to Herculaneum.
This is a very good option, especially in high season. The Circumvesuviana train , at the “Napoli Centrale” station, allows you to reach, in 20 minutes, the “Ercolano Scavi” stop, 500 meters from the entrance, for only 2€ per trip.
When you leave the station, you only have to go down the 4th of November road to the excavations. You can take this train again if you wish to continue to Pompeii.
We joined the site in car because we were there out of the tourist season, be careful the driving is a little bit sportive in Naples, there is a lot of traffic and the traffic rules are particular in Italy (mean specific to each driver…), it will become easier when you get closer to Herculaneum.
Then you can park for free (not secured) a few meters from the site, we have indicated the parking on the map more.
A secure parking lot is located at the foot of the site, but please note that it costs 5€ per hour. It is also a good option to visit the site with peace of mind. It is certainly necessary to arrive early in high season to have space.
How to get to Naples?
To reach Naples from France, you can find flights from 30€. We advise you to compare the prices of the different flights on the Skyscanner website.
Where to buy tickets to visit Herculaneum ?
There are two options for purchasing the ticket:
- Buy your ticket on the spot (beware of the world) or take it online, so you can choose your time of visit beforehand, the price of the entrance ticket to Herculaneum is 13 € (without a ticket cutter), in full price. All the information on discounts and opening hours on the official website: https://ercolano.beniculturali.it/oraricontatti/
- To acquire the Campania Artecard is a range of cultural cards, which allows you to visit many museums in the region, several packages are offered, with or without transport included. If you want to visit several sites, it can be quite profitable.
We let you look at the details on the official website and do your own calculations!
Beware, Vesuvius is not included, we were tricked, finally our card was not profitable … We did not find the offer very readable. We still point you to the official website, because we like to support this kind of initiatives.
Should you book a guided tour ?
As you can see, once on the spot, there is no explanatory panel present in the site. We were very surprised, it is very rare to have a tourist site and so few explanations. Fortunately we had, for once, had some time to prepare our visit.
As you can see in Herculaneum and Pompeii, most visitors walk around the site accompanied by a guide.
We would have liked to have more explanations once we were there.
We have provided the links below to book your guide or guidebook in advance.
Hôtel and restaurants
Where to sleep to be the first on the site?
As mentioned above, we advise you to arrive as soon as the site opens in order to avoid the crowd of tourists. The ideal is therefore, in our opinion, to sleep near the site.
The hotels are cheap and most of them are located near the archaeological site, anyway there is nothing else to see in this city!
Ruins B&B, the rooms are nice and the bedding is very comfortable. The staff are lovely. The hotel is located in front of the ruins so it’s perfect to be the first on the site and with a great terrace! For 10€, the hotel offers you a secure parking.
Where to eat a good pizza?
We were tempted by the excellent reviews of the Pizzeria Ro.Vi. located at the foot of the site. We were a little skeptical, because so well rated and so close to a tourist site it is not usual. Indeed, the pizzas are good and copious for a small price.
How to continue to Mount Vesuvius?
The only access road to Vesuvius starts fromHerculaneum. If you wish to explore the volcano, we recommend you to go there after your visit or following before going to Pompeii.
This is an excellent option, with Vesuvio Express The bus is located in front of the station and takes 30 minutes to reach Vesuvius and back for 10€ per person.
You have to book your ticket for Vesuvius online, for 10€, otherwise the company sells them for 15€…
Once there, you will have only 1h30 to climb to the crater. If you want to take your time there, you will have to go by your own means.
From Herculaneum the road is extremely well indicated, the parking fee is 5€ and there are minibuses to the beginning of the ascent, at the ticket office 2km above (1€/person or possibility to do it on foot).
Attention we warn you, it is absolutely necessary to reserve your ticket before arriving at the ticket office. The number of places is limited and the tickets go quickly, usually the same day there are none at the ticket office at the level of Vesuvius, you will have come all this way for nothing.
In short, as you have certainly understood, we enjoyed and learned a lot during this visit. In our opinion, this is a must-see and we strongly recommend that you include this site in your itinerary when visiting Naples.
We thank you for having read all the way to the end, don’t hesitate to leave us a note below to tell us if you are planning this trip, or to ask any questions you may have, we will answer you with great pleasure!