How best to explore Pompeii & Herculaneum | Tips and hints

Both Pompeii and Herculaneum were ancient cities engulfed volcanic ash and pumice after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79.  These sites are world renowned and absolutely well worth a visit.   Let us take you back in time with our tips and hints on how to best explore these 2 sites. 

Vesuvius from Pompeii
Vesuvius from Pompeii

Where did we stay?

We visited Pompeii & Herculaneum from Naples and on this visit to Naples we booked the Hostel of the Sun for a few nights. This was a great location, near the port and the metro station as a result we could get about quite easily. The hostel had bunk rooms as well as double and single private rooms therefor can cater for any choice of guest.

How did we get to Pompeii & Herculaneum?

The main and most popular way to get from Naples to Pompeii & Herculaneum is by using the Circumvesuviana train.   The train takes approx 35 mins from Naples to Pompeii and only about 15 mins from Naples to Herculaneum. The train drops you off literally a few mins walk from each of the entrances. 

Its an incredibly popular train therefore it does get really crowded in high season. The trains are a bit grubby and old, don’t have air-conditioning but I think that all adds to the experience in my book. 

Arriving at Pompeii
Arriving at Pompeii

Circumvesuviana – Pompeii & Herculaneum by train

You can catch the train from either Napoli Porta Nolana Station or Napoli Piazza Garibaldi Station Porta Nolana is the terminus where the train starts and ends but Piazza Garibaldi is the more popular station for tourists. If you want to be sure of a seat then head to Porta Nolana. Its not a pretty station inside by any means and you’ll need cash for your tickets but you most certainly will avoid the crowd.  As the train pulls into Piazza Garibalidi station you can people watch as the tourists squeeze themselves onto the train.

If you do opt for Piazza Garibaldi then it is located at the lower level of Napoli Centrale (the main train station of Naples). When you get to the Central station, most importantly, follow signs for Piazza Garibaldi or Circumvesuviana.  Both stations are signposted really well. Tickets cost approx €2.60 per person each way. You must buy the tickets at the station. There is no way to get it ahead of time online or on the train. Trains depart every 30 minutes from either station.

The Circumvesuviana drops you off at Pompei Scavi station, which is located really close to the main entrance to Pompeii. When you get out of the station, turn right and walk for approx 1 minute, and you will see the entrance on your lefthand side.  If you’re heading to Herculaneum then you get off at Ercolano Scavi station and walk along Via Novembre 4 for approx 5 mins to the entrance to the ruins. All are really well signposted.

Villa at Pompeii
Villa at Pompeii

Pompeii

We’ve all heard of Pompeii and the tragedy of Vesuvius and this was a place firmly on our bucket list.  It is a perfectly preserved Roman city with temples, theatres, homes, restaurants and other buildings of interest. Most of the area which has been excavated is open to the public with more sites opening up all the time.

The frescos and wall paintings in some of the buildings are fresh and vivid and moreover they really give you an idea of how a town operated in Roman times. With Vesuvius as a backdrop its breathtaking.

A bit of shade at Pompeii
A bit of shade at Pompeii

Herculaneum

This town was smaller than Pompeii and was very much a resort destination right on the coast. Because of its size it doesn’t take as much time to get round, perhaps a morning or 2 – 3 hrs. When we went it was much quieter so if you’re pushed for time then choose Herculaneum.

Here you can see fascinating houses, some of them multi story, wooden furnishings and decorations, perfectly preserved mosaics and sculptures. It really is a beautiful site and so tragic as the disaster I think is much more visible here. Like Pompeii some of the buildings are not open to the public but don’t worry, there is enough to see to really give you the feel of the place and the events that took place.

Pompeii & Herculaneum villas
Pompeii & Herculaneum villas

Some tips and hints to think about when you visit?

  • Ideally you’ll need a full day for Pompeii as there’s a lot to see.
  • If its particularly hot then bring an umbrella for shade as there’s not much around
  • Some good sturdy walking shoes/boots/sandals are a must!
  • If you don’t have much time or the whole day to spare then choose Herculaneum as its smaller and easier to get round.
  • Some buildings are not open to the public but there’s plenty on both sites to see, you won’t be disappointed
  • There are little cafes and restaurants available for food but queues can be long and they can be expensive.
  • Take snacks and plenty of water.
  • Try and aim to get there as early in the morning as you can to beat most of the rush.
  • There are adequate toilet facilities but again at busy times there can be queues and they’re not always stocked with toilet paper so keep a handy pack of tissues in your pocket.
  • Always buy tickets from either the entrance or online. Don’t buy from the ticket sellers at the trains station as some are fakes and scammers.
  • Beware of pickpockets at all times, on the train or in any crowded area. Keep your hands on your pockets and beware of people trying to distract you.
    Pompeii Amphitheatre
    Pompeii Amphitheatre

    Booking resources for your trip

    Flights

    You can compare cheap flights on the Expedia platform or here on the Aviasales website.  Both will give you a good idea of how much its going to cost you to get to your chosen destination.

    Accommodation

    We have always tended to use Booking.com having said that if your on a tight budget another good site to try as a comparison is Hostelworld, If your looking to compare different sites you can do that on Hotellook, we tend to look on here first to make sure we are getting the best deal.

    Tours & Tickets

    You can book your visits as you go at the entrance to your chosen attraction or site.  Or you could use the following links to book in advance or just to find out what your choices are in the area. GetYourGuide and Tiqets are our go to choices you could try Viator to see how they compare.

    For a full list check out our resources page. Don’t forget always shop around to find the best deal for you. What works for us should be good for you but it’s always reassuring to check.

    Some of the links on this page contain affiliate marketing links, which means we may get paid commission on sales of those products or services we write about. You will never be charged a fee for shopping through one of our affiliate links. You may even get a discounted rate and we will make a small commission. Our editorial content is not influenced by advertisers or affiliate partnerships.

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