Skip to content
Home » Europe » Italy

Visit Herculaneum: A Comprehensive Guide + Self-Guided Walking Tour

Herculaneum is an archaeological site on the Bay of Naples in southern Italy, best known as the Roman town that was destroyed by the same colossal eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that engulfed Pompeii. Though not nearly as famous as its better-known neighbor, visiting Herculaneum is enriching and ought to be as much a priority on your Italy trip as Pompeii and Vesuvius. We’ve compiled a guide on how to visit Herculaneum that includes the history of Herculaneum, practical information, and tips. We’ve also included a comprehensive self-guided Herculaneum walking tour which highlights the main things to see in Herculaneum.

Please note that this article contains affiliate links. Learn more about it on our Disclosure page. We use ads to support our small business – we hope you don’t mind them too much.

History of Herculaneum

Best Places to see in Italy: The ancient ruins of Herculaneum

There is no solid archaeological evidence to indicate when Herculaneum was founded. According to legend, Herculaneum was founded by the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules in Latin) and took its name from him, indicating that the city was of Greek origin.

However, it seems that as is the case with Pompeii, the Oscans founded the first settlement at Herculaneum and they were followed by Etruscans,  Greeks, and the Samnites. After having participated against Rome during the Social War, Herculaneum was conquered and became part of the Roman Empire in 89 BC.

Herculaneum sits on a natural terrace in a strategic position overlooking the Bay of Naples to the west and gives easy access to the sea. Written and archaeological evidence indicates that by the first century AD, Herculaneum was a glitzy seaside resort for wealthy Romans from nearby Naples and other parts of Campania. 

Herculaneum’s idyllic existence came to an abrupt end in the autumn of AD 79 with the deadly eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. At approximately 13:00 in the autumn of AD 79, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, sending a mushroom cloud of incandescent ash, pumice, toxic gases, and molten rock 19 kilometers (12 miles) into the air.

Fun Fact

Nobody knows for certain the exact date of Mt. Vesuvius’s eruption in 79 AD. Pliny the Younger, a Roman writer who provided the sole eyewitness account of the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, noted the date as the 24th of August, regarded as the traditional date for the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79. However, archaeologists have challenged the traditional August date in the past on various grounds. They have argued that the large quantities of fruit found in Herculaneum and other Vesuvian sites suggest an autumn season. Plus, there is sufficient evidence to suggest that the wine harvest had already taken place before the eruption. A newly unearthed charcoal inscription by Italian archaeologists endorses the notion that the eruption did not take place during the summer but in autumn. Therefore, it now seems likely that the AD 79 Vesuvius eruption occurred in the second half of October (possibly on 24 October).

Due to its location and the direction of the wind on that fateful day, Herculaneum was largely spared from the volcano’s debris in this phase, receiving only a very thin layer of ashes and lapilli. However, on the second day of the eruption, the town of Herculaneum was buried under approximately 15–25 meters of pyroclastic material.

Most of Herculaneum’s residents fled to a nearby beach but about 340 perished while trying to escape, suffocating to death on toxic fumes.

Herculaneum lay buried and largely intact for centuries and today, the Italian town of Ercolano (formerly Resina) lies on the approximate site of Herculaneum.

Systematic investigations of Herculaneum started only in 1738. Since then, excavations at the site have continued sporadically until the present day. Conservation efforts at Herculaneum are focused on preserving what has already been exposed to the public, however, rather than digging up more ruins

Given that only a third of Herculaneum has been unexcavated, we can only speculate what other marvels are still hiding beneath the surface.

Is Herculaneum Worth Visiting?

YES! Despite the fact that it tends to get overshadowed by Pompeii, Herculaneum is equally interesting and well worth visiting.

Ironically, the same viscous volcanic debris that enveloped and destroyed Herculaneum helped preserve not only the framework of its homes and buildings but also the more delicate materials such as wood and other natural substances. 

Wooden furniture, textiles, and even food shed light on what everyday life there was like. Be awed by Herculaneum’s wealth of archaeological treasures such as plunge pools, stylish mosaics, carbonized furniture, door moldings, and terror-struck skeletons. 

The excavations of Herculaneum are one of the most prestigious monumental complexes of classical antiquity. In 1997, Herculaneum was given the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO

A visit to the ruins of Herculaneum ruins won’t leave you disappointed as there is no closer look into ancient Roman history than a walk around it. 

The fact that everything there is “suspended in time,” makes Herculaneum a one-of-a-kind and fascinating place. It’s like you can stroll into a dwelling, and almost expect the owner to come and greet you.

You don’t even need to be a history nerd or budding archaeologist to appreciate the site. So, visit Herculaneum pronto!

What is the Difference Between Herculaneum and Pompeii?

Although the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii are situated only 14 km (9 miles) apart and are often spoken in the same breath because of their shared fate, obliterated by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79, they are quite distinct from one another.

One of the other major differences between Pompeii and Herculaneum is one of scale. Whereas Herculaneum covered approximately 20 hectares and had a much smaller population of around only 4,000 inhabitants, Pompeii covered an area of some 66 hectares and may have had a population of roughly 10,000–20,000 inhabitants, 

At the time of Vesuvius’s eruption in AD 79, Herculaneum was a wealthier city than Pompeii. As a result, Pompeii has a much richer diversity in architecture on display whereas Herculaneum is dominated by ornate private dwellings with, for example, far more lavish use of colored marble cladding.

The other main difference between Pompeii and Herculaneum is how the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius affected the two towns. The way the destruction of the two towns took place had an impact on their conservation state. 

Pompeii is situated 9 km (5.5 miles) southeast of Mt. Vesuvius whereas Herculaneum is located 7 km (4.5 miles) west of Mt. Vesuvius meaning it is closer to the volcano.

Mt. Vesuvius’s eruption in AD 79 sent a deadly cloud of volcanic debris (ash and lapilli) hurtling southeast toward Pompeii due to the direction of the wind that was blowing at the time. The town was gradually submerged under the volcanic debris that made structures collapse under its weight before the pyroclastic surges then completed the town’s annihilation.

As a consequence, Pompeii looks pretty rundown in places, with missing walls and very little surviving above the ground floor. Despite being closer to the volcano, Herculaneum largely averted this rain of debris, potentially allowing many residents to escape before the more destructive second stage of eruption.

It was only on the second day of Vesuvius’s eruption that Herculaneum was hit by intensely hot pyroclastic currents that destroyed all forms of life.

The volcanic debris covering Pompeii is made out of a soft layer of pumice and ash about 4–6 meters deep. The series of pyroclastic surges and flows covering Herculaneum buried the town under 15–25 meters of tuffaceous material.

Thus, unlike Pompeii, which was plundered extensively after the eruption, the thicker layer of tuffaceous material and special conditions of ground humidity preserved everything underneath Herculaneum. The ruins of Herculaneum are generally better preserved and feel more alive than those of Pompeii.

Herculoaneum’s multi-storied homes stand frozen in time, complete with doors and staircases, as well as a wealth of organic material and everyday items largely missing in Pompeii. Plus, the conditions at Herculaneum largely prevented tampering and looting.

Is Herculaneum Better Than Pompeii?

It would be unfair to say that Herculaneum is “conclusively better” than Pompeii or vice versa. 

However, both Herculaneum and Pompeii possess unique aspects and excel in some regards which the other site lacks. This doesn’t make one site “better” than the other, but it might be more suitable for your specific needs.

For instance, Herculaneum is better-preserved, much less crowded, offers better protection from the shade, is easier to navigate, is easier to explore with kids, and covers a smaller area meaning there’s much less ground to cover. 

On the flip side, Pompeii is certainly the more iconic site and its larger area of diverse architecture means that it offers a better opportunity to get lost among the ruins. 

Lastly, if you’re debating whether to visit Pompeii or Herculaneum, you should do both if possible. You may be under the impression that visiting one site is enough because they are so similar but there are quite a few unique features to each of them. 

You’ll gain a deeper understanding of how a Roman town looked and worked, and how its citizens lived if you visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum instead of just visiting one. 

Both sites perfectly complement each other and my advice is to visit Pompeii first as it provides the big picture and visit Herculaneum later as it fills up the missing pieces with vivid details.

Top Attractions to Visit in Herculaneum + Self-Guided Walking Tour (With Map)

We’ve highlighted the top 12 attractions in Herculaneum that you shouldn’t miss. For your convenience, we’ve included a self-guided Herculaneum walking tour on which you can see all the highlights of Herculaneum.

The self-guided Herculaneum tour is 1.25 km (0.75 miles) long and takes about 1-2 hours at a moderate pace. If you wish, you can add additional stops along the way. Use your official map in combination with our map of this walking tour to customize your itinerary.

The layout of Herculaneum is quite straightforward in comparison with Pompeii. It is divided into three parallel streets, Cardo III, IV, and V, which have upper and lower segments (Superiore and Inferiore) and are intersected by streets called the Decumano Inferiore and the Decumano Massimo. 

Not only will this tour show you what are the main things to see in Herculaneum, but it will also give you a taste of what really made an ancient Roman city. On this self-guided walking tour of Herculaneum, you will see:

1. Entrance

2. Fornici (Boathouses)

3. Casa dei Cervi (House of the Deer)

4. Casa del Rilievo di Telefo (House of the Relief of Telephus)

5. Palestra

6. Casa di Nettuno e Anfritite (House of Neptune and Amphitrite)

7. Casa Sannitica (Samnite House)

8. Casa dell’Atrio a Mosaico (House of the Mosaic Atrium)

9. Casa del Tramezzo di Legno (House of the Wooden Partition)

10. Terme del Foro (Thermal Baths)

11. Sede degli Augustali (Hall of the Augustals)

12. Casa dello Scheletro (House of the Skeleton)

1. Entrance

Visit Herculaneum: Access ramp of Herculaneum Archaeological Park giving a good overview of the ruins

After leaving the ticket building, go through the turnstiles and walk the path below the site to the entrance. The access ramp gives you a good overview of the Roman town, lying 25 meters below the modern street level. 

The ramp curves around the southern end of the site from where you can take the metal ramp that leads down through a tunnel in the solid rock, emerging at the ancient shoreline. 

2. Fornici (Boathouses)

The entrance to the stone boathouses of Herculaneum. PC: Itto Ogami, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the best things to see in Herculaneum is the arched fornici, a row of barrel arches that were used as storerooms or boathouses. It’s a pretty grim way to start your Herculaneum visit and perhaps nowhere else is the horror of the 79 AD eruption captured so dramatically.

When the inhabitants of Herculaneum saw that the pyroclastic flow from the eruption of Vesuvius was barreling toward them, many of them ran toward the sea to escape in the stone boathouses which they thought would shelter them. 

For a long time, it was assumed that these people died instantly from the intense heat of the pyroclastic surge, but further research from the victims’ bones determined that the heat they experienced, although insanely high, wasn’t high enough to kill them instantly partly due to the small protection that the boathouses provided. 

As the helpless victims suffocated to death on toxic fumes while trapped in oven-like boathouses, their possessions such as jewelry, lamps, coins, keys to houses, and work tools fell around them.

Visit Herculaneum: Human skeletons inside the arched boathouses (fornici).

The skeletons, about 340 of them, were only discovered in the 1980s and the 90s – until that point, historians had believed that almost all the population of Herculaneum had escaped the destruction of the city. 

Casts of their remains can still be seen and similar to the well-known plaster casts in Pompeii, it’s pretty difficult to look at the remains without a lump in your throat.

Curled up in a futile attempt at defending themselves, you can’t help but feel how terrifying it must have been for them.  

3. Casa dei Cervi (House of the Deer)

Beautifully sculpted marble statues in the House of the Deer in Herculaneum. PC: Falk2, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Up the ramp from the boathouses lies the Casa dei Cervi (House of the Deer), one of the most luxurious villas in Herculaneum. The name of the house derives from the beautifully sculpted little pair of marble deer being attacked by dogs that were found here.

The House of the Deer must have been the envy of Herculaneum residents as its big terrace at the front must have had marvelous views over the Bay of Naples. Its two floors were built around a central courtyard and it contains a formal dining room and several bedrooms.

The House of the Deer is famous for its marble-chip and mosaic floors and frescoed walls. In addition to the sculptures of the deer, the house contains notable statues such as the “Drunken Hercules” (portraying an inebriated, peeing Hercules barely able to remain upright after a night of revelry) and “Satyr with a Wineskin.” 

Note that these sculptures are replicas; the originals are now all in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

4. Casa del Rilievo di Telefo (House of the Relief of Telephus)

Visit Herculaneum: The colonnaded House of the Relief of Telephus

The House of the Relief of Telephus is one of the major points of interest in Herculaneum and is located just opposite the House of the Deer. It is the second-largest house in Herculaneum and was constructed on three levels.

With several dozen rooms and commanding a heart-stopping view across the silver-blue Bay of Naples to the islands of Ischia and Capri, the House of the Telephus Relief was highly sought-after Roman real estate. 

Visit Herculaneum: A relief depicting Telephus, son of Hercules at the House of the Relief of Telephus

The House of the Relief of Telephus is named for a 1st-century BC relief that narrates the mythical story of Achilles and Telephus. The relief depicts Achilles consulting the Sibyl of Delphi on the left side and Achilles scraping rust from his spearpoint to heal Telephus’s wound on the right side.

This Augustan building (27 BC-AD 14) is also famous for its atrium featuring Ionic columns and marble oscillas – discs with reliefs hanging off the peristyle’s beams between the columns.

5. Palestra

Visit Herculaneum: The colonnaded entrance to the Palestra. PC: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Take a quick peek past the columned entrance to Herculaneum’s large Palestra, where the Romans passed their leisure time playing ball games and wrestling. 

Laid out over two terraces and with a long colonnade on two terraces, the Palestra has a fish pond, a fountain, and an area set aside for religious rites.

6. Casa di Nettuno e Anfritite (House of Neptune and Amphitrite)

Visit Herculaneum: A striking mosaic in the House of Neptune and Amphitrite

The aristocratic House of Neptune and Amphitrite is undoubtedly one of the best things to see in Herculaneum. 

The streetside of this house is home to a wine and cereal shop with a wooden balcony, a screen, and a rack for amphorae. The shop is extremely well preserved with the original wine racks and vessels still in place! 

The house was thought to be the home of an affluent art-loving merchant and takes its name from the wall mosaic adorning the triclinium (dining room). 

This sparklingly preserved and richly ornamental mosaic shows the ancient sea god Neptune and his nymph bride Amphitrite. Note the shells and lava topped with marble theatrical masks that line the scene. 

Visit Herculaneum: Hunting themed mosaics adorning the walls of the House of Neptune and Amphritite

A nymphaeum (a grotto-like alcove with a fountain) can be found at the rear of the house and is adorned with hunting-themed mosaics. 

7. Casa Sannitica (Samnite House)

Herculaneum: Lovely mix of artistic styles inside the Samnite House. PC: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Located at the corner of the Decumanus Inferior and Cardo IV is the Samnite House, one of the places you shouldn’t miss in Herculaneum. This patrician mansion was built in the second century BC, making it about 300 years old at the time of the eruption.

The house features a lovely mix of artistic styles of ancient Roman mural painting. The entrance has first style (Incrustation) décor, with a coffered second style (Architectural) ceiling, while the walls of the atrium are painted in the fourth style (Intricate). 

The beautiful Greek-style atrium features dramatic frescoes and a gallery lined by Ionic columns The pattern of the tiled floors is also of interest. Don’t forget to look up to admire the delicately carved tufa capitals.

8. Casa dell’Atrio a Mosaico (House of the Mosaic Atrium)

Visit Herculaneum: Black and white geometric patterns inside the House of the Mosaic Atrium. PC: sébastien amiet;l [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The stately House of the Mosaic Atrium is one of the top attractions in Herculaneum. 

The house features a large garden surrounded on three sides by porticoes. It would have had lovely views and its elegant décor hints that it had a wealthy owner. 

The House of the Mosaic Atrium takes its name from the elaborate black-and-white checkerboard floor mosaic which surrounds the impluvium, the sunken part of the atrium where the rainwater comes through the opening in the roof was collected. 

You can also see the buckling effect here which was probably caused due to the force of the mud and ash flow that engulfed the town in AD 79.

The garden of the house has a marble fountain and porticos on three sides. It is decorated, like the rest of the house, with fourth-style paintings.

9. Casa del Tramezzo di Legno (House of the Wooden Partition)

Visit Herculaneum: The folding partition inside the House of the Wooden Partition. PC: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The House of the Wooden Partition is a particularly well-preserved home that has also been somewhat reconstructed. It is a patrician house of Samnite type but without a peristyle or colonnaded court.

The  House of the Wooden Partition gets its name from the sliding wood doors that separate the atrium from the tablinum (study). Amazingly, these doors still slide on the original bronze tracks. I mean, how’s that for long-lasting quality?

Look out for the geometric design of the floor mosaic, and the wall paintings in the room to the right of the entrance.

10. Terme del Foro (Thermal Baths)

Herculaneum Thermal Baths: Red walls and mosaics of sea creatures of the Terme Del Foro

A visit to the central bath complex is one of the best things to do in Herculaneum. Constructed in the first half of the 1st century BC, the baths contained separate sections for men and women. 

Enter the men’s section on the Cardo III and look out for the apodyterium (changing room) which has shelves for depositing togas. 

Through there, you can access the frigidarium (cold bath) which has red walls and a blue dome with yellow niches. Continue further to the tepidarium (tepid bath) which features a black and white mosaic of dolphins, an octopus, and a sea god.

The ingeniously designed barrel ceiling allows condensation from the heated air to follow the curve of the roof and drip harmlessly down the walls as opposed to a flat roof, which would have enabled this condensation to drip on the heads of the bathers.

The separate female bathing area is accessible across the grassy, colonnaded palestra. Its lovely mosaic floor is decorated with motifs of Triton and sea creatures. Note the shelves for storing garments and the lovely seats of white and red marble.

11. Sede degli Augustali (Hall of the Augustals)

Visit Herculaneum: Well-preserved mythically themed frescoes inside the Hall of the Augustals

The Hall of the Augustals is one of the must-see highlights in Herculaneum. Majestic and atmospheric, the quadrangular-shaped hall contains some of the best-preserved frescoes in Herculaneum.

The house that the Hall of the Augustals is in once belonged to an imperial cult of wealthy freed slaves dedicated to the first Roman Emperor, Octavian Augustus, who was proclaimed a god after his death.

The hall features two striking wall paintings. Adorning the left wall is a depiction of the ancient hero Hercules about to enter Mt. Olympus, accompanied by the Roman goddesses Juno and Minerva. The fresco directly opposite alludes to the battle between Hercules and the Etruscan god Acheloo. 

12. Casa dello Scheletro (House of the Skeleton)

Herculaneum: Frescoed walls and mythically themed wall mosaics of the House of the Skeleton

The last stop of this self-guided Herculaneum tour is the House of the Skeleton. This house is so-named because a skeleton was found on the upper floor during excavation work in the early 19th century. 

Today, only the ground floor of this two-storey building still remains. Frescoed walls and mythically themed wall mosaics can still be seen. However, only the faded ones are originals.

How to get to Herculaneum

How to get to Herculaneum from Naples By Train

If you’re dead set on using public transport, the best way to get to Herculaneum from Naples is by train. You can choose from two main train services, the Circumvesuviana and the Campania Express.

Circumvesuviana trains run from Napoli Porta Nolana Station and Napoli Piazza Garibaldi Station (Napoli Central Station) in the direction of Sorrento every 30 minutes. You can check the Circumvesuviana train schedule here.

Pro Tip

Porta Nolana is the first stop on the Circumvesuviana route so you’ll maximize your chances of getting a seat if you board there, especially if traveling in the peak summer season. Additionally, if you or someone you’re traveling with finds stairs difficult, Porta Nolana is more accessible than Napoli Centrale.

The train journey between Naples and Herculaneum usually takes 15-20 minutes. Disembark at the stop Ercolano Scavi. Exit the station and just walk straight down the Via IV Novembre. The street is signposted and it is a 10-minute walk to the Herculaneum entrance.

Tickets for the Circumvesuviana can be bought from the ticket counter or a tobacconist (look for the red T). A one-way ticket costs 2.40 EUR. After buying your ticket, pass through the gates and proceed to platform 3 from where your train will depart.

Pro Tip

Please be mindful of your belongings on the platform as the Circumvesuviana train route is notorious for pickpocketing and petty theft.

Keep in mind that the Circumvesuviana trains are a bit scruffy, often crowded, have no luggage storage area, no guaranteed seats, and no air conditioning.

If you want to take a train with guaranteed seats, fewer crowds, air conditioning, and luggage storage, you can take the Campania Express. 

The Campania Express runs from Napoli Porta Nolana Station and Napoli Piazza Garibaldi Station (Napoli Central Station) in the direction of Sorrento four times a day from mid-March to the end of October, shaving a few minutes off the trip from Naples. You can check the Campania Express schedule here.

Just like with the Circumvesuviana trains, you also get off at the stop Ercolano Scavi. A one-way ticket for the Campania Express costs 8 EUR. 

How to get to Herculaneum from Naples With a Guided Tour

By far the easiest way to get from Naples to Herculaneum is with a fully guided day tour. This takes all the legwork out of planning a route on how to get to Herculaneum from Naples, buying tickets, and what to see there.

There are several great options to choose from if you want to visit Herculaneum on a guided tour from Naples. Some of these even give you the choice of combining Herculaneum with Pompeii or Mt. Vesuvius. 

A guided tour will save you time to ensure you won’t miss anything important. Some of the ones I can recommend are:

How to get to Herculaneum from Naples By Car

To reach Herculaneum by car from Naples, take the motorway named “A3 Napoli-Salerno” and take the exit toward Portici/Ercolano from A3. Then, take Via IV Novembre to SS 18 Tirrena Inferiore/SR18 in Ercolano and follow the signs “Parco Archeologico di Ercolano.” 

The journey takes about 20 minutes. Keep in mind that the motorway has tolls. There are public car parks close to the Herculaneum archeological site. 

Finally, if you’re not a confident driver, I wouldn’t recommend driving in Southern Italy as drivers can be pretty aggressive here.

How to get to Herculaneum from Rome

You can also visit Herculaneum on a day trip from Rome and it is definitely worth the trip. It’ll make for a long day, but you can do it. 

The best way to get from Rome to Herculaneum is by train. You’ll first need to take a train from Roma Termini Station to Napoli Centrale, and then take one of the train options to Herculaneum as mentioned above.

Just make sure you choose a high-speed train from Rome to Naples and not a regional one, as you have a long day ahead of you and you don’t want to spend it perched on trains. Check Trenitalia for tickets.

Practical Information for Visiting Herculaneum

1. What are the opening hours of Herculaneum?

The Herculaneum Archaeological Park (Parco Archeologico di Ercolano) is open Thursday–Tuesday all year round, except 1st January, 1st May, and 25th December. The opening hours differ from high to low season. 

During the high season (16th March–14th October), Herculaneum is open from 08:30–19:30 (last entry is at 18:00). During the low season (15th October–15th March), Herculaneum is open from 08:30–17:00 (last entry is at 15:30).

2. How much does it cost to enter Herculaneum and where can I buy Herculaneum tickets?

Entry to the Herculaneum Archaeological Park is not free and requires a paid ticket. Admission to Herculaneum costs 13 EUR for adults. Concessions are available under certain conditions. Admission is also free for kids under 18.

Tickets to Herculaneum can be purchased online on, the official ticket seller for the Herculaneum Archaeological Park. 

It is also possible to purchase tickets directly from the Herculaneum ticket office but the number of visitors is limited to make sure everyone has enough space. To avoid long queues at the ticket counter and to be certain of getting in, it is recommended to book your tickets online in advance.

You can also purchase a fast-track entrance ticket to Herculaneum on legit third-party resellers such as GetYourGuide or Tiqets. It is a tad more expensive but fully refundable. 

Entrance to Herculaneum is free on the first Sunday of every month. However, unless you are on a tight budget, you should avoid visiting Herculaneum on this day as it can get rather packed.

N.B. Everyone visiting Herculaneum has to go through airport-style security checks. You will have to scan your bag, including your cell phone and camera.

3. Do you need a guide to visit Herculaneum?

There’s no prerequisite to having a guide to visit Herculaneum. Upon entry, you’re provided with a map so you’re free to investigate on your own. 

You can also rent an audio guide for a fee at the ticket office. However, like many other audio guides, it provides a good foundational knowledge of the sites but the commentary is rather dry and does tend to drone on a bit.  

To avoid your Herculaneum visit ending in disappointment, I strongly recommend bringing along a detailed guidebook or, better still, booking a guided tour.

Tour guides will give you more information than the audio guides, will answer questions, and will get you around Herculaneum with minimum fuss. They’re knowledgeable and experienced, and well worth their fee. Plus, tour guides are real history buffs and are never short of intriguing anecdotes

You can either book a guide on arrival (look out for a bunch of them hanging inside the entrance wearing licensed red wooden neck tags) or book a tour online through a reputed agency like GetYourGuide. 

In case you’re interested in booking a Herculaneum guided tour, I would recommend either this 2-hour small group tour with an archaeologist or an exclusive private tour of Herculaneum.

4. How many hours do you need in Herculaneum?

That depends. The amount of time you spend in Herculaneum will be a good gauge of your level of historical nerdiness. 

If you’re a history buff and possess a deep curiosity about the subject matter, you could easily spend an entire day (or more 😉) being fascinated by the ruins. Realistically though, a visit to the excavations of Herculaneum requires about 2-3 hours. 

5. When is the best time to visit Herculaneum?

The best time of the year to visit Herculaneum is in the shoulder season (March–April & October–November). This is when the weather is at its most pleasant and the crowds are pretty thin. 

Visiting Herculaneum in the middle of summer (June–August) is not ideal as the heat and crowds are at their worst. You’ll encounter the least crowds in the winter but keep in mind that in the event of inclement weather and rain, the ancient pavement of cobblestones can be quite slippery.

The best time of day to visit Herculaneum is either first thing in the morning right at opening time or after 14:00 or 15:00.

Monday–Tuesday and Thursday are the best days to visit Herculaneum as Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are by far the most popular days to visit the site.

6. Can I bring a bag when I visit Herculaneum?

It’s best to pack light when visiting Herculaneum as you are only permitted to bring a small bag into Herculaneum, such as a backpack.

Large bags and bulky items (i.e. over 30x30x15 cm) are not allowed inside Herculaneum. If you bring them, you can use the free cloakroom at the ticket office to store your belongings.

7. Are there restrooms in Herculaneum?

There are toilets at the ticket office. Just look for the “WC” signs.

Tips for Visiting Herculaneum

Here are some things you need to know before you visit Herculaneum.

1. Bring a hat, sunscreen, and water bottle

Herculaneum does have some shaded areas and is not as exposed as Pompeii. However, it would be a good idea to wear a good sun hat and sunglasses to protect your skin from sun exposure in the warmer months. And take the time to lather up with sunscreen (ideally one with a high SPF) a few times during the day.

Make sure to bring a water bottle which you can refill at water fountains around the site. 

2. Be sure to wear comfortable walking shoes!

One of the most important tips for visiting Herculaneum is to wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes as the ground is usually uneven and you can expect a lot of walking on rough surfaces. Ditch the heels and try to avoid sandals and flip-flops!

3. Bring your own food when visiting Herculaneum

It would be a smart choice to bring your own food, especially if you’re traveling with kids or anyone who’s likely to be grumpy when hungry as there is no café or restaurant on site. You can use the designated picnic areas inside Herculaneum for eating.

You can also pick up some food and beverages from the several cafés and restaurants in the vicinity of the archaeological area in Ercolano. 

Keep in mind that you cannot exit and re-enter Herculaneum to get food (unless, of course, you’re willing to pay the admission fee again).

4. Go with an intent to learn when you visit Herculaneum

Though this may sound rather obvious, if you visit with a desire to learn, you’ll be so much more satisfied with your trip. I have spotted some people in Herculaneum who seemingly had no interest in what they were looking at and they looked bored out of their minds. 

Don’t visit Herculaneum if it’s just ticking a box on a list of things to do in Italy, or if you just want to get a selfie of yourself there and nothing else. It’s really not the sort of place that you’re going to get anything out of unless you put your time and interest into it. 

5. If possible, try to visit Mt. Vesuvius and Herculaneum on a separate day

Though it is logistically possible to combine your Herculaneum visit with Mt. Vesuvius or Pompeii, you’ll practically be running around the sites. It would be better to visit those sites on different days for a more relaxed pace and a far more enjoyable experience.

6. Try to visit the National Archaeological Museum of Naples

You may be a bit surprised to know that many of the most spectacular archaeological finds from Herculaneum aren’t located within the Herculaneum Archaeological Park at all.

Instead, a lot of these archaeological treasures – a glittering array of mosaics, sculptures, and more have found a permanent home in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples (Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli).

So, if you have time to spare, you might want to check out this fabulous museum as it provides a lot more detail and context to what you will see in Herculaneum.

Accommodation for Visiting Herculaneum

If you’re looking for a base to explore these spectacular ruins, we’ve compiled a list of good options.

Naples: Costantinopoli 104, a great choice in the historic center of Naples.

Rome: Hotel Nord Nuova Roma, a solid option next to Roma Termini Station (Rome’s main railway station) 

Ercolano: Herculaneum Hotel & Maison, an excellent option in Ercolano, only 50 meters from the entrance of the ruins.

Further Reading For Your Campania Visit

That summarizes our comprehensive guide on visiting Herculaneum. However, we reckon you’ll find the following resources useful for planning your trip to the Campania region!

More Information About Italy

Venice: Find out the 30 best things to do in Venice!

Venice: Check out the 14 best traditional souvenirs to buy in Venice!

Venice: Check out the 30+ must-see sights along the Grand Canal in Venice!

Venice: Check out the 22 must-try foods in Venice!

Trieste: Discover the 18 best things to do in Trieste!

Rome: Check out the 20 historical sites in Rome you shouldn’t miss!

Rome: Check out our ultimate guide to visiting the Roman Forum!

Rome: Find out the 30 best things to do in Rome!

Rome: Check out the 20 must-try foods in Rome!

Now, what do you think? Is visiting Herculaneum on your bucket list? Or is there anything else that shouldn’t be missed at Herculaneum? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

About Mihir

Hello there, fellow globetrotters! I’m Mihir, a passionate travel blogger with an insatiable wanderlust. My journey across the world is fueled by curiosity and a hunger for unique experiences. As a travel writer, photographer, and adventurer, I’ve explored more than 35 countries, aiming to provide readers with a distinctive glimpse of our diverse world. Join me as I blend captivating storytelling with stunning visuals, guiding you through hidden gems and cultural treasures. Besides traveling, my other loves are my beloved cats, architecture, art, craft beer, classic movies, history, and Australian Rules Football (Go Dons!).

1 thought on “Visit Herculaneum: A Comprehensive Guide + Self-Guided Walking Tour”

  1. hello,
    1) Where is best to park a car near the Herculaneum archaeological site ?
    Can you send a link from which I can print a map of the site ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.