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

The renown of Pompeii, indeed the most essential classical archeological site in Europe, is such that it scarcely needs an introduction. By the same token, visiting Pompeii can be challenging unless you have a clear picture of what are the main things to see. That is why we’ve compiled a guide on how to visit Pompeii that includes the history of Pompeii, practical information, and tips. We’ve also included a comprehensive self-guided Pompeii walking tour which highlights the main things to see in Pompeii.

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History of Pompeii

Roman ruins in the ancient city of Pompeii in Italy

Researchers believe that Pompeii was founded in the 8th century BC by the Osci or Oscans, prehistoric inhabitants from Central Italy. In the next few centuries, Pompeii was governed by the Greeks, Etruscans, and Samnites. 

The fertile soil of the area (due to the presence of volcanic ash from the nearby Mt. Vesuvius), combined with its location near the desirable the Bay of Naples meant that Pompeii grew prosperous and wealthy. Following the Social War in the early first century BC, Pompeii became a Roman colony in 80 BC. 

An archetypal example of ancient Roman life, Pompeii was a bustling city and thriving commercial center with a population of 20,000 inhabitants in the Roman Empire.

A thriving hub of commerce and hedonism, Pompeii was awash with lavish villas, paved streets, luxurious bathhouses, wine taverns, busy market stalls, bakeries, temples, theaters, and brothels. Under Roman governance, it became an affluent port town and seaside resort for wealthy Romans who built lavish villas and enjoyed the town’s brothels and spas.

However, the life and splendor of Pompeii were soon destined to come to an end. The first inklings of the tragedy were felt in AD 62 when a violent earthquake devastated the city and the surrounding countryside. 

The Roman Senate immediately ordered the reconstruction of Pompeii, but this was in vain because in 79 AD Mount Vesuvius finally broke its silence with an almighty eruption.

Vesuvius had been spouting smoke and ash for several days before the deadly eruption. 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.

The white-hot ash and pumice (4 to 6 meters deep) settled like heavy snow on Pompeii, its weight eventually collapsing roofs and floors. The eruption lasted for two days, causing scores of deaths and horrific scenes. 

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 Pompeii 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).

Fortunately, most of Pompeii had already been evacuated when disaster struck: out of a total population of between 10,000 and 20,000 people, it’s thought that only 2,000 actually perished.

The estimated 2,000 people who did not leave early or chose to stay in Pompeii either perished from asphyxiation by toxic fumes, falling volcanic debris, or the pyroclastic flows that reached temperatures of up to 300°C (570°F).

The entire town, along with the other nearby towns of Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis were all completely enveloped by the blanket of ash. Pompeii was plundered extensively after the eruption, both immediately and through many centuries.

It lay buried and forgotten for centuries and the first parts of Pompeii were rediscovered by accident in the 1590s. However, it was not until 1748 that the site was seen as an archaeological treasure. Since then, excavations at Pompeii have continued more or less without interruption until the present day. 

Indeed, archaeologists are still working on the remaining areas and exciting discoveries are still being made. Given that there’s almost an entire third of the archaeological site still unexcavated, we can only speculate what other marvels are still hiding beneath the surface.

Is Pompeii Worth Visiting?

YES! Visiting the ruins of Pompeii is akin to stepping into a veritable time machine back to the age of Roman emperors. Time remains at a standstill here as if it were 79 AD, and Pompeii today is a poignant ghost town. 

Ironically, due to the volcanic ash that covered Pompeii, the town’s streets, workshops, and public areas have been excellently preserved. Remains such as furnishings, tools, jewelry, and even food and drink shed light on how the people of Pompeii lived, from the nobility down to the slaves, their social conventions, class structure, and domestic arrangements.

Casts made of impressions in the hardened pumice bear witness to the last seconds in many peoples’ lives. The apprehension of their way of death is evident in plaster casts made from their bodies left in the volcanic ash – with faces tormented with anguish, or inoculating themselves from the dust and ashes. 

So much has been gleaned from the excavations at Pompeii, in terms of history, science, and sociology that in 1997, Pompeii was given the status of a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

No other place in the world compares to Pompeii and it is exceedingly evocative. A visit to the ruins of Pompeii won’t leave you disappointed. So, get into your mental toga and visit Pompeii pronto!

What is the Difference Between Pompeii and Herculaneum?

Although the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum are situated only 14 km (9 miles) apart and are often spoken in the same breath because of their shared fate, annihilated 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 Pompeii covered an area of some 66 hectares and may have had a population of roughly 10,000–20,000 inhabitants, Herculaneum covered approximately 20 hectares and had a much smaller population of around only 4,000 inhabitants. 

At the time of Vesuvius’s eruption in AD 79, Herculaneum was a richer 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 broken 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 Pompeii Better Than Herculaneum?

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

However, both Pompeii and Herculaneum 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, 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. 

On the other hand, 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.

Lastly, if you’re wondering whether to visit Pompeii or Herculaneum, you should do both if you can. 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 striking details.

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

We’ve highlighted the top 15 attractions in Pompeii that you shouldn’t miss. For your convenience, we’ve included a self-guided Pompeii walking tour on which you can see all the highlights of Pompeii. 

The self-guided Pompeii tour is 5 km (3.1 miles) long and takes about 3 hours to complete at a high pace or 4 hours at a more 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.

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

1. Foro (Forum)

2. Teatro Grande (Theater)

3. Casa Del Menandro (House of Menander)

4. Orto Dei Fuggiaschi (Garden of the Fugitives)

5. Anfiteatro (Amphitheater)

6. Via dell’Abbondanza

7. Terme Stabiane (Stabian Baths)

8. Lupanar (Brothel)

9. Casa dei Vettii (House of the Vettii)

10. Casa dei Dioscuri (House of the Dioscuri)

11. Casa del Fauno (House of the Faun)

12. Casa Del Poeta Tragico (House of the Tragic Poet)

13. Necropoli di Porta Ercolano (Necropolis)

14. Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries)

15. Antiquarium (Museum)

1. Foro (Forum)

Visit Pompeii: Ancient Roman ruins in the rectangular Forum of Pompeii

The ideal place to start this guided tour of Pompeii is at the Forum. In ancient Rome, the Forum was Pompeii’s main square and the center of civic life. 

No cart traffic was allowed and the Forum was surrounded by important religious, political, and commercial buildings, Some of these include the once-mighty Sanctuary of Jupiter and Temple of Apollo, and the magnificent Basilica (where matters of law and justice were meted out),

The expansive rectangular-shaped paved area was the oldest part of Pompeii and was built on the site’s highest spot. The citizens of Pompeii gathered here in the Forum to shop, debate politics, and socialize.

While only a handful of columns from the elegant colonnades that flanked the open area remain and the buildings lie in ruins, the grand scale of the Forum is palpable. It’s easy to envision the bustle of activity that occurred here daily during Pompeii’s heyday.

Household items and plaster casts in the granary of the Forum in the ancient city of Pompeii

Finally, one of the best things to see in the Forum is the granary,  once used to keep grain supplies as well as an open food market. Today, it houses thousands of artifacts excavated from Pompeii and you’ll see terracotta crockery and everyday household items like oil lamps, wine jugs, pots, and pans.

2. Teatro Grande (The Large Theater)

Visit Pompeii: The main stage and semi-circular spectator stands of the theater (Teatro Grande) at Pompeii Archaeological Park. PC: Sylvhem [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

As their empire expanded, the Romans originally brought the theater from Greece. Roman theater soon evolved into a thriving art form. A Roman theater was usually arranged in three parts, namely the main stage, a half-circle space for the orchestra in front of the stage, and elevated seats for the audience.

Interestingly, the theater illustrates the class divides of that time, with the wider more gently sloped tiers for the upper classes and guests of honor. On the other hand, the masses sat in the steeper, narrower levels above.

The large theater, with its spectacular natural backdrop of the Lattari Mountains, dates back to the 2nd century BC. It held up to 5,000 spectators and was primarily used for gladiatorial performances. 

The Teatro Grande is still in use today with performances taking place occasionally.

Next to the Large Theater is the lovely Small Theater (Teatro Piccolo or Odeum), used for music concerts. It was built a hundred or so years after the Large Theater and dates back to around 75 BC. 

The Teatro Piccolo could seat 1,000 people and is much better preserved than its larger counterpart. 

3. Casa Del Menandro (House of Menander)

Visit Pompeii: Porticoed garden atrium of the House of Menander at Pompeii Archaeological Park.

In Pompeii, you will find several well-preserved houses, particularly of the gentry. One of these lavish houses is the House of Menander, one of the main points of interest in Pompeii. 

The structure is known as the House of Menander due to a well-preserved fresco of ancient Greek dramatist & poet Menander, although some believe it may be a portrait of the original owner of the building (a relative of Nero’s wife, Poppaea Sabina). 

Pompeii Archaeological Park: Well-preserved frescoes and mosaics inside the House of Menander (Casa Del Menandro)

Mosaics in the caldarium depict sea monsters. The House of Menander also includes a small private bath complex, and a porticoed garden atrium (with frescoes depicting scenes from Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey).

The grandeur of the house indicates that its patriarch must have been involved in politics. The importance of the House of Menander as an élite dwelling is exemplified by the lunch party Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy from 1925 to 1945, held there when he visited Pompeii in 1940.

4. Orto Dei Fuggiaschi (Garden of the Fugitives)

Visit Pompeii: Bodies of victims cast in plaster in the Garden of the Fugitives. PC: Giannis Papanikos/

Walk along the Via dei Sepolcri and take the series of steps just around the corner which leads to the Garden of the Fugitives. Equally intriguing and disturbing, it is one of Pompeii’s most thought-provoking attractions. 

During the eruption of Vesuvius, a group of adults and children sought refuge in an ancient orchard. Unfortunately, none of them survived. 

Instead, their bodies left a permanent imprint on the hardening pumice. They are eerily captured in their last moments, hands covering their mouths as they gasped for air in a futile effort to shield themselves. 

With faces and torsos contorted into twisted, unnatural positions, the torment that each of these unfortunate souls felt as they succumbed to the disaster is pretty discernible. It is a visceral reminder of the catastrophe that befell Pompeii, bringing history to life in a rather macabre manner.

During the excavations in 1870, archaeologists detected hollow spaces, created when the victims’ bodies decomposed. The Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli used a technique based on filling these holes with liquid plaster to produce perfect casts of the victims of the eruption.

13 of these casts can be found in the garden today, and others are located throughout the archaeological ruins. Of all the exceptional remnants of the past that have been unearthed around the ruins of Pompeii, none are as haunting or unique as the remains of the city’s inhabitants.

5. Anfiteatro (Amphitheater)

Visit Pompeii: Exterior of the amphitheater at Pompeii Archaeological Park

The amphitheater of Pompeii is the oldest surviving Roman amphitheater in the world and was completed around 70 BC, preceding the Colosseum in Rome by around a century.

It was also the earliest Roman amphitheater built of stone as previously, they had been built out of wood.

The amphitheater of Pompeii is of importance as it was the first amphitheater to ever be built of stone rather than wood. Principally used for gladiator battles and sporting events in the city, it could hold up to 20,000 – a capacity equal to the entire population of Pompeii.

Visit Pompeii: Interior of the amphitheater at Pompeii Archaeological Park.

The screaming spectators and the stone tiers were separated into different sections for the various social classes. Intermingling of the common crowd with the elite was avoided.

Fun Fact

In 1971, the legendary rock band Pink Floyd recorded a live performance in Pompeii’s Roman Amphitheater for their 1972 concert documentary film “Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii.” Filmed over four days, the film was conceived as an anti-Woodstock film and thus the band played to almost no audience, save for a limited film crew, resulting in a strange yet enticing visual experience.

Adjacent to the amphitheater is the palestra, a vast parade ground with a central pool that was used by Pompeii’s youth for sport and exercise. Excavations revealed several skeletons here, suggesting that the palestra was in use on that fateful day in AD 79.

6. Via dell’Abbondanza

Pompeii Archaeological Park: Via dell'Abbondanza, the main street of Pompeii

You’ll now be walking up on Via dell’Abbondanza, Pompeii’s main street. Back in the day, this lively pedestrian-only zone was lined with shops, bars, and restaurants. The residences and contents depict a colorful picture of everyday life.

Each day, the citizens of Pompeii flooded the streets with water to clean them. The three basalt stepping-stones you see allowed pedestrians to cross without getting their footwear wet.  

A single stepping-stone in a road indicates it was a one-way street, a pair signifies an ordinary two-way, and three (like this one) means a major boulevard.

7. Terme Stabiane (Stabian Baths)

Visit Pompeii: Fancifully decorated stuccoes and wall paintings of the Stabian baths, the largest bath complex

In ancient Rome, thermae were an integral part of the citizens’ daily lives. Thermae were public bathing complexes that were not only a place of ablution but also important for socializing. 

At the very least, a bath consisted of an apodyterium (changing room), a frigidarium (cold bathroom), a tepidarium (tepid bathroom), and a caldarium (hot bathroom). 

The Stabian Baths are the oldest and most complete bath complex in Pompeii, once heated by underground furnaces. The complex consists of two sides, one for men and one for women. 

Fancifully decorated with stuccos and wall paintings, the impressive heating system provides visual proof of the sophisticated lifestyle of the ancient Romans. They are very similar, although the women’s side is decorated less intricately and does not possess a frigidarium.

8. Lupanar (Brothel)

Visit Pompeii: Stone bed in the Pompeii brothel (Lupanar). PC: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

In Latin, the word for a brothel is “lupanar” which translates to “wolf den”, while a prostitute was a “lupa” (“she-wolf”). The Lupanar of Pompeii is the most famous brothel in the ruined Roman town and one place you shouldn’t miss when visiting Pompeii.

In ancient Roman times, it was believed that the wife’s role was solely to provide a male heir. It was common practice for husbands to fulfill their fantasies in one of the many brothels around.

With 10 rooms, the lupanar was the biggest brothel in Pompeii, but it wasn’t exactly 5-star luxury. The cells were usually only wide enough for a single bed, few rooms had windows, and curtains covered the doorway. The beds were made of stone, topped with straw mattresses and wool blankets.

The prostitutes are likely to have been slaves and were rumored to be of Greek or Oriental origin. Two glasses of wine were thought to have been the equivalent of a session of sex. 

The cramped corridors of the brothel are adorned with erotic frescoes depicting prostitutes entertaining their clients in various positions.  

Historians speculate that the frescoes could have either served as a.) a visual cue to titillate the clients, b.) a pictorial menu of different services one could get in the brothel, or c.) guides for inexperienced customers who would frequent the premises.

Erotic frescoes on the walls of the brothel in Pompeii. PC: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta, CC BY-SA 4.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

The brothel’s walls are etched with approximately 150 examples of ribald graffiti. The graffiti was a mix of sexual advice, referrals to specific prices or techniques, and the performance of the prostitutes.

Examples of graffiti from the Lupanar in Pompeii are “Hic ego puellas multas futui” (“Here I f***ed many girls”) and “Myrtis, bene felas” (“Myrtis, you suck well”). 

All in all, the brothel of Pompeii provides a fascinating look into the past that lends insight into ancient norms and helps to give some clue into the lascivious proclivities of the prostitutes. Nowhere are the sexual mores of Pompeii more apparent than at the brothel.

Unsurprisingly, the brothel remains the number one attraction for tourists flocking to Pompeii. Some things never change I suppose 😉

9. Casa dei Vettii (House of the Vettii)

Visit Pompeii: Well-preserved frescoes inside the House of the Vettii (Casa Dei Vettii)

The spectacular House of the Vettii is undoubtedly one of the best things to see in Pompeii. One of the biggest houses in Pompeii, it is another example of the sprawling homes that affluent Romans constructed for themselves. 

Unlike the House of Menander, the House of the Vettii is named after its owners, Aulus Vettius Conviva and Aulus Vettius Restitutus – two wealthy merchant brothers. The building is particularly known for its well-preserved frescos, some of them rather suggestive, if not outright explicit.  

In the doorway, you’re greeted by an infamous fresco of the well-endowed fertility god Priapus resting his gargantuan phallus on a pair of scales. The twelve surviving friezes depict mythological scenes, including (but not limited to):

  • Punishment of King Ixion for betraying Zeus
  • Daedalus and Pasiphae
  • Dionysus discovering Ariadne
  • The murder of Pentheus by the female followers of Dionysus
  • An infant Hercules strangling snakes

The House of Vettii was designed in such a manner as to impress its guests with a series of entertainment rooms surrounding a large central courtyard enclosed by columns. Inside the peristyle are water-spouting statues, basins, and fountains.

Through the atrium on the right of the entrance is the kitchen, complete with cooking pots placed on a hearth. The kitchen and servants’ quarters provide an intriguing insight into domestic life in the ancient Roman age.

10. Casa dei Dioscuri (House of the Dioscuri)

Visit Pompeii: Colonnaded atrium and painted panels of the House of the Dioscuri (Casa dei Dioscuri). PC: Mentnafunangann [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

The House of the Dioscuri is one of the biggest and most ornate buildings in all of Pompeii. It owes its name to a painting near the entrance depicting Castor and Pollux, the twin half-brothers in Greek and Roman mythology, known together as the Dioscuri. 

Today, the painting can be found at the Archaeological Museum in Naples (as is the case with all valuable items found at Pompeii). However, several colorful frescoes can still be observed inside the house and depict scenes such as:

  • Birth of Adonis
  • Apollo and Daphne
  • Nymphs with infant Bacchus

The House of Dioscuri was originally several small houses that were merged into one by its affluent owner. I love how the colonnaded atrium and painted panels in the peristyle add grandeur to this house.

11. Casa del Fauno (House of the Faun)

Bronze statue of the Dancing Faun in the House of the Faun in the ancient city of Pompeii. PC: Porsche997SBS, CC BY-SA 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

No visit to Pompeii would be complete without seeing the magnificent House of the Faun, the ritziest and largest of all private dwellings in Pompeii. Containing 40 rooms, the grand house took up a whole city block, with an interior of some 3,000 square meters. 

This 2nd century BC house is named for a 1-meter bronze statue of the Dancing Faun (in reality the god Pan) found in the impluvium (a shallow rectangular pond) in the inner courtyard. The statue is famous for its fabulously realistic movement and fine proportion.

The House of the Faun originally contained the famous mosaic of Alexander the Great’s victory over the Persian King Darius. Today, the mosaic along with the original statue of the Faun can be found in the splendid Archaeological Museum in Naples. 

The house’s back courtyard is lined with pillars rebuilt after the AD 62 Pompeii earthquake.

12. Casa Del Poeta Tragico (House of the Tragic Poet)

Visit Pompeii: Colorful mosaics inside the House of the Tragic Poet. PC: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

The House of the Tragic Poet is one of the most riveting and enigmatic of all the houses in Pompeii. It is not at all remarkable in its size, but its interiors contain intricate mosaic floors and frescoes depicting scenes from Greek mythology. 

Indeed, the atrium-style house is named for an elaborate floor mosaic that depicts actors gathering backstage preparing for a performance, as one character dresses and another plays the flute. This led archeologists to postulate that an important poet or writer might have lived here. 

Pompeii House of the Tragic Poet: Mosaic of a chained dog bearing the inscription "Cave Canem" ("Beware of the dog").

Although all of the mosaics in the house are interesting, my personal favorite is a mosaic found on the vestibule (entrance) floor. It depicts a chained, fierce-looking dog and bears the inscription “Cave Canem” (“Beware of the dog”).  

Very little is known about the owners of the house which adds to its mystical aura. 

13. Necropoli di Porta Ercolano (Necropolis)

Pompeii Necropolis: The 'Street of Tombs' which is lined with funeral monuments and tombstones of the illustrious citizens of Pompeii

Finally, we are venturing outside the city walls of Pompeii. On your way to the Villa of the Mysteries, you will walk along the Street of Tombs.

The street is lined with funeral monuments and tombstones of the illustrious citizens of Pompeii. It is a very scenic walk, mainly because only a few visitors find their way into the ‘suburbs of Pompeii’.

14. Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries)

Pompeii Archaeological Park: The warren of rooms and courtyards of the Villa of the Mysteries.

We’ve saved the best for last, well almost. One last place you shouldn’t miss in Pompeii is the Villa dei Misteri (Villa of the Mysteries). 

The Villa of the Mysteries is one of the most famous houses in Pompeii. Located about 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) outside the city walls, the house offers a quiet reprieve from the busy streets of Pompeii. 

An original structure with a warren of rooms and courtyards dating from the third-century BC, it is perhaps the best preserved of all Pompeii’s palatial houses.

Visit Pompeii: The striking cycle of frescoes in the Villa of the Myteries

The Villa of the Mysteries is so named because it contains a well-known cycle of frescoes with 29 vividly colored lifesize figures against a red background, which depict a bride’s initiation into the secret cult of Bacchus (Dionysos), the Greek god of wine. The term “mysteries” refers to this secret initiation rite. 

Not much is known about the cult itself, but the paintings are remarkably clear and known for the brightness of their tones and colors. The terraces and gardens of the opulent villa are impressive as well. 

The Villa of the Mysteries is another great place to escape the crowds as not so many tourists make it here.

15. Antiquarium (Museum)

Visit Pompeii: Ancient artifacts inside the Pompeii antiquarium.

Although most people are inclined to visit the Antiquarium on their way in, I would recommend seeing it at the end of your visit to Pompeii. It is home to several artifacts and everyday items that give an intimate insight into life in the lost city.  

Objects on display include some of Pompeii’s most stunning archeological finds, including brilliant frescoes (such as the frescoes of the House of the Golden Bracelet) and life-size marble and bronze statues. In addition, visitors can also admire the silver tableware, bronze warming trays, and other dining utensils.

How to get to Pompeii

How to get to Pompeii from Naples By Train

Visit Pompeii: Pompei Scavi Train Station. PC: Epel/

If you’re dead-set on using public transport, the best way to get to Pompeii from Naples is by train. There are three main train services you can choose from, the Circumvesuviana, the Campania Express, and the Metropolitano.

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’re much more likely to get 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 Pompeii usually takes 35-40 minutes. Disembark at the stop Pompeii Scavi – Villa dei Misteri, which is less than a two-minute walk from the main entrance to the ruins.

Tickets for the Circumvesuviana can be bought from the ticket counter or a tobacconist (look for the red T). A one-way ticket costs 3 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 worn-down, 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 Pompeii Scavi – Villa dei Misteri. A one-way ticket for the Campania Express costs 8 EUR.

The Metropolitano trains usually depart every 30 minutes, from Napoli Piazza Garibaldi Station. However, these trains do not stop at ‘Pompeii Scavi’ and instead will take you to ‘Pompei’ station in the modern town of Pompei, which is about a 10-minute walk to one of the entrances.

The journey from Naples to Pompei with the Metropolitano trains takes 38 minutes. The trains are slightly more comfortable and are air-conditioned. A one-way ticket costs 2.80 EUR and tickets can be purchased online or from the Trenitalia ticket machines.

How to get to Pompeii from Naples With a Guided Tour

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

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

The Pompeii archaeological site is massive and 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 Pompeii from Naples By Bus

Taking the bus from Naples to Pompeii is another option, especially if you are staying close to Naples’s cruise terminal, Nuova Marina. The SITA bus (Napoli-Nocera-Salerno) is the one to take and the travel time from Naples to Pompeii is roughly the same as the train (approx. 35-40 minutes, depending on traffic).

Buses depart from Naples as early as 07:00 and run once or twice every hour depending on the day of travel. You can check the SITA bus timetable here.

You can board the SITA bus at the Varco Immacolatella in Naples but first, you’ll need to purchase a ticket at the nearby SITA office terminal. Bus tickets cost 2.80 EUR. Get off at the Pompei Scavi Bus Stop which is a short walk from the entrance to the site.

How to get to Pompeii from Naples By Car

To reach Pompeii by car from Naples, take the motorway named “A3 Napoli-Salerno” and take the exit named Pompei Ovest. Then, take the highway SS18 and follow the signs “Pompei Villa dei Misteri.” The journey takes about 30 minutes. Keep in mind that the motorway has tolls.

There are a few parking lots close to the Pompeii archeological site. The main one is Zeus Parking, which is located close to the Pompei Scavi train station.

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 Pompeii from Rome

You can also visit Pompeii on a day trip from Rome and Pompeii 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 Pompeii 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 Pompeii 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.

The most hassle-free way to take a day trip from Rome to Pompeii is to take a fully guided day tour. It’s an all-in-one solution that manages the logistics and includes a guide so you can simply enjoy the experience. A highly rated tour I can recommend is a Pompeii & Vesuvius full-day trip from Rome with skip-the-line tickets.

Practical Information for Visiting Pompeii

1. What are the opening hours of Pompeii?

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

During the high season (April–October), Pompeii is open from 09:00–19:00 (last entry is at 17:30). During the low season (November–March), Pompeii is open from 09:00–17:00 (last entry is at 15:30).

2. Pompeii Entrances

It’s important to know that there are three entrances to Pompeii – Porta Marina, Piazza Anfiteatro, and Piazza Esedra. 

Porta Marina is the main entrance of Pompeii and along with the adjacent Piazza Esedra (the smallest and least crowded entrance) is located southwest of the site right next to Pompei Scavi Villa dei Misteri Station. It is best to use these two entrances when coming with the Circumvesuviana trains, Campania Express, SITA bus, and car.

The Piazza Anfiteatro entrance can be found southeast of the site and is closest to the modern town of Pompei. It is best to use this entrance when coming with the Metropolitano trains.

3. How much does it cost to enter Pompeii and where can I buy Pompeii tickets?

Entry to Pompeii Archaeological Park is not free and requires a paid ticket. Admission to Pompeii costs 19 EUR for adults. Concessions are available under certain conditions. Admission is also free for kids under 18.

Tickets to Pompeii can be purchased online on, the official ticket supplier for the Pompeii Archaeological Park. 

It is also possible to purchase tickets directly from the ticket offices at the Porta Marina, Piazza Anfiteatro, and Piazza Esedra entrance gates. 

But, given how popular and crowded Pompeii is, I wouldn’t recommend this. You’ll be standing in the queue for up to 2 hours during peak season and it will kill your motivation to walk. 

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

Entrance to Pompeii is free on the first Sunday of every month. However, unless you are on a tight budget, you should avoid visiting Pompeii on this day as it is insanely crowded.

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

4. Do you need a guide to visit Pompeii?

There’s no prerequisite to having a guide to visit Pompeii. 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 Porta Marina entrance. 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.  

Keep in mind that Pompeii spans a very large area and there are no description panels at the various sites. If you don’t know what you are looking for or at, you can miss out big time. 

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

In my opinion, a guided Pompeii tour is a necessity unless you’ve done lots of reading or research before you visit. A guided tour is definitely worth it if you’re short on time since you won’t waste valuable time looking for routes on the map. 

Finally, by taking a guided tour, you’ll truly appreciate the magic of Pompeii. Tour guides often share stories and bits of history about landmarks to give more depth to your sightseeing experience. They’re experienced knowledgeable, and well worth their fee.

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 Pompeii guided tour, I would recommend either this 2-hour small group tour with an archaeologist or an exclusive private tour of Pompeii.

5. How many hours do you need in Pompeii?

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

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 enchanted by the ruins. Realistically though, you should set aside at least 3-4 hours to see the top Pompeii attractions or about 5-6 hours to explore Pompeii ruins in their entirety. 

6. When is the best time to visit Pompeii?

The best time of the year to visit Pompeii is in the shoulder season (March–April & October–November). This is when the weather is at its most pleasant and the crowds won’t be too bad. 

Visiting Pompeii in the middle of summer (June–August) is not ideal as the blazing 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 Pompeii is either first thing in the morning right at opening time before all the tourist buses and groups show up (around 10:00–11:00), or after 13:00 or 14:00 when the tours begin to leave.

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

7. Can I bring a bag when I visit Pompeii?

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

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

Alternatively, you can store your luggage in the luggage storage facility at the Pompeii Scavi station. The cost is 8 EUR per bag.

8. Are there restrooms in Pompeii?

There are toilets at each entrance/exit. Additionally, there are toilets near the Antiquarium, the Villa of the Mysteries, Casina dell’Aquila, and the Teatro Piccolo. Just look for the “WC” signs.

Tips for Visiting Pompeii

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

1. Bring a water bottle, hat, and sunscreen

The ruins of Pompeii cover a large area and it usually takes approximately 3-4 hours to get through the site. The climate in Southern Italy is hot for most of the year and combined with a near-total lack of shade in Pompeii can leave you discombobulated and frazzled.

Thus, it’s important to stay hydrated! Make sure to bring a water bottle which you can refill at water fountains around the site. 

If you’re here on a sunny day, wear a good sun hat and sunglasses to protect your skin from sun exposure. And take the time to lather up with sunscreen (ideally one with a high SPF) a few times during the day.

2. Wear comfortable shoes

One of the most important tips for visiting Pompeii is to wear a pair of comfortable walking shoes. The roads in Pompeii are dusty and although the paths are paved, there are many stones and even uneven slabs. Ditch the heels!

As the site is very dusty, sandals and flip-flops make for filthy feet at the end of the day! Avoid as well!

3. Bring your own food when visiting Pompeii

There is a restaurant (Autogrill) on-site. Despite the convenience of the establishment, it is crowded, quite pricey for what you get, and the food is, well… mediocre cafeteria food. 

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 crotchety when hungry. You can use the designated picnic areas inside Pompeii near the Forum.

You can also pick up some food and beverages from the several cafés and restaurants in the modern city of Pompei. 

Keep in mind that you cannot exit and re-enter Pompeii 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 Pompeii

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 Pompeii who seemingly had no interest in what they were looking at and they looked bored out of their minds. 

Don’t visit Pompeii 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 Pompeii visit with Mt. Vesuvius or Herculaneum, you’ll practically be running around the sites. It would be a far more enjoyable experience for you if you visit those sites on a separate day.

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 Pompeii aren’t located within the Pompeii 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.

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

Accommodation for Visiting Pompeii

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) 

Pompei: B&B Pompei Olympus, an excellent option in Pompei only 300 meters from the ruins.

Further Reading For Your Campania Visit

That summarizes our comprehensive guide on visiting Pompeii. 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 Pompeii on your bucket list? Or is there anything else that shouldn’t be missed at Pompeii? 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!).

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