Why you should visit Herculaneum instead of Pompeii


Herculaneum, Italy

Staying in the Naples or Sorrento area during a trip to Italy? The region is home to two fascinating archaeological sites in Herculaneum and Pompeii. But if you only have one day to spare, which should you visit?

We visited both last year and although it’s amazing to see such a famous site as Pompeii, for me Herculaneum has the edge. Read on to find out why!

Herculaneum, Italy

Herculaneum was, like Pompeii, destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. It was rediscovered in the 18th century when some of the site close to the sea was excavated. Some of the ruins including the forum remain under the modern-day town of Ercolano. Being further away from the eruption site, Herculaneum is better preserved than Pompeii with mosaics and colourful murals still on view. Even the second storeys of some of the houses still exist, whilst at Pompeii it’s just the outer walls of the ground floor that remain.

Herculaneum, Italy

Herculaneum (at least the excavated part) has a relatively small footprint compared to Pompeii, which allows you to get a much better idea of how the town looked and felt during its heyday. It also means you can come across inns, villas and shrines in close proximity, giving you a better idea of how people lived in Roman times.

I found Herculaneum one of the best preserved Roman sites I’ve been to (apart from the Forum in Rome) and it was easy to imagine what life must have been like in a small Roman town. You can even see the small harbour where boats were tied up – apparently remains were found here of those trying to escape the eruption of Vesuvius by boat before the clouds of volcanic dust descended.

Herculaneum, Italy

Herculaneum, Italy

Herculaneum, Italy

Herculaneum, Italy

How to visit Herculaneum

It costs 11 euro to visit Herculaneum – you can also buy a combined ticket which offers access to Pompeii as well.

To visit Herculaneum, take the Circumvesuviana train from Naples or Sorrento to Ercolano. From there it’s an easy 5 minute walk downhill to Herculaneum. You can also arrange half-day trips to Vesuvius from the tour agencies by the train station.

10 Comments Add yours

  1. Lydia C. Lee says:

    Wow. I don’t think I’ve heard of it!

  2. Sara says:

    My husband really loves the Roman civilization, so I definitely think a trip to Herculaneum would be in the cards for us when we finally venture south of Rome. I studied Pompeii quite a bit (I studied Latin in school), so I feel like I would also want to go there… but I like the idea of exploring the smaller site of Herculaneum first. Thanks for the tips!

  3. I didn’t know there were two of them. Have always wanted to visit Pompeii, but now I’ll have to reconsider, when the time comes. Thanks for letting me/us know :) #wanderfulwednesday

    1. Claire says:

      If you have time it’s definitely worth visiting both!

  4. I loved visiting old ruins and buildings when we were in Italy! It was so beautiful but made me think about the history and how long this has been there!

  5. Sarah says:

    I’ve now been to Italy three times but never to the Naples/Sorrento area! It looks beautiful, and especially great for a history buff.

    1. Claire says:

      I loved it, the Amalfi coast is stunning too.

  6. I wish I visited Herculaneum instead of Pompeii. I didn’t have the best experience there, but then again it was hot, crowded and there were a ton of poor, dirty stray dogs around. It was hard to see after having so much fun around the luxurious Amalfi coast.

  7. Can’t wait to visit both haha! But your guide is super helpful :)

  8. Lydia says:

    Visiting Herculaneum seems like an ultimate experience, Claire. Your guide is so helpful and motivational. When’s the best time of the year to visit this stunning site?

Leave a Reply

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