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Ruins of Pompeii or Herculaneum or both???????

We may try to make it to Pompeii one day and the museum from Rome. Is Herculaneum better than Pompeii....Same??? Worth seeing?

Dan

Posted by
4355 posts

I suppose it depends on how 'into them' you are - they are similar, but different. My husband and I saw both 3 years ago - each location in All Day Visits. We were just talking TODAY about how we want to revisit both places the next time we return to Europe.

Yeah, we're romantic history freaks ;-)

I would devote a day to each, plus a day for Naples to visit their museum to see the artifacts removed from Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Of course, something like this would require more time, and an overnight somewhere like Sorrento (perhaps), so not really doable as a day trip from Rome.

Worth seeing? Ab.So.Lute.Ly! How? I'll leave that up to others who have done this as a day trip from Rome.

Posted by
4691 posts

Rather than asking online, I'd suggest that you go to the library and look at Rick's southern Italy book. The question can't be answered without knowing your interests (like the previous reply's strong interest in ancient life ... ). We also went to both in 2014, but I would not say that it is essential to go to both if your budget or time makes it a sacrifice to do so. I suspect that some people like Herculaneum better because they have the feeling they "saw it all", while it's virtually impossible to see all of Pompeii in a day. But most of Herculaneum is still buried under the modern city. Its totally an illusion that you "saw it all".

Indeed, as Rick writes (for example), Pompeii must have had a Synagogue. It just hasn't been found yet.

I slightly preferred Pompeii, especially since the Villa of the Mysteries was open when we went. Individual places can be closed in either place on any given day. Also, Herculaneum has no food inside the park. The tickets don't permit reentry, so the issue of dining hours in Herculaneum-town aren't particularly relevant-but some posters have said they aren't open all day.

Both visits can be hot and hard on the feet. It must be a nightmare with a stroller. So it's better not to be rushed, or not to arrive at 2PM.

Although I'm a museum junkie, I'm not prepared to say that the Archaeology Museum in Naples is a must. Some art viewers don't care whether they see reproductions or the real thing, in which case they might as well skip the Naples museum.

Posted by
91 posts

So.....you are telling me there was nothing spectacular at Herculaneum? and the museum didn't do much for you? Makes me wonder after seeing the videos, it it's worth spending the day there when we have so much in Rome to see??? Another riddle!(GRIN)

Posted by
4691 posts

We may try to make it to Pompeii one day and the museum from Rome. Is Herculaneum better than Pompeii....Same??? Worth seeing

dma, I didn't try to sound cryptic. I was responding to your very short inquiry, which may have been mobile-worthy, but did not allow me to provide (as I wrote) "a very useful" reply. Of course Herculaneum is worth seeing. The fact that you are doing this visit as a runout from Rome (which I think is a bad idea, but it's frequently done, to judge from posts here) means that you cannot do both, unless you skip lunch and skip the Archaeology Museum. You failed to mention whether you have a dream of hitting Vesuvius, which I consider (Opinion!) completely missable.

The reason I referred you to Rick's book is that he discusses the differences in detail. I think your decision is too important to leave to a text-message length analysis. If I said anything new or potentially valuable, it was my speculation that the relative sizes of Herculaneum and Pompeii has an influence in how visitors compare them. (BTW, Herculaneum is a 15-minute downhill walk from the Circumvesuviana station, so some of your visit is walking time.)

Another thought might be that if 10% of Pompeii is closed for repairs, and 10% of Herculaneum is closed for repairs (I made up that number), the effect on Herculaneum is perhaps "worse". OTOH, Herculaneum was less totally-destroyed than Pompeii.

Posted by
91 posts

I totally agree with your assessment that going for only a day trip is really too short. I have no interest in climbing or walking around Vesuvius, just me.

But then for YOU, if you could only go to one or the other, and remembering all the things you saw, frescos, etc which would be your pick? You talk like Herculaneum is more preserved!?

Dan

Posted by
3320 posts

IMO it is not practical to do either as a day trip from Roma. Doable, yes -- practical, no. It will be a loooong day. But if you are based in Naples or close by it is possible to do both in one day. One in the a.m. and one in the p.m. That would be the best choice. They are, as Eileen said, similar but different. If it is only possible to visit one, my choice would be Pompeii simply because is larger and there is much more to see. Hope this helps. TC

Posted by
91 posts

It helps a lot and I understand what you say. You spend so much time in travel from Rome that is wasted. I wish we had the option to stay in Naples a night, but alas we do not!

Thank you!!

Dan

Posted by
91 posts

It helps a lot and I understand what you say. You spend so much time in travel from Rome that is wasted. I wish we had the option to stay in Naples a night, but alas we do not!

Thank you!!

Dan

Posted by
11154 posts

Since you asked for experiences and opinions, here's mine, from my visit in 1994 (based in Naples):

I did not get to Herculaneum.

I didn't care for Pompeii. To me, it was just a bunch of old ruins. While others say they feel the past come alive there, I did not.

The Archeology Museum in Naples was great. Here I did feel the past come alive, and how! In addition to the mosaics from Pompeii and Herculaneum, I was very taken with the paintings, and perhaps most taken of all with the massive sculptures from the Baths of Caracalla (the Farnese Hercules and Farnese Bull are stupendous).

Again, these are just my reactions from 20 years ago. Others feel differently (and perhaps I would too, if I were to have gone as a day trip from Rome instead of seeing them from Naples, or if I were to go to these places now).

I agree with Tim: read as much as you can about them (from Rick Steves and others), and decide which one calls to YOU. There is no right or wrong decision, and there's no "one size fits all" answer to your question.

Posted by
2235 posts

My own experience just this past May: First I was in Naples where I enjoyed the excellent museum for a morning, then continued exploring Naples for the rest of the day, evening and more. Don't know that I would make a separate stop in Naples if only for the museum. Then when based in Sorrento, I took a long day to go by train to explore first Herculaneum, then Oplontis, then lunch nearby, then Pompeii, all on my own without a guide or tour. Oplontis was certainly the least interesting of the three, at least for me. By the time I arrived at Pompeii I was already pretty tired. I definitely wish I had a hired a guide at the entry there, at modest cost, as it was hard and less informative to find my way around the very expansive ruins with the RS book without getting lost or misdirected often, as the street names on the map did not correspond to signs on the grounds. Guides not only know the ruins and history fully, they also never get lost and know what areas or buildings might be closed on a particular day. Going from Rome, probably 2 hours or more of travel and connections each way, seems like a long and somewhat expensive trek to me, even if limited to visiting just one site.

Posted by
256 posts

I too am a romantic history nut and Pompeii had been on my bucket list since I was 9.

We did RS 2007 Venice, Florence, Rome 10 day tour and extended a couple of days in Rome. We toured Pompeii and Naples with Context Rome. We were in a small group of 2 other couples and met our docent at Termini around 6:30 am for the fast train to Naples where we were met by a private driver to go to Pompeii. Since our guide was an art historian the entire visit was brought to life. After several hours in Pompeii we headed back to Naples for a late lunch and visit to see limoncello made. We did an hour or so walk afterwards to see some of the more interesting sites stopping in a cafe for cappuccino. The remainder of the afternoon we visited the Archeological Museum in Naples where some of the better preserved artifacts were housed.

Our docent escorted us back to the Naples train station for the fast train back to Termini.

This tour is expensive and included all transportation and lunch however for someone that wasn't sure I'd have another opportunity and is into having history come alive.......it was so totally worth it and quite comprehensive for a day trip if you have limited time.

Posted by
91 posts

I am the same. I took my Mother to Italy. A last request by her and she wanted to go to Spain as well. We went to Florence, Pisa, Ravena, Orevieto, Venice, Bologna, Verona, San Gimnano(SP?) and also out to Tivoli and Ostia Antica, plus another extra day in Rome before going to Spain on our own. there is so much to digest in so little time! I have always been interested in the Medici family and all the artists they surrounded them selves.

We never went south so...I'm taking the Wife and the only problem with her teaching nursing, we could not get off sooner. Pompeii will be a stretch and I wish we could stay a day in Naples to see both Pompeii and Herculaneum.

We thought about staying in Italy over Christmas, but while I love Italy, Germany and Austria are by far my favoritesw. I know that may or may not appeal to many, but it is such a varied country with more castles and baroque cathedrals and palaces per mile anywhere!(GRIN) Plus I love the mountains and the lakes. Hallstat in the lake area of Austria is like dying and going to heaven!

Posted by
91 posts

I appreciate the keen observations, Harold and Larry! The museum is tops on the list. Many say go to the ruins first before it gets hot and then tour the museum. Of course in December that is not an issue other than it getting dark early! I need to Google Herculaneum to see if I can see the difference. I have seen many videos of Pompeii.

Thank you!

Dan

Posted by
4691 posts

Because of Larry's thoughtful post, I decided to post again, on the issue of multiple ancient sites. I kind of liked Oplontis: Even if it turns out that it doesn't have anything to do with Nero, it was interesting, comprehensible, and finite. It was also so quiet and low-traffic that it was like a private visit. It occurred to me that it might be a good visit for someone too disabled to enjoy Pompeii or even Herculaneum. It's certainly not a "must" on any other list.

Everyone has different tastes. Although this was our third visit to Italy, I made arrangements to go five places we hadn't been before (in the order we happened to see them. We saw the Roman Forum long ago.):

  • Pompeii
  • Herculaneum
  • Oplontis
  • Baths of Caracalla
  • Hadrian's Villa

This was, quite simply, too many craggy, evocative-but-gap-toothed ancient residences in one two-week trip. It wasn't even unbearably hot. All of these were by public transportation, no guide, Rick's book and Lonely Planet in hand.

Not to change the subject, these sites are so amenable to public transportation that I would recommend taking the money to be spent on an executive-level prearranged tour from Rome, and using it to extend the vacation by a day or two, in dirt-cheap Naples if necessary. (We enjoyed Sorrento very much, more than Naples.)

Posted by
256 posts

Ouch Tim! Unfortunately we did not have the time to extend south of Rome for an extended time (we did consider it but work was waiting for us back home)

We thought long and hard about the price and the fact that it had long been on bucket list and didn't know when or if we would get back.....we went for the tour. It isn't for everyone but we feel we had an exceptional experience in the time we had.

Posted by
3320 posts

Dan,
If you decide to do it as a day trip, check out www.romecabs.com. It is a private car service that does tours there from Rome. We've not used them for a tour, but always use them in Rome to and from the airport. We have always been pleased and highly recommend them. If interested, just send them and email setting forth your particular needs and they usually respond with a quote within 24 hours.
TC

Posted by
1829 posts

Whenever I take anyone to the sites for their first visit we always go to Herculaneum first because of the better state of preservation and smaller size of the site. That way when we get to Pompeii, on another day, they have a greater understanding of the layout of houses etc. If they are open do make sure you visit the Suburban Baths in Herculaneum, visit early in the day because IME they shut at lunchtime for the rest of the day. IMO they are one of the best preserved Roman bathhouses in the world.

Posted by
4691 posts

Linda, when we were at Herculaneum in May, 2014, in the morning, the Suburban Baths appeared to have a long-term closure. The English notice vaguely gave the impression that it was due to either lack of money, lack of guards, or need for conservation to protect them from decay.

Posted by
91 posts

TC if time permits we may try to go to either Herculaneum or Pompeii. I'll check on the cabs!

When we were in Spain 10 or more years ago, I'd pay the drive $100 American and we had him all day long. Best investment I ever made! We went to Toledo, Segovia, out to El Escorial and The Valley of the Fallen many told us things like a tour guide!!

Posted by
91 posts

TC checked the cab ride to Pompeii. Same as a guided tour I checked into plus they added a guide. 500 Euro's.

With Rick's guided tour I downloaded on my phone, I may just wing it via train, because I want to see the museum as well!!

Thank you!

Dan

Posted by
3279 posts

We were there in December 2012/January 2013, having been in Rome for a week, then touring Sicily for a week (lots of ancient sights from Greater Greece), then to Sorrento over New Year's. Pompeii was supposed to be closed on New Years's Day, but was open for short hours (closed at 1 or 2 PM), and we visited Herculaneum the next day. Both were worthwhile, and we wound up leaving Herculaneum at closing time, so we closed down both sights on successive days. There was still adequate light while each was open, but we got absolutely poured on at Herculaneum. Be prepared for rain on your trip, which could affect your sightseeing. Locals toted umbrellas on days when rain was forecast, and museums all had umbrella stands next door to the coat check desks. Inside the buildings at Herculaneum it was dry, but out on the streets, and looking into buildings that you couldn't go in, it was wet! It was interesting watching the ancient gutter system work, though, as currents of rain runoff drained down the streets.

There was almost no one else at Herculaneum (weather may have been a factor), but Pompeii had lots of visitors, including an enormous Russian tour group. We had the luxury of being closer to those sights than if we'd come directly from Rome, as we stayed in Sorrento and had a car. We took the train to Naples for a day trip. So we saw Pompeii, Ercolano, and the museum in Naples on 3 different days, and needed that much time. If you could only see only 1, go to the Naples museum for the artifacts and other items. The Gabinetto Segreto was open to all, and didn't need a special ticket.

If you could see 2 of these, it's tough, but I'd give the slight nod to Herculaneum over Pompeii - more manageable with a more modest amount of real estate to cover, and the presence of surviving wood timbers is unique at Herculaneum.

Posted by
91 posts

Cyn, after watching several BBS videos on You Tube I came to the conclusion there was so much more to see in Herculaneum. Pompeii gets all the publicity and of course is the larger, but from what I saw Herculaneum was wonderful in all the details still present.

I know all this is subjective, and if we can pull it off the museum is a must, but then it gets hazy on whether to go to Pompeii or Herculaneum .I'm sure many prefer Pompeii or never see Herculaneum!.

Posted by
1829 posts

Tim - I am not surprised. The Baths have been open and then shut down regularly over the years. They do suffer from flooding and also, because of the fragility of the interior plaster decorations etc, have custodians in every room so expensive to keep open. Whenever we visit I look down from the walkway and if they look open, make sure we visit them first.

Posted by
48 posts

If I had to choose only one, it would be Pompeii, for its fame and historical significance.
But Herculaneum is pretty amazing in its own right. We saw Herculaneum after he spent a day at Pompeii. It is significantly smaller and the crowds were tiny compared to Pompeii. The site itself is easily navigated and has some really well preserved ruins. After the large crowds at Pompeii, Herculaneum was a breathe of fresh air.
So, for me, the question comes down to whether you see yourself going back to Italy. If the answer is no, I would say absolutely Pompeii, one of the most famous places in the world. It you think you are going back one day, I'd say Herculaneum.
You can't go wrong with either.

Posted by
91 posts

I appreciate your information. We are on a rushed trip to Italy because our main focus is the Christmas markets on Germany. I like the idea that Herculaneum is more complete, smaller, and more manageable. We want to see it and then tour the Naples museum.

Posted by
222 posts

I've been to Pompeii several times so considering Herculaneum next year. Are there guides available at the gate like there at Pompeii? The first time I did not use a guide and just tried to use Rick's book. For me a guide makes a huge difference..

Barb

Posted by
13968 posts

Hi Dan,

From the Herculaneum train station, it's about a 10-minute walk downhill to the site entrance. You can rent audio guides inside, which are pretty good. Since the hours are shorter in winter, you will need an early start so you have enough time to do the museum justice too. At that time of year, the trains may only be running about once an hour, so be sure to get a schedule. I don't think the trains are ever early, but they are often a little late. And allow enough time to get from the museum to the train (or vice versa). There are very good instructions in the RS guidebook.

Posted by
91 posts

Our problem is finding the time. Our travel agent screwed up our flight and I usually book everything myself, but thought once, I would let someone else do it! Long story.

We only have time to MAYBE see one and I am leaning towards Herculaneum. I wish I had two more days in Italy, then all would work out. Our main focus is the Christmas Markets in Germany, so our time is brief in Italy!

Thank you!

Posted by
3279 posts

@Barb-in January 2013, as we approached the desk to buy Herculaneum tickets, a woman (who probably heard us speaking in English) told us an English tour of the ruins would be leaving in a few minutes. We thanked her, but opted for hand-held audioguides. The next couple behind us were French and she defly told them that a French tour of the ruins would be leaving in a few minutes . . . not sure if she or another multi-lingual guide would always be there, so maybe you couln't count on it, but there was a guide on-site when we were there. I'm guessing you could arrange for a private guide ahead of time too, with some additional research.

Posted by
77 posts

Both Herculaneum and Pompeii are definitely worth seeing. Both in one day might be overload, though it's doable. It would be better to split it up on two different days for a more relaxed pace. Both stops are along the Circumvesuviana rail line between Naples and Sorrento. Rick notes, "This commuter train runs twice hourly between Naples and Sorrento (www.eavcampania.it). From Sorrento, it’s about 30 minutes to Pompeii, 50 minutes to Herculaneum (€2.20 one-way for either trip), and 70 minutes to Naples (€4.10 one-way)."

Herculaneum is smaller, more intimate and less touristy, while Pompeii is much more grand and busy. Herculaneum was a town of the upper-class, while Pompeii was more middle-class and diverse as a trading town on the sea. There's a great interview available in our free Rick Steves' Audio Europe App you may want to check out where Rick talks with one of our Italy guides discussing the two sights and their differences.

Between the two, people have their favorites if they had to choose. One of my colleagues who's been to both spots finds Herculaneum a better experience. Personally, I chose to see Pompeii over Herculaneum and was amazed by the grandeur of the city and how well-preserved it is. I was really impressed. Though I haven't been to Herculaneum to compare, I would say don't miss Pompeii. I spent three hours there exploring, followed portions of Rick's self-guided walk, and still could've seen more.

Posted by
91 posts

I really appreciate the heads up. My problem is time. I know we need to see one or the other and I know the Naples museum is a must. The only day we can go is Wednesday and then we leave the next morning very early to Munich. We will see!

Posted by
3811 posts

We did Herculaneum and Vesuvius as a day trip from Rome in 2008. Yes, it made for a long day, but we were still back in Rome by 7-8pm (and we probably started around 9-10am)...and this was after buggering up which stop to get off for Herc and ending up having to wait an hour for a train to take us back to the right stop (it was a Sunday). And stopping for lunch for an hour (pizza - what else!) before going to Vesu.

We were just in Italy last month, and did Pompeii this trip (we flew into Naples the night before and spent the night, and next morning out by 9am to go to Pompeii). But we were in a hurry as we had to be in Amalfi by 4pm and ended up doing a two hour guided tour.

With the guided tour of Pompeii, we only saw specific things and we couldn't stay afterwards as we had to get to Amalfi. Herc is def more compact, and I would say better preserved. There were even some sections where there was wood preserved. If I was going back (which I will someday), I guess I would revisit Pompeii, but more because in the 3 hrs or so we spent at Herc, I saw everything, and I feel like we missed a lot of Pompeii. But if you really want to see Pompeii, you'd need a good 4-5 hours at least. Mt Vesuvius was also a highlight, if not for the gut-wrenching bus ride up to the parking lot - the views are amazing, and after seeing Vesuvius looming over everything, it's kinda neat to say we were at the top.

But, gun to my head, I would say I liked Herc better - smaller, better preserved, and fewer crowds, easier to look around...as a day trip, it's a little easier.

Now - not sure how much time you have in Rome, but had I know how rushed our 5 nights would have been in 2008, I never would have planned to go to Naples. We felt so rushed thru everything in Rome, that the day trip really subtracted from our sightseeing in Rome (tho we did enjoy it). We just spent another 5 nights in Rome, and I still feel like I missed so much...

Posted by
91 posts

I really appreciate your help! I was strongly leaning towards Herculaneum due to time restraints and we know we need to see the Naples Museum. We will have to leave early from Rome. Tuesday would be better, but I was told the museum is closed on Tuesday!