Should I Visit Pompeii Or Herculaneum

Pompeii and Herculaneum are two of the world’s most renowned archaeological sites, situated in the Bay of Naples, Italy. Both were lost in AD 79 due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius – a nearby volcano which had been dormant for hundreds of years. Though many lives were lost, the volcanic ash preserved a great deal of both cities for us to explore today. So, if you’re considering a trip to Italy, should you visit Pompeii or Herculaneum?


The ruins of Pompeii are much grander than those of Herculaneum. Some argue that Pompeii is the more impressive of the two because of its size and scale. It was once a thriving and prosperous city and visitors can clearly see how it would have looked in its ancient glory. For instance, high and low social classes were clearly divided by street layout; with areas of affluence surrounded by poorer dwellings. Additionally, the city centre was lined with elegant buildings, such as the Villa of Mysteries and the Forum at the city’s heart.
Pompeii also has a greater number of preserved artefacts, including masonry, public bathhouses, wooden furniture and intact graffiti. This city is especially pertinent to the Latin and Roman worlds of the 1st century AD, so it is a must-see for those with a keen eye for cultural history.


In contrast, the ruins of Herculaneum present an altogether different experience. Whereas Pompeii was a city of bustling commercial districts and public areas, Herculaneum was a quieter and more luxurious place; with villas and homes owned by wealthy families. The city’s location next to the sea made it an ideal retreat for those of high social standing, who favored the stunning views and pleasant climate.
Herculaneum provides tourists with an insight into what the upper classes of its time would have looked like; with grand homes and multiple artful plates and sculptures. Many of the remains here are considerably better preserved than those of Pompeii, as the molten material which had flooded the city was more viscous than the ash which had hit Pompeii.


Whilst both sites offer incredible insights into the past, the experience garnered from each is considerably different. For example, those hoping to gain a more utilitarian viewpoint of an ancient city might choose to visit Pompeii, whereas visitors requiring an insight into Roman affluence may be more inclined to see the ruins of Herculaneum.

Pompeii and Vesuvius

Visitors to the site will be grateful to Vesuvius, as it is its eruption which preserved the cities and their history in the first place. Those exploring the sprawling remains of Pompeii will find evidence of its people’s attempts to save themselves, which bolsters our understanding of the disaster.
In particular, human remains, buildings, and belongings were all carved away; leaving behind a haunting yet captivating impression of Pompeii in its last days. Many of the lava-covered items are still largely in-tact, giving us a glimpse of the people who lived in the city.

Town Hall at Herculaneum Dream

One of the most noteworthy pieces of architecture found at Herculaneum is the Town Hall. Despite the force of the eruption, the building stands surprisingly restorable in its ruins; images of elaborate friezes and frescoes are still visible among the walls.
The Town Hall also provided evidence of Herculaneum’s historical significance, having served not only as the meeting place and residence of the magistrates but also as the city’s centre. This is now a major draw for tourists, who are enthralled by the intricate details of the grand building.

Theatre Venue

The Forum at Pompeii was home to the city’s theatre. Although much of the structure was destroyed, many of the mosaics that lined it remain and give visitors a hint of the building’s past glory. In addition, other parts of the structure, such as the dressing rooms and audience seating, are still standing, providing a unique glimpse into how the ancient Roman theatre was utilised.

Museums and Archives

The most astonishing aspect of both sites is their archives and museums. Despite the destruction brought by the volcano, collections of artefacts, letters, and other relics, have been recovered and are now displayed in the corresponding museum.
These collections provide visitors with an unparalleled insight into life in the ancient world; from fashion and jewellery to libraries and art collections, it is possible to explore a vast range of subjects and sometimes even have a first-hand look at the abundance of wealth in both cities.

Notable Works of Art

One of the major attractions of Pompeii and Herculaneum are the numerous works of art which were either miraculously preserved or recovered. As both cities were occupied by wealthy families, there is a wealth of statues and frescoes depicting gods, goddesses and significant characters from Greek and Roman mythology.
What is perhaps the most inspiring beauty of the art which they left behind is that it exists in such a state; the vibrant colors and lifelike features still remain intact to this day, providing visitors with an unparalleled glimpse into the past.

Unique Experiences

Both Pompeii and Herculaneum offer something completely unique to visitors; a chance to observe what life was like in the ancient world. You may find yourself treading the same paths as the citizens of this now destroyed civilization, which can lead to powerful and emotional experiences.
No other sites from the period afford the same opportunity; to have the chance to wander through overlooked ruins as though you were present in the 1st century AD. It’s unlikely that any of us will ever experience such a journey again, so for anyone considering a trip to Italy, both Pompeii and Herculaneum are absolute must-sees!

Herman Shaw is a passionate traveler and avid photographer who has seen many of the world's most awe-inspiring monuments. He has developed expertise in various aspects of world architecture and culture which he enjoys sharing with his readers. With deep historical knowledge and insight, Herman's writing brings life to these remarkable artifacts and highlights their importance in the grand scheme of human history.

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