Travel Guide: Everything you need to know about Pompeii!

Last Updated on by Charlotte van de Sande

For the 18th birthday of my (little) brother, I took Maurits to Pompeii. He wanted to visit this place for years and is totally crazy about history. I have already visited Naples and Pompeii a few years ago and found it beautiful, so returning to this place was certainly not a punishment. In this blog, I will tell you everything you need to know for a successful visit to Pompeii.

Pompeii was destroyed in the year 79 AD by the eruption of the nearby volcano Vesuvius. For centuries this city was hidden under ashes and lava what protected everything against water and air. As a result, a large part of the houses and sometimes even the people have been preserved in a good condition. The eruption happened in the middle of the night, causing many people to be asleep. This is clearly reflected in the dormant petrified forms that have been found.

Pompeii was discovered in 1748 and in the centuries after that archaeologists have been excavating the whole city. They are still not completely finished, which you can see in the districts V, IV and III (Pompeii is divided into nine neighbourhoods indicated by Roman numerals).

Because everything has been so well preserved, you can now, nearly 2000 years later, see how people lived and which objects were used daily. You walk through the old streets past houses and temples. You can also enter the Forum, the Amphitheater and the Basilica among others. Some houses and bathhouses can be entered, inside you will see beautiful frescoes, baths or mosaics. Also very special are the hundreds of utensils collected and located near the Forum. Here you can see different petrified people, children and even dogs.


My three favourite places in Pompeii

As I wrote earlier, Pompeii is very big. There is a lot to see and this can sometimes feel overwhelming. Below are my three favorite places in Pompeii. If you plan on doing a ‘Do it Yourself’ tour (more on that later in this blog), choose in advance a few buildings that you definitely want to visit.

  1. The small and the large theatre. In district VIII you will find a large and a small theater. In the large theatre, performances were given and gladiators battled. There used to be space for more than 5000 people. Right next to the large theatre is the small theatre. This was used for opera, poetry and musicals. Because of the shape, the sound can be heard at every spot in the theatre. Both theatres are still in relatively good condition so it doesn’t take much effort to imagine how things used to go during performances.
  2. Lupanar: the brothel. Prostitution was something very normal in Pompeii. There seem to have been more than 18 brothels and most prostitutes were slaves from the Middle East or Greece. A slave was paid between two and eight Asses, which equals about eight glasses of wine. The brothel Lupanar, in district VII, is special because of the rooms including stone beds that are still intact. In addition, you will find beautiful frescos above the doors indicating what kind of eroticism was done in the rooms.
  3. The house of Venus in the shell. Near the Amphitheater in district II you will find this large house. It owes its name to a huge fresco of a naked Venus in a shell on one of the outer walls. It’s part of a three-part fresco that covers almost the entire wall. The house consists of several rooms full of frescoes that are all built around a courtyard garden. The fresco immediately attracts attention and is still in good condition!


Useful information for a visit to Pompeii

How do you reach Pompeii?

Our hotel was located near the central station of Naples (Garibaldi). From here a train leaves to Pompeii every half hour. This is the Cicumvesuviana train, direction Sorrento. For a single ticket, you pay € 2.80, after which you arrive at Pompeii Scavia in about 40 minutes. Get off here, and it is only a three minutes walk to the two entrances in the south. If you come from Sorrento, you can take the same train in the opposite direction.

There are three entrances to Pompeii. Two southwest of the excavations, near the train station. The third entrance (Piazza Amfitheatro) is a 15-minute walk from the east of the modern city of Pompeii itself.

It is also possible to go to Pompeii by bus with one of the many travel agencies. Personally, I never like this, there is no flexibility and you can not draw your own plan. Tickets for such a day tour are offered throughout the city of Naples, at almost every magazine stand.

What does access to Pompeii cost?

Admission to Pompeii is € 15 for a normal day ticket and € 7.50 for a reduced ticket (youngsters between 18-24).

Please note: official tickets for Pompeii are only sold at the entrance, not at other places like the train station.

Pompeii is open daily from November to March between 8.30 and 17.00 (last entry at 15.30). From April to October, it is open longer: from 8.30 to 19.30 (last entry at 18.00). Pompeii is closed on 1 January, 1 May and 25 December.

What are you taking to Pompeii?

Put on good (hiking) shoes, since you will walk long distances and the stones are irregular. Furthermore, enough water is certainly handy. If the weather isn’t good, don’t forget to bring an umbrella, Pompeii is (obviously) not covered. Sunglasses, caps and summer sunburns can’t hurt either. We also brought something to eat with us, there is a restaurant in Pompeii, but when I ate here the last time with Ries, we found the food expensive and certainly not tasty.

If you are younger than 24, don’t forget your identity card. If you can prove that you are under 24, you will receive a discount.

How much time do you spend in Pompeii?

You can actually spend days in this old city. Don’t underestimate how big Pompeii is, in the past 11,000 people lived here, so it used to be pretty big. I advise you to take at least three hours to see the most important highlights and not rush too much.

Tip: Click here for the official site of Pompeii.


What to pick: a guide, audio guide or a DIY tour?

Well, this choice is quite difficult. Pompeii is very large and you won’t find much information on the buildings when you pass by.

With the tickets you buy, you get a free (Italian) card with the nine different districts of Pompeii. In the past, you also received an information booklet that gave a description of the different places, but unfortunately, these are no longer handed out. Because of the size of the terrain and because stones don’t really speak to your imagination, it is advisable to obtain more background information about the buildings.

Per guide: You can choose to walk a route with a guide. This is certainly not cheap. According to Pompeii itself, it is best to book a certified guide in advance through the information desk at Porta Marina or Piazza Esedra. If you rent a private guide from Pompeii, it costs between € 100 and € 150.

Audio guide: You can also opt for an audio guide. You rent these at the entrance of Pompeii for € 8 or € 13 per two. The audio guides are available in Italian, English, French, German and Spanish.

Do It Yourself: per app! We didn’t opt for the above options but instead did a ‘Do it Yourself’ route. You download an App with which you create a route. Through the App, you get information about the different buildings. Various Apps are offered in the Applestore. I can, however, recommend the App Pompeii – A day in the Past. This App costs € 4.99, not much money compared to the audio guide or a private guide. There are different routes in the App, there is an audio guide and you can find information about the buildings separately. I find the advantage of an App that you can walk at your own pace (a lot faster than with a group and guide), skip pieces or stay in a certain place for longer. You will also find comprehensive and visually beautifully displayed information.


Do you also visit Naples? Click here for my city guide about this beautiful city!


Are you still craving history after Pompeii?

Pompeii is not the only place where archaeological excavations have been done. Just before Pompeii was discovered, the city Herculaneum was found, under the town of Ercolare. This city is located near the sea and has been lying under more than six meters of rubble for almost 1700 years. Herculaneum is known for its beautiful frescoes. You also reach Ercolare with the Cicumvesuviana train and it is exactly on the way back from Pompeii to Naples.

You can also find excavations in Oplontis, Stabiae and the Antiquarium of Boscoreale. A combination ticket for Pompeii and all these places (excluding Herculaneum) costs € 18 and is valid for three days.

Tip: do you really want to make a full day out of it? Then consider taking the train again after Pompeii and getting off at Sorrento station. This is a beautiful beach town by the sea. From hotel Europe Palace here, you have a wonderful view of the Bay of Naples.


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2 Comments

  1. by Gary Francis on 10 March 2019  11:20 Reply

    Thanks for the post. Great tips. We're heading there in May and are very excited about it.

    • by Charlotte van de Sande on 10 March 2019  12:16 Reply

      Hi Gary! Thanks for your sweet reaction! And what a nice prospective! Enjoy it, I loved Pompeii!!

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