Although smaller than nearby Pompeii, Herculaneum is far better preserved. The devastating eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD covered Pompeii in a thick layer of volcanic ash but left Herculaneum submerged by a 20 m (65 ft) mudslide, which hardened and perfectly preserved the houses, shops, villas and frescoes beneath. The level of detail that survives is extraordinary, from price lists outside shops to wooden doors, beds and decorative objects worn by victims frozen in time. The compact site is easy to get around and unlike in Pompeii, many of the upper stories of the houses still remain intact.
Italy specialist Kimberly
While Pompeii is impressive, I actually prefer Herculaneum. The ruins are more intact, and the frescoes are surprisingly vivid. Size isn’t everything, either — some of the site’s smaller houses have some of the best-preserved mosaics.
Things to see and do in Herculaneum
Herculaneum appears to have been an exclusive place to live, its grand courtyard houses suggesting a certain wealth and affluence. Richly decorated interiors with intricate frescoes of Roman gods and floors blanketed in beautiful mosaics are matched by elaborate gardens. The House of the Wooden Partition is especially worth a visit to see its perfectly preserved wooden doors. Also worth seeking out is the House of the Deer, a luxurious two-story villa built around a central courtyard and adorned with intricate still life paintings, while L’Albergo, thought to be an ancient hotel, covers a vast area.
The Thermal Baths
There are two public baths in Herculaneum. The Forum Baths are divided into two sections, as was common practice at the time, one for the men and one for the women. Both sections are well preserved with the original roofs, benches, wooden shelves for clothing, beautiful baths and detailed floor mosaics depicting Triton alongside dolphins. The second baths, the Terme Suburbane, are to the south and are some of the best preserved Roman baths in existence. Inside, the stucco work, mosaics, wooden doors and marble baths remain almost untouched by time, making it difficult to comprehend just how old these artifacts are.
One of the most remarkable discoveries in Herculaneum are the shops along the Decumano Massimo, the city's main commercial street. The detail of their preservation offers a unique insight into daily life in the city and across the Roman Empire. You can see ancient wine amphorae, the carved wooden shelving used to store them and, intriguingly, also the price of a jug of wine illustrated outside the shopfront. The bakery's oven and grills remain intact, as do the weaver's looms, the dyer's pots, the taverna counters and the large containers set into marble worktops that would have been used to serve hot food to customers.
Suggested itinerary featuring Herculaneum
This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Herculaneum, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Herculaneum
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Herculaneum
- Naples 10 kilometers away
- Pompeii 15 kilometers away
- Sorrento 21 kilometers away
- The Amalfi Coast 29 kilometers away
- Capri 31 kilometers away
- Ischia 35 kilometers away
- Matera 191 kilometers away
- Rome 198 kilometers away
- Puglia 233 kilometers away
- Alberobello 244 kilometers away
- Fasano 254 kilometers away
- Ostuni 273 kilometers away
- Orvieto 283 kilometers away
- Umbria 285 kilometers away
- Assisi 290 kilometers away
- Perugia 304 kilometers away
- Palermo 311 kilometers away
- Lecce 328 kilometers away
- Taormina 339 kilometers away
- Sicily 340 kilometers away
- Erice and Trapani 344 kilometers away
- Mount Etna 345 kilometers away
- Otranto 358 kilometers away
- Marsala 374 kilometers away
- Siena 375 kilometers away
- Villa Romana del Casale 383 kilometers away
- Agrigento 395 kilometers away
- San Gimignano 403 kilometers away
- Florence 417 kilometers away
- Syracuse 423 kilometers away
- Ragusa, Modica & Noto 433 kilometers away
- Ravenna 439 kilometers away
- Pisa 460 kilometers away
- Bologna 479 kilometers away