Pompeii: The Complete Guide

What To See In Pompeii

The Pompeii ruins are a vast and intricate collection of ancient Roman remains, with Mount Vesuvius looming ominously in the distance. Once a thriving city of 20,000 mostly middle-class citizens, Pompeii’s strategic location made it a crucial hub for trade between Rome and the broader Mediterranean. Pompeii was a bustling metropolis with chariots traversing its streets, an amphitheater hosting gladiator fights, and citizens enjoying the prosperity of the Roman Empire. This vibrant city met a sudden and catastrophic end in 79 A.D. when Mount Vesuvius erupted, burying the city under layers of ash up to six meters deep. While many residents managed to escape, some were trapped and entombed in the ash and debris.

Buying Tickets for Pompeii

Ticketone is the only official Pompeii tickets website, but you can now also buy official Pompeii tickets with free 24 hour cancellation with Optional Audio Guide. When you head to the official site to book your Pompeii tickets, you’ll have two options: ‘Intero Pompei Plus’ (€ 23.00) and ‘Intero Pompei Express’ (€ 19.00). ‘Pompei Plus’ also inlcudes Villa dei Misteri, Villa di Diomede, and Villa Regina at Boscoreale (the suburban villas).

Tips for Visiting Pompeii

  • 3 Entrances:
    • Porta Marina is the most frequented by tourists. Here, visitors can store their bags, use restrooms, and pick up a map, which is crucial for navigating the extensive site. Once inside, you are free to explore the ruins at your own pace. While some areas might be roped off due to ongoing archaeological work or preservation efforts, you generally have the freedom to wander and discover the ancient city.
    • Piazza Anfiteatro is an ideal entrance for visitors staying in the central area of modern Pompei.
    • Piazza Esedra is conveniently located a short walk from Porta Marina, making it an alternative entrance to the Pompeii archaeological site. This entrance is less crowded, as it is typically used by groups, but individuals can also use it to avoid the larger crowds at Porta Marina.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: Sturdy, comfortable shoes are essential for exploring Pompeii. The site is much larger than it appears on a map, so expect to do a lot of walking. Additionally, the roads are uneven and dusty, making sandals or flip-flops impractical and challenging to navigate.
  • Use Sunscreen: Sunscreen is crucial for protecting your skin while walking through the exposed ruins. Pompeii is almost entirely exposed to the sun, with few shaded areas, due to the collapsed roofs from the ash of Vesuvius.
  • Bring Sunglasses and a Hat: Sunglasses and a hat are important to shield your eyes and face from the sun. These items will help prevent squinting and provide comfort during your visit.
  • Carry a Reusable Water Bottle: A reusable water bottle is handy for staying hydrated in the heat of Pompeii. There are several public fountains with safe drinking water where you can refill your bottle as you explore the site.
  • Food Availability: If you need a quick bite to eat while visiting, food is available within the park, but it could be far away.

History of Pompeii

Ancient Origins: Pompeii’s origins can be traced back to the 7th or 6th century BCE when it was founded by the Oscans, an Italic people. The town was strategically located near the Bay of Naples, making it a vital port and trade center. Over the centuries, Pompeii came under the influence of several cultures, including the Etruscans and the Greeks, which contributed to its development and prosperity.

Roman Era: In 80 BCE, Pompeii became a Roman colony following the Social War between Rome and its Italian allies. The town flourished under Roman rule, becoming a bustling city with a population of around 20,000 people. Pompeii was characterized by its well-planned streets, impressive architecture, and vibrant social life. The city had an amphitheater, theaters, baths, temples, and a forum, which served as the center of political, economic, and religious activities.

Economic and Cultural Hub: Pompeii’s economy was primarily based on agriculture, trade, and commerce. The fertile volcanic soil of the region allowed for the cultivation of grapes, olives, and other crops, which were traded extensively. The city was also known for its production of garum, a fermented fish sauce that was a delicacy in the Roman world. The residents of Pompeii enjoyed a high standard of living, with many wealthy citizens owning luxurious villas adorned with intricate mosaics and frescoes.

The Eruption of Mount Vesuvius: On August 24, 79 CE, Pompeii’s fate was sealed by the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The eruption spewed volcanic ash, pumice, and gases into the sky, creating a deadly pyroclastic flow that engulfed the city. It is estimated that the eruption lasted for about 24 hours, burying Pompeii under up to 6 meters (20 feet) of ash and pumice. The suddenness of the disaster left the city remarkably well-preserved, as the lack of air and moisture under the ash preserved buildings, artifacts, and even organic material.

Rediscovery and Excavation: Pompeii remained buried and forgotten for nearly 1,700 years until its rediscovery in the 16th century. Systematic excavations began in the 18th century under the Bourbon kings of Naples. Archaeologists unearthed streets, buildings, and artifacts, providing an unprecedented glimpse into daily life in a Roman city. The preservation of Pompeii’s structures and artifacts has made it one of the most significant archaeological sites in the world.

Cultural and Historical Significance: Today, Pompeii is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Italy’s most visited tourist attractions. The site offers invaluable insights into the social, economic, and cultural aspects of Roman life. Visitors can explore the remains of homes, shops, public buildings, and streets, as well as the famous plaster casts of the victims, which poignantly capture the human tragedy of the eruption.

Visiting Pompeii for the first time and wondering what are the top places to see in the city? In this complete guide, I share the best things to do in Pompeii on the first visit. To help you plan your trip, I have also included an interactive map and practical tips for visiting!

This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Powered by GetYourGuide

10 Best places to See in Pompeii

This complete guide to Pompeii not only tells you about the very best sights and tourist attractions for first-time visitors to the city but also provide insights into a few of our personal favorite things to do.

This is a practical guide to visiting the best places to see in Pompeii and is filled with tips and info that should answer all your questions!

Lupanar (Brothel), Pompeii

Lupanar Exterior Pompeii
CC BY-SA 4.0 / ProWalk Tours
The brothel, known as the Lupanare, derives its name from the Latin word “lupa,” meaning “prostitute.” This establishment is notable for the insight it provides into the social and economic aspects of prostitution in ancient Pompeii. Prostitutes and Payment: The prostitutes working in the brothel were primarily Greek and Oriental slaves. They were paid between […]
Visiting Lupanar (Brothel), Pompeii

House of Menander, Pompeii

House Of Menander, Pompeii
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Marco Ober
The House of Menander, named after a painting of the Athenian playwright Menander found in its portico, is a prime example of a high-ranking family’s residence in Pompeii. Its construction and development were part of a complex series of events, typical of elite homes of the period. Architectural Features: The atrium of the house features […]
Visiting House of Menander, Pompeii

The House of the Faun (Casa del Fauno)

House Of The Faun Pompeii
CC BY-SA 4.0 / NikonZ7II
Constructed during the Samnite period around 180 BC, the House of the Faun is a grand Hellenistic palace in Pompeii, Italy. This impressive estate, framed by a peristyle, is historically significant for its many well-preserved pieces of art, protected by the ash from the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. It stands as one […]
Visiting The House of the Faun (Casa del Fauno)
Powered by GetYourGuide

Pompeii’s Forum

Pompeiis Forum
The Forum is likely to be the first major sight you’ll encounter in Pompeii, and it is also the most recognizable due to its popularity and photogenic appeal. Serving as the core of daily life in Pompeii, the Civil Forum was the focal point for city administration, justice, business management, trade activities such as markets, […]
Visiting Pompeii’s Forum

Forum Baths, Pompeii

Forum Baths, Pompeii
CC BY-SA 2.0 / MatthiasKabel
Located behind the Temple of Jupiter, the Forum Baths, Therme del Foro, date back to the years immediately following the founding of the colony of veterans by General Sulla in 80 BCE. The baths had separate entrances for the women’s and men’s quarters. The men’s section includes an apodyterium (dressing room), which also served as […]
Visiting Forum Baths, Pompeii
Powered by GetYourGuide

The House of the Vettii, Pompeii

House Of The Vettii, Pompeii
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Diego Delso, delso.photo
The House of the Vettii is one of the richest and most renowned residences in Pompeii, reflecting the wealth and status of its owners, the brothers Aulus Vettius Restitutus and Aulus Vettius Conviva. These former slaves, who gained their freedom and amassed significant wealth through trade, placed their home under the protection of Priapus, the […]
Visiting The House of the Vettii, Pompeii

House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii

Pompeii Ruins Mosaic Dog At House Of The Tragic Poet
Public Domain / Gary Todd
This house, which retains the traditional shape of an atrium house, is renowned for the famous mosaic at its main entrance that reads “CAVE CANEM” (“beware of the dog”). This mosaic is now protected with glass. Access to the house is through a side entrance that leads directly to the peristylium. Interior Decorations: The atrium […]
Visiting House of the Tragic Poet, Pompeii

Villa of Diomedes, Pompeii

Villa Of Diomedes, Pompeii
CC BY-SA 4.0 / Diego Delso, delso.photo
The Villa of Diomedes unfolds dramatically over three levels, featuring gardens and pools that extend towards the ancient coastline. Covering an area of 3,500 square meters, it is one of the largest buildings in the entire city. Upon entering, visitors access the peristyle directly, around which the most important rooms, such as the triclinium, are […]
Visiting Villa of Diomedes, Pompeii

Villa dei Misteri, Pompeii

Villa Of The Mysteries In Pompeii
CC BY-SA 4.0 / ElfQrin
Villa dei Misteri, or the “Villa of the Mysteries,” was buried under hundreds of feet of ash and volcanic material during the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, which destroyed Pompeii, Herculaneum, and other nearby towns. Remarkably, the villa sustained minimal damage, and its ancient frescoes have survived in excellent condition, making them among […]
Location: Villa dei Misteri, Via Villa dei Misteri, Pompei, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Distance: 1.00km
Visiting Villa dei Misteri, Pompeii

Mount Vesuvius

Mount Vesuvius
Mount Vesuvius, one of just two active volcanoes on the European continent, rises to a height of approximately 1,281 meters. It features a symmetrical central cone and steep wooded slopes. The entirety of Mount Vesuvius National Park is not only picturesque but also productive, peppered with quaint farms and vineyards that cultivate ancient grape varieties […]
Location: Mount Vesuvius, Ottaviano, Metropolitan City of Naples, Italy | Hours: January – February: 9 am – 3 pm. March: 9 am – 4 pm. April, May & June: 9 am – 5 pm. July – August: 9 am – 6 pm. September: 9 am – 5 pm. October: 9 am – 4 pm. November – December: 9 am – 3 pm. | Distance: 9.40km
Visiting Mount Vesuvius

Best Time to Visit Pompeii

Spring (April to June): Spring is arguably the best time to visit Pompeii. During these months, the weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 17°C to 25°C (63°F to 77°F). The site is less crowded compared to the peak summer months, allowing for a more enjoyable exploration of the ruins. The blooming flowers and lush greenery also enhance the beauty of the archaeological site.

Fall (September to October): Fall is another excellent time to visit Pompeii. The temperatures are comfortable, usually between 20°C and 26°C (68°F to 79°F), and the crowds have thinned out after the busy summer season. The autumnal light and cooler weather make it ideal for walking around the extensive ruins.

Winter (November to March): While the winter months are the least popular for tourists, they offer some advantages. The weather is cooler, with temperatures ranging from 8°C to 15°C (46°F to 59°F), which can be a relief compared to the summer heat. Additionally, admission fees are discounted during this period. However, be prepared for shorter daylight hours and the possibility of rain. Some areas of the site may be closed for maintenance or preservation work during the off-season.

Summer (July to August): Summer is the peak tourist season in Pompeii, and while the site is bustling with activity, the weather can be extremely hot, often exceeding 30°C (86°F). If you visit during these months, plan to arrive early in the morning or later in the afternoon to avoid the midday heat. Bring plenty of water, wear sun protection, and take breaks in the shaded areas.

Average Temperatures in Pompeii

  • January 14°C 20
  • February 15°C 17
  • March 17°C 14
  • April 21°C 9
  • May 25°C 9
  • June 32°C 5
  • July 34°C 2
  • August 33°C 3
  • September 29°C 13
  • October 25°C 17
  • November 19°C 28
  • December 16°C 17

How to get to Pompeii

By Train:

  • From Naples:
    • Circumvesuviana Train: The most common way to reach Pompeii from Naples is via the Circumvesuviana train. Take the train from Napoli Centrale or Napoli Porta Nolana stations and get off at Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri. The journey takes about 35-40 minutes.
    • Trenitalia or Italo Trains: You can also take Trenitalia or Italo high-speed trains to Pompei Station, but this station is a bit farther from the main entrance to the ruins, requiring a longer walk or a short bus/taxi ride.
  • From Sorrento:
    • Circumvesuviana Train: Take the Circumvesuviana train from Sorrento to Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri. The journey takes about 30 minutes.

By Bus:

  • From Naples:
    • SITA Bus: SITA buses run from Naples to Pompeii. You can catch the bus from Piazza Garibaldi or Piazza del Municipio. The bus ride takes approximately 45 minutes to an hour.
  • From Sorrento:
    • SITA Bus: SITA buses also operate from Sorrento to Pompeii. The trip takes about 40 minutes to an hour.

By Car:

  • From Naples:
    • Autostrada A3: Take the A3 motorway towards Salerno and exit at Pompei Ovest. The drive is about 30-40 minutes, depending on traffic.
  • From Sorrento:
    • SS145 Road: Follow the SS145 road towards Naples and merge onto the A3 motorway, exiting at Pompei Ovest. The drive takes about 30-40 minutes.

By Tour:

  • Many tour companies offer guided day trips to Pompeii from Naples, Sorrento, Rome, and other nearby cities. These tours often include transportation, entrance fees, and a guided tour of the archaeological site.

From Rome:

  • Train to Naples: Take a high-speed train (Frecciarossa or Italo) from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale. The journey takes about 1-1.5 hours. From Naples, transfer to the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei Scavi-Villa dei Misteri.
  • Direct Bus Tours: Some tour operators offer direct bus tours from Rome to Pompeii, including guided tours and transportation.
Powered by GetYourGuide