"A city locked in time" Top 5 Page for this destination Herculaneum by toonsarah

Herculaneum Travel Guide: 93 reviews and 369 photos

Hall of the Augustals, Herculaneum

When Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 Herculaneum was buried in volcanic mud rather than in the lava which engulfed it perhaps more famous neighbour, Pompeii.

It lay hidden and nearly intact for more than 1600 years until it was accidentally discovered by some workers digging a well in 1709. This has resulted in a different type of preservation of its ruins, with the mud doing relatively little damage to the buildings, instead slowly filling them from the bottom up.

Roman city by the sea

Herculaneum was a smaller town with a wealthier population than Pompeii at the time of its destruction. You can easily imagine that the seaside villas would have been very desirable residences, and the lifestyle of those who occupied them would have been wonderful – sipping wine on the terraces overlooking the bay, with slaves catering to your every need, beautiful mosaics and friezes adorning the walls, a pleasant climate away from the hassles of the city. The narrow streets were lined with businesses and homes. No carts or wagons were allowed on the main street, and most of the pavements were covered with awnings to protect people from bad weather or hot sun.

I loved wandering around envisaging all this – but then also contemplating the terror that must have descended on this peaceful spot when the inhabitants suddenly realised the enormity of what was happening to the mountain that looms over it. Many had sufficient warning that they were able to escape; some however did not, and their skeletons were found by archaeologists huddled together in boat houses on what would have in those days been the beach.


We only spent a few hours exploring Herculaneum, so we didn’t see everything. My tips are just a sample of what you can find here, based around the buildings and sights that most took my fancy. I’ve tried to mix facts about each, taken mainly from the free brochure (see my General tip about this), with my own impressions and why I liked each spot.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Smaller and quieter than Pompeii
  • Last visit to Herculaneum: Nov 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (16)

Comments (27)

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Sep 11, 2013 at 4:43 AM

    Your heading describes this city well!

  • FruitLover's Profile Photo
    Mar 2, 2013 at 5:12 AM

    'downwind', yes, very dramatic. Thanx Sarah for this page. You had a few hours to explore the site. I had to skip it, unfortunately, when in Pompei. C U , Avi

    • toonsarah's Profile Photo
      Mar 2, 2013 at 6:43 AM

      Thanks Avi - I think we enjoyed Herculaneum even more than Pompeii, so it's a shame you had to miss it. But it's always so when travelling - impossible isn't it to see everything we would like to?!

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    Mar 18, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    I just watched a special about this place. So sad. Each house was decorated with its owner personality, I suppose. The paintings are fantastic. You've done an excellent job with your photography here. Excellent page!

  • Oct 20, 2010 at 5:13 PM

    this is a fantastic page sarah. i havent been this part of italy, but it is on the cards for the future (along with everything else. lol)

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Sep 27, 2010 at 3:53 AM

    Guess who is terribly homesick? I saw a documentation about Amalfi Coast yesterday and... had to come back and read your fascinating description of your trip down there :-)

  • hunterV's Profile Photo
    Aug 10, 2010 at 4:43 AM

    Hello, Sarah! Thanks for your nice story about an unknown place..It's a small world! ><><><

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Apr 25, 2010 at 4:53 AM

    What a fascinating place to explore! I have never been to Herulaneum, but I spent a day in Pompeii almost 20 years ago.

  • iandsmith's Profile Photo
    Sep 18, 2009 at 2:32 PM

    A veritable font of information. Thank you for sharing, I'm heading there next month.

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Jun 20, 2009 at 6:14 AM

    Look forward to visiting Herculano one day; just did Pompeii, no time...

  • Stephen-KarenConn's Profile Photo
    Jun 27, 2008 at 7:37 AM

    A fascinating page - very well written. This is one of the places I hope to see before I die - which I hope is at least 40 years from now.


“I slept on the strange pillows of my wanderlust (Joni Mitchell, "Amelia")”

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