For a long time, the inhabitants of Herculaneum and Pompeii, considered Vesuvius just a mountain. However, on the night of the 24th August of 79 AD the 'mountain' woke up destroying and burying the cities under its feet. Unlike Pompeii which was covered by ashes, Herculaneum was covered by a thick layer of mud and lava, so the city is much better preserved than Pompeii, although I would say Pompeii is in a more beautiful situation. It was the lava that preserved everything that was found centuries later, such as clothes, jewellery, statues and even food and skeletons. Herculaneum was a much richer town than Pompeii and has a large number of fine houses.
In 1709, the Duke d'Elboeuf discovered by chance the theatre of Herculaneum. Later, in 1738, the excitement of new discoveries can be found in the words of King Charles of Bourbon, "I have just come from speaking...of Vesuvius and the recently discovered ancient city of Herculaneum. Nothing is more remarkable than having an entire city in the bosom of the earth". Thanks to his interest in antiquity, excavations started in the area discovering huge surprises, such as the spectacular ruins of the Villa dei Papiri, which housed a magnificent collection of bronze and marble statues and a huge papyrus library with more than 1.800 ancients poems and philosophical texts, all now at the National Archeological Museum in Napoli. In the 18th century Herculaneum became an important part of the Grand Tour. Today, around 75% of the city still lies buried underneath the modern one.
Noteworthy is the House of the Mosaic Atrium, the House of the Deer, the Thermal Spa of the Forum, the Forum and the House of the Mosaic of Neptune and and Amphitrite.
Not far from the archeological site, there is also the MAV, a museum with a 3D interactive experience, a great way to learn about the ancient city. I really recommend a visit to the museum as it is very interesting and it gives you a deeper understanding of Herculaneum, with its daily life, with virtual reality reconstructions of villas, baths and streets, until the night of the eruption. For more info about the MAV click here to see the official website. The price of the ticket is not included in the archeological site and it costs € 7,50.
Like Pompeii, Herculaneum is also recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site.
ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE INFO
Official site: sito Archeologico di Ercolano
Corso Resina, Ercolano (NA)
Tel.: +39 081 732 43 11
Tickets: € 11 / Concessions: € 5,50
Free entry every first Sunday of the Month.
There are also different tickets that you combine with other archeological sites:
5 sites: Pompei, Ercolano, Oplonti, Stabia, Boscoreale (valid for 3 days and allows one entry per site) € 20 / Concession: € 10
Concessions are applicable to EU citizens 18 to 25 years old.
Free entry - child under 18 and 65+.
April to October: 08.30 - 19.30 (last entry 18.00)
November to March: 08.30 - 17.00 (last entry 15.30)
Closed on December 25th, January 1st and May 1st.
HOW TO GET TO HERCULANEUM
Like Pompeii, the best way to access to Herculaneum is by train. If you are coming from Napoli, there is the Circumvesuviana, train from Napoli Stazione Centrale / Garibaldi to Sorrento. Get off at ERCOLANO stop. The station is at 700m from the archeological site. Tickets for the Circumvesuviana are around € 1,50. For more info about the Circumvesuviana tickets and timetable, click here.
The entrance to Herculaneum Archaeological Site is on Via IV Novembre.
If you are coming from outside Napoli, you can reach Herculaneum with TreniItalia.
By car, take the A3 motorway, direction Napoli - Salerno.
Otherwise, there is a bus SITA from the main train station Stazione Centrale / Piazza Garibaldi and it costs € 3.
From the airport there are taxis with fixed rates of € 70 with a return and 2 hours stop to visit the archeological site.
For more info about how to get around, click here TRAVEL INFO.