Although often overshadowed by Pompeii, the UNESCO World Heritage Herculaneum Ruins is one of Italy’s premier archaeological sites. Here’s everything you need to know about getting Herculaneum tickets and planning the perfect day trip from Naples.

Located just 11km south-east from the city of Naples at the foot of mighty Mount Vesuvius, Herculaneum is the perfect day trip for history and culture buffs.

My visit to Herculaneum last summer left me completely gobsmacked and wondering why more people don’t visit this Pompeii alternative.

A view of Herculaneum's stone houses and streets.
A bird’s eye view over the incredible Herculaneum Ruins.

When planning your visit to Herculaneum, the most important thing to consider is how you’re going to obtain your tickets. This will determine how you travel to the site and how much time you spend there.

There are currently half a dozen different options for buying Herculaneum tickets. The price varies considerably, as do the perks (skipping the line, saving money on multiple attractions, having a guide to accompany you, etc.).

In this guide, I’ll outline the best way to buy Herculaneum tickets whether you’re a budget-savvy traveller, you’re looking for an all-inclusive tour, or you fancy something in between.

Please note: This post contains affiliate links, meaning I may earn a commission if you make a purchase by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you). Learn more.

Why Herculaneum is the perfect Naples day trip

Most travel books describe the Herculaneum Ruins as one of the best-preserved archaeological sites in the world. It sounds impressive – but it’s not until you’re standing inside the Herculaneum complex that the gravity of that bold statement really sinks in.

Herculaneum is unlike any other historical site I’ve visited anywhere in the world (maybe with the exception of Vardzia cave city in Georgia). It’s a completely immersive experience and although there’s a lot of history to absorb, it’s in no way dry or boring.

A man walking down the street of Herculaneum.
Wandering the stone streets of Herculaneum.

Herculaneum was a fishing town that was completely destroyed by the same volcanic eruption that buried Pompeii in 79 AD. In fact, Herculaneum was better preserved because it was closer to the site of the eruption and got covered by a different kind of ash. In its heyday, Herculaneum was a wealthier town than Pompeii, so the architecture is more lavish.

A wander down Herculaneum’s main street reveals food canteens with clay urns still embedded in the benches, beautiful gardens and opulent villas. Painted store signage, inscriptions, quirky sculptures and risqué graffiti says so much about the people who once dwelled here.

Stone pillars at Herculaneum.
Architecture in Herculaneum.

Although the story of Herculaneum is one of immense tragedy, the minutiae of everyday life that’s on display is both fascinating and provides a unique window into Roman society and culture.

Clay jars embedded in a brick counter inside the Herculaneum Archeological Complex.
The remains of a food canteen. Even the residents of Herculaneum loved a good buffet!

A forum and an amphitheatre, remains of an aqueduct, street fountains, bath houses, schools, and numerous other structures and courtyards dot the landscape, each with its own secrets.

The most enjoyable part for me was seeing the preserved frescoes and glass mosaics that look just as vivid as the day they were installed.

Herculaneum or Pompeii?

I’ve never been to Pompeii so I can’t make a fair comparison. But based on reports I’ve read from other travellers, Herculaneum is even more fascinating.

It’s also cheaper to visit Herculaneum, and although the site is smaller, it’s less popular and therefore usually less crowded than Pompeii.

Pompeii is only 20km from Herculaneum further south, so it’s entirely possible to visit both (either on the same day or split over two days).

There are special combination tickets and cultural passes you can use to visit Herculaneum and Pompeii, so make sure you keep reading to learn how to save time and money.

Recommended Herculaneum tours

6 ways to buy Herculaneum tickets

There are half a dozen different ways to buy Herculaneum tickets, each with pros and cons in terms of ease and price. Here is a comparison of the different methods to help you reach a decision.

  • Discounts: EU nationals are eligible for a discount on Herculaneum tickets. If that’s you, remember to carry your ID card with you on the day. Children under 18 and pensioners visit free.
  • Skipping the queue: Even if you buy tickets online, you still need to pick them up at the ticket window. The only way to skip the line is by visiting with a guide (see options 2 and 3 below).
  • A final tip: There is an information stand located near the ticket office and this is the only place where you can grab a detailed Herculaneum map. Don’t forget to pick one up on your way in!

Option 1: Buy Priority tickets online is the official vendor for Herculaneum tickets. It also oversees ticket sales for other historical and cultural attractions across Italy, including the Colosseum in Rome.

BUT the platform can only be used to buy tickets for school groups, not for individual visitors.

Instead, I recommend buying priority entrance tickets online via third-party platform Tiquets. Prices start from €17, and payment is made online with credit card through a secure portal.

Once you’ve checked out, a voucher will be sent to your email. You can either print this or download it to your phone to present at the ticket window when you arrive at Herculaneum.

Check prices and availability here on Tiquets.

Option 2: Hire a guide at Herculaneum and skip the line

If you want to buy your Herculaneum tickets online and skip the queue, the easiest option is to hire a local guide.

All certified guides at Herculaneum are trained archaeologists who really know their stuff. Having a guide to accompany you is a huge bonus and will enrich your experience of the complex considerably.

Even though the free map is a great resource and there are audio tours available, nothing beats having a real-life expert who can bring the site to life.

A beautiful stone engraving at Herculaneum.
If you want to know the meaning behind the different inscriptions and carvings, it’s best to visit Herculaneum with a guide.

This 2-hour guided walk through Herculaneum with a local archaeologist includes skip-the-line tickets. Groups are limited to an intimate 10 people.

Tours depart hourly throughout the day starting from 9am. The meeting point is the ticket booth at Herculaneum, meaning you need to organise your own transport to get there. This significantly lowers the price – I personally think this tour is excellent value for money.

Booked online through Get Your Guide, you get instant confirmation and a mobile ticket (so you don’t have to worry about printing anything out). If plans change, you can cancel up to 24 hours in advance and get a full refund.

Check availability and book a Herculaneum guided tour here.

You may want to consider a guided tour if you have special requirements. There are itineraries specially designed for families with young children (this option is kid-friendly) and for wheelchair users (this accessible tour option includes transport from Naples in a wheelchair-friendly vehicle and is also suitable for elderly visitors).

Option 3: Join a guided excursion from Naples

Herculaneum is easy to reach by train from Naples (more details below). If you prefer to travel by private car, then a guided excursion is the best option.

Herculaneum day tours from Naples are a full-day affair and combine a tour of Herculaneum with a visit to either Pompeii or Mount Vesuvius. If you have limited time in this part of Italy, joining one of these tours is the perfect way to squeeze in as much sightseeing as you can.

This 8-hour tour to Herculaneum and Pompeii includes skip-the-line tickets for both sites. If the group is more than 6 people, a guide will be provided at Herculaneum (if it’s a small group, you get an audio guide instead). I like that this tour has some flexibility to explore Herculaneum at your own pace. The price also includes lunch at a local restaurant.

Check availability and book your Herculaneum/Pompeii tour from Naples here.

Active visitors might prefer this 7-hour tour from Naples that combines an independent walk through Herculaneum followed by a hike to the summit of Mount Vesuvius. Priority access tickets to Herculaneum are included in the price, as are private door-to-door transfers from your hotel in Naples.

Check availability and book online through Get Your Guide.

Ruins of homes in Herculaneum, a day trip from Naples, Italy.
You can either visit Herculaneum with a guide or wander at your own pace.

Option 4: Buy tickets in person at the ticket desk

Note: As of August 2020, the Herculaneum ticket office is currently closed. All visitors must obtain their Herculaneum tickets online in advance using one of the options above.

Under normal circumstances, the cheapest way to get Herculaneum tickets is by buying them in person at the on-site ticket desk. Tickets cost €13. Both card and cash is accepted.

Option 5: Buy a Pompeii combination ticket

If you’re planning to visit multiple sites in one day, it’s possible to buy a combination ticket that covers entrance to Herculaneum, Pompeii, Oplontis and Boscoreale. These passes can only be purchased in person at ticket desks – it’s not possible to buy them online.

The multi-site pass costs €22.

Option 6: Buy a Campania Artecard

A terrific way to save some cash when visiting Naples is by picking up a Campania Artecard. The 3-day card covers around 80 cultural and historical sites around Naples – including the Herculaneum Ruins – plus grants you free public transportation within the city. Better still, you get premium skip-the-line access to Herculaneum, eliminating the need to queue.

The card works by giving you free admission to two sites then a 50% discount on further sites visited after that. It’s a good strategy to visit the more expensive attractions first.

The Campania Artecard can be purchased online or in person from select vendors in Naples. Note that you have to exchange an online voucher for a physical card (you can do this at the airport or train station).

The card costs €32 for adults and €25 for EU nationals aged 18 to 25. As the name suggests, it’s valid for use over a 72-hour period from the time it’s activated.

How to see Herculaneum for free

On the first Sunday of every month, entrance to Herculaneum is free for everyone (including Italians, EU citizens and foreign visitors of any age). Free entry usually starts from the afternoon, around 1pm or 2pm depending on the season.

Numbers are restricted, so if you want to take advantage of the free access, it’s recommended you arrive early.

Signage inside Herculaneum train station.
Ercolano train station. After visiting Herculaneum, you can continue to Pompeii or Sorrento.

How to get to Herculaneum from Naples

The easiest way to travel to Herculaneum from Naples is by taking the Circumvesuviana train from Naples Central Station (Napoli Garibaldi) to Ercolano. 

Trains depart frequently (every 20-60 minutes) throughout the day starting from 6am, and the ride takes around 30 minutes. A one-way ticket costs €2.20 or you can buy a return ticket at a discounted rate.

When I visited Herculaneum, I followed these detailed instructions. It was a seamless process.

Tips for visiting Herculaneum

Herculaneum opening hours

Herculaneum is open 7 days a week from 8.30am until 5pm in winter (November 1 through March 31) and from 8.30am until 7.30pm in summer (April 1 through October 31).

Herculaneum is closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25 every year.

Note that the ticket office closes 90 minutes before official closing time. Last admissions to the site are 90 minutes before closing time.

Best time to visit Herculaneum

If you want to enjoy Herculaneum without the crowds, it’s best to arrive when the ticket office opens at 8.30am. Tourist groups typically arrive around 9.30/10am. Alternatively, it’s also pretty quiet around 2 hours before closing time.

The site is noticeably busier on weekends and during school holidays. It also gets very crowded on the first Sunday of the month when afternoon entrance is free.

How long to spend at Herculaneum

Most people agree that you need a minimum of 2-3 hours to visit Herculaneum. Guided tours last for 2 hours; budget a bit more time if you’re on your own as you’re bound to make a few wrong turns as you navigate the complex.

If you’re really interested in the history of Herculaneum and you want to take your time to explore every nook and cranny, you’ll need 4 hours or even longer at Herculaneum.

This 2-3 hour DIY walking itinerary covers most of the must-sees.

What to wear & what bring with you

  • Comfy shoes: A visit to Herculaneum involves a lot of walking over varied terrain. Sensible shoes are a must.
  • Sun protection gear: Herculaneum is very exposed and can get extremely hot. Bring a hat and sunscreen if you’re visiting on a sunny day.
  • Refillable water bottle: Avoid single-use plastic by bringing your own water bottle.
  • Snacks: There aren’t any cafes or shops inside the complex, so it’s handy to carry a snack with you. For an affordable lunch after your visit to Herculaneum, I recommend walking into town and visiting one of the local sandwich bars.


Navigating through Herculaneum involves climbing stairs, ledges, and walking on uneven surfaces. It can be a bit challenging for anyone who’s not steady on their feet.

Having said that, Herculaneum is accessible – many of the streets and buildings are step-free, and entrance to the complex is via a ramp. This itinerary is specifically designed for wheelchair users and includes transport to and from Naples in a wheelchair-friendly vehicle.

Where to stay in Naples

When we visited Naples, we stayed at Le Stanze di Flora, a centrally located hotel close to Santa Chiara. Our roomy apartment slept 3-4 people and included a full kitchen, private bathroom and a washing machine. We also had a small private terrace.

We paid a very reasonable €45 per night, plus a city tax of €2 per person per night. That included breakfast at a nearby cafe.

Italy essentials

Here are some helpful websites and resources you can use to organise your trip to Italy.

FLIGHTS: Find affordable flights to Italy on Skyscanner.

TRAVEL INSURANCE: Insure your trip with HeyMondo, my preferred provider for single-trip and annual travel insurance.

SIM CARD: Buy an eSIM and data package for Italy online before you go. My top choice is the Eurolink eSIM from Airalo (10 GB for 30 days).

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best hotel deals in Italy on

CAR HIRE: Find the best price on a hire car in mainland Italy or Sicily using Discover Cars.

DAY TOURS: Book skip-the-line tickets, city tours and day excursions in Italy using Viator.

FOODIE EXPERIENCES: Find the best food tours and cooking classes in Italy on Cookly (use the promocode EMILYLUSH to get 10% off).

More Italy travel inspiration

A complete guide to buying Herculaneum tickets – including the cheapest ticket options, how to skip the line, and how to find a qualified guide. Plus essential info for planning a day trip to Herculaneum from Naples.

How to get Herculaneum tickets: Save it for later

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