See columns are things to do in Pompeii

Best Things To Do in Pompeii, Italy

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During a recent visit to Italy, our family had the opportunity to visit Rome, Florence, and and some amazing small towns outside of Florence. Visiting and discovering things to do in Pompeii was one of the highlights of our entire experience.

Is Pompeii worth visiting? YES!

History to Know Before You Go

Ruins of Pompeii

A little history before you discover Pompeii…

On the eve of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, a volcano only a short distance from the ancient Roman city of Pompeii began to rumble. The bustling town of Pompeii, a flourishing resort for many wealthy citizens and vacationers, was located miles from the base of the volcano.

In AD 79, Pompeii showcased elegant homes and villas along the “paved” roads. The city was popular for its shops, taverns, bakeries, cafes, brothels, and bathhouses.

Residents often gathered in the colosseum and frequented markets and open-air squares to meet up with friends. 

As the volcano erupted, it flooded Pompeii and the surrounding area in a blanket of ash and volcanic debris. Of the 12,000 people living in Pompeii at that time, approximately 2,000 residents were unable to escape the deadly destruction.

It wasn’t until 1748, when explorers intent on discovering ancient artifacts, began to dig in the area. The ash which had so quickly extinguished life in AD 79 had also served as a marvelous preservative. The explorers found Pompeii exactly as it had been with some buildings still completely intact.

They even discovered bread!

Today, a visit to the bucket-list destination of Pompeii offers visitors a vivid glimpse into history.

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Bucket List Check: Pompeii

Visiting Pompeii in Italy was a bucket list item for me.

I learned about Pompeii in elementary school and remember being instantly enthralled. Since then, I have always wanted to visit.

Is it on your bucket list too!

One of the Best Things To Do in Pompeii is to Get in FREE!

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Did you know that on the first Sunday of every month in Italy (and much of Europe), many museums and parks are FREE?

If you already plan to be in the area on the first Sunday of the month, getting in FREE has got to be one of the best things to do in Pompeii!

To help regulate the flow of crowds on these FREE Sundays, Pompeii is open from 8:30 am to 12:30 pm and then again from 2:30 pm until closing. If more than 15,000 people enter Pompeii before 12:30 pm, they may close earlier.

The benefit to visiting on a Sunday? No school groups and we found very few tour groups as well.

Photographing Pompeii

Whatever your skill level with a camera, be prepared for some amazing photos as you discover the best things to do in Pompeii…and see.

Canon Powershot G1 – This camera is great if you leave the camera in AUTO mode and work well with a point and shoot. Sometimes that is the best option when you are waiting for other tourists to exit your shot and only have moments for your photo opportunity.

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Canon T8i – If you are just learning photography skills and want to switch back and forth between Auto, Aperture Priority, or Manual Mode, this makes a great entry level DSLR. The goal here is to give you ample opportunity to take your best shot.

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Canon 6d Mark II – A great camera for advanced photographers who are comfortable with shooting in Manual Mode. You’ll get some outstanding shots with this DSLR.

TIP * I often keep my camera in Aperture Priority Mode when I travel because it is one less setting to worry about when I want to take a quick photo but don’t want to be in AUTO mode. Some of you skilled photographers may GASP! at the notion, but it works well for me.

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Smart Phone – Cameras on your phone nowadays are amazing. If this is your picture-taking device, you will surely capture some amazing images. I usually “tourist” with my DSLR around my neck and my Smart Phone in hand! And yes, I probably don’t “blend in” that well.

My recommendation is to arrive at Pompeii early in the morning for the best photo opportunities and hopefully fewer tourists (though there is not guarantee of that at such a popular attraction). Whatever you choose as your camera as you discover all of the best things to do in Pompeii, you will want to have the battery charged and ready to go for the day (and maybe bring along a back up battery just in case)!

Getting to Pompeii: The Pompeii Guide

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From Sorrento

30 minutes ~ €3*

Coming from Sorrento, you’ll need to hop on the Circumvesuviana train for a short 20 minute ride from Sorrento to the Pompeii Scavi train stop.

From Naples

30 minutes ~ €4*

Catch the Circumvesuviana coming from Naples in the opposite direction from Sorrento. You will still want to exit at the Pompeii Scavi entrance. The ticket office for the archeological site is a short walk from the Circumvesuviana train station.

From Rome

2 hours and 15 minutes ~ €13* (with advance purchase and early in the morning)

There is no direct train from Rome to Pompeii, so you will need to connect in Naples. Trains frequently depart from the Roma Termini to Napoli Central throughout the day.

*These costs are approximate and may vary at different times during the day.

Opening Hours

  • April 1st – October 31st: Pompeii archaeological site is open from 9 AM to 7 PM with the last entry at 6 PM. It opens at 8:30 AM on the weekend.
  • November 1st to March 31st: Pompeii is open from 9 AM to 5 PM with the last entry at 3:30 PM.
  • Closing Days: January 1st, May 1st and December 25th.

Double check the official Pompeii website for more information as you plan your itinerary of things to do in Pompeii.

What Should You Know Before Visiting Pompeii: Tips for Your Visit

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  • Have fun. You might even find Waldo!
  • You may be asked to check your bags and backpacks before you enter the ruins of Pompeii. We came with Chris’ backpack filled with the Camelbak reservoir filled ice water and my backpack filled with my camera gear and were surprised (and grateful) when we were allowed to bring the backpacks with us into the archeological site of Pompeii. It is essential to stay hydrated.
  • There are water spigots throughout Pompeii where you can refill water bottles as necessary. If I remember correctly, the water was refreshing but not very cold.
  • Be sure to pick up a map at the entrance so that you know where the restrooms, main attractions, and cafe are located.
  • What to do in Pompeii in one day? Pompeii is divided into 8 regions. It is a large area to cover and you will want a minimum of four hours to explore, but likely more.
  • Wear good walking shoes.
  • You must arrive at least one hour before the archeological site closes for the day.
  • Even though entrance is FREE on the first Sunday of the month, you will still need to stand in line for complimentary tickets.
  • There is a cafe just past the Forum and the Temple of Jupiter in Region 7 where you can stop for snacks, ice cream, gelato, and a visit to the restroom.
  • You can sign up for a guided tour of Pompeii.
  • Don’t forget to pack the Built Bar protein bars or puffs if you want to snack throughout the day. (Well, except you will want gelato. You still have to buy gelato!)
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Bonus * Use Code SJTRAVELS at checkout for 10% off your Built Bar purchase.

APPS of Pompeii

We did not have the Discover Pompeii App available to us when we visited Pompeii, but it would have surely come in handy. It does seem to be highly rated, but I cannot speak to its quality. It is FREE to download with In-App Purchases.

We did, however, listen to Rick Steves Audio Tour of Pompeii. It was great. There are a lot of tours of Italy through his site. Be sure to download the app and this tour of Pompeii prior to your visit.

Main Things to See In Pompeii if You Have One Day to Visit

things to do in Pompeii

We walked from the entrance into Pompeii and it was… simply awesome and a dream come true. If you are planning day trips while in Italy, the ruins of Pompeii are an excellent option.

My husband, Chris, who was a little skeptical of spending an entire afternoon at Roman ruins and who visited Pompeii only because I wanted to, was quite impressed. The site was moderately busy for a FREE Sunday. I was still able to get some “people-free photographs”.

Since it was Sunday, there were only a few tour groups in Pompeii and absolutely no school groups.

The following is a short list of things to do in Pompeii, Italy.

Museum Warehouses

As you can imagine, the need to have substantial storage areas is huge as the archaeological site of Pompeii continues to be excavated.

As you walk toward the Forum, you’ll pass one of the main storage areas where you can see a large number of clay urns and household products.

This iconic plaster cast of a figure, like many others, was frozen in time.

plaster cast

Antiquarium – The Museum

Pompeii’s Antiquarium was closed when we visited, but has been since reopened after 36 long years. The Antiquarium was originally built in 1874 and became the venue for exhibiting recent finds that represented the day-to-day life in Pompeii as well as more casts of the victims of the Mount Vesuvius eruption.

I think if I had the chance, I would return to Pompeii to visit the museum and explore even more through the ruins. It would definitely top my list of things to do in Pompeii on my second visit.

The museum, damaged over the years due to World War II and an earthquake in 1980, reopened to the public in 2016 as a visitor center and museum. Since 2016, the Antiquarium has continued to undergo renovation and was inaugurated on January 25, 2021 with a new layout and permanent exhibits that trace the history of Pompeii until the destruction in AD 79.

You will want to be sure to see:

  • Frescoes of the House of the Golden Bracelet
  • The Moregine Silver Treasure and the triclinium of the House of Menander
  • Finds unearthed by the most recent excavations
  • Fragments of First Style stucco from the fauces of the House of Orion
  • The amulet treasure from the House with the Garden
  • Recently produced casts of the victims from the Civita Giuliana villa. (Pompeii.org)

Forum

Ruins in Pompeii

As you enter the excavated site of Pompeii, the Forum is one of the large, open areas that you will visit first.

Anciently, the Forum in any city was often the center of daily life and activity. It housed a variety of buildings:

  • City administration
  • Businesses
  • Trade centers
  • Markets and Shops
  • Places of Worship

The Forum is centrally located: it will be hard to miss.

Temple of Jupiter

Things to do in Pompeii

The Temple of Jupiter figures prominently in the landscape of Pompeii. Featured in the Forum with a view to Mount Vesuvius in the distance, the temple was placed in the center of Pompeii where citizens could worship their most important gods.

Temple of Apollo

Columns ruins in Pompeii

The Temple of Apollo was built close to the Forum as well. Visiting the temples within the archeological site are easily accessibly and should be on your list of things to do in Pompeii.

As a place of worship, the Temple of Apollo was placed strategically close to the Marina Gate of Pompeii which led into the heart of the city.

Men’s and Women’s Ancient Baths

Baths in Pompeii

With only the wealthiest of families able to afford their own bath houses, residents of ancient Pompeii regularly visited the Baths. Not only were they used for bathing, but they could also be comparable to a gym or spa with facilities for swimming, cold water plunges, hot pools, massages, and exercise.

The baths were considered to be a very social part of life where residents might meet up to play a board game, exchange local gossip, conduct business meetings or to discuss politics.

Visiting the baths are one of the curious things to do in Pompeii. Anciently, these facilities were complete with lockers and places to relax.

Basilica

The Basilica in Pompeii was used for business and for the administration of justice. It was located close to the Forum and the Temple of Apollo.

Villas, Estates and Homes

Things to do in Pompeii

There are a number of excavated homes, villas, and estates within the walls of Pompeii. Many were modest dwellings but there is evidence of beautiful villas that were highly decorated with frescoes, floor mosaics, and gardens.

As your plan your day of things to do in Pompeii, be sure to visit some of the more elaborate villas and wander through the various rooms and gardens.

A typical house usually lacked windows since most rooms faced an interior courtyard.

Merchants often had homes above their workshops and many homes featured vegetable gardens and plots of lands used for agriculture.

Inns, Restaurants and Taverns

Restaruant in Pompeii

Visitors to the city of Pompeii were welcomed at inns. Some of the inns were simply one large room for numerous guests where they were also served a meal. For a little more privacy, other establishments offered private rooms.

Fast-food restaurants that we see today may have had their start in Pompeii and ancient Rome as residents and guests often ate out daily and frequented eating establishments with take-away windows or indoor seating.

If you were an ancient visitor to the city, visiting these establishments was definitely among your things to do in Pompeii back then!

Colosseum

Coliseum in Pompeii

Among the earliest amphitheaters built of stone, the Colosseum or Amphitheater of Pompeii had the ability to seat up to 20,000 spectators.

Even today, performances are held in the Colosseum.

Though visiting the Colosseum was on our list of things to do in Pompeii, it was closed to visits to the interior when we toured the site in 2018. It was certainly an impressive building from the exterior.

Theater

Theater in Pompeii

The Theater served as the entertainment and meeting center within Pompeii. The stone structure was built into the hillside of the ancient city and could seat up to 5,000 spectators.

Bakeries

Grinding stones in bakery at Pompeii

You will find bakeries that have been excavated over time complete with grinding stones and ovens. I imagine the smell would have been a huge draw back then (and masked a lot of other less pleasant smells). Perhaps a stop at the bakery was one of the early morning things to do in Pompeii as ancient citizens began their day.

Stepping Stones and Streets

Stepping stones in Pompeii

Stepping or Crossing Stones set within the street allowed residents to easily walk from one side of the road to another whilst keeping their feet clean.

You can see that the spacing of these large stones was just right to allow wagons and chariots easy passage as well. In fact, these stones were a common feature in Pompeii, more than any other Roman city at the time.

Ruts were sometimes even chiseled in the roads to help wagons and chariots more easily navigate the “paved” roads.

Having these crossing stones also aided in the removal of garbage, debris, and sanitation as the streets were regularly flooded to wash away all of the garbage. You can imagine the water and drainage system in Pompeii was somewhat sophisticated for its time.

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Things to do in Pompeii

Final Thoughts on the Best Things To Do in Pompeii, Italy

This post contains only a small sprinkling of the best things to do in Pompeii during your visit. There is so much more to see and experience. I enjoyed our day exploring the archeological site immensely and would love to return and perhaps add Herculaneum or “Ercolano” as part of the experience.

If Pompeii has always been on your bucket list or even if you just added it, you will LOVE your visit to the archeological site.

You may also enjoy these posts about Italy…

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29 Comments
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W. Santiago | Literal Med

I live fascinated by historic places. Italy is on my bucket list. In fact, I am learning Italian to connect better with Italians. I love that you included a Pompeii map. Thanks!

isamae
16 days ago

I’ve always wanted to visit Italy! Thanks for sharing!

Leah Tierney
16 days ago

We’ve always wanted to visit Pompeii and this is a super guide we are definitely saving this for later.

Jenn
16 days ago

Pompeii is definitely a bucket-list item for me as well – I didn’t realize that there was bread found too! usually all you hear about are all the people… And visiting on the first Sunday is a great tip to save a little. Thanks for sharing.

Laura
15 days ago

I would love to visit Pompeii! The bread fact is wild but so cool. Great to know the Antiquarium is open now. I’ll definitely be downloading the app and the audio tour, great tips!

Kat
14 days ago

Wow I had no idea Pompeii was so close to Naples and Sorrento – and not even that far from Rome! I didnt get a chance to visit when I was in Italy, so its definitely on the bucket list when I go back!

Lasma
Lasma
13 days ago

I have been in Italy for so long and I love Campania, but I never made it to Pompeii. Shame on me, I know!! But your guide gives me all the wanderlust 😍 Will save it asap!

Travel A-Broads
13 days ago

Wow, what a fascinating history! I’d visit simply to learn more about that, but there’s so much more to do here! Great tip about visiting (for free) on Sundays. I’d especially love to see the Antiquarium – how neat that it was closed for 36 years and is now reopened to the public! You have truly convinced me to visit Pompeii; adding it to my bucket list now. Thanks again for all of the great info! Xx Sara

Leah Tierney
13 days ago

Pompeii is so high up my bucket list! I had no idea there were specific days you could get in for free, thank you for sharing such a helpful guide.

Linda (LD Holland)
13 days ago

I must admit I was far more fascinated with Pompeii than I expected. The site was massive and so much more was being uncovered. We did a tour from Sorrento included Mt Vesuvius. That would have been a long day from Rome. 

Mayi
13 days ago

I love history-centred trips. Pompeii is on my list and I hope to make it there soon. I will for sure save this guide for the future.

Renee
Renee
12 days ago

What a photographer’s dream spot to go and capture these ancient sites. Next I’m in Rome I’ll need to make sure I do this.

Mayra
11 days ago

This is on my bucket list too. Wow, they found bread!?!
It must have been an amazing and vibrant city before the eruption. I like to do a mental reconstruction and imagine people and animals walking around. I would be looking forward to doing the tour as it must be super interesting.

Bea Pinnegar
11 days ago

Thanks for such a wonderful guide – been wanting to visit Pompeii for the longest time. This will definitely come in handy when the time is right – saving it for later 🙂

Shannon Hara
Shannon Hara
11 days ago

I had no idea Pompeii is free on the first Sunday! This is great to know!

shafinah
shafinah
9 days ago

i’ve always been so intrigued with the history and story of Pompeii – it’s almost surreal reading about your experience and contrasting it against all that i’ve learned!

sam
6 days ago

Such an imformative post! great to learn about the history and grat tips…would love to visit!!

Kaitlyn
6 days ago

I have wanted to visit Pompeii since I was a young and this article is so helpful thank you! I had no idea that the first Sunday was free too! That’s fantastic!

Alexandra
Alexandra
6 days ago

Time and time again, I go to Italy and avoid Pompeii because I don’t know where to start! Thanks for the great guide to get me motivated!

Sharyn
5 days ago

I loved Pompeii when I visited – so interesting. This is such a comprehensive guide you provide and I wish I had seen it before my trip. Next time!

Nikki
Nikki
4 days ago

Wow! What a thorough guide. There’s so many points of interest in this historic site. I think I’d want to see Temple of Jupiter most. Saving for later!