Which to visit? Herculaneum or Pompeii? It is a question we have seemingly been asked a lot lately so here is our take on the debate.
Both Herculaneum and Pompeii were destroyed by Mt Vesuvius when it erupted in 79 AD and the ruins are beautifully preserved - a must visit when travelling through Italy. Both offer something different to the traveller but our winner is:
Herculaneum or Pompeii - Preservation
The thing that sets Herculaneum above Pompeii is that it is much better preserved. The ruins at Herculaneum still contain two story buildings as well as brilliantly preserved country houses, baths and mosaics. In contrast the majority of Pompeii's buildings no longer have roofs and are generally not in as great a shape.
Pompeii is a much larger area and does have a beautiful amphitheater but it just doesn't have the same feel and quality as Herculaneum. At Herculaneum you really get a feel as to what it would have been like to live during Roman times.
Herculaneum or Pompeii - Artifacts
Both sites have well preserved artifacts including mosaics, frescoes and, of course, bodies. The bodies are preserved differently at Pompeii and Herculaneum. Herculaneum contains various skeletons but they are not viewable up close to the public. Pompeii on the other hand have brilliantly preserved bodies or plaster casts of the bodies which allow you to see the position the person died from the toxic gasses released by Vesuvius.
Herculaneum or Pompeii - Access
Herculaneum is located approximately 3 kilometres from Mt Vesuvius making it both closer to the Mt Vesuvius and closer to Naples. Parking is quite easy at both sites but I would definitely pay for parking wherever you go (your car is more likely to still be there when you get back).
Pompeii is a lot bigger whereas Herculaneum is smaller and much more concentrated which makes it easier to get around.
Herculaneum or Pompeii - Crowds
Herculaneum attracts less people each year as it is less known than its big brother Pompeii. However, as Herculaneum is smaller it does not take as many people to make it feel crowded.
The majority of tour buses out of Rome or Sorrento/Naples miss Herculaneum so it is usually quieter and easier to get a guide for a yourself or a few people. However, as it becomes more popular this will make it much busier.