How long should I spend in Pompeii? – Everything you need to know
Pompeii is an ancient Roman city that was abruptly frozen in time after a violent volcanic eruption in 79AD. Located at the foot of Mount Vesuvius this now tourist attraction has UNESCO World Heritage Site status and has over 2.5 million visitors per year.
This should be, and probably is, a bucket list item for anyone even remotely interested in history and Roman culture.
How long should I spend in Pompeii?
This depends on your interest in history. The minimum time you should spend in Pompeii is 2.5 hours, this allows you to cover some of the more popular attractions. My personal recommendation for those with the interest and willingness to do a lot of walking is 4 to 6 hours.
How to decide how long you will spend in Pompeii?
Some of the factors are:
If it’s in the middle of summer and the Italian sun is beating down, you will probably seek out the shade for frequent rests. If you are determined to see everything you want to see it will probably take you longer. Rain will also have an effect on the time, you may be spending half your time avoiding the intermittent downpours, or you may just choose to leave early. Here is the weather in Pompeii month by month
Kids and Pompeii
Know the limitations of your group, 3 hours may be enough for a 10-year-old, or they could be running before you to explore the next building. If you’re in a bigger group, you could split up halfway through the day, one to rest in a cafeteria or take things slowly while the others continue to explore at a faster pace.
Your fitness and health
There is a lot of walking to do in Pompeii if you want to see all the major sights. Overestimate the time needed and cut your day short if it’s getting too much.
When is it best time to go to Pompeii?
You may not have a choice because of your tight itinerary, but if you do, try to avoid weekends and public holidays. Like most tourist spots it’s best to avoid the crowds. There is nothing like having a picnic on the grass of the Amphitheater with hardly another soul in sight.
If you are able to choose the time of year, try not to go in summer, it can get extremely hot, and Pompeii has very little shade. Visitor numbers and pretty much the same between April and October so the time of year won’t really affect the crowd numbers unless you go in winter. If you go in the winter season you are more likely to encounter rain, rain falls mostly between October and February, so a raincoat and umbrella is a must.
AVOID this day if you don’t like crowds!
The first Sunday of every month has free entry. This is great if you’re on a tight budget, it’s not if you want to be tripping over the crowds of people.
What is the best time of day?
To get as much alone time as possible try going as soon as the gates open at 8.30am, or you can turn up around 3pm when the tour groups start leaving, especially in summer when gates close (to exit) at 7-30pm.
How do I see they best things in Pompeii?
You could just turn up and just ‘wander around’ and leave it all to luck, but you’re probably paying to get in, and I’d imagine you will want to see the ‘good stuff.’
I STRONGLY suggest you download a Pompeii audio guide app from iTunes or google play store. If you have this, you don’t need the audio guide sold at the gate, or the ‘hard to read map.’ Just make sure you have enough battery power (bring a power bank) and have your headphones. This app will also allow you to research what you want to see before you go.
If you have the spare money, but you have limited time a small group tour guide can be beneficial. Another option is the Rick Steves audio guide app. Download the audio while you have wifi and enjoy his voice in your ear explaining the different sites. He is a great storyteller and very informative. I take Rick Steves with me everywhere I go in Europe.
If you really want to get a feel for Pompeii, Google has mapped it in Street View. You can walk around Pompeii before you leave home to see what you like. Having said that, surprises are sometimes nice. Street View will be helpful for you to understand the enormity of this archeological site.
Should I get a guide for Pompeii?
I’ve briefly discussed this above, but I’ll give you a more detailed answer.
Hanging around the entrance are usually tour guides, they charge about 15 euro per person for 2 hours and take small groups of 6 to 10. Make sure you ask them the number of people they plan on taking, so you don’t end up with a group bigger than what you are comfortable with.
Another option is booking a guide before you go, type ‘Pompeii’ into Viator.com, and you will see a big list of guide companies that will either meet you at the site or pick you up from a local city like Naples or Sorrento.
If you type ‘Pompeii archaeologist’ into Viator, you could end up with a very knowledgeable guide, but be prepared to pay more. Some tours even have VR headsets you can put on so you can see how it looked back before the eruption.
Food and drinks in Pompeii
The food choices are very limited in the actual site. There is a cafeteria, and in the same building, there is a restaurant serving what the locals used to eat back in time. However, anywhere there is a captive audience you will usually find the food is more expensive than usual, this is no exception. As an alternative, there are some restaurants and food carts outside the main entrance and provide food at a cheaper rate.
If you want to save money, pack a lunch. You won’t get a more unique place to sit and eat your sandwich than the Pompeii ruins. But remember, you have to carry when you pack.
Bring a water bottle, and you will be able to refill it from the many taps and ‘original’ water fountains found around the site.
Kids and Pompeii
Children under 18 are free, although, make sure you can prove it with a passport. If they want to charge you make sure there wasn’t a ‘misunderstanding’ or go ask someone else. There has been ticket staff in the past that have used this as a way to make a bit of side income, so be wary.
To help your children enjoy Pompeii, educate them before you go. Hire a movie about Pompeii or watch a documentary, the more they know, the more they will appreciate what Pompeii is all about. Otherwise, it’s just ruble, and who wants to see that? Children love the plaster casts of the residents so make sure you include this sometime during the day.
What should you bring for your day in Pompeii?
Good shoes – you will be doing a lot of walking, and the surfaces are very uneven. Don’t wear sandals!
A water bottle – especially in summer and if you want to save money.
Lunch and snacks – Like with water this saves time and money.
A hat and sunscreen – you will probably be out in the open most of the time.
Earphones and battery backup -especially if you are using your phone with a guide app.
Raincoat and/or an umbrella – Check the forecast before you leave
Pompeii was on my bucket list since I was 14, I did an assignment on it in history class. Going to Italy and visiting Pompeii was just amazing, it was like uncovering history, it has this ‘unreal’ feeling about it.
If you’re in Italy, you can not miss this experience, it’s genuinely bucket list material. Have FUN!
We have comprehensive post on the Top bucket list destinations, and experiences in Europe
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