Top tips for visiting Pompeii include buying tickets online, visit early morning or late afternoon, take a good map, or book guided tours in advance.
End 2020: Visiting Pompeii requires specific time-slot ticket reservations and following one-way systems. Some of the top attractions, including the magnificent Villa dei Misteri and ever-popular bordello remain closed. Visitor numbers are strictly regulated — tour groups still easily enter but with tourist numbers sharply down, getting a suitable time slot is usually not particularly difficult.
The excavations of Pompeii near Naples are justifiably among the most popular sights and day-trip destinations in Italy. The Roman ruins at this vast archaeological site are absolute must-see, three-star sights. Individuals may visit Pompeii for relatively cheap by buying tickets online, or even on-site if arriving early, and using the local train. A visit to Pompeii is infinitely more enjoyable without crowds so visit early or late in the day and use the correct entrances. The Campania Arte Card is a great savings deal for individual travelers seeing several cultural sights in the Naples area.
New Rules When Visiting Pompeii in 2020
Some of the main new rules when visiting the excavations of Pompeii at the end of 2020 and early 2021 include:
- Time-slot reservations are essential, only a specific number of visitors are allowed in every half hour and is also influenced by the number who had already exited.
- Two set routes must be followed depending on the gate of entrance — it is possible to do both on the same visit and to take shortcuts etc, as long as the one-ways where applicable are followed.
- Social distancing must be maintained so no crowding at specific sights.
- Some indoor sights are closed including the Villa dei Misteri and the bordello (brothel).
- Pompeii is closed on Mondays.
- Guided tours are the easiest way to gain admission on busy days.
Buying Tickets for the Pompeii Excavation Site
Almost everybody visiting the excavations of Pompeii needs a paper ticket irrespective of how or where a ticket voucher was purchased. Most online tickets and mobile phone tickets must still be exchanged for a paper ticket and time-slot. Depending on where the ticket was bought, it must be exchanged at the specific entrance mentioned on the ticket, where a special fast lane is available for such voucher holders.
The basic ticket prices for Pompeii bought on-site are as follows – use these numbers to calculate any discount saving offers or convenience surcharges:
- €16 – full adult admission ticket entry fee. (No senior’s discounts are given.)
- €2 – reduced fee for young adults (18 to 24) from the European Union
- Free – all children under 18 years old
- Free – Currently suspended but might resume in 2021: everybody on the first Sunday of the month, although the number allowed in at the same time may be restricted to prevent overcrowding (skipping lunch to buy a ticket on a normal day may be a better savings option).
TIP: Pick up the free map and guide booklet at the information office next to the ticket window – these are not available once inside the park, where directions and information are patchy at best. It is a good idea to print or download at least a basic map in advance, as the free maps often run out.
Official audio guides are only available at the Porte Marina (Superiore) main entrance before entering the ticket area. It is €8 for the first adult and then €6.50 for each additional adult and €5 for children. Take own earphones.
Pompeii is the Latin spelling usually used in English for the archaeological site. Pompei is used in modern Italian for both the archaeological excavation site (scavi) and the modern town. German uses Pompeji, French Pompéi, Dutch Pompeï, and Spanish Pompeya.
Pompeii Entrances, Ticket Windows, and Routes
Pompeii has three entrances: the main entrance Porta Marina directly across the road from the Pompeii Scavi train station (and near the Zeus camping terrain with safe parking), a few minutes walk downhill is the Piazza Esedra or Porta Marina Inferiore entrance, and the Piazza Anfiteatro (nearer the modern Pompei town and Pompei FS train station).
Most individual visitors use the Porta Marina entrance and many of the vouchers (and audio guides) are only available here. If the queues here are very long, walk downhill to the Porta Marina Inferiore entrance where ticket queues are usually shorter but visitors will have to trek back uphill again after buying tickets.
The Villa dei Misteri and the walk to this popular site are closed, so it is no longer possible to use that exit.
Some tour groups, and especially cruise ship excursions, may use alternative entrances.
Currently, re-entry passes are not issued, so don’t exit by mistake.
Pompeii Entrances and Routes
Currently, it is compulsory to follow the one-way systems of two routes when visiting Pompeii — it is allowed to do both routes, or combinations, as long as the one-way system is respected.
Depending on the entrance gate, visitors have to follow set routes: from Porta Marina, the blue or route 2, and from Piazza Anfiteatro the green or route 1. From Piazza Esedra, it is possible to follow either route — for the blue route, trek back uphill to the left after the entrance, and for the green route go to the right along the flat ground and then turn uphill into the excavation site. It is possible to use any exit.
Which route to use? It is six of one and half a dozen for the other. The amphitheater and Via dell’ Abbondanza are on the green route, the theater and forum are on both. The routes are not particularly well marked or easy to follow — there are plenty of options for short cuts, dead ends, extra sights, and to get lost, or to change to the other color by mistake. If planning to combine at least parts of both routes, and that is what many individual visitors certainly would do, the blue route from Porta Marina is probably the best way to start, but there is not much in it.
Pompeii Scavi Opening Hours
Pompeii Scavi is currently closed on Mondays and open all other days from 9:00, closing at 17:00 from November to March and 19:00 from April to October. The last admission is 90 minutes before closing but that is cutting it a bit close — try to be in by 15:00 at the latest, 14:00 in the winter season.
All visitors require time-slot reservations — either when buying tickets online or at the site. Currently, 500 visitors are allowed in every half hour in the morning, falling to 300 after 13:00. At busy times, even visitors with time-slot reservations have to wait until enough people have exited. If on a strict time schedule, either arrive at opening time or book a guided tour in advance — it will cost more but ensure admission.
The Pompeii archaeological site is only closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25.
Tips on the Best Times to Visit Pompeii
The best times to visit Pompeii are generally the same as for most major tourist sights: arrive early at opening time or visit later in the afternoon. It is the busiest for admissions from 11:00 to 14:30.
Avoid school holidays, weekends, especially long weekends, and particularly the first Sunday of the month when admission is free (not currently possible). July and August are not only crowded but often brutally hot.
Try to avoid Tuesday when Herculaneum is closed and not helping to balance visitor numbers out, although the effect is more noticeable at Herculaneum on Monday than v.v.
Early morning is a good time to visit Pompeii for individual travelers using public transportation. The Circumvesuviana train from Naples will drop travelers outside the Porta Marina gate with ten minutes to spare – wait directly in front of the gate.
TIP for early birds: once inside the archaeological site, walk right past the Forum area to see some of the smaller indoor sights first. See the Forum on the way out – it was designed to cope with crowds already back in Roman times. The same goes for the amphitheater if entering (and exiting, or it is a long trek back) via the Piazza Anfiteatro.
Visiting later in the afternoon is a good option too – arrive at least three hours before closing time (and more may not be a bad idea). Late afternoon visits have the added advantage that the site will get progressively quieter rather than busier. Note that many top indoor sights already close well before 17:00.
Visit on a rainy day – it may spoil the photos but almost anyone with a choice will postpone a visit to the following day.
Most buildings at Pompeii are roofless making shade a rarity around noon.
Drinking fountains are scattered throughout the archaeological site but food options are very limited (and fairly dismal). Picnicking is allowed at certain areas.
The archaeological site of Pompeii is very big. It requires a lot of walking but also allow crowds to spread out a bit. Groups do crowd smaller buildings at times but do eavesdrop for free information from the guide and enjoy the site when the group has moved on.
See Pompeii and Herculaneum on the Same Day
It is easy transport-wise to see the excavations of both Pompeii and Herculaneum on the same say – the two archaeological sites are only 20 minutes apart. However, if staying in Naples and times allows, rather return to Naples for the afternoon and see the second sight on a different day – Ercolano is only 10 to 20 minutes from Garibaldi station. Combination tickets for Pompeii and Herculaneum may give small discounts.
Herculaneum is far smaller than Pompeii and generally sees fewer visitors and crowds making it sensible to see Pompeii at an optimal time and visit Herculaneum later in the day. Herculaneum is physically far less demanding. Many guided tours include visits to both sites on the same day-trip tour.
Save at Pompeii with the Campania Arte Ticket
The three-day Campania Arte Ticket is a great savings deal for solo travelers. It currently costs €32 and includes unlimited public transportation in Naples and the Campania region, free admission to two sights, and up to 50% discount at a further 80 sites. The card pays for itself on a visit to Pompeii and say the Archaeological Museum in Naples when using public transportation with any further sights and train or metro rides adding to the savings. It also permits the use of skip-the-line counters and cuts out the need to queue for train tickets.
See Save with the Campania Art Ticket on Cultural Sights and Transportation for more details.
For More on Pompeii, Herculaneum and Naples:
- Save with the Campania Arte Card on Sightseeing Ticket and Transportation
- Tips on Visiting the Pompeii Excavations near Naples in 2020 — previous Tips and Shortcuts are not useful while social-distancing rules are in place.
- Pompeii: Buying Tickets and Visiting the Excavations on Tours
- Cheap Transportation to Pompeii
- Tips on Buying Tickets to Visit Herculaneum near Pompeii and Naples in 2020 — the previous system is unlikely to return before the end of 2021.
- Transportation to the Herculaneum Archaeological Site
- Visit the National Museum of Archaeology in Naples – home to the Farnese sculptures and the best artworks, mosaics, and frescoes from the excavations of Pompeii and Herculaneum.