How to Visit Pompeii from Naples: Day Trip Guide (Independent or Guided!)

more scenes from pompeii including the ancient forum area

If you’re planning to spend a few days in Naples, it’s also a good idea to consider some of the best day trips from the city.

Of course, there’s the spectacular Amalfi Coast and its small towns like Positano and Ravello, as well as the small but scenic islands of Capri and Ischia.

However, you’ll certainly want to devote at least half a day to visiting the historic ruins of Pompeii, one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Italy.

details of pompeii and vesuvius in the background

Luckily, it’s quite easy to visit Pompeii from Naples, whether you do it as a guided small group day trip, self-guided excursion by train or car, or even by private tour.

If you are eager to visit but still uncertain about how to get to Pompeii from Naples, then this is the right article for you.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to plan a Pompeii day trip from Naples!

This post was written by Gabi Ancarola, a full-time blogger and tour guide living on the Greek island of Crete. She spent a decade living in Italy and is happy to share her knowledge of Pompeii with you in this guide!

Tips for Visiting Pompeii from Naples

view of the city of naples -- staircase, balconies, street scene in the city

What’s the best way to get to Naples?

In order to reach the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, the first thing to keep in mind is that no matter where in Italy you are, you should first head to Naples, an important city and capital of the Campania region. 

Located in the southern portion of the country, the city is about 2 hours from Rome. If you catch a high-speed train (such as the Frecciarossa), the trip can be even shorter, about 90 minutes.

There are also daily trains from Milan (about 4 hours), Florence (about 3.5 hours), and Venice (about 5 hours). You can check timetables on Trenitalia.

You can also get to Naples by plane, flying from other Italian cities including Milan, Venice, Turin, and of course, Rome. 

However, when you factor in the time involved in getting to the airport, through security, and then into the city of Naples when you arrive, taking the train is usually a better value in terms of both time and money.

If you’re looking to save money, you can also look into low-cost buses such as Flixbus, etc. which take more time but are typically cheaper than train tickets.

Is Naples safe?

street scene in Naples Italy

Even though in the past, the city was often described as unsafe, things have quite improved.

Naples is no less safe than any other important European city, where common sense will be the most important tool you need to explore the area risk-free. 

 As with any major European city where pickpockets operate, avoid crowded places (or be vigilant while in crowds).

Exercise additional caution when hanging out near big stations or the port late at night.

Always keep a vigilant eye on your personal belongings, invest in an anti-theft backpack such as this one, and whenever possible, opt to pay with a credit card instead of using cash.

When is the best time to visit Pompeii?

a view in the ancient city of pompeii italy

 Located in the southern area of the country, the region surrounding Pompeii has great Mediterranean weather with long summers — though often very hot — and short, cold winters, with some rain and little snow. 

 For these reasons, the best seasons to visit the archaeological site tend to be spring and autumn.

I did visit in January and although it was quite cold I did take advantage of the virtually empty site. In fact, not many people visit Pompeii in winter!

Autumn is also a quiet season in terms of crowds, while spring is quite popular.

How to Get to Pompeii from Naples

Pompeii ruins and Mt Vesuvius behind it

Let’s begin by saying that Pompeii is just 26 km from the center of Naples, which makes the trip short and fairly straightforward.

Although the area of Naples tends to be quite chaotic when it comes to traffic, an early departure will guarantee that your journey to Pompeii won’t be more than half an hour.

Keep in mind that Naples and the surrounding region are known for the heavy traffic, so the earlier you depart, the better.

It is possible to get there by public transport, as there are buses and trains connecting both towns.

Either of these two transport options are convenient and affordable if you’re traveling on a budget.

For a stress-free experience, it is also a good idea to check out the different organized tours that depart from Naples and save you on transportation.

These tours can also add in other sites, such as Mt. Vesuvius.

This can be a good compromise as everything will be included (including a tour guide) and you will save a few Euros on transport, while also reducing stress!

Tip: No matter whether you’re traveling by car or public transport, when reading the signs, keep in mind that Pompeii is spelled Pompei in Italian.

Let’s see all the ways to go from Naples to Pompeii in detail!

Getting to Pompeii from Naples by Car

view of the forum columns in pompeii against a sky blue sky

There is no need to rent a car strictly to visit Pompeii from Naples, as the public transportation is quite efficient.

However, if you are already renting a car, perhaps because you are also planning an Amalfi Coast road trip, going by rental car is likely the most economical option.

If you haven’t yet rented a car, I suggest doing your search with Discover Cars — they comb through over 500 rental agencies to compare prices and get you the best deal on your rental.

Compare prices on Discover Cars here!

Being no more than a 30 to 45-minute drive, the trip from Naples to Pompeii can be quite pleasant as it is quite simple.

You’ll be driving mostly along the highway or autostrada in Italian (Autostrada A3 Napoli-Pompei-Salerno) and your exit will be Pompei Ovest (which means Pompeii West exit).

Along the drive, you will find a toll (pedaggio in Italian), starting at €2.10 and increasing if you are driving a bigger car, such as a van. 

Parking at the site: Do not worry about parking as the site has very efficient parking facilities that accommodate hundreds of cars, even during the busiest visiting hours!

Getting to Pompeii from Naples by Train

train tracks in pompeii italy an easy way to get from pompeii to naples is by train

Traveling by train is by far my favorite way to travel in Italy, especially in the Campania region, well-known for its chaotic traffic.

Train services in Italy are quite easy to navigate. This particular train ride is short and sweet as there is no need to change trains along the way, making it a quick, direct trip without any risk of getting lost.

To travel to Pompeii, your departure station will be Naples Central Train Station (Napoli Centrale Station).

There are trains leaving for Pompeii every half an hour and you need to buy the train ticket before the departure, as it’s not possible to book in advance.

Although trains start running from 6 AM, the site does not open until 9 AM.

Therefore, getting the 8 AM train is a good idea to get to the site early, in case you’ve not booked the entrance ticket in advance and need to visit the ticket office.

However, I don’t recommend doing this — it’s far more convenient to book a skip-the-line ticket, plus you can sleep in a bit more!

There are two direct trains available, the so-called Circumvesuviana line (a 35-minute ride to “Pompei Scavi – Villa dei Misteri” train station) and the regular Metropolitano commuter train which takes a couple of minutes more and your station is “Pompei”.

As both take more or less the same travel time to get from Naples to Pompeii, let’s check which is the best train in terms of a comfortable journey.

Circumvesuviana Train

view of pillars casting a shadow in the afternoon light in pompeii with vesuvius in the background

The Circumvesuviana local train stops very near the main entrance to the ruins; however, it is the most popular train and chances are that you’ll travel standing as people rush on the train to sit.

You can board the Circumvesuviana Train at either the Porta Nolana Station or the Napoli Piazza Garibaldi Station, which is near the main Napoli Centrale Train Station.

Take the blue line towards Sorrento, exiting at Pompei Scavi. From there, it’s a short walk to the Porta Marina entrance of Pompeii.

You’ll have to buy your ticket at the train station — you can not book it prior to arrival at the train station. It costs €2.80 (€5.60 round trip) and cash is recommended.

Note that there are no seat reservations, so you are likely going to have to stand if you pick a popular travel time.

You can check the most recent timetable here.

The last train back to Naples from Pompeii Scavi departs at 10 PM.

However, we wouldn’t suggest you be near Naples Central Station at night if you’re traveling alone, so if that’s the case, try to leave on an earlier train if you can.

Metropolitano Train

the new town of pompeii with a new construction cathedral and cupola

The Metropolitano train will leave you about 10 minute walk from the ruins, in the new town of Pompei, which has a beautiful cathedral and central square.

Because of the longer walk, it’s not quite as popular, so you will find a seat more easily than you will on the Circumvesuviana Train.

Tickets cost €2.80 each way, and tickets can be bought with cash or online via TrenItalia or ItaliaRail in advance.

Keep in mind that this train will drop you off at the new city of Pompei, which is about a 10-minute walk from the ruins entrance.

If you want to check out the new city, this is a good option, and it’s also a good option if you plan to stay overnight in Pompei so you can spend more time visiting the ruins.

It’s also a good option if you are wary of crowded trains where you are unlikely to get a seat, as this is a less-trafficked train.

Getting to Pompeii from Naples by Bus

the ruins of pompeii theater in decay

Another affordable way to get to the ancient Pompeii site is by bus.

The bus company that handles the trip is SITA, and the trip takes just a bit more than by train (about 40 minutes).

There are buses each hour in high season with fewer departures daily during the autumn-winter low period.

The tickets must be purchased at the port and buses depart from the SITA bus station, a few minutes on foot from the Nuova Marina port.

The arrival station is Pompei Scavi SITA, a few steps away from the entrance to the excavation site, and the first bus leaves at 7 AM. The last bus departs from the same bus stop at 8 PM.

Getting to Pompeii from Naples by Organized Tour

There are endless organized tours covering the route from Naples to Pompeii and also offering a value-for-money experience, such as a guided tour led by an archaeologist, skip-the-line tickets, and a lot more!

Let’s see the most convenient options:

Half-Day Tour of Pompeii

plaster cast of person who perished in the pompeii eruption of mt vesuvius - plaster cast of person bracing or cradling head in hands

If you want to see just the highlights of Pompeii or if you do not have plenty of time available to devote to the visit, check this small group tour.

It includes a selection of the most intriguing tourist attractions for in Pompeii, including the paved streets, the most luxurious villas, and some of the imposing public buildings, such as the temples, the thermal baths, the forum, and the ancient amphitheater, among a few others.

This is a short, half-day tour (about 2 hours sightseeing at Pompeii itself) and you can take it either early in the morning or right after midday, then get back to Naples in time to enjoy the rest of your day.

Keep in mind that if you are visiting in the summer, Pompeii is largely uncovered and can get very hot. If that’s the case, I recommend timing your Pompeii day trip for the morning, rather than after midday.

Book your half-day tour of Pompeii here!

 Full-Day Tour of Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius

the baths of pompeii with skylights in an enclosed area

If you’re looking to upgrade your Campania experience, why not visit another top landmark in the area, one that’s closely connected to the fate of the ancient city of Pompeii… Mount Vesuvius!

This organized day trip is a 7-hour experience that includes a visit to the archaeological sites, checking out the Forum, the thermal baths, the Lupanar Villa, and the theater.

You will also check out the famous plaster casts of bodies burnt by volcanic ashes after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius… surreal and a little eerie, but very interesting to see.

After the guided visit, you will enjoy a local pizza lunch at one of Pompeii’s cafés and then the van will take you close to the summmit of Mt. Vesuvius.

From there, you can take a short walk to the ridge of the crater and enjoy the stunning views over the Bay of Naples while pondering the contrast of the beauty of this mountain and the destruction that the eruption of Vesuvius wrought on the once-thriving city of Pompeii.

Book your full-day tour of Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius here!

Private Tour of Pompeii & Beyond

the town of amalfi italy seen with a bridge, clear water, and colorful buildings

Another option is booking a private tour. This can end up being a fairly economical option with the right sized group, and it offers you the utmost privacy and flexibility.

There are a few different options that you can pick, such as combining a tour of Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Mt. Vesuvius or a tour of Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.

Overall, it’s a more expensive option, but it is the most convenient and will typically allow you to see more in one day than you could otherwise with a group tour.

Check private tours of Pompeii & Herculaneum or of Pompeii & Amalfi here!

Hiring a Guide for Pompeii

interesting mosaic work in pompeii on the floor of a building

If you have decided to get to Pompeii on your own (either by car, bus, or train), this does not mean that you won’t need a tour guide to discover the gems hidden in the archaeological site.

Although sometimes it can be simple to visit different landmarks on your own, I often recommend joining an official guide for ruins and archaeological sites.

As a tour guide myself operating tours in Crete, I often takes my clients to archaeological sites from ancient Greek and Roman times.

From firsthand experience I can tell you: a well-educated and licensed tour guide is the only way to make real sense out of what otherwise could look like nothing but a bunch of stones and columns that tell you nothing about the past of the place.  

This is particularly true when talking about Pompeii, in such a vast archaeological park with seemingly endless points of interest scattered all over a massive area — 108 acres, to be exact.

Rest assured that a professional guide will take you directly to the must-see spots in Pompeii, explaining all the relevant details, and without the risk of getting bogged down in less-interesting areas of the archaeological site.

details of the ruins in pompeii

Pompeii is massive, and while there is some signage, it isn’t sufficient to tell the full, rich story of this once-bustling metropolis and the twisted fate it experienced after the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

When it comes to picking your guide, touring Pompeii with an archaeologist is my #1 recommended choice — it’s not expensive, and it’s worth every penny!

This 2-hour tour with an archaeologist includes skip-the-line Pompeii tickets and a guide, but does not include transportation (i.e., you will have to get to Pompeii yourself).

If you like the independence of getting yourself to Pompeii via public transit, but want the knowledge of an expert guide once you arrive, this is the best option.

Book your archaeologist-led Pompeii tour here!

However, if you want to save a few extra Euros, or you think that you’ve done enough research and know what places you want to visit once inside the park, then opt for a simple skip-the-line entry.

You can add on an audio guide for an additional charge once you arrive at the site.

Book your skip-the-line entry tickets here!

What to See in Pompeii

the famous amphitheater in pompeii in beautiful condition

Pompeii is one of Europe’s most important UNESCO World Heritage Sites, as well as one of the biggest archaeological parks in all of Italy — a country full of them! 

Among the important things to see are the impressive ruins of luxurious Roman villas, with rich mosaics, fountains, and impressive open patios and galleries.

There are also several theaters, the market area (or agora), the forum, and the incredible cobblestoned roads that remained intact even after the furious volcanic explosion! 

Also, you should check the remains of unique artwork, mosaics, and frescoes, as well as plaster casts of the people who perished during the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius.

fresco painted in pompeii villa with beautiful color preserved

The preservation of these works is rather remarkable!

Visiting with a knowledgeable guide will put the visit into a historic perspective, give you the right chronological details, and direct you to the right places you should visit in your limited time.

However, if you have decided to visit on your own, keep in mind that the site was an actual city, covering about 440,000 square meters!

If you tried to visit all the streets, temples, villas, theaters, and baths, it could take days to explore.

However, going with a guide — or a detailed, pre-planned route — you can get a general glimpse of the formerly buried city if you are conscientious with your use of time.

Tip: If you’re self-guiding, be sure to get a good map beforehand in order to mark the places you want to visit to avoid wasting time. The stops I recommend you to visit are: 

  • The Large Theater and the Odeon: You will find two theaters in the same area, which will give you the opportunity to compare them. The Large Theater was probably devoted to the performance of plays. It is believed that the Odeon was probably used for musical exhibitions, since it boasts incredible acoustics.
  • The Garden of the Fugitives (in Italian, Orto dei Fuggiaschi): This is an old quarter named after the bodies of 13 victims that perished as they were trying to escape from the volcano eruption, in fact, a “fuggiasco” is a fugitive in Italian.
  • The Lupanar: One of the most visited spots in the archaeological park, this was believed to be the city’s brothel. It features small cells and erotic frescoes, and it is easy to find by following the phallic symbols on the facades of several nearby buildings!
  • The Villa of Mysteries: Locally known as Villa dei Misteri, this is probably the most important place in Pompeii. This captivating and mysterious villa probably belonged to a powerful family and was located just outside the city walls, overlooking the sea.
  • The House of the Faun: Considered one of the largest residences in Pompeii (around 3,000 square meters), among the most curious findings here are the special areas that were used as servants’ quarters.
  • The Forum: This is an imposing large square with triumphal arches, public buildings, and some unique landmarks including the basilica, the market, different temples, and other buildings. This area hosted the main civic, religious, and commercial activities of the ancient city of Pompeii.

Visiting Herculaneum from Naples

view of herculaneum from above

If you are a huge fan of ruins and ancient history, there is also the option to visit Herculaneum from Naples either as a separate day trip or on the way back from Pompeii if you don’t mind getting an early site and cramming in two sites in one day.

Here is a guide detailing the differences between Herculaneum and Pompeii — as you can see, each has its pros and cons!

If visiting Herculaneum, it’s very easy to combine it with Pompeii. It is also along the Circumvesuviana train line — simply get off at Ercolano Scavi, which is in between Naples and Pompeii.

Where to Stay When Visiting Pompeii

city of naples interior gallery with glass roof with metal wrought iron work

The new city of Pompeii, “Pompei Nuova” is a relatively small town with just a few interesting places to see, including the main square and its cathedral.

However, many visitors to Pompeii are history and archaeology fans that need more than one day in the archaeological park. In that case, spending the night in Pompeii can be a logical idea.

For most tourists, however, staying in the city of Naples is the most reasonable option. Here are a few good options:

Accommodations in Naples

City Center: Decumani Hotel de Charmeis a mid-range hotel in the historic center of Naples that is perfect for someone who wants to be in the heart of the action in Naples.

Despite being quite affordable, the place features elegant rooms with private balconies, some of them with seating areas, and bathrooms with a spa bath!

>> Check prices, reviews, and availability at Decumani here!

By the Sea: If you’re more for a sea view or would rather stay only steps from the sea, Vacanzella is located in the popular Lungomare Caracciolo.

At the same time, there are also several important landmarks nearby such as Galleria Borbonica, Piazza Plebiscito, and the popular road Via Chiaia.

>> Check prices, reviews, and availability at Vacanzella here!

a view in a naples city center with shadow casting over a piazza

Accommodations in Pompeii

Near the Ruins: Located right opposite the archaeological site, Hotel del Sole offers affordable accommodation with air-conditioned rooms, and free WiFi. Some rooms come with a panoramic balcony.

On the premises, there are also a restaurant, a bar, and a shared garden. The breakfast features sweet and savory items as well as gorgeous views of the Pompeii archaeological site. The hotel has a restaurant that is open for lunch and dinner and serves typical Italian specialties.

>> Check prices, reviews, and availability at Hotel del Sole here!

Further from the Ruins: About 700 meters from the ruins of Pompeii, Maison de Julia Pompei is another good option in the area. This is a mid-range hotel with garden views, a shared lounge, and a terrace.

The bed and breakfast features both WiFi and private parking free of charge. The units are fitted with a balcony, air conditioning, and flat-screen TV. There are also continental and buffet breakfast options.

>> Check prices, reviews, and availability at Maison de Julia Pompei here!

What to Pack for Pompeii

more views of pompeiis archi

Wearing comfortable clothes and footwear is essential when spending so many hours walking on ancient cobblestoned roads!

This is especially true if you’re traveling by public transport or if you’re also climbing Mt. Vesuvius.

Good walking shoes or hiking boots if climbing Vesuvius offer enough support to spend an entire day visiting the area. 

In terms of what to wear, comfortable shorts made of breathable material are perfect for summer and spring, while long hiking pants, leggings, or even soft jeans and flat boots will make a great winter outfit.

No matter the season, also pack sunscreen, sunglasses, your camera, and a crossbody bag or an anti-theft backpack, which are always safer than regular shoulder purses and also allow for more freedom of movement when exploring the archaeological site or Mt. Vesuvius. 

I use and love my anti-theft backpack from PacSafe — it’s ultra-secure and slashproof, and it even has interlocking zippers that will befuddle even the most savvy of pickpockets. Plus it’s stylish to boot!

 And of course, add a good travel guide and a map of the ruins to plan every detail of the visit!

Rome Underground: 19 Best Catacomb Tours & Archaeological Sites

The lit-up entrance to the Domus Aurea building with arched ceiling and lanterns

Much of the history of Ancient Rome is visible by simply walking around the city!

The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and remains of ancient temples like Hadrian’s Temple in Piazza di Pietra, the Pantheon, or the ruins in Largo Argentina are just a few of the famous landmarks you can admire in Rome’s historical center.

But there is much more history lying beneath the modern city of Rome: underground, the city is just as teeming with things to see!

You see, most of what you currently can visit in the Italian capital was built on top of ancient Roman buildings.

Regular construction and renovation work constantly brings to light ancient ruins and new findings of a bygone Rome.

We aren’t kidding when we say that thousands of archaeological sites have discovered by mistake (including places like Domus Aurea and more!), and many more are yet to be discovered.

Domus aurea in rome

What remains of Ancient Rome, with its luxurious houses, cemeteries, churches, and temples, lies just a few meters under your feet in the most unlikely places.

The official website of Rome’s undergrounds recorded over 12,00 sites in Rome and its surroundings.

While most of these sites are only able to be visited for research purposes, travelers can visit many of them as long as they are on a guided tour.

Here are only a few of the most notable sites you should visit if you’re curious about the history of Rome.

Although most of these sites date back to Ancient Rome, there are also a couple more recent ones.

Remember that you must book a guided tour to visit these sites, so plan accordingly — and in advance in most instances, especially during the high season.

Why Are There So Many Catacombs in Rome?

park of the aqueducts in rome

Did you know that there are nearly 500 miles of underground catacombs located beneath Rome… and only a mere fraction of them have been explored?

Ancient Rome’s unique history means that there’s far more to the Eternal City than meets the eye, and going underground in Rome offers you some unique Rome hidden gems that few other travelers get to see.

The catacombs were built starting in the 2nd century CE in Rome, after the Roman Empire enacted laws banned the burial of the dead within Rome’s city limits.

These catacombs originally were intended only to serve as underground crypts to bury their dead.

But these underground tunnels began to serve other purposes, these dark passageways also functioning as hiding places during periods of unrest, as well as places of worship and for religious art.

Rome Underground Tours: The Best Catacomb Tours in Rome

Catacombs of St. Callixtus

the interior pathway of the san Callisto catacombs, park with light down the hallway, giving a spooky ambiance

Among the largest and most important catacombs in Rome, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus served as the official cemetery of the Church of Rome.

St. Callixtus used to be a deacon, and in the 3rd century CE, he was entrusted with the administration of the cemetery.

The vast underground cemetery is divided into several areas based on the people buried there.

The area dedicated to the graves of the Popes is also called “the little Vatican” and houses the tombs of 16 former Popes!

In the catacombs, you can also visit the Crypt of St. Cecilia, a martyr and the popular patron saint of music, which have beautiful mosaics inside.

Her relics were held in the crypt for roughly five centuries before being moved to the Basilica of Saint Cecilia in Trastevere.

The tomb also features a beautiful statue of St. Cecilia, a copy of Stefano Maderno’s statue from 1599. Other areas are dedicated to St. Miltiades, St. Gaius, and St. Eusebius.

Finally, the cubicles of the sacraments house family tombs, decorated with frescoes you can still admire.

A tour here lasts about 40 minutes and include skip-the-line tickets.

Book your tour of the St. Callixtus catacombs here!

Capuchin Crypt

lots of skull sand other bones that form an altarpiece looking structure in the capuchin crypt
Photo Credit: Dnalor 01 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Capuchin Crypt in Via Veneto, also known as the bone chapel, is undoubtedly a unique place to see in Rome underground.

Under the church of Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins, the crypt was built in the first half of the 17th century by the wish of Pope Urban VIII, whose brother, Antonio Barberini, was a Capuchin brother.

Barberini, who was a cardinal, decided to excavate the remains of thousands of Capuchin brothers from a nearby monastery and use them to decorate the walls of the crypt.

In the following decades, many Capuchin brothers decided to allow their remains to be used for the same purpose.

Nowadays, the crypt holds the remains of 3,600 Capuchin brothers adorning the walls.

In the on-site museum, you can learn more about the story of the crypt and the Capuchin brothers and admire a painting of Saint Francis by Caravaggio.

If you’re looking for a unique site to see an off the beaten path side of Rome, this must be on your list.

Book your tour of the Capuchin Crypt here!

Catacombs of Domitilla

One of the famous paintings in the catacombs of Domitilla in Rome

Roughly 17 kilometers of galleries and halls spread across four levels make up one of the largest catacombs in Rome!

The Catacombs of Domitilla are under the ancient Via Ardeatina, on the property of Flavia Domitilla, a noblewoman and the granddaughter of emperor Vespasian.

These Roman catacombs were built between the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE and are among the oldest in Rome.

Alongside the tombs, you can also visit a semi-underground basilica dedicated to Saints Nereus and Achilleus, the only one still visitable in all the existing catacombs in Rome.

The basilica houses some of the oldest examples of Christian art, making it a must-see on an underground tour of Rome.

Many of the niches and cubicles you can see in the underground cemetery are decorated with Christian frescoes and pagan paintings.

A visit to these catacombs is a unique experience that will allow you to see the rich Roman history that lies beneath for yourself!

Book a tour of the Catacombs of Domitilla and San Clemente Underground here!

Catacombs of Priscilla

Also known as “the queen catacumbarum” due to the many martyrs buried here, the Catacombs of Priscilla were among the first ones to be uncovered in the 16th century.

Despite being robbed of tombstones, sarcophagi, and even bodies soon after its discovery, the catacombs remain among the most significant in Rome.

The tombs feature beautiful paintings, including episodes from the Old and New Testaments, inscriptions in Greek and Latin, and many symbols.

A niche in the underground cemetery preserves the oldest depiction of the Virgin Mary (above), dating to the end of the 2nd century.

The catacombs were dug in tuff (a volcanic rock) and can be accessed from the convent of the Benedictine Sisters of Priscilla on Via Salaria.

Book your entrance tickets to the Catacombs of Priscilla here!

Catacombs of Saint Sebastian

Ancient mausoleum and catacombs in Rome with detail of the mausoleum
Photo Credit: Patrick Denker on Flickr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Near Parco dell’Appia Antica, where many of Rome’s underground cemeteries were built, the Catacombs of Saint Sebastian are dedicated to the martyr buried there.

The cemetery was anciently known as Memoria Apostolorum (Apostolic Memorial) due to the liturgical celebrations dedicated to the Apostles Peter and Paul that were held here.

Inside the catacombs, there were many inscriptions dedicated to the two apostles, and in the 4th century, the emperor Constantine decided to build a basilica here to honor Peter and Paul.

Inside the Basilica of St Sebastian Outside the Walls, known in the ancient times as Basilica Apostolorum, you will also find a Museum of Sarcophagi and a masterpiece by Bernini, among other works of art.

You can find the the underground cemetery beneath the church.

Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter

an altarpiece style painting in a catacomb in Rome

Among the less visited catacombs in Rome, the Catacombs of Saints Marcellinus and Peter are under the church dedicated to the two saints and built during the reign of Constantine.

The emperor also built here a mausoleum for his mother, Helena, alongside the cemetery of his personal escort unit, the Equites Singulares.

The catacombs are known for the well-preserved colorful frescoes covering the niches and depicting scenes of the Old and New Testaments.

What started as a sepulcher divided into two niches for the two martyrs was later expanded over the centuries to contain space for up to 15,000 burials.

If you want to get off the beaten path of Rome’s sightseeing circuit and see some of the lesser visited sites underground in Rome, pay a visit to these catacombs and the Mausoleum of Helena!

Catacombs of Saint Agnes

view of the catacombs of st Agnes with brick detail and other decorative elements
Photo Credit: Folajimi at English Wikipedia,, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

The Catacombs of Saint Agnes are related to the story of the martyr whose body was buried here.

Saint Agnes was persecuted during the Diocletianic persecution of Christians and was executed in the 4th century in Piazza Navona, which in ancient times was known as as the Domitian stadium.

According to one of the legends, in the 4th century, the 12-year-old Agnes declined a marriage proposal saying she only loved Christ.

She was then denounced as Christian and carried naked on a cart along the streets of Rome to a brothel.

The legend goes that when a customer tried to touch her, an angel appeared to protect her chastity and blinded the man.

Agnes was then accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death by burning. The flames, however, would not burn her but divide around her body, leaving her unscathed.

After seeing the miracle, an officer beheaded the girl. The resemblance to the killing of lambs is the reason why the saint is often depicted with the animal.

The body of the martyr was buried in the existing catacombs on Via Nomentana, later dedicated to her.

On the site of the catacombs, a basilica was built by Constantin’s daughter and later replaced by another one, ordered by Pope Honorius I. 

Nowadays, you can visit the 7th-century basilica alongside the catacombs.

The skull of Saint Agnes is in the crypt of the Church of Saint Agnes in Piazza Navona, on the site where the girl was executed.

Catacombs of Vigna Randanini

jewish catacombs with menorah inscription and letters
Image Credit: sethschoen, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Nearby the ancient Via Appia, the Jewish Catacombs of Vigna Randanini were discovered by chance in 1859.

The underground cemetery was built between the 2nd and 4th centuries and expanded multiple times to fit the requirements of the Jewish community in Rome.

The importance of these catacombs lies in the decorations adorning the various areas, both pagan and Jewish, including an inscription of a menorah.

The highlight of the cemetery is a tomb with colorful, decorated walls, including painted animals, flowers, and inscriptions.

The Catacombs of Vigna Randanini are near the ones of St. Sebastian, St. Domitilla, and St. Callixtus, in the beautiful area of Via Appia Park.

This is also where you can also walk the Ancient Appian Way (Via Appia Antica).

Underground Grottoes in Vatican City

ornately decorated tomb of pope gregorius with fancy motifs

It may be hard to believe that there’s a whole world beneath the crowds in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, but there is!

The Underground Grottoes in the Vatican, right below St. Peter’s Basilica, house the tombs of many Popes and significant personalities in Rome’s history, including monarchs and dignitaries.

The Grottoes occupy the site of the ancient basilica built by Emperor Constantine, on top of which the current basilica stands.

The ancient chapels now house the tombs of the Popes, while the old apse, right under the current dome of the basilica, holds the tomb of the Apostle Peter.

The Grottoes house a total of 22 Popes, including St. Peter. The tour of the underground burial place will allow you to see the decorated tombs with sculptures and inscriptions.

You can combine the visit to St. Peter’s Basilica with a tour of the Grottoes, which are accessible from inside the church.

It’s definitely a unique site to see when you visit Rome.

Book your tour of the Underground Grottoes of the Vatican here!

Vatican Necropolis

gold mosaic of Jesus with sun theme

Not to be mistaken with the Vatican Grottoes, the Vatican Necropolis is another underground site which lies several meters below St. Peter’s Basilica, further beneath the Vatican Grottoes.

The necropolis was discovered only in 1940, and it used to be a pagan burial site dating to the 1st century CE.

It is thought that St. Peter was buried here after the crucifixion ordered by Nero.

According to historians, the Constantinian basilica was built on top of St. Peter’s tombstone.

When the necropolis was uncovered between 1940 and 1949, the goal was to find St. Peter’s tomb so Pope Pius XI could be buried next to him.

While the actual tomb of St. Peter was never identified, the excavations brought to light many pagan and Christian tombs and mausoleums.

Historians believe that many former Popes were buried in the necropolis too.

Other Underground Rome Attractions & Walking Tours

Domus Aurea

Empty view of the Octagonal Room on the Domus Aurea guided tour
Photo Credit: Roxana Fanaru

The Domus Aurea used to be the residence of Emperor Nero.

Built in the 1st century CE, the palace was supposed to be the most grandiose and beautiful palace in Rome.

The name Domus Aurea (Golden House) was due to the presence of this precious metal in many areas of the residence.

Soon after his death, the following emperors decided to cancel all traces of Nero’s presence.

Part of the Domus Aurea was destroyed to make space for the Colosseum arena, while the rest was covered to build the Baths of Trajan.

After a resident accidentally fell into an unusual cave in the 15th century and discovered an area filled with painted walls, the local artists, including Michelangelo and Raphael, explored the underground to study the area and take inspiration for their works.

This is how Renaissance grotesque motifs came to life. In fact, the word grotesque comes from the Italian “grottesca”, which means “of a cave”, referring to the underground of the Domus Aurea!

While the paintings faded throughout the centuries, the Domus Aurea remains an important archaeological site in Rome.

This site is very fragile, so you can only visit on a small group tour led by an expert guide who will join you at the meeting point to explain the site.

Book your small group tour of Domus Aurea here!

Vicus Caprarius: Trevi Fountain Aqueduct

The beautiful symmetry of the Trevi fountain with blue water and ornate marble sculpture work

You have likely admired the renowned Trevi Fountain and the busy Spanish Steps nearby, with crowds heaving above ground.

However, you may not know that under Trevi Fountain, there is an archaeological area known as Vicus Caprarius or the City of Water.

The archaeological area lies roughly nine meters under the Trevi Fountain and was discovered during the renovation of the old Cinema Trevi.

The excavations brought to light the ancient Virgin Aqueduct and many residential areas, alongside several artifacts like amphorae, decorative items, and ancient coins.

The Virgin Aqueduct (Aqua Virgo) is the only Ancient Rome aqueduct still functioning and bringing water to Rome’s monumental fountains all over the historical center.

If you want to take a trip back in time and see the impressive masonry of Ancient Rome in an underground setting, this is one of the best places to visit to tour Rome underground.

Book your tour of the Trevi Fountain Aqueduct here!

Roman Houses of the Celia

Halfway between the Colosseum and the Circus Maximus, under the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo, you can visit the ruins of an ancient Roman house (Domus).

The heritage museum opened in 2002 and allows visitors to admire beautiful frescoes dating as far back as the 2nd century CE.

The underground structure is that of a rich Domus in what used to be a residential area in Ancient Rome, Celio.

Before being transformed into a single, large Domus filled with luxurious decorations, the building was a complex of commercial units and apartments.

The Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paolo was built on top of the residential area in the 5th century.

You can pair your visit to the Roman Houses of the Celio with that of the beautiful basilica, also known as the Church of Chandeliers (Chiesa dei lampadari) due to the many crystal chandeliers hanging along its decorated walls.

Circus Maximus Mithraeum

interior of an underground temple to a cultic figure in Rome
Photo Credit: Context Travel via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Like many underground places in Rome, the Circus Maximus Mithraeum was discovered randomly!

It was excavated during unrelated works to build a storage space for the costumes and scenography of the Opera Theater.

A Mithraeum was a temple dedicated to the worship of Mithra, the Iranian god of the sun, justice, and contract.

The Mithraeum was nearby Circus Maximus and is thought to have been one of the largest of its kind in Rome.

Nowadays, you can find the entrance to the Mithraeum near the church Santa Maria in Cosmedin, famous for the Mouth of Truth.

The main feature of the Mithraeum is the bas-relief of the tauroctony, a popular representation in the Mithraic cult depicting the god Mithra slaying a bull.

Mithraeum of Palazzo Barberini

vivid color palette on the paintings of an underground mithraeum dedicated to an ancient god in Rome
Photo Credit: Carole Raddato via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the heart of Rome, behind Palazzo Barberini, this Mithraeum is one of the best-preserved ones in Rome, featuring a painting in vivid colors of the typical tauroctony.

The painting shows Mithra slaying a bull whose blood is sucked by a dog and a snake. The painting also includes a depiction of the zodiac signs and the history of Mithra on both sides of the central representation.

The Mithraeum of Palazzo Barberini is one of only two discovered in Rome to contain a painting giving insights into the cult of Mithra.

The other similar Mithraeum is the one of Santa Prisca.

This is yet another of the random discoveries of Rome underground that brought to light an important historical sight.

The Mithraeum saw the light in 1936 during the reconstruction of the Palazzina Savorgnan di Brazzà in the back yard of Palazzo Barberini.

San Clemente Underground

Photo Credit: Carole Waller via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

San Clemente Basilica, just a few streets from the Colosseum, was built on top of multiple layers of ancient buildings uncovered between the 19th and 20th centuries.

The current basilica located at the street level is dedicated to Pope Clement of Rome and lies on top of the previous basilica of the same name, built in the 4th century.

After the first excavations uncovered the ancient basilica, they continued until they brought to light the third layer of buildings dating to the 1st century CE.

Later, they found a fourth layer that showed the building had been destroyed when Nero set Rome on fire in 64 CE.

Nowadays, under the basilica, you can visit what used to be a big ancient Roman house, which served as foundation for the ancient basilica.

There is also a small complex of houses with a courtyard that used to host a Mithraeum, recognizable from the tauroctony bas-relief.

This can be seen on a 3 hour tour that combines this site with the Catacombs of Domatilla.

Tour this alongside catacombs on this small group semi-private tour!

Other Rome Underground Tours

Crypts, Bones & Catacombs: An Underground Tour of Rome

Photo Credit -JvL- via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This small group guided tour of underground Rome gets you off the beaten path of the typical Rome itinerary and into some unusual sights from your expert tour guide.

The first stop on this underground Rome tour is the Capuchin Crypt aka “The Bone Chapel”, where you’ll see not only the bones but also the mummified remains of over 4,000 Capuchin monks.

Next up is another set of catacombs along the Appian Way, which was first dug out by Roman Christians. These catacombs are not only a resting place but also home to frescoes, mausoleums, and wall inscriptions.

You’ll also get to drive along the Appian Way, which dates back to the 4th century BCE, and visit the beautifully preserved Tomb of Caecilia Metella, dating back to the year 1 BCE.

The final part of the tour are the Roman aqueducts located on the outskirts of town, one of the most important achievements in architecture in the ancient Roman empire.

Book your tour of Underground Rome here!

Colosseum Underground Tour (+ Roman Forum & Palatine Hill)

detail of the arena floor area of the colosseum

Everyone goes to the Colosseum… but not everyone knows that there is an underground part of the Colosseum that you can access.

The underground area (called the hypogeum) is full of tunnels and passageways that used to connect a series of cages and dungeons beneath the Colosseum’s arena floor.

This underground level of the Colosseum was a purgatory of sorts, where enslaved people and prisoners were kept before being publicly executed.

The wild animals who were fought and slaughtered by the gladiators for entertainment were also housed in the cages here.

This is one of the best tours to add context to the Colosseum experience and show a bit of Rome’s underground side!

This day tour lasts around 3 hours and brings you to through the amphitheater as well as grading you special access to the underground area which few people get to see!

Book your Underground tour of the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill here!

Nighttime Underground Colosseum Tour

the Colosseum at night all lit up in Rome at night

For an even spookier version of the above tour, do it under the moonlight with a night tour! You can skip the daytime long lines at the Colosseum and enjoy it in peace.

You’ll get to see the same area of the underground but with the added unsettling ambiance of the low evening light.

However, this tour doesn’t give you as much insight into the Roman Forum, so do keep that aspect in mind… this is more about the Colosseum arena floor, the gladiator arena, and its underground section.

Book your nighttime colosseum tour with underground access here!

What to Eat in Prague: 19 Delicious & Hearty Czech Dishes to Try

I moved to Prague in 2009, when the foodie scene was…. shall we say, in its beginning stages.

Heavy stews served with heavier dumplings, fatty cuts of meat swimming in thick stews, and enough beer to fill you up before you even took a bite of food.

If you were vegetarian, the answer to ‘what should I eat in Prague?’ was pretty much just a plate of fried cheese (with some fried potatoes and maybe a slice of tomato, if you were lucky).

How dramatically the Prague food scene has changed in the last decade, I can’t even begin to express!

While there are plentiful Prague restaurants serving traditional Czech food, the general level of food is far more refined than it used to be.

a pastry in prague

It still uses those traditional flavors and textures that I fell in love with:

The savoriness of deep purple cabbage when it’s cooked for ages.

The piquant bite of carroway seeds tucked away in a dish.

The savoriness and lush green color of pumpkin seed oil drizzled atop a soup.

The denseness of a perfectly boiled knedlicky.

But everything has been updated for today’s standards, and Czech food has really upleveled while maintaining its humble roots.

Part of my goal when re-visiting Prague for the first time in nearly a decade (!) to enjoy the city in winter was to create a comprehensive guide to what to eat in Prague for first-timers.

I’m not Czech, but I did live there for 6 months (and have the atrociously out-of-practice Czech to prove it).

So when I came back to the city, it was my goal to re-discover all the Prague foods I had been missing in my life since I left the city and try to find the most delicious modern updates.

To maximize my short 4 days in Prague, I signed up for a food tour to best taste what the city had to offer.

This is the food tour I took; it is 4 hours and encompasses a variety of tastings, savory and sweet, from ultra-traditional to modern takes on Czech favorites.

My guide Vladimir was amazing and so was the food I tried, so I highly recommend it as a way to get to know Prague’s food culture and maximize your time by getting to taste things in small portions along the way.

You can book your tour online easily by clicking here!

As a general tip, I always recommend doing a food tour on the first day of your travels – that way, you know what you like, what you don’t, and what you haven’t sampled yet!

That way, you can best maximize that precious stomach space while also getting to know a local’s point of view on the best food in Prague and where to find it.

Anything that is covered on this food tour I will mark with an asterisk, so that you’ll know what’s on the Prague food tour I took so you can see if the food tour is up your alley.

Alternately, if you’re taking the food tour a few days into your trip, I’ll give you tips to avoid eating at these places before your tour so you don’t double up at a particular restaurant and end up disappointed.

For example, I accidentally went to Café Louvre for the delightful svíčková the night before my tour, which was on the menu for the following day.

While they were easily able to swap it out for a goulash, they can’t promise any substitutions. Therefore I’ve marked it clearly so you can be prepared!

Here is a brief guide of my favorite things to eat in Prague. I did my absolute best with only 4 days in the city to re-taste all of my favorite Czech dishes, so I’d have up-to-date restaurant recommendations for you.

Unfortunately, I’m less of a bottomless pit than I hoped, so there are a few foods that I know are traditional can’t-miss Prague foods that I didn’t sample on this most recent trip.

When that’s the case, I’ll do my best to recommend a restaurant from my guide’s recommendations or other locals’ tips.

Traditional Czech Dishes to Eat in Prague

Czech Soups

Kulajda – mushroom & potato soup

One of the first Czech dishes I had when returning to Prague, kuladja polévka (polévka just means soup) was one of my must-eats.

This traditional Czech soup is like an even more decadent cream of mushroom soup. It has a slightly sour, slightly sweet taste from the sour cream and mushrooms which make up most of the dish.

There are also potatoes, a generous portion of dill (so not suitable for members of DILLWATCH), and a poached egg, often a quail egg. Sometimes, a drizzle of thick green sunflower oil will be served on top to add richness – not that this dish needs it.

I ordered this as a starter, but it easily could have been my main meal, especially with the tasty dark beer I ordered to accompany it.

I ate this at the excellent Hospoda Hajnakova and highly recommend this restaurant for an offbeat place to try traditional Czech dishes without the tourists. It’s located well outside the Old Town in the leafy, lovely neighborhood of Vinohrady, one of my favorite places in Prague.

Zelňačka – sauerkraut soup *

If you asked me if one of the Prague dishes I’d fall in love with on my return was sauerkraut soup, I’d probably have laughed.

I’m not a huge fan of sauerkraut like… at all. A bit on a hot dog or as a side to a sausage, sure. But an entire soup based of it? That’s a little much for me.

Well, turns out I ate my words (and they were delicious.)

Kyselica is made of a base of a ton of of saeurkraut, as well as sour cream, potatoes, smoked sausage, and often mushrooms.

Similar to the kulajda I had the day prior, there was a drizzle of green pumpkinseed oil on top.

Whereas I’d expect a cabbage-based soup to be a bit ‘stringy’, it was actually soft and lush like a chowder.

We ate this at a restaurant that I would have never expected to have fabulous food, Zvonice.

It’s located on the 8th floor of a medieval belltower, which to me screams tourist trap – but I can attest, the food is traditional, tasty, and well-worth the stop (the views don’t hurt).

Česnečka – garlic ‘hangover’ soup

Full disclosure… I may have returned to Prague simply to eat this soup. This is the soup I associate with the city.

Unfortunately, it’s fallen out of vogue quite a bit, and it’s hard to find it on menus. I guess “garlic soup” isn’t a big seller. And that is quite literally what is it.

You may also see it named “hangover soup,” as it’s often ‘prescribed’ for hangovers (and is remarkably curative – trust me, as a 19-year-old American girl let loose in Prague, I tested this hypothesis quite a bit).

There are two main versions. One is a thin, beef broth packed with garlic, topped with toasty rye bread cubes to soak it up and a smattering of delicious, slightly spicy carroway seeds. This is the česnečka I loved and missed.

There is another version, a creamy version sometimes loaded with cheese as well. This is something I ate frequently during my time studying in Prague, but it doesn’t have the same saudade that traditional thin, brothy česnečka has for me.

I searched for a new restaurant to try česnečka in, having heard that the beloved upstart Lokal has a fantastic version, but alas – it wasn’t on the menu that day.

I went back to my old standard for garlic soup, U Provaznice – aka the “Ropemaker’s Wife” – but unfortunately, I found the standard had fallen quite a bit in the years since I frequented it.

I went for lunch, and it seemed that basically the only people who come here are now are large tour groups and the care they used to take in their dishes is lacking.

My česnečka was good, but not great. I’m still on the hunt for the perfect česnečka, but it seems I may have to try to make it myself.

I wouldn’t seek it out at U Provaznice, but promise me that if you do see it on a menu, you’ll order this must-try Prague dish.

Czech Starters & Beer Snacks

Vuřty na černém pivu – sausages in dark beer

I was recommended to visit U Pinkasů by my lovely Prague food tour guide, Vladimir, and I was so happy I took him up on his recommendation.

Simply put, the sausages in dark beer were one of the most delightful surprises of my trip.

Surprisingly spicy (Czech food is generally rather mild), this brought me back to an true Texas-style chile con carne, but with rich, juicy sausages instead of chunks of beef. It was absolutely fabulous.

But I loved the restaurant of U Pinkasů for its place in history as well. This is the first-ever pub to pour a Pilsner Urquell from the tank. In fact, the tap is still marked in the basement level – it’s a bit of shrine, really.

Naturally, they pour a perfect Pilsner – far more foam (well over a third of the beer) than you undoubtedly are used to drinking, but trust me, it’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.

Bramboráky – potato pancakes

Czech-style potato pancakes are one of my favorite traditional dishes to eat in Prague, and I always make sure to add it to my order whenever possible.

I had the bramboráky alongside my sausages at U Pinkasů and it was perfect. I’ve also in the past loved the bramboráky at U Provaznice, but given the overall decline in quality of the restaurant, I’m not sure they’d still be up to par.

Frankly, though, this is a dish you can get at virtually every Czech restaurant in Prague, so I wouldn’t seek it out too frantically — it’ll come!

I also saw fantastic looking bramboráky on sale at the farmer’s market in Jiřího z Poděbrad.

I stopped myself as I was about to start my food tour and didn’t want to fill up too much in advance of my tour – which ended up being a smart move, as I was stuffed to the metaphorical gills afterwards.

Tatarák – steak tartare

File this under foods that I, at 19, was too unadventurous to try my first time living in Prague.

I always saw Czech people ordering this at restaurants, but never could muster up the courage (growing up in the 90s seeing panicked news of mad cow disease every time my turned on the TV as a child may have had something to do with it).

I was extremely excited to try steak tartare, or tatarák, this time around. I mean, where else in the world can you eat some of the best beef tartare for under 200 CZK, about $8 USD?

I opted for it at one of the most-raved about butcher shops in the city, Naše Maso. (Note: the food tour does go here, but you do not try the tartar) 

Tip: You can skip the intimidating line for the butcher if you are just ordering prepared food, rather than cuts of meat from the butcher.

It’s an enormous portion as well, probably better suited to be shared between two people or eaten as the main meal. I had this as a “snack” (note to self, 200 grams of raw meat served atop a giant piece of bread is not really a “snack” at all).

You can order steak tartar at nearly every Czech restaurants.

While I love the version at Naše Maso – fresh, perfectly minced, flecked with onion and greens, atop a perfectly toasted garlicky slab of bread – standing up trying desperately to find a place to eat kind of ruins the fanciness you want to feel when you order steak tartare.

Instead, I’d recommend seeking it out at Kantyna, a restaurant I unfortunately didn’t have a chance to check out but heard raving reviews about.

It’s a sit-down, unpretentious restaurant run by some of the butchers from Naše Maso so you can have the same high-quality meat without the often standing-room-only vibe.

Chlebíčky – open-faced mini sandwiches *

A Czech institution dating back to the early 20th century, chlebíčky are one of the few examples of Prague food that can truly be considered ‘street food’.

The other Czech ‘street foods’ being the kielbasa and smažený sýr sandwiches that are the mainstay of drunken late nights spent around Wenceslas Square, right before grabbing a night tram.

These small sandwiches are designed to be a snack or, if you order several, a meal.

We got to try three sandwiches on our Prague food tour. One was made with beetroot, fresh goat cheese, and walnut. Predictably, it was absolutely delicious.

Another was made with celery root, remoulade, and tomato. I loved it, but it didn’t hold a candle to the first or last one.

The last and final chlebíčky was far more delicious than I could have ever imagined: half a perfectly boiled egg slathered in remoulade with a slice of Prague ham underneath.

I could eat it every day and be happy, though admittedly my heart would not be.

We had them at Sisters, which is right next to Naše Maso. It’s quite busy with locals and tourists, but the lines seem to move quickly as everything is ready-made.

Pražská šunka & maso – Prague ham & other meats *

Of course, virtually every country in Europe has its own slant on the charcuterie board.

At Naše Maso, we tried the famous Prague ham (pražská šunka), which is a delicious brined and beechwood-smoked ham you can only find in Prague. Delicious.

We also tried a beef ‘Prague ham’ that has its roots in the Jewish community, who kept kosher and naturally wanted a develop a version of their own Prague ham, sans the pork.

It was tasty, but come on – can you ever really hope to beat ham?

We also tried a kielbasa-style sausage as well as a ‘tourist’ sausage, so named for the fact that Czechs would take them on road trips to the few countries they were allowed to visit during Communist times – Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, and a handful of others.

These ‘tourist’ sausages would keep well without being refrigerated.

Tasty and certainly interesting from a food-history perspective, but not my favorite (that honor would go to Prague ham).

Smažený sýr – fried cheese

I struggled with whether to put this in snacks or main courses, but as it’s typically on ‘bar food’ menus I thought it belonged best here.

It’s also the most popular main course for vegetarians in Prague, so if you don’t eat meat, you may find yourself eating quite a bit of smaž (as I affectionally came to call it while living there) over the course of your trip.

Smažený sýr is a deep fried cheese often served with a tartar sauce or something quite similar – and if that’s not unhealthy enough, often with some French fries to boot.

I had it over some beers with my friend Amos at Potrefená Husa Resslova just a few steps from the Dancing House and it was delicious, though I’ve also heard rave reviews about the smaž at – where else? – Lokal.

Czech Main Dishes

Svíčková – beef in a root vegetable purée with dumplings *

The mac-daddy of Czech cuisine, you simply can’t go to Prague as a foodie and miss the delicious, unique svíčková.

And where better to enjoy it than the beloved Café Louvre, over a hundred years old and a favorite haunt of famous visitors ranging from Kafka to Einstein to Havel.

If it’s good enough for the former Czech president, it’s likely good enough for me.

This dish may seem simple, but it’s actually rather complex, often taking hours to complete.

It’s made of perfectly boiled thin slices of beef tenderloin resting in a slightly sweet sauce made of carrots and parsnips, smooth to perfection.

It’s served with a slice of lemon, a few cranberries, and a dollop of lightly sweetened cream so that you can mix it in or leave it out.

I generally don’t love sweet with my savory, but I loved the flavor combination and went for my cream and cranberries several times during the meal.

Of course, it’s served with several of the ubiquitous hearty boiled bread dumplings called knedlíky so you can better sop up all that delicious parsnippy root vegetable saucy goodness at the end.

Drooling over Czech food yet? Make the most of your time and schedule a tasty food tour in advance – I recommend doing it the first day you arrive, so you can get local tips on where to eat next!

Guláš – slightly spicy beef goulash with dumplings

Sorry, Budapest – I love you dearly, but Prague clearly has the edge on delivering a stellar goulash.

Whereas Hungarian goulash is thin and soupy, Czech goulash is thick, hearty, and properly stew-y.

While which version is better is certainly subject to debate – and likely influenced at least a wee bit by where your roots are – I will defend Czech goulash to the death.

Czech-style goulash is a thick, paprika-laced stew with chunks of braised beef.

You’ll often find it spiced with carroway and marjoram, two Czech additions that are rather welcome here, and topped with some thin slices of raw onion.

Of course, the bread dumpling is welcome here as well, and is just as essential a part of the meal as the goulash itself.

I’ve eaten this dish in countless restaurants around the city and never find it disappointing – it’s always satisfying.

I had a fantastic version at Café Louvre, but I am sure it’s not hard to find a good goulash nearly anywhere that is not a blatant tourist trap.

Pečená kachna se zelím – duck with red cabbage and dumplings *

A food so nice, I tried it twice!

First, I had this on the food tour at a modern Czech tapas-style restaurant called Špejle which means skewer.

Basically, you order from a selection of pre-made Czech-inspired tapas and pay by the skewer at the end.

Their version was quite different than the standard: a thin slice of duck breast served alongside a red cabbage stuffed dumpling.

It was really tasty, but honestly, it wasn’t one of my favorites on the tour. Perhaps I’m a purist and prefer the original too much!

Instead (or, more like, in addition) I recommend you go for the duck at Hospoda Hajnakova.

They serve a massive confit duck leg served with perfectly melty-sweet red cabbage and as many boiled bread dumplings as you can stand.

Served with dark beer, it’s one of the best things to eat in Prague. It’s as good as it gets.

Řízek – schnitzel (generally pork)

The influence of Austrian and German culture is strong in Bohemia, the Western part of the Czech Republic which includes Prague.

And one lasting culinary ramification of that legacy is the schnitzel that is now ubiquitous on nearly every Czech menu.

Whereas the Viennese prefer a veal schnitzel, in Prague, pork is far more common.

However, you can also sometimes find beef or chicken. It’s often served with potatoes or potato salad.

I had it at U Provaznice and was deeply unimpressed – I’d recommend trying it at Lokal or Kantýna instead, or perhaps at Café Louvre

Koleno – pork knuckle

I’ll be honest, I’ve yet to try koleno.

The first time I lived in Prague I was too squeamish to order a pork knuckle.

Coming back 10 years later and eating my way through the city, I was too full to try it.

Most pork knuckles are freaking enormous, nearly a kilogram of meat and bone, and often best enjoyed between two… or three… people.

As a solo traveler, I had to give it a pass this time around.

It’s generally served with horseradish, mustard, and pickles. The best places that I’ve heard for koleno include Klášterní šenk in Břevnov (part of the monastery grounds) and Pivovarský Klub in Karlin.

Halušky – Slovakian dumplings

While technically a Slovak food – please don’t crucify me, Czechs, for including it here – you’ll find halušky all over Prague.

Regardless of origin, it’s a food I think you shouldn’t miss when you ask yourself what to eat in Prague.

I had it at Zapomenutý Čas in lovely Vinohrady (my favorite neighborhood in Prague, and where I used to live) and highly recommend it.

It was served with Prague ham and tons of fried shallots – a dream.

However, their lunch specials often change, so you may not see halušky on the menu.

Vepřo-knedlo-zelo – roast pork with cabbage and dumplings

While Czechs rave about svíčková, if you had to ask their what their national dish is, I’m certain most people will answer “vepřo-knedlozelo” – aka, pork-dumpling-cabbage.

The cabbage is usually sauerkraut, but occasionally it’ll be red cabbage. Also abbreviated lovingly to VKZ, this dish is as Czech as it gets and it’s truly a can’t-miss while in Prague.

Again, I’ll recommend Lokal for this, although U Pinkasů supposedly has a delightful version as well.

I didn’t have a chance to try it on my most recent trip but it was a staple of my Prague eats when I lived there.

Czech Desserts & Sweets

Kremrole – cream-stuffed puff pastry

What do you mean, I’m not going to put trdelník on this list?

Well, for one, it’s not traditionally Czech. At all.

It came from Hungary (likely by way of Transylvania) as a Christmas snack at the markets.

Once Czech entrepreneurs caught onto how much tourists loved eating (and photographing) these sugary pastries, they started making them all year round.

They also started claiming all up and down that these are traditional Czech desserts when that is patently false.

Czechs get a little bit testy when you say trdelník is Czech – and especially testy when you do something silly like fill it with ice cream.

What Czechs do love, however, is the decidedly less popular but vastly superior kremrole.

This crispy puff pastry is stuffed with meringue or flavored cream (I tried salted caramel and OMG, it was dreamy).

I tried it at Lukáš Skála Cukrář and I can’t imagine a better kremrole so I won’t even try.

It’s right next to Sisters and Naše Maso, so it’s a natural stop to make if you have a sweet tooth.

I don’t really have a sweet tooth – I far prefer savory food and am lukewarm towards sweets – and I adored it.

Ovocné knedlíky – boiled fruit dumplings

One of the most traditional Czech desserts you can find, don’t miss sampling these!

And if you don’t like your desserts too sweet, these are great because they’re less sugar-packed than other desserts.

They’re filled with fruit – traditionally strawberry or plum – and served with some butter and sometimes some curd cheese.

However, you’ll also sometimes see them with a vanilla cream sauce or cinnamon and sugar.

The lovely Café Savoy is my top pick (although a tiny bit pricy, but the atmosphere is worth it!), but you’ll see them on the menus of most restaurants that serve traditional Czech food.

Jablečný štrůdl – apple strudel with warm vanilla sauce *

I’ve eaten apple strudel in Austria, Germany, and Northern Italy – and this one in Prague at the exquisite Café Louvre exceeded them all.

My favorite thing is that the strudel itself is not that sweet, but you can add some of the warm vanilla sauce or the whipped cream (or both) to sweeten it to your perfect taste.

The combination of the flaky layers of strudel, the cinnamon-flecked apple, the warm vanilla sauce and the cool dollops of cream. It’s a truly dreamy dish, and one of the top Prague desserts you simply must try.

Koláče (kolache) – sweet rolls with fruits or poppy seed *

Funny enough, the first place I heard of kolache wasn’t Prague but actually Brooklyn, where Brooklyn Kolache Co. swept up the Fort Greene foodie scene in a storm.

Returning to Prague years later, I was finally able to taste the original kolache. And guys, is it ever tasty!

I tried it first at the Jiřího z Poděbrad Farmer’s Market and then had another one (no complaints) hours laters at the first stop on our Eating Prague food tour, Perníčkův sen.

Personally, I liked the poppy seed variety even better than the plum one I bought at the market!

Note: A big thank you to Eating Prague for hosting me on the food tour! All opinions expressed and stubborn pounds gained are entirely my own.

19 Best Things to Do in Rome at Night (Local’s Guide)

lit up bridge over the tiber river in rome at night with the vatican buildings behind it

Rome is constantly buzzing with life, from the early hours of the morning when locals head to the bars for their first coffee, until late at night when Rome’s nightlife hotspots get filled with foreigners and locals alike.

However, the constant crowds flowing to the tourist spots during the day tend to shrink in the evening.

If you’re a night owl, late evenings are great for checking out a different side of Rome, one that allows you to actually enjoy the sights.

sun set in rome as you approach the basilica optical illusion

From going out for dinner to joining evening tours at popular landmarks or having a cocktail in a trendy bar, there’s plenty to do in Rome in the evening after you’ve completed the day’s activities on your Rome itinerary.

Check out these activities for a taste of what Rome at night has to offer and all the great things you can do in the Eternal City when the sun goes down! 

The Best Things to Do in Rome at Night

Explore the Colosseum under the moonlight.

the Colosseum at night all lit up in Rome at night

An alternative way to visit the Colosseum is to join a night tour and see Rome’s most famous landmark under the moonlight!

This night tour of the amphitheater with a visit to the underground dungeons and arena floor will let you discover the Colosseum without the usual crowds.

The underground area of the Colosseum consists of a network of tunnels with cages for animals and gladiator rooms.

This area was only recently open to the public for sightseeing, and there are limited slots for visiting it.

During the day, it’s can be hard to see amongst the swarms of tourists, but not so at night! It’s a lesser-known secret of Rome.

By taking a Colosseum night tour, you’ll have a complete experience of the ancient Roman Colosseum in a unique, quiet way.

Your guide will tell you stories about the amphitheater as you make your way through the different areas, illuminating ancient Rome’s rich history under the light of the moon.

Book your Colosseum night tour here!

Eat your way through Rome at night.

a roman pasta dish with guanciale and pepper

A must for every foodie tourist visiting Rome is to try delicious traditional Roman and Italian food, but finding the best places and knowing which dishes to try can be a bit of a challenge.

With thousands of restaurants to pick from – nearly 14,000 according to a 2017 survey – you’ll likely be overwhelmed by choices.

To make matters easier, why not join an evening Rome food tour that will take you to all the right places?

While it’s hard to have a bad meal in Italy, a food tour will help you find the truly exceptional places.

This 4-hour food tour by night includes 20 food tastings at some of the best places in Rome, complete with facts and histories about the typical products and dishes of the region.

Start with a taste of Italian cured meats and cheese accompanied by a glass of white wine at La Nicchia Cafè, then indulge in delicious pizza at Pizzarium.

Continue by sampling prosciutto, truffles, and fine wine at Paciotti Salumeria, and, of course, eat handmade Roman pasta at a traditional restaurant.

You’ll finish off the evening on a sweet note, with a taste of homemade tiramisu!

Book your evening food tour here!

Watch a movie at the open-air cinema on Tiber Island.

Photo Credit: Larry Koester via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

L’Isola Del Cinema is an annual film festival taking place on Tiber Island in Rome and lasts for about two months.

Every evening, you can watch a movie at an open-air cinema in one of the most scenic locations in Rome — one of the best free things to do in Rome!

The film festival celebrated its 28th anniversary in 2022, and it continues to be one of the most awaited summer events.

Between June and early September, the festival features a rich program of film screenings, from classical movies to newly released ones.

Sometimes the director is present at the screening, and on some occasions, you may even meet some of the actors!

Aside from watching movies, you can also listen to movie-related talks or interviews and check out book presentations. Do keep in mind that most events are in Italian, though!

See a quieter side of the Vatican with an after-hours tour.

view of the st peter basilica lit up at night ready for nighttime visitors

Visiting the Vatican can be tricky (so much so that we wrote an entire guide on it).

If you don’t prepare your visit in advance by booking online tickets, you risk missing out on the extremely popular museums and even worse, the beautiful Sistine Chapel!

But there’s another way you can explore all the attractions of Vatican City, and it’s much quieter and more relaxed.

Join this evening tour of the Vatican Museums for a peaceful visit with a professional guide.

On this tour, you can explore all the museum areas, including the Gallery of the Maps, the Raphael Rooms, the Galleries of the Candelabra, the Hall of the Muses, and the stunning Sistine Chapel with its masterpiece frescoes painted by Michelangelo… all without the crowds!

Remember that the usual rules for visiting the Vatican still apply when going on a guided tour. You should dress appropriately and avoid bringing a big backpack or a suitcase.

Book your night tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel here!

Check out the Lungo il Tevere… Roma Expo on a summer night in Rome.

Photo Credit: Peter Glenday via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Spending an evening at the Lungo il Tevere… Roma Expo is a must if you visit Rome between June and August.

Every summer, the lower left bank of the Tiber River gets populated with small restaurants, bars, little artisan shops, book stands, and much more.

The summer event draws lots of visitors, both locals and foreigners. Every evening there is something new to check out, from live music to movie screenings!

Have dinner by the river, grab a glass of wine while listening to live music, or simply stroll along the river and check out the artisan stands.

On weekends, the place can get quite crowded so if you prefer a more relaxed atmosphere visit during the week. Either way, make sure not to miss it if you’re in Rome in the summer.

Have a drink at the “secret” bar Club Derrière.

hand serving a cocktail

A great alternative to your usual bar for a glass of wine or a nice cocktail, Club Derrière is one of the best speakeasy-style bars in Rome.

The not-so-secret bar has a nice, stylish ambiance and a great mix of locals and foreigners enjoying the nightlife scene.

To reach Club Derrière, you have two choices. You can either enter from the street in Vicolo delle Coppelle or go inside Osteria delle Coppelle and access the bar from an old wardrobe.

You’ll find yourself in a relatively small space with dim lights, a mix of vintage and industrial décor, and a nice variety of music.

Despite not being technically a speakeasy, it’s a great alternative to more conventional bars.

Local tip: If you’re looking for the bathroom, you’ll find it hidden behind a bookshelf!

Wander around the historical center undisturbed by the crowds.

the trevi fountain lit up at night during blue hour at night in rome

Unless you’re visiting Rome in winter, you are guaranteed to find crowds everywhere during the day.

Popular landmarks in the heart of Rome like the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps (aka Piazza di Spagna), and Piazza Navona can get extremely busy early in the morning and throughout the day.

One way of enjoying the historical city center with much fewer crowds, if not completely empty, is to go on a late evening walk around Rome’s historical center.

Start either from Piazza Venezia or Piazza del Popolo and make your way through the narrow alleys on both sides of Via del Corso.

The later you go to these places, the fewer people you’ll find. You may even have the Trevi Fountain all to yourself, something quite unusual in Rome’.

Just wander around and enjoy the quiet and beauty of Rome by night!

You can self guide your own walking tour or go on this guided evening walking tour if you prefer a little expert guidance!

Eat traditional Roman food in Trastevere.

There are a ton of wonderful restaurants in Trastevere to choose from — plus, it’s also one of the most charming neighborhoods in Rome!

One of the most popular restaurants in Rome is Tonnarello, in the heart of the lively neighborhood of Trastevere.

With over 35,000 reviews, the restaurant is renowned for its traditional Roman pasta dishes such as Carbonara, Amatriciana, and Cacio e Pepe.

The restaurant has been around since 1876, so you could say they know what they are doing!

Being so popular, you can expect to find a line if you go at the busiest time for either lunch or dinner. You can try to book a table online, but be aware that they go fast.

To have a better chance of finding a table, go there early. The ideal time for fewer crowds at dinner is around 7:30 PM.

Have a cocktail with a view of a Roman temple at Salotto42.

the exterior of salotto 42 in rome at night with lights in front.
Photo Credit: Marco Verch via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Whether it’s summer or winter, a great way to spend an evening in Rome is to have a drink with a gorgeous view.

In Piazza di Pietra, right in front of the Temple of Hadrian, Salotto 42 is a cozy and chic cocktail bar where you can drink some of the best cocktails in town.

The impressive Temple of Hadrian, dating back to the 2nd century CE, appears even more massive in the small square. The cocktail bar has outdoor tables all year round, so you can always sip your cocktail while enjoying the view.

In summer, try a refreshing drink on a warm Roman evening. In winter, warm up near the patio heaters or sit indoors and enjoy the hip setting. Go for aperitivo or a late-night cocktail.

Enjoy a spectacular view of Rome from Belvedere del Gianicolo.

a sunset view with church domes and the altare della patria in rome at night

If you’re looking for a romantic location or just a nice spot to enjoy a view of Rome from above, Belvedere del Gianicolo is one of the best.

You can climb up the hill from Trastevere or take a bus (115 or 870) that will leave you next to the main square and the Giuseppe Garibaldi Monument.

On one side, from the main terrace, you can see the entire historical center of Rome, with the church domes rising among the rooftops!

On the opposite side, you get a great view of St. Peter’s Basilica or, as they call it in Rome, er cupolone which means “the big dome.”

Go there for sunset and wait for the city lights to turn on as the night falls for one of the best views of the city.

Better yet, bring a snack and something to drink to avoid buying overpriced food at the food truck in the square!

Have a spritz with a view over Altare della Patria at Secret View rooftop bar.

two hands holding aperol spritz and clinking glasses

Fancy a spritz with an amazing view over the impressive Altare della Patria and the ruins of the Roman Forum?

Earning its name, Secret View is one of the lesser-known rooftop terraces in Rome, part of the Oro Bistrot, inside the Hotel NH Collection Roma.

The best time to go to Secret View is around 7 PM, the aperitivo time for Italians. You can have the classic Aperol spritz or a cocktail and enjoy it while looking at the spectacular view.

Given the location, you can expect the prices to be higher than in other places in Rome. However, you’ll hardly find another rooftop that beats this view in Rome, so it’s worth the price.

Admire the beautiful Castel Sant’Angelo by night.

view of the beautiful castel sant'angelo at night in rome with statues and lamplights

Castel Sant’Angelo is gorgeous during the day, but at night this Rome landmark is even more impressive!

Once the crowds have dissipated and the night has fallen, the area around the castle is magical.

Ponte Sant’Angelo, known in ancient times as Pons Aelius, connects the castle to the Ponte area (Rione Ponte) and is lined with beautiful statues of angels.

At night, the pedestrian bridge is beautifully illuminated by street lamps. Without crowds, it provides a stunning frame to the castle!

If you want to spend a chill evening wandering around Rome, this is one spot that is worth seeing at night.

While you’re in the neighborhood, you can also check out Via della Conciliazione, the street that leads to Saint Peter’s Basilica.

Watch a show at Teatro dell’Opera or the Caracalla Baths.

interior of fancy roman opera house
Photo Credit: sunshinecity via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

If you enjoy watching opera or ballet, a great way to spend an night in Rome is to see a show at Teatro dell’Opera di Roma.

The opera house, also known as Teatro Costanzi, dates back to 1880 and has gone through several renovations to modernize it.

Nevertheless, it maintains the lavish interior typical of the 19th century, making it a sight worth seeing!

During the summer season, most plays of the opera house take place in a scenic outdoor location, the Baths of Caracalla (book your tickets online here!)

Although watching opera in the middle of Roman ruins is a unique bucket list experience, the indoor theater is just as impressive!

Check the shows of the season before your visit and buy your tickets in advance on the official website.

If you buy them early enough, you can find tickets as cheap as $25 USD, as long as you’re okay with sitting a bit further from the stage.

Enjoy a delicious cooking class.

handmade pasta made in a pasta cooking class in rome

One of the best things to do in Rome at night is eat… but even better yet is taking a cooking class so that you can keep eating like a Roman even when you get back home!

There are a variety of different cooking classes you can take, depending on what appeals to you the most about Italian cuisine.

I suggest either this pasta-making class (that also teaches you how to make tiramisu) or this pizza-making class, both of which end with eating a dinner that you’ve made yourself!

Dance the night away at Circolo degli Illuminati.

anonymous people dancing in a club in rome, italy

Rome’s nightlife offers a nearly endless choice of clubs where you can party until the early hours of the morning! Depending on the season you visit, some locations may be open, others not.

Circolo degli Illuminati, a club in the Ostiense neighborhood, has an indoor area as well as an outdoor garden, so you can check it out all year round.

The club was recently renovated, and it now also features a restaurant as well in case you get hungry while you’re dancing the night away.

The club is open from Thursday to Sunday, but the best day for partying is Saturday. Every week there is a different live DJ set with local and international DJs.

Check out the club’s website or social media for reservations.

Enjoy an opera performance in a church.

waldensian church in rome where an opera is performed at night

Italy is known for inventing opera in the 16th century — and a great way to cap off a night in Rome in a cultural way is to attend an opera performance!

While you can go to a full opera performance at Opera di Roma or at its Caracella Baths summer location, you can also enjoy an 70-minute opera concert at the beautiful Waldensian Church (Chiesa Valdese), which hosts a concert nightly at 7:30 PM.

This beautiful church has great acoustics and you’ll get to enjoy hearing a medley of different arias from famous operas written over the centuries — with a complimentary glass of wine in hand.

Book your opera concert experience here!

Go on a night tour exploring Rome’s catacombs.

Photo Credit: Dnalor 01, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re in for a night of mystery in a slightly creepy setting, go on a night tour of Rome’s Catacombs, many of which were built by Rome’s early Christians.

This small group tour starts at the Capuchin Crypt on Via Veneto, where you’ll visit a crypt decorated with the bones of over 4000 Capuchin monks.

Next off, your guide will escort you to the Basilica of St. Agnes Outside the Walls, where you’ll explore the church, then descend into the underground catacombs for a private tour.

In the nearby Mausoleo di Santa Costanza, you’ll learn about Emperor Constantine I and this beautiful mausoleum dedicated to his daughter.

While you can visit these sites on your own during the day, joining a small, guided group at night will allow you to enjoy the monuments all for yourself (and the rest of your group) and enjoy a slightly spooky atmosphere!

Book your nighttime catacombs tour!

Grab a delicious gelato and go for an evening walk.

hand holding a gelato cone in rome

One of the best ways to cap off an evening in Rome is at one of the city’s best gelaterias!

There are countless delicious places to go for a good gelato, so I’ll list options with the best place to go for a walk with them.

One option is to go to Come il Latte and then take a walk through the beautiful park of Villa Borghese a short distance away.

This well-known gelateria is known for its delicious organic gelatos, frozen yogurts, and cremolatos (similar to a granita, but creamier).

You can get your gelato in a cup (coppetta), cone (cono), or in a broche, the Sicilian way!

Best of all, it’s open ‘til midnight, so you can get your gelato fix nearly any time!

Another option is Frigidarium in Rome’s historical center. Grab a gelato here and then take a walk through Rome’s most beautiful squares like Piazza Navona and Campo de’ Fiori.

This place is known for their tiramisu ice cream — don’t miss it if they have it available!

Take a ghost tour through Rome.

rome as seen at night on a ghost tour

One of my favorite nighttime activities when traveling is going on a ghost tour, and with a city as ancient as Rome, you know there’s got to be some spooky stories!

This Rome ghost tour is 2.5 hours long and will take you on a walking tour of Rome that focuses on the dark stories of this beautiful city’s long past.

This tour will tell you of the inhabitants who supposedly never left Rome, even after their death — putting a new spin on the nickname ‘The Eternal City’!

Book this ghost tour here!

Tips for Visiting Rome at Night

Rome is safe at night, but stay aware.

street scene down a main road in rome at night with lit up street

While Rome is as safe a city as you’ll find in most European capitals, there are a few safety considerations to keep in mind.

Popular destinations are typically where pickpockets love to operate. While you’re distracted snapping photos of a gorgeous sight, they’ll take advantage and deftly pick your pocket!

You can protect yourself from this by carrying an antitheft purse or antitheft backpack like this one — both are by PacSafe, my most trusted brand for virtually theft-proof bags!

Plan your transportation home.

metro sign at night in rome

Keep in mind that Rome’s metro stops operating at 11:30 PM Sunday through Thursday and 12:30 AM on Fridays and Saturdays.

If you’re planning a late night out drinking and dancing, I suggest downloading Uber or having a local taxi company’s number on hand to call.

Uber will generally be more expensive but easier to navigate. Taxis often only accept cash and the drivers may not speak English.

Reserve any restaurants you really want to eat at.

tables unoccupied in rome at night

If you are the kind of traveler who thoroughly researches each meal before you go and allocates your stomach space carefully, you’ll want to make reservations at the most popular restaurants in Rome whenever possible.

You’ll tend to find more restaurant availability at the earlier times, shortly after the restaurant opens, as Italians tend to eat on the later side, around 8 PM or even later, probably because they have a large snack with a glass of wine as an aperitivo.

15 Romantic Things to Do in Dubai for Couples: Fun Dubai Date Ideas!

the dubai miracle garden flower archway

If you want to impress your loved one on an upcoming trip to Dubai — or you’re a local looking for a special Dubai date night idea — keep reading!

This guide to the most romantic places in Dubai will make sure you and your significant other have a fantastic night out, making memories that will last a lifetime!

Dubai offers such a variety of unique experiences and romantic places at all price points and for all travel styles — so surely, you’ll find a great date idea on this list!

Ready? Let’s go — here are some of the most romantic spots in Dubai and the best ways to experience them!

Best Romantic Things to Do & Romantic Places in Dubai

Hot Air Balloon Ride: Go for a date in the sky

hot air balloon rising over the dubai desert with sand dunes and small trees

Are you in search of an unforgettable experience when you’re planning a special date with your significant other?

There’s nothing more unforgettable than a hot air balloon ride — especially over the Dubai desert!

Balloon Adventures Emirates provide unforgettable hot air balloon flights over the deserts, oases, and mountains.

It’s about an hour’s drive into the desert to get to the actual place, and going with an organized tour, you’ll arrive before sunrise — typically leaving Dubai around 4:30 AM.

Yes, it’s early, but the sunrise views over the desert are absolutely worth the early wake up call! Plus, this way you avoid the worst of the desert heat while enjoying a bird’s eye view over the desert at sunrise.

Before the hot air balloon ride, you will be offered traditional Arabic coffee and breakfast nibbles.

Just when the sun is rising, the balloon will take off. The stunning views of the desert from the air is a whole new perspective!

Taking in the sunrise from above the sand dunes, beautifully aglow from the rising sun, with your loved one by your side is just about as romantic as it gets!

Hot air balloon rides are typically for about an hour — but the fun doesn’t have to end there.

You can either book just a hot air balloon experience (with transfer and breakfast), or you can do a hot air balloon followed by the full-on desert safari experience, including a camel ride, dune bashing, quad biking, and visiting a traditional Bedouin camp for breakfast.

Book your sunrise hot air balloon experience, or also add on desert safari fun!

Night Desert Safari: An overnight date in the desert

woman walking in the dubai desert facing away from the camera

Spending a night in the desert with your significant other while watching the stars is as romantic as it gets. This is a romantic date you will never get over, ever!

OceanAir Travels provides the whole overnight desert getaway package, from pickup and drop-off and everything in between!

You can choose your adventure, from going dune bashing, sandboarding, taking a camel ride, going horse riding, enjoying shisha, watching traditional belly dancing, enjoying a BBQ dinner, getting henna painted, and more!

You will arrive at your campsite, surrounded by palm trees and decked with comfy carpets and cushions for you to relax.

After whatever adrenaline-pumping adventure activities you choose, you can enjoy a diversity of shows like the fire show where performers show their skills!

And if you’re a food lover like me, many varieties of dishes are also available at the campsite that you can choose from.

Plus, spending time under the stars as they sparkle overhead in the beautiful Dubai desert is a sight you and your loved one will never forget!

While the Dubai skyline is breathtaking, you should also experience the natural side of the United Arab Emirates while you’re visiting — it’s just as romantic and beautiful!

Book your desert safari overnight date here!

Dhow Boat Fountain Show: Cruise along the dancing fountain

the dubai fountain show which you can see up close and personal on a dhow boat cruise

The Dubai Fountain is where water, music, and light come together to make a beautiful spectacle in Downtown Dubai, near the Dubai Mall.

This is world’s largest choreographed water fountain, and it’s a great place for a date due to its romantic vibes and engaging music.

And what better way to enjoy the fountain show than by being up close to it while on a traditional Dhow boat cruise?

You’ll literally be cruising around the dancing fountains in a traditional boat and trust me, you’ll definitely want to dance along with the the fountains and the music!

The fountain has over 1,000 different water features and 50 different color projectors, and it plays different types of music from romance to classical and even traditional Arabic songs.

The show lasts for 5 minutes, and restarts every 30 minutes. All the dhow cruises are timed so that they will ensure that you visit at a key part of the fountain spectacle so you won’t miss it!

If you’re planning a Dubai date night activity and you’re looking to do something romantic and magical — without a huge price tag (it’s about $20 per person) — there’s nothing I’d recommend more than to take them on a traditional dhow boat ride to see the dancing fountains.

And if you don’t want to spend money on a dhow cruise, you can just watch the fountain show for free! It’ll be no less spectacular, but you won’t quite have the magic of cruising up close to the action.

It’s definitely one of the best things to do in Dubai at night!

Book your romantic dhow cruise here!

The Burj Club Restaurant: A romantic rooftop dinner date with a view of Dubai’s skyscrapers

It is kind of cliché, but what is a date without food? But this is Dubai — you can make a plain old dinner date and make it an unforgettably romantic dinner experience.

Take your love out to eat at one of the most romantic places in Dubai. And where is that you may ask?

One of the classic places for a date night is at the Burj Club restaurant, located inside the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in Dubai (and the world!), on the 5th floor of the iconic building.

(Want to go higher for your meal? Keep reading — the tallest restaurant in the world is on this list!)

At the Burj Club, you can enjoy its incredible rooftop and fountain views of downtown Dubai that really help set the mood!

The club is best known for its delicious food, fresh drinks, and all-day pool access that you can enjoy with your loved one. The club even has its own DJ that can set the mood for your romantic lunch or dinner date!

Apart from the food, the club also offers a spa which you can enjoy and relax with your date and spend quality time with each other.

But that’s not all that makes it a great date idea. It’s Instagram-crack and the vibe is always festive and buzzing with its live performances.

In my opinion, that makes one heck of a memorable date!

Best of all, booking your Burj Club experience online ahead of time includes not only a romantic 3-course dinner, but also admission tickets to “At the Top” on the 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, a Dubai must-visit!

Book your dinner date in advance here!

Pierchic: Italian vibes with a romantic dinner with a view

Pierchic is a multi-award-winning Italian restaurant in Dubai with its super romantic vibes and great views on a pioer, overlooking the magical azure waters of the Arabian Gulf.

In my opinion, this has to be one of the best places to take your partner on a date if you’re foodies who enjoy a meal with a view!

I celebrated my birthday there and as requested, they gave us a table facing the Burj Al Arab which was amazing!

There was a variety of dishes to choose from, from its tasteful and fresh seafood options to its delicious variety of drinks. Everything was beautifully plated, and the service was also great!

I also can’t forget about the background music. It was classical and romantic, and the volume was not too loud so that we could easily have a conversation with each other. The music only made the aura more romantic!

If you’re looking for a great date idea in Dubai to make a lasting impression, this is a great romantic place in Dubai — it will dazzle your eyes and your tastebuds!

Café Ceramique: A fun and artistic date night

If you and your date aren’t so into the idea of a candlelight dinner, why not gets hands-on and try ceramic arts dinner?

With Café Ceramique, you get to enjoy a nice meal while also painting on a ceramic utensil of your choice.

During the couple of times I’ve been here, I not only enjoyed a nice meal but was also able to get a ceramic, paint it, and later use the it for eating or drinking!

It really creates a more personal vibe and gives you a sense of accomplishment — plus, you get to bring home whatever you paint with you as a forever-memory of your date!

All the art supplies will be available to you at the venue, and the idea might be a bit of a splurge but it’s unique and fun!

Apart from being a fun place, Café Ceramique itself is designed to be a chill place where people and couples can chill and relax in the café’s comfortable seating arrangements without feeling rushed to give up their table once they finish their meal — great for lingering chats!

Escape Room: Solve mysteries on your date

Love solving mysteries and puzzles? Why not do it together at one of the many escape rooms in Dubai!

Escape rooms are one of my go-to Dubai date ideas! It’s a really good ice breaker, especially if either or both of you are the shy-yet-smart type!

Escape rooms are actually pretty useful, whether it’s a first date or a fun way to strengthen am existing relationship.

It’s a fun way to work together and use your communication skills to find a way out in time — this is especially fun if either you or your date (or both of you) have a competitive nature!

And if it’s a first date, you don’t need to worry about ice breakers or making small talk: you just need to find clues and have fun with each other!

It was definitely a fun experience for me! I personally tried Escape Hunt, where we were being hunted down and had to find a way out before the time runs out.

With the time ticking, it can be really stressful.. which can be your opportunity to step up and help your date work through this situation, but it also may be too intense for a first date!

There are other kinds of escape rooms that are a little less high-pressure, Brain Game Dubai (which also has a fun rooftop terrace for chilling afterwards!) and Escape Reality Dubai are two good options — and you can also find a full list of other escape rooms in Dubai here!

Go Karting: Competitive date night fun

If you and your date are adventurous and young at heart, go-karting is definitely the perfect date for you!

Kartdrome Dubai provides you with the best go-karting experience in the whole of the UAE! It has both indoor and outdoor tracks that you can race on.

I am a very competitive person when it comes to these things so I really had a good time — and if you and your date are anything like me, you will to!

To make the experience more authentic, all the racers will be equipped with suits, gloves, and helmets!

The night races are probably my favorite when the race track is lit up with flood lights, it just makes the whole place look like you’re in an actual race — amping up the date night fun!

You can even get a race car where one of you can sit on the passenger side and the other can drive.

It can also be super fun when you’re trying to race the other players there, and it’s also great for double dates!

The Boardwalk: Picturesque and breathtaking views on the Dubai Creek

The Boardwalk is a stunning restaurant that overlooks the beautiful Dubai Creek. This restaurant is located right on the water, and there’s no spot that is more perfect for a candlelit dinner!

The Boardwalk is a Mediterranean restaurant located in the Dubai Creek Resort. Since its debut 25 years ago, Boardwalk, which is tucked away on the beaches of the picturesque Dubai Creek, has become a well-known Dubai landmark!

The menu at Boardwalk is inspired by the Mediterranean, and customers can choose from a wide variety of fresh fish and shellfish that are cooked to order, as well as freshly baked pizzas and calzones straight from the pizza oven.

I just so happened to visit Boardwalk during the sunset and let me just say, it was so breathtaking. Your date may be competing with the sunset on who looked the best that evening!

Ossiano: Seafood and scenery

Ossiano is a cutting-edge fine dining establishment with an underwater theme. It’s like eating at the Dubai Aquarium… except this restaurant just so happens to have won a Michelin star!

Located in Atlantis the Palm, Ossiano is a Dubai staple,

Imagine enjoying a meal in one of Dubai’s most unique restaurants while stingrays, sharks, and fish swim right by your table!

It’s an extraordinary experience to eat there. Although the cuisine is excellent, the ambiance definitely wins. Due to its grandeur and elegance, this location is a must-see, and it’s also a fantastic Instagram spot!

Your dining experience at Ossiano, a trip inspired by the waters and seas, is meant to evoke feelings of wonder both at your surroundings and of the food — something you and your date are sure to love experiencing together.

A night out here is not cheap. The classic Ossiano experience is the 9 ”wave” (course) tasting menu (priced at 1095 AED, approximately $300 per person).

The amazing food pest paired with their vast wine menu that has been meticulously chosen to transport you to a world unlike any other (they’ve won a Sommelier Award in addition to their Michelin star!).

Across the variety of options to have, I’d say the cocktail “The Pearl Diver” was definitely my favorite and worth trying!

Villa Beach: Boho beach vibes

Enjoy Mediterranean cuisine near the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah at one of the many outdoor tables that are just feet from the water!

As the sun sets over the Arabian Gulf, savor a delicious diner on the wood-deck patio lit by romantic hanging lanterns.

With its relaxed, boho environment, Villa Beach, which is part of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, provides you with a taste of the tropics in desert Dubai!

The cozy, beach-style décor creates a resort-like atmosphere for your date experience, with high ceilings, clean, modern furnishings made of dark wood, and rattan chairs.

A delicious menu of hot and cold appetizers, cured meats, platters for two, and fresh seafood has been put together by the head chef to go nicely with the casual dining atmosphere.

The Braeburn apple tart and traditional baked Alaska are just a couple of the tempting dessert options available to cap off your evening.

In fact, the desserts were my favorite part. Every single option was so tempting and very beautifully presented. I definitely recommend saving room for at least one dessert if you go!

Royal Mirage: Stunning architecture in a tranquil setting

At the One&Only Resorts, Royal Mirage is a luxurious restaurant where you can indulge in a delicious meal surrounded by stunning Arabesque architecture.

You are welcomed by more than 65 acres of beautiful gardens, tranquil fountains, arches, domes, and elaborate Arabic features, right in Jumeirah Beach.

The restaurant is fantastic, but it’s also a great place to stay in Dubai! Not only do you get to enjoy the beautiful grounds, but you also have access to huge private beaches, wonderfully temperature-controlled swimming pools, and their lush green gardens.

During my visit to Royal Mirage, they even gave me a complimentary access to the Aquaventure Waterpark, one of the best waterparks in Dubai. How amazing is that?

Al Maha: A luxury resort and spa

If you’re looking for a romantic place to stay, why not stay in the Dubai desert at a luxurious desert resort?

The exclusive, guest-only Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa is located right in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve’s renowned sand dunes and lush palm groves.

The hotel offers magnificent views of the vast plains and Hajar Mountain massif, all in a peaceful isolated solitude that will make you forget Dubai is just a short 45-minute drive away.

Here, you can go for a memorable horseback ride (Scared of horses? Just remember: horses communicate through their ear position!) through the dunes.

You can also go on a camel safari or nature stroll. Take part in a famous desert safari or learn about Dubai’s traditional sports of archery and falconry.

Their 42 rooms blend discrete sophistication with genuine regional antiques, local antiquities, and careful nuances at their five-star hotel, which features private swimming pools with magnificent dune and mountain views.

You can stay here overnight, or you can visit as a guest of the spa if you don’t have the budget for their rooms.

I didn’t know about this place until the guy I was dating at the time recommended we go there one weekend! I was a bit skeptical, but it was really romantic and fun.

Although we are no longer together, this is still a top pick for me if you’re looking for a beautiful desert romance experience on a date!

Book your stay at Al Maha Resort & Spa here!

Atmosphere Grill And Lounge: Highest restaurant in the world

Atmosphere is located on Level 122 of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa. It offers breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf in addition to an excellent food selection!

The highest restaurant in the world from the ground up, this prestigious, award-winning fine dining establishment delights guests with its romantic ambiance, mouthwatering cuisine, and first-rate service.

Atmosphere is arguably the most well-known lounge and restaurant in Dubai. Both its brunch and dinner menus are particularly beloved.

Atmosphere is both a restaurant and a lounge, with the restaurant being more formal and the lounge being more laid back.

If you get invited to a date at Atmosphere, let’s just say they really care about you!

Not only is this place rather expensive, but it arguably also has the best views in the entire Dubai… though that is expected considering that it is the highest restaurant in the world!

You should know that you do have to make a reservation to come here since it does get pretty packed!

Dubai Miracle Garden: Breathtaking backdrops for your date

the dubai miracle garden flower archway

Did you really go on a date in Dubai if you didn’t Instagram it? I didn’t think so! I know I would always try to get the perfect Instagram picture… even if the date didn’t go that well!

And honestly, if you go to the Dubai Miracle Garden for your date, you’ll end up with so many stunning pictures, you won’t know which to post!

If you and your date enjoy aesthetics and taking photos, this is definitely the place to be! It’s a beautiful place to stroll hand-in-hand while admiring the beautiful flowers.

It’s even more fun when your date is just as into getting the perfect shot as you are. Teamwork makes the dream work!

I’d say definitely show up as early as possible, somewhere right around when they open, as this way you’d avoid the crowd.

I made the mistake of going a bit late and we ended up having quite a few photobomb moments, which was a bit awkward!

6 Bonus Ideas for Fun & Romantic Things to Do in Dubai

  • Kayaking in the Dubai Marina area or doing other fun Dubai water sports for some thrills!
  • Wandering around Old Dubai at night, admiring the souks and taking an old fashioned abra boat down Dubai Creek
  • Taking a dinner cruise in the Dubai Marina
  • Spending the day at one of Dubai’s fun water parks like Wild Wadi or Atlantis Aquaventure or one of the theme parks like Motiongate or Bollywood Parks.
  • Admiring the views over the Palm Jumeirah — either skydiving or enjoying the view at the Palm Observatory.
  • Flying drones over the unique Love Lake outside of Dubai

Pompeii vs. Herculaneum: Which Italian Roman Ruins are Best?

If you’re planning on traveling to Naples and its surroundings, you may face the dilemma of whether to visit Pompeii or Herculaneum.

The two archaeological sites represent two of the most well-kept remains of ancient Roman settlements in Italy, and visiting at least one of them is essential for a trip that includes Naples and/or the Amalfi Coast.

Despite being similar in the fact that they were both Roman cities, you’d be surprised by the differences between Herculaneum and Pompeii!

And although there is an idea that Herculaneum is more worthwhile than Pompeii, the dilemma is not that easily settled. 

From the architectural characteristics to the location, the time at your disposal, and a few other factors, here are some things to keep in mind before making your choice between Pompeii vs. Herculaneum.

But first, here’s a little historical background on these two famed ancient Italian Roman ruins, which can already hint at the difference between the two sites!

A Brief History of Pompeii and Herculaneum

The ruins of Pompeii (arches, pillars, walls) that have been excavated, with Mt. Vesuvius -- the volcano that erupted and destroyed it -- in the backgroun.
The beautiful ruins of Pompeii in contrast with the volcano behind it that caused its demise

Both Pompeii and Herculaneum, as you may already know, were Roman cities.

However, their history dates further back to somewhere around the 8th century BCE, when Oscan-speaking people (who were the prehistoric inhabitants of Campania) lived in the area. 

Between the 8th and 6th centuries BCE, Greeks and Etruscans contended for the cities and alternated hegemony until the two towns, alongside nearby Stabiae, were conquered by an Italian tribe called the Samnites.

Pompeii and Herculaneum thus became Roman municipia in 89 BCE, following the Social War when several Italian allies rebelled against the Roman Republic but were ultimately defeated. 

In 62 CE, both cities were severely damaged by an earthquake. They still hadn’t fully recovered by 79 CE, the year that Mt. Vesuvius erupted in what remains one of the deadliest volcano eruptions in Europe.

For almost two millennia, it was thought the eruption took place on August 24, although recent discoveries place it in October the same year. 

An eyewitness account of the events made it to our days in the form of two letters written by Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus.

The lawyer and author witnessed the eruption of the Vesuvius from the town of Misenum, across the Bay of Naples. His letters have been vital in reconstructing the events that took place nearly two millennia ago. 

According to Pliny the Younger’s recounts, his uncle, Pliny the Elder, was in charge of a fleet stationed in Misenum when Mt. Vesuvius erupted. He launched a rescue party that he joined himself to rescue a friend.

While the fleet successfully returned to tell the tale, Pliny the Elder had died from asphyxiation caused by the volcanic toxic gases. 

How Pompeii and Herculaneum Met Their End

A body that was trapped in volcanic debris and later turned into a plaster cast in Pompeii

Although Pompeii and Herculaneum were both destroyed in the same Vesuvius eruption, they suffered quite a different fate.

The way the destruction of the two cities took place had an impact on their conservation state. While Pompeii was destroyed slowly over the two days of the eruption, Herculaneum met an almost instant end. 

The eruption of the Vesuvius in 79 CE happened in two phases. The first phase did not affect Herculaneum, despite being closer to the volcano, because of the winds blowing south-eastward. This eruption did, however, reach Pompeii. 

In the first eruption, called Vesuvian or Plinian, a huge column of hot gases filled with volcanic rocks shot into the stratosphere and then rained down.

The wind carried all the debris that fell over Pompeii, destroying parts of the city and killing many people. Inhabitants of Herculaneum witnessed this eruption and started fleeing the city. 

The second, more violent eruption consisted of a pyroclastic flow of hot gas and volcanic matter that flowed at high speed along the side of the volcano and into Herculaneum.

It is thought that the pyroclastic flow reached a temperature of 500 degrees Celsius, which instantly killed anyone in its way. 

Herculaneum, therefore, was quickly covered in a layer of up to 25 meters of volcanic material that preserved the city almost intact.

Pompeii, on the other hand, which was further from the volcano, suffered slow destruction. The buildings were already partly destroyed by the first eruption, when another pyroclastic flow killed the last of the people remaining. 

These different fates of the two cities explain why some areas of Herculaneum are better preserved than Pompeii. 

How to Choose Between Pompeii vs. Herculaneum

Size: Pompeii is significantly bigger than Herculaneum — which is both a good and bad thing.

columns at Pompeii, a much larger archaeological site than Herculaneum.
The larger archaeological site of Pompeii is definitely a draw for history lovers!

The first thing you may want to consider when making your choice is the size of the two archaeological sites.

The excavated area of Pompeii extends over nearly 110 acres (out of 170 total, which are still being worked on), while Herculaneum covers less than 50 acres.

Even back in the day, Pompeii had four times more inhabitants than Herculaneum and was a much more significant city. 

Another reason for the big difference in size is that only 20% of Herculaneum is estimated to have been uncovered.

In Pompeii, nearly 70% of the ancient city has been excavated, though a third of the ancient city still lies under debris. 

Before adventuring into your exploration, keep in mind that in Pompeii, you will need to walk… a lot.

You’ll be visiting an actual town, except in Pompeii every single thing is a landmark!

Even without stopping at every house and reading every plaque, you still need almost a full day (at least) to get a sense of Pompeii. 

view of the murals in Herculaneum
Impressively preserved mural work in Herculaneum

Herculaneum, on the other hand, is small and compact. Even if you’re tight on time, you can visit the entire site in a couple of hours and not miss any important landmarks.

Keep this information in mind also when it comes to your walking abilities. Are you prepared to walk several miles on uneven cobblestones and dirt roads?

If walking long distances poses an issue for you, Herculaneum may be a better choice. 

Location: Are you visiting from Naples or Sorrento?

view of the city of Naples Italy
Many people start their Herculaneum or Pompeii journeys from Naples

Another important factor to keep in mind is whether you are staying in Naples or Sorrento.

While both sites are quite easy to reach from both cities, Herculaneum is significantly closer to Naples, while Pompeii is closer to Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast towns.

The Circumvesuviana is a train line that connects Naples and Sorrento, running around the Vesuvius, hence the name.

The same train line stops at both Ercolano Scavi (the stop for Herculaneum) and Pompeii. However, being a commuter line, it stops several times along the way. 

The train ride takes less than 20 minutes from Naples to Ercolano Scavi and roughly 40 minutes to Pompeii.

the red rooftops of the buildings in sorrento italy and the harbor and blue sea and cliffs in the distance
Lovely Sorrento is another popular departure point for Herculaneum and Pompeii excursions

From Sorrento, you need almost one hour to reach Ercolano Scavi and roughly 35 minutes to get to Pompeii. 

This isn’t necessarily the deciding factor, as it’s just an extra 20-30 minutes in each direction.

However, if you are visiting both Naples and Sorrento, you may want to plan your Herculaneum or Pompeii trip to better align with the trains.

Value: Where can you get the most value for money? 

people visiting Herculaneum as seen from a vantage point above the archaeological site
The smaller but still impressive sight of Herculaneum — cheaper, but not necessarily better value for money

The difference in price between Herculaneum vs. Pompeii is minimal.

An adult entry ticket for Pompeii is 16€, while for Herculaneum it’s 13€.

If you are to look at the size of the sites, it appears obvious that in Pompeii, you get a bigger bang for your buck. 

On the other hand, in Herculaneum, you get the chance to see some really well-preserved sites.

From entire two-story houses to beautiful frescoes and colorful mosaics, there are many sights that you only get to experience in Herculaneum!

The sites of Pompeii are a little more “bucket list”-y

In Pompeii, there is the added bonus of visiting a truly famous site.

Although Herculaneum has gained popularity in recent years, Pompeii remains a must-see and one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world…. and therefore, it is often quite crowded.

A little tip before you run to book your flights…. on the first Sunday of every month, you get the chance to visit both Pompeii and Herculaneum for free!

While it may be tough to squeeze both sites in one day, you can at least do one of them.

Just note that you still need a free visit ticket, and they may be restricted if too many people are visiting. 

Season and crowds: Best time to visit each site to avoid the crowds

visiting Herculaneum in the spring which is shoulder season in Italy
Beautiful Herculaneum in the springtime — this less-crowded site is even more deserted!

If you don’t mind walking around Pompeii in a river of people flooding the ancient streets, then this does not apply to you.

But if you’d like to stay away from big crowds, you need to consider a few things when picking Pompeii vs. Herculaneum. 

First of all, Pompeii is by default more crowded than Herculaneum. While Herculaneum sees roughly 300,000 visitors per year, Pompeii opens its gates to over 2.5 million people every year… quite a difference!

However, there are better and worse times to visit the sites. Like most places all over Italy, it’s more likely for both Herculaneum and Pompeii to be more crowded during the summer months.

If you have no choice but to visit Italy in summer due to your vacation time availability, you will likely find Herculaneum to be less crowded than Pompeii. 

If you want to have a shot at visiting a less crowded Pompeii, your best choice is winter, followed by early spring and late autumn. 

Temperature: Where to go to stay away from the heat

lots of shade is available at Herculaneum vs Pompeii which is more open -- not a great thing in summer!
Note all the areas for shade available at Herculaneum!

If you have ever been to southern Italy between June and September, you may know it can get unbearably hot.

Another reason to choose Herculaneum over Pompeii during summer is to escape (at least in part!) the heat.

Firstly, Herculaneum takes significantly less time to visit, so you will spend less time in the sun.

Secondly, this site has more shady spots.

Aside from being more compact, it also has two-story houses and well-preserved buildings that will give you many chances to hide from the sun. 

baths in Pompeii is one of the few covered sites
The baths in Pompeii — one of few shaded sights, and often quite crowded!

On the other hand, Pompeii is extremely extensive and almost entirely exposed to the sun.

The vast majority of buildings don’t provide any shade, and you’ll find yourself walking through several big, open squares and spaces — often made worse by summer crowds.

Worse yet, the few shady spots will likely be overcrowded by many others looking to escape the heat. 

Accessibility: Which is more accessible between Pompeii and Herculaneum?

the boardwalk through the roman ruins of Herculaneum
The boardwalk makes Herculaneum a far more accessible sight than Pompeii for those with mobility considerations and accessibility needs

In recent years, work has done on both sites to make them accessible to everyone, including those with mobility limitations and access needs.

The Herculaneum site has been wheelchair-accessible since 2011 when the Herculaneum Conservation Project was completed.

People with mobility issues need to ask the staff at the entrance to gain access via a ramp, and there are other ramps throughout the site.

In Pompeii, not the entire site is accessible; however, an itinerary for people with reduced mobility was implemented under the project “Pompeii for All.”

two stones in the middle of a cobblestone road in Pompeii which makes this site hard to access for those with disabilities like mobility limitations
Despite attempted improvements, much of Pompeii is not wheelchair-accessible

The itinerary covers 3.5 km from the entrance of Piazza Anfiteatro to the Sanctuary of Venus.

Visitors have the chance to access the most important buildings and enjoy the highlights of the ancient city, but not the extent of it.

Overall, simply due to the vastness of the site of Pompeii, it is probably easier for people with mobility issues to enjoy more of the sights in Herculaneum.

Sage Traveling, a blog that focuses on European travel accessibility for disabled travelers, gives Herculaneum 4 stars for its wheelchair accessibility vs. Pompeii’s 2 stars.

Uniqueness: A few things you can only see in Pompeii vs. Herculaneum

The forum at Pompeii is larger and more impressive than what you’ll see at Herculaneum

Pompeii has a few unique sights that you won’t find in Herculaneum.

If you want to see massive buildings, impressive villas, ancient brothels, wide squares, and striking body casts of people who lost their lives in the eruption, Pompeii is the place to go. 

The Forum in Pompeii, once the main square in the city, is a wide space surrounded by typical Roman columns.

All around it, you will see temples, shrines, and other buildings. You won’t find such a space in the much smaller Herculaneum!

Furthermore, in Pompeii, you’ll see the impressive Amphitheater dating back to 80 BCE that used to seat 12,000 spectators.

The small but well-preserved amphitheater in Pompeii

The amphitheater is even older than the Colosseum in Rome and is very well-preserved. 

The Villa of the Mysteries has an impressive colorful fresco that covers three walls and depicts an initiation rite into the cult of the god of wine, Dionysus.

Additionally, the House of the Faun is one of the biggest and most spectacular houses in Pompeii.

Other interesting places unique to Pompeii are the brothels, complete with, er, rather explicit mosaics… but not only that!

Murals at a brothel in Pompeii — Roman art can be quite scandalous!

If you pay close attention (or get a guide to point them out), you’ll notice phallic symbols on the ground around town indicating the way to the nearest brothel!

Finally, in Pompeii, you can see the body casts of the victims of the eruption.

During the second eruption, people who remained in Pompeii got buried under layers of ash and rocks, their bodies still intact.

As the bodies decayed over time, the space that used to be taken up by their bodies left hollow spaces in between the volcanic debris. 

In 1860, Giuseppe Fiorelli, the director of excavations, realized he could pour plaster into these spaces to reconstruct the bodies of the victims in the exact position they had when they died.

The result is quite a shocking sight of “bodies” in different positions as they were taking cover or trying to escape.

A seated plaster cast of a body in Pompeii, hands clasped together perhaps as in prayer
This plaster cast shows a seated body, as if in prayer or brace position

However, Herculaneum also has its own unique things you won’t get to see at Pompeii.

If you want to see nearly intact two-story houses and beautiful, well-preserved mosaics and frescoes dating back over two millennia, Herculaneum is where you should go!

The reason behind the art pieces being better preserved in Herculaneum is twofold.

frescoes and artwork in Herculaneum is more well preserved than in Pompeii
A detailed piece of sculpture work in Herculaneum

First, Herculaneum was buried under a much thicker layer of volcanic matter in a very short time, instantly freezing the city in time.

Secondly, excavations started later, meaning the mosaics and frescoes haven’t been exposed to the elements for so long. 

In Herculaneum, you can admire the Sacello degli Augustali, a large square with a shrine dedicated to Hercules and many colorful frescoes of the divine hero and other Roman deities.

Sacello degli Augustali, famous murals and square area in Herculaneum
The well-known Sacello degli Augustali, a defining landmark of Herculaneum

In the thermae (baths), you can see beautiful mosaics on the floor, while the House of the Neptune Mosaic, as the name suggests, has a glass wall mosaic of Neptune and Amphitrite.

Some of the most impressive and well-preserved houses in Herculaneum are the Villa of the Papyri, the Samnite House, and the House of the Wooden Partition. 

Finally, as opposed to the plaster casts in Pompeii, Herculaneum has over 300 skeletons!

These were discovered in 1982, in boat sheds closer to the shore, likely as residents were attempting to flee.

skeletons in Herculaneum vs. body casts in Pompeii
A pile of skeletons found in the ruins of Herculaneum — quite different than the plaster casts in Pompeii

As opposed to the victims of Pompeii, who got buried under ash and rocks, the inhabitants of Herculaneum that did not manage to escape were incinerated by the pyroclastic flow.

All that was left were their skeletons — leaving behind quite an unsettlingly and spooky sight!

Best Way to Visit Pompeii and/or Herculaneum

a view in the ancient city of pompeii italy
Beautiful afternoon light on some of the cobblestone streets and structures in Pompeii

Having a guide — whether that’s an audio guide as you tour independently, or a licensed guide who leads a small group — is key to maximizing your experience, regardless of whether you visit Herculaneum or Pompeii.

The ruins are beautiful and the plaques are informative, but neither quite capture the rich history and culture that these two important ancient Roman cities embodied.

Luckily, there are guides available at a variety of price points, so it doesn’t have to be too expensive to add this important historical context and guidance to your experience!

Visiting Pompeii

details of the ruins in pompeii
Going with a guide will add nuance and historical detail to several sites in Pompeii!

If after reading this, you choose to visit Pompeii, there are several ways to obtain a guide.

The most popular option is to take a full-day guided tour of Pompeii and Vesuvius.

This tour departs from Naples, includes roundtrip transportation, a licensed guide for the entire day, lunch, and entry tickets to both Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius (a combined €26 value).

Note: This tour is similar in terms of price inclusions, but also has the option to depart from Sorrento.

Book your full-day Pompeii and Vesuvius tour here!

If you want to save money, the cheapest option is to go by train from Naples/Sorrento to Pompeii, and then enter with a skip-the-line ticket with audio guide included.

If you’re very comfortable taking public transportation while abroad and prefer to view sites at your own leisure, this is definitely the better alternative.

Book your fast-track ticket with audio guide here!

Visiting Herculaneum

view of herculaneum from above
The smaller site of Herculaneum still warrants a guide!

Similar to the above tour, you can visit Herculaneum as a day trip from Naples, with transfer, archaeologist guide, and entrance fee included (lunch is not included).

Note: This tour doesn’t include Mt. Vesuvius so if you want to see that as well, a combo tour of Pompeii and Vesusius may be a better option.

Book your Herculaneum tour from Naples here!

The most affordable way to visit Herculaneum is to arrive there by train and then meet your licensed guide upon arrival.

This tour includes skip-the-line tickets to Herculaneum as well as a two-hour small group guided tour with an actual archaeologist!

Book your archaeologist-led small group tour here!

If you don’t want to go with a guide, you can simply pre-book your entry ticket to skip the line.

Is it Worth Visiting Both Pompeii and Herculaneum?

floor mosaic of people fighting in Pompeii roman ruins
A view of a mosaic floor and still colorful mural walls in Pompeii

The short answer is yes — so long as you’re a fan of history!

While you may think that visiting one site is enough because they are so similar, as you can see, there are quite a few unique features to each of them. 

If you are short on time, choose the best option for you considering all the logistical details, as well as the sights you would like to see.

But if you have plenty of time or you are returning to southern Italy after having already seen one site, it’s worth visiting the other. 

Finally, although it is possible to visit both sites in one day and breeze through them at a quick pace, visiting on two separate days is a better idea to reduce ‘museum fatigue’ and keep your sense of wonder alive.

17 Epic Things to Do in Dubai at Night

Exploring Dubai at night is an incredible experience. This city has all the advantages and infrastructure of a top modern city, blended with a rich cultural history, as well as tons of fun activities and excursions.

Dubai is a place for all types of travelers to come and enjoy — young or old, in a family, in a couple, or even as a solo traveler.

Dubai by night is an absolute must for anyone and everyone to come and experience. Regardless of your age, gender, or travel style, Dubai offers a plethora of amazing nighttime activities!

If you’re visiting Dubai soon and wondering about things to do in Dubai at night — or if you’re just looking for even more reasons to mark Dubai as your next go-to destination — this article is for you! 

After reading this article, we have no doubt you’ll agree that the nightlife scene in Dubai rocks! Given its hot climate during the day, one could argue that this desert city gem only really comes alive at night.

From strolling through its over-the-top gardens to sipping on cocktails at chic rooftop bars, to defying gravity while taking in a bird’s-eye view of Dubai from the top of the Burj Khalifa – there are so many great ways to enjoy Dubai at night.

And that’s just to mention a few. There is so much to see and do in Dubai — and arguably even more so at night!

Come along with us as we highlight some of Dubai’s top nighttime attractions and activities!

Is Dubai Safe at Night?

view of dubai at night with cars on the highway

As a female traveller, one of the things I cherish the most when travelling to a different country, is having the freedom to get around on foot and explore.

I’ve seen some beautiful countries – all different in their own right, all with unique attractions and highlights.

Personally, I have found that I’m much more likely to enjoy a place when I can walk around freely and when I feel safe doing so.

Dubai is one city where I feel totally safe, and there are so many incredible night-time walking experiences to enjoy!

There’s something special about having your feet on the ground while you’re traveling — it just feels like the most authentic way to truly experience and explore a place.

Traveling by foot allows for spontaneous detours, following your nose, and of course, my favorite: looking up at the incredible skyline above you!

Best Things to Do in Dubai at Night

Explore Dubai’s Global Village.

Crowds at Global Village an amusement park in Dubai

Here’s an experience people of any age can enjoy: Dubai’s Global Village – a one-stop-shop for the best in entertainment, shopping, dining, and attractions, all inspired by cultures around the world!

You know how most major cities have their own little pockets of subcultures… for example, how pretty much each city has a Chinatown?

Well, perhaps you could think of Global Village kind of like that, except it is inclusive of all well-known cultures and attractions!

It’s a bit like taking the best attractions from around the world and making mini versions of them so they could all fit into one smaller space.

For example, this open-air market features smaller, glow-in-the-dark versions of Big Ben, the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, and many others!

In that way, it’s similar to theme parks like the Epcot World Showcase in Orlando, Florida.

In addition to this, it’s also a great place to get some food and do some shopping – it’s the perfect place to stock up on Dubai souvenirs.

It’s only open during the winter months, so make sure you plan ahead! As an insider tip, Global Village usually shuts for the season in April, which is when many vendors will offer discounts to clear stock!

The Global Village is open Saturday to Wednesday from PM until midnight (Monday is ladies only); Thursday and Friday from 4 PM until 1 AM.

Wander around Dubai Garden Glow.

Photo Credit: Rob Young via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

The magnificent Dubai Garden Glow is a 40-acre park (located within Zabeel Park) that features a variety of glow-in-the-dark art pieces!

All of the displays are made using recycled material and millions of energy-saving LED light bulbs.

It’s really cool walking through and marveling at all the details – if you’re on a date it could be quite romantic, and if you’re with family or friends it would be super fun too!

Best of all, if you’re an Instagram junkie, you will love this place!

Watch the Dubai Fountain show.

the dubai fountain as seen at night, lit up and with the skyline behind it

The Dubai Fountains are a set of choreographed fountains, set up to “perform” in synchronicity to lights and music.

It’s located on the massive manmade Burj Khalifa Lake in downtown Dubai, right at the base of Dubai’s tallest building.

I’ve seen many a fountain show, but in a city where the philosophy seems to be bigger is better, the fountain show is also bigger and better!

There are many places where you can watch the Dubai Fountains free of charge, or you can watch them from the Burj Lake in a traditional abra (used to ferry people over water) for an even more spectacular view!

Another way to view the fountains is to settle in at one of the many restaurants that offer awesome (and comfortable) fountain views!

Stroll around the Dubai Marina.

dubai marina speedboats and lit up skyscrapers

What could be more serene than strolling alongside the impressive Dubai Marina, wholly illuminated by the very tall skyscraper lights reflected in its waters?!

If your timing is good, you may even catch a fireworks display!

There are also usually tons of other late-night entertainment along the banks, consisting of live music, pop up theatres, food stalls, and more!

Chill and enjoy La Mer Beach.

two women walking around la mer beach area at night with lights and palm trees
Photo Credit: Gabby Canonizado via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This new beachfront destination in Dubai is less of a beach (as the name would suggest), and more of a big park slash market!

The La Mer Beach area consists of walkways, restaurants, movie theaters, loungers, and all sorts of entertainment!

Just as popular in the evening as it is during the day, the beach may close for safety at sunset, but the party continues on in the huge array of restaurants, colorful food trucks and playful touches — perfect for adults and kids alike.

Admire the nighttime view from the Burj Khalifa.

view as seen from the top of the burj khalifa at night in dubai

The Burj Khalifa is not just any old building — it’s a multi-word record holder and an integral part of the iconic Dubai skyline.

Presently, it holds the following Guinness World Records:

  • Tallest building in the world
  • Tallest free-standing structure in the world
  • Highest number of stories in the world
  • Highest occupied floor in the world
  • Highest outdoor observation deck in the world
  • Elevator with the longest travel distance in the world
  • Tallest service elevator in the world

That’s pretty impressive!

As if the above were not reason enough to check it out, one of the best ways to see Dubai by night is from the top of the Burj. From here, you can take in the entire city all at once.

While you’re there, you can also get some refreshments at their famous SKY lounge.

Being one of Dubai’s top attractions, you need to make sure you make reservations ahead of time – especially if you want to see the sunset. 

Watch the sunset from a rooftop bar.

view as the sun sets in dubai at night

The sunset in Dubai is truly otherworldly. It’s something you absolutely must see while you’re in the city — and it’s a great romantic thing to do in Dubai if you’re visiting with your significant other!

As a city full of skyscrapers, one of the best ways to see the sunset in Dubai is from an amazing rooftop bar!

If we’re going on interiors alone, the 43 Sky Lounge by Sheraton doesn’t seem all that special, but it does have some spectacular 360-degree views of the city!

This is perfect for watching the setting sun reflecting in the windows of the tall glass buildings. 

Another fun rooftop bar, The Iris, can be found at the Oberoi Hotel in Dubai and is a personal favorite of mine for its laid back vibe and good music.

Located on the 27th floor of The Oberoi Dubai, it’s often seen as one of the it-spots in Dubai. Prices here can be quite steep – but the views more than make up for it! 

Feel like dancing? Check out MOOD Rooftop Lounge in Dubai. This rooftop bar has a stylish garden-set up where natural elements are found everywhere, perched at the top of the The Meydan Hotel.

It’s located high above the hustle and bustle of the city, you get sweeping views of the iconic Dubai skyline, especially around sunset — the perfect view for dancing!

Located at the 17th floor of the five star Raffles Hotel in the older part of Dubai (not in Dubai city center), this is the place to catch the most amazing views of the skyline. There’s just something really special watching the city from a distance as night falls.

Want more Dubai nightlife options? We got you! Siddharta Lounge by Buddha Bar is probably one of the most well-known and popular lounges in Dubai.

This iconic rooftop bar in the Dubai Marina has great lounge seats, beautiful cabanas, and tables where you can enjoy the view and the amazing food.

Another well known spot that seems to get it right is CÉ LA VI Dubai! I always recommend this place for its cool ambiance and excellent service.

Not in Downtown Dubai? No problem! Hop in a cab to Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel for one of the best rooftop bars outside of Downtown Dubai and the Marina, which offers a breath-taking 360 panoramic view over old Dubai and the magnificent new skyline.

Cool off at Ski Dubai.

people skiing indoors at ski dubai indoor ski and snowboarding area with a faux ski chalet
Photo Credit: Petr Kadlec via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Still feeling hot even after the sun has set? Escape the Dubai heat at Ski Dubai, an indoor ski and snowboarding resort with 22,500 square meters of indoor ski area — pretty impressive for being in the middle of a desert!

The park maintains a temperature of -1 degree to 2 degrees Celsius (30-35 degrees Fahrenheit) throughout the year.

It is a part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest shopping malls in the world. The park closes at 11 PM, which gives you plenty of time to get a little snow action after dinner!

Take a nighttime dhow cruise.

dubai dhow cruise at night with buildings behind it

Another thing you can do in Dubai at night is take a traditional dhow cruise.

A dhow is a traditional Arabian vessel, and they usually combine sumptuous buffet dinners and other elements traditional Arabian culture.

A dhow with large deck windows will offer a breathtaking view of nighttime Dubai. There are traditional dhows with open air decks for an even better sightseeing!

There are a lot of different companies offering dhow cruises — I suggest doing your research and booking your dhow cruise ahead of time to have the best experience.

There are several locations where you can try this including the Dubai Creek, the Dubai Canal and Dubai Marina.

This is an especially romantic option if you want to have a special night with your significant other!

There’s also the option of booking a private dhow cruise for a special event!

Take a Big Bus Night Tour.

If you prefer sitting back and are not in the mood for walking, another great way to see Dubai at night is by going on a Big Bus Night Tour!

You’ll see all of Dubai’s best landmarks, including the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, Atlantis on the Palm, and the Jumeirah Mosque.

I’ve actually only ever tried bus tours during the day, but I can imagine how fun this must be at nighttime — plus, no need to worry about that pesky hot sun and getting burnt! 

Club the night away!

nightclub scene with people putting their hands up in the air and dancing

Despite Dubai being painted as a city whose culture is considered “conservative”, clubbing in Dubai is huge! 

The Cavalli Club, Billionaire Mansion, Toy Room, and White Dubai are a few of Dubai’s best-known nightclubs.

Keep in mind that Dubai’s legal drinking age is 21 – learn more about legally drinking in Dubai here.

While drinking may be legal, public drunkenness is not, so be sure to not drink too much and take a taxi or Uber back from the nightclub back to your hotel or between destinations to avoid any issues.

Catch a performance at the Dubai Opera.

Dubai opera house lit up at night with unique architecture

The Dubai Opera is one of the most incredible places to visit in Dubai at night!

You can see everything from operas, ballets, and concerts here — and so much more!

Even if you’re not attending a show, the opera house is a work of art in itself.

Sadly I’ve not had the pleasure yet of seeing an actual opera or play here, but even just walking around this area and taking everything in is truly memorable! 

Watch the incredible La Perle show.

La Perle is another fantastic Dubai nighttime show option!

It features breathtaking aerial stunts, brilliant light shows, and awe-inspiring technological wonders.

It is a nighttime experience that you will certainly never forget when thinking back on your nights in Dubai – see how to book your La Perle tickets here, as it often sells out!

Wander the souks of OId Dubai.

The Old Dubai quarter is one of the more tranquil areas of Dubai to enjoy, and it’s even more peaceful at night!

Spend some time wandering through the marketplaces (souks), especially the gold souk and spice souk, where you can pick up some fun souvenirs.

Enjoy a nighttime yoga class on the beach.

It is true that Dubai is known for its huge shopping attractions and nightlife scene.

However, if you find yourself craving something a little more on the spiritual side, then why not spend an evening flowing it out under the night sky?

Organized by Talise Spa in Madinat Jumeirah, they allow you to practice yoga on Jumeirah Beach for 95 AED (approximately $25 USD) per person.

Best of all? Their full moon yoga classes, which are epic if you can time it properly!

Check out the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo.

people in the dubai aquarium tunnel with sharks and large fish swimming overhead
Photo Credit: Steve Douglas via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Wait, an aquarium in a nightlife guide? It’s Dubai — many places are open quite late at night!

The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, located in Dubai Mall, is open until midnight Thursday through Saturday and until 10 PM Sunday through Wednesday, making it a great after-hours activity.

Walk through the 150-foot long underwater tunnel, marveling at the sharks and rays swimming above you, then enjoy all the other wonderful features of the aquarium without the typical daytime crowds.

Go for a desert safari experience.

white all wheel drive car going through the sand dunes causing sand to kick up wildly

As a final option, if you feel like getting out of town completely, you could go on a nighttime or overnight desert safari!

A desert safari offers all kinds of fun activities, including camel riding, quad biking, enjoying BBQ dinner, sandboarding, dune bashing, watching belly dancing, and everything in between!

They’ll pick you up at your hotel and bring you into the desert and back, so you don’t have to arrange anything personally — win!

If you book a Dubai desert evening tour, you also get to see a culture show that features falconry and belly dancing.

If you stay overnight, you’ll get to enjoy some epic stargazing, traditional Bedouin hospitality, and a delicious breakfast the next day!

The desert does get cold at night, so in the winter months, make sure you take some warm clothes with you.

Conversely in the summer, it can be an incredibly sweaty experience so plan accordingly!

Want to know more about what to expect on a Dubai desert safari? Read this guide here!

FAQs About Nightlife in Dubai

Here are some handy FAQs and tips that will aid you in planning your Dubai night-time excursions:

Should I carry local currency?

The United Arab Emirates currency is the Emirati Dirham (abbreviated as AED), and while most places will accept credit cards and have card facilities, it’s always a good idea to carry a bit of cash on hand in their local currency.

This also makes it easier to pay for any on-demand transportation, street food, souvenirs, etc. you may want!

How hot will it be?

Let’s not forget, Dubai is situated in the middle of the Arabian Desert. Like many places in the Middle East, summers are extremely hot — to the point where it may not be enjoyable to visit!

With an average high of 106° F (41° C) during the day, and an average low of 86° F (30° C) at night, it’s easy to see why most people plan to visit Dubai and Abu Dhabi during their winter months (between November and March).

While Dubai is well-prepared to handle this heat and you will find well air-conditioned places pretty much everywhere, I personally wouldn’t recommend visiting the UAE between the months of June through October, due to the unbearable heat – even at night!

What should I wear?

While I’ve heard many people say that you should keep your clothes more on the conservative side (even though temperatures can get exceptionally hot), I’ve never experienced any issues with wearing sleeveless tops or shorts, or even mini dresses when going to clubs and bars.

In general, if doing so, I’d opt for private transportation like taxis or Uber instead of public transportation or walking around.

This is my personal experience though, and one should always try to be mindful and respectful of the country’s culture you are a guest in.

Is it safe for female travelers to walk alone at night?

Honestly I think if I had to pick one reason about why I love Dubai so much, this would probably be it!

Dubai is one of the places I’ve felt the safest while traveling. It has some of the lowest crime rates of any city in the world, and is ranked as one of the best places for personal safety.

This is because they have some very strict laws in the UAE, which leads to greater safety for women.

Can you consume alcohol?

Yes, you can! Most clubs and bars do serve alcohol, and so do some restaurants.

Just be mindful that you can’t drink whenever and wherever you please, so don’t assume that every place you frequent will serve alcohol.

It’s not hard really, you’ll know when you can drink depending on the place you’re at and simply judging by what the people around you are doing. 

And typically, wherever alcohol isn’t available, shisha is — and that’s a fun Dubai nightlife experience in and of itself, too!

Is public transport safe and accessible?

Yes and yes. However, do note that it’s forbidden to eat or drink in the metro (and that includes chewing gum).

Cabins are reserved for different categories, like women only and gold class, so watch the signs!

Most metros run until about 1 AM, so if you’re staying out late at night, you’ll need to opt for a taxi — they run 24 hours a day. Book a cab by calling 04-2080808, or use an app like Uber.

Cabs have a minimum meter charge of Dhs 12, with any charges if you need to take toll roads.

11 Fun Water Sports in Dubai to Beat the Heat

Let’s face it — when summer rolls around in Dubai, it gets so hot that there’s little else you want to do but stay indoors… and you probably don’t want to go on a Dubai desert safari, either.

And Dubai has tons of great things you can do indoors, of course, from its epic malls to its indoor skiing to its indoor theme parks.

But Dubai also has a plethora of water sport activities (and several waterparks) that will keep you feeling refreshed and cool, even when the sun is scorching.

Just be sure to lather on that sunscreen or cover up well before heading out on any of these activities!

These are our favorite water sports in Dubai to enjoy when the summer starts to get scorching hot — we hope you find one that will suit you!

How To Book These Dubai Water Sports Activities

view of the Dubai palm from above

We chose the best Dubai water sports based on a combination of reviews, convenience, and personal experience.

We’ve listed the tours you can take and recommend you book through Get Your Guide, a third-party tour operator that provides peace of mind through free cancellation up to 24 hours in advance — a huge relief in these strange times!

Personally, it’s what I use whenever I travel because I love their customer service and customer protection policies.

When available, each Dubai water activity has a tour listed that is available for online booking where you simply have to present a mobile voucher in order to join the tour — pretty convenient!

We’ve also listed the individual companies so you can look them up directly for reviews since we know safety is imperative when it comes to water sports.

Finally, if you’re doing more adventurous water sports, you should absolutely be booking travel insurance. And frankly, in these crazy times, you should be booking it no matter what!

I tend to book my travel insurance with World Nomads for several reasons, but the main reason is because they offer comprehensive policies in two tiers based on the level of risk you are taking, so that you don’t pay for what you don’t need to use.

For example, a trip insurance that includes scuba diving and parasailing coverage will cost slightly more than coverage that only includes more basic activities like snorkeling and kayaking!

Compare prices and get a free quote at World Nomads here.

The Best Water Sports in Dubai

Jet Skiing with Ocean Air Travels

Since we’re starting off the list with jet skiing, it should give you an idea that this list of water sports takes the word ‘sports’ literally — many of these water activities in Dubai are not for the faint-hearted!

Jet skiing in Dubai is a quite simply a thrilling water sports activity. You can obviously jet ski from anywhere around the world, but something about doing it in Dubai makes the experience a little more exciting — I mean, just look at the surroundings as you fly by!

We recommend taking a jet ski tour with Ocean Air, one of the better-reviewed water sports companies in Dubai. Their tours allows you to ride along one of the most stunning shorelines of the stunning UAE.

Visitors can cruise along the beautiful scenes while admiring Dubai’s breathtaking skies on the Arabian Gulf.

While jet skiing with Ocean Air, you can see some of the most popular sights in Dubai such as the Burj Al Arab, the Burj Khalifa, Atlantis the Palm, and so much more!

The price for this ride starts at around $95 USD AED and if you want to see more of Dubai’s scenery while jet skiing, you can choose from three different ride durations: 30 minutes, 60 minutes, and 120 minutes.

Book your jet ski adventure in Dubai here!

The company notes that in case of bad weather, the ride might need to be rescheduled. However, having lived in Dubai for sixteen years, I can safely say that there’s barely ever any bad weather here, so you shouldn’t worry!

If you are ever looking for a fun water sport in Dubai, jet skiing should definitely be on your itinerary!

Snorkeling with Nemo Diving Center

two people snorkeling in deep turquoise blue waters in Dubai, a popular Dubai water sport

Some people are quite hesitant to try snorkeling because of the fear of what you may see underwater — especially those with a fear of sharks — but this is probably one of my favorite Dubai water sports for this exact reason!

If you are looking for a fun place that teaches you the do’s and don’ts of snorkeling, Nemo Diving Center is the place to be!

Nemo Diving Center was founded in 2014 and I’ve seen it slowly become the go-to center for all underwater activities in Dubai.

Rather than snorkeling in Dubai proper, Nemo brings you to a prime snorkeling location in Fujairah, another one of the Emirates.

Set on the Gulf of Oman, you’ll find even more spectacular underwater life here than if you were to snorkel in Dubai proper.

They will provide transit here from Dubai as well as a full-day tour including snorkeling equipment.

A full-day tour lasting around 8 hours including hotel pickup and drop off costs about $100 USD for a full-day outing.

Book your snorkeling day trip to Fujairah here!

Scuba Diving with Nemo Diving Center

two people scuba diving in deep water with coral reef, anemones, and orange fish swimming around them, a popular water sport in Dubai

If snorkeling is a little basic for you and you want to take things up a notch, Nemo Diving Center also gives you the option of going scuba diving instead!

I really recommend scuba diving in Dubai even for people with no previous scuba experience or certification, as this is a great way to dip your toes into a new hobby!

If you’re nervous about committing to this activity, just know that you won’t be left to fend for yourselves!

There is always going to be a divemaster to guide you every step of the way, in order to make sure you are safe and making the most of your Dubai water adventure!

You can either do a day of discovery scuba diving to see if you like it, or take the full plunge (pun intended!) and complete your PADI Open Water Certification in 2 days.

This certification allows you to dive up to 18 meters, more than 60 feet, anywhere in the world!

Book your discovery scuba diving day trip or your PADI certification experience here!

If you’re already certified, you can book a 2-tank dive in Fujairah as well!

Flyboarding with Hydro Water Sports

man on a flyboard which looks like a jetpack that has you soaring from the water

Flyboarding is just one of the many latest trendy water sports that made their debut in Dubai. It’s perfect for thrill-seekers who want to try a new type of activity!

So, what exactly is flyboarding? You’re basically strapped to a board and the water pressure makes you shoot into the air as if you’re wearing a jet pack… you’ll basically be airborne with this activity!

There are quite a few companies that are offering to let you flyboard but I would recommend Hydro Water Sports, as I find them to be really safe and knowledgeable in this sport.

What I really like is that Hydro Water Sports gives you a ton of locations to choose from to try flyboarding for the first time.

However, personally I would recommend doing it on the Palm Jumeirah, since it’ll give you a pretty good view, and it’s also the most popular spot for this activity.

Book your flyboarding experience online here!

Be aware, you won’t be allowed to go flyboarding if you don’t already know how to swim.

I saw quite a few people turned down at the location for this exact reason so I thought you should know beforehand!

Paddleboarding at Nessnass Beach

man and a woman on a paddle board enjoying a water sport in Dubai

Stand-up paddleboarding is just one of those water sports that give you peace and relaxation!

Unlike other Dubai water sports which give you an adrenaline rush, this one requires you to paddle with the current while taking in the breathtaking view of Jumeirah by the Nessnass Beach.

If you’re looking for a water sport that’s a great workout, paddleboarding is definitely the sport for you — it’s a great way to grow glutes and gain core strength!

This is safe even for younger kids, as long as they know how to swim. My little sister would always get really excited about a weekend plan to go paddleboarding!

It is the perfect activity to create great family memories and have a ton of fun.

The fleet of paddleboards at Nessnass Beach ranges in size and is suitable for all levels of riders from beginners to advanced paddleboarders.

Because of its protected location from the open sea, Nessnass Beach is known for having super flat water almost all day.

Kayaking with Hydro Water Sports or SeaYou Water Sports

woman kayaking and smiling from a low angle photo with very clear water

Just like paddleboarding, kayaking is another great water sport that is perfect for even the most hesitant of folks!

I believe this was probably one of the first water sports in Dubai I tried when I was a teen. I would go with my dad every summer and we’d book a two-person boat.

Kayaking requires no special abilities and you don’t even need to know how to swim, since you’ll be provided with a life jacket.

After a lesson from an experienced instructor, you can immediately embark on a short sea kayaking trip to enjoy the beautiful views of the Dubai skyline — or even compete in a speed race with your friends!

If you want to go kayaking around the islands of the Palm Jumeirah, I recommend going with this tour hosted by SeaYou Water Sports or this tour hosted by Hydro Water Sports.

There are also sunset tours where you can kayak Dubai creek like this one here, also a SeaYou Water Sports experience.

Since you can do a single person kayak or a two-person kayak, it’s a great Dubai date activity!

Inflatable Ride with Sun & Fun Water Sports

Want to do something fun and a bit silly while in Dubai?

Take your friends and family for a thrilling and highly entertaining activity that will give you all a fantastically fun memory of your time in Dubai.

On this water activity, a banana-shaped or donut-shaped inflatable is sped along the water, tied to the back of a boat for the highest speed.

Everything aside, I can tell you one thing for sure; by the end of this activity, you’ll definitely have some really hilarious pictures to look back upon when remembering this day!

Sun & Fun Water Sports is located at Jumeirah near the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club, which is where you can book your donut ride experience!

Just so you know, you need to have at least two guests in order to book this ride, and everyone must be over the age of 3 — making it good for young kids, so long as you don’t have babies or toddlers with you!

This tour offers daily departures all throughout the day, but I would recommend going early in the morning in order to avoid the crowd.

You can also do a similar donut ride with Seabreacher with Burj Al Arab views!

Parasailing at Jumeirah & Sunset Beach

people parasailing in Dubai, looking at their feet above the boat

Parasailing is an activity in which you are towed behind a boat while being attached to a canopy wing that resembles a parachute.

The speedboat with be gliding across the water and dragging you along with it, until you’re flying in the air!

My favorite part is when you’re feeling yourself slowly becoming airborne… though landing always freaks me out since I’m not sure if I’m even doing it right. Luckily there’s always a guide to help you whenever you’re confused.

You’ll get one of the best parasailing adventures at JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residence).

This is because once you’re airborne, you’ll be able to see the breathtaking view of the entire Jumeirah which is to die for, sightseeing from above!

Book your parasailing tour over Jumeirah here!

The next best place for parasailing if Jumeirah is fully booked is definitely Sunset Beach!

As the name suggests, you’d definitely want to visit this beach just when the sun is about to set in order to get a stunning view of the orange sky.

Imagine this view with the Burj Al Arab in the background when parasailing!

The beach is open 24/7 with no entrance charges, though parasailing will incur an extra cost.

Wakeboarding at the Dubai Marina

Wakeboarding is a water sport in which you will be standing on a wakeboard (similar to a surfboard) while also being towed by a motorboat.

The only real difference between wakeboarding and parasailing is that with wakeboarding, you don’t become airborne… or if you do, it’s just slightly and momentarily, and completely within your control!

This water sport is perfect for those of you who have a fear of heights and would prefer to have your feet in the water instead of in the air — while still getting quite the adrenaline rush!

I can say for sure that the best place to perform wakeboarding is the Dubai Marina, where there are a few tour operators you can choose from.

There are a couple of different prices depending on the package you choose and how long you plan to go wakeboarding!

Although wakeboarding is generally not considered a hard sport, it can surely be challenging for those who have no experience in any sports activities that require a board, like surfing, skateboarding, or snowboarding.

There’s no real age limit for wakeboarding, but it typically is not suitable for children under the age of 8 years old.

If you’ve snowboarded before, know that wakeboarding is pretty similar, so it’s a good option if you want to brush up on some snowboarding skills in a new environment!

Book your wakeboarding experience here!

Windsurfing at the Dubai Kite Beach

Windsurfing is like a combination of sailing and surfing! It can also be known as sailboarding or boardsailing. It emerged in the late 1960s from the surf culture of California.

I’m not too sure about the surfing culture in California but I can definitely say Dubai is probably just as great for these water sports — and definitely has warmer waters!

Windsurfing can generally be done on any beach, but I really recommend doing it on the Dubai Kite Beach for the perfect view of Burj Al Arab in the background.

Dubai Kite Beach is located just off the Jumeirah neighborhood and is just a few miles away from the famous Burj Al Arab.

It offers a safe place to windsurf with a great view and also, you can get the chance to see kitesurfers (yes, kitesurfing is different than windsurfing!) doing stunning tricks.

I really like how other windsurfers who go to this beach are super friendly and always willing to lend you a hand and teach you the ways around this popular watersport!

Dubai Kite Beach is open 24/7; however, I really recommend coming out early in the morning for windsurfing if you don’t want to miss out on the view of the Burj Al Arab!

This beach also has restaurants, toilets, and showers if you’re planning on staying longer with the family.

You should also know that even if you’d want to perform windsurfing late at night, it’s not exactly allowed as they shut down surfing activities after sunset for safety purposes.

Fishing with Go Fishing and Fishing Tour Dubai

man in a hat fishing off the side of a boat in Dubai

Since fresh fish is one of the most popular dishes among Emiratis, it is no surprise that fishing is also one of the most popular water sports in this region!

Emiratis feel a sense of pride knowing that they get to eat something that they’ve put the effort into catching on their own. I tried fishing once… let’s just say it didn’t go very well, but perhaps you’ll have more luck!

Dubai has a ton of beaches that allow you to come and set up camp for fishing. However, most people don’t really know where to go in order to get a better chance at catching a ton of fish.

This is why I recommend using Go Fishing Dubai for your fishing experience, as they will take you to the exact locations where you’ll find quite a lot of fish to catch!

I also think if you’re teaching your kid how to fish, taking them somewhere where you know they’re most likely going to catch something can really boost their confidence.

If you like to fish with a group of people for the banter and also to get to know more tips and tricks with this activity, I really recommend checking out Fishing Tour Dubai.

They gather a large group of people and take them all out on a weekend getaway to go fishing!

At the end of the day, everyone gets to eat, exchange, and sell their fish which can prove to be really fun.

What to Know Before You Visit Dubai

Dress Code

Dubai is a cosmopolitan and modern city, but it’s also important to respect its culture, which values modesty, like many other countries in the Middle East.

When walking around the city, it’s best for both men and women to have their shoulders and knees covered whenever possible. Expats will tend to dress less conservatively than locals, but they still tend to follow this rule of thumb.

While doing water sports in Dubai, it’s fine to wear a regular swimsuit or bikini, but I’d err on the slightly more covered up swimsuit — think high-waisted swimsuits and one-pieces, not Instagram-style high-rise, low-cut swimsuits.

Best Time for Dubai Travel

The summer in Dubai is extremely hot — to the point where it may not be enjoyable to visit at all, when average high temperature is 106° F (41° C) with little relief at night, when the average temperature rarely drops below 86° F (30° C).

Luckily, virtually everywhere in Dubai has air conditioning, but summer is still not a good time to visit since you likely won’t be able to enjoy many activities.

Things like wandering around the Miracle Garden, taking a walking city tour, or checking out the Old Dubai area are out, and even the beach clubs aren’t very enjoyable when it’s this hot out!

The best time to visit Dubai is in winter, between November and March, but you’ll find the best combination of good weather and good prices around the shoulder seasons of late fall (October/November) and early spring (April/May).

Getting Around Dubai

busy roads of dubai at night, showing movement of the city after dark, with the burj khalifa as the landmark of the city centered in the photo

If you only have 2 days in Dubai, you’ll want to maximize your time in the best way possible. This means forgoing public transportation in lieu of getting around more quickly and efficiently.

Luckily, taxis and car services are rather affordable options for moving around downtown Dubai and are one of the more popular ways for locals to get around.

You can take official Dubai taxis, but I suggest using an app such as Uber or the local favorite, Careem.

Arriving in Dubai

Odds are that you’ll be arriving at Dubai International Airport. I don’t recommend flying into Abu Dhabi and then heading to Dubai if you only have two days in Dubai — it’s too hectic.

There are a few ways to get into downtown Dubai from the airport, but I recommend pre-booking a private transfer for the easiest start to your weekend in Dubai.

There are metro stations all around Dubai that connect to the airport, but frankly, transfers and taxis are easier, especially since the hotels you might want to stay at are located all around Dubai and there’s not really one central hotel area.

Laws & Traveler Safety

a traveler holding a drink with a straw in dubai with the skyline as the background

Drinking in Dubai is permitted for non-Muslims, meaning that tourists can imbibe alcohol if they want. Alcohol is generally available at hotels and tourist-oriented restaurants, but not anywhere public, such as beaches, etc. You can find some more information here.

That said, public drunkenness is widely frowned upon, and there can be harsh penalties for being drunk or lewd in public or drinking and driving.

While alcohol is technically legal, my suggestion is to take advantage of the wonderful non-alcoholic drink options and to spend some time seeing what a vacation can be like without consuming alcohol!

Editor’s Note: Dubai has strict laws around public displays of affection for both heterosexual and queer couples. However, queer people should take extra caution, as same-sex intimacy is illegal and criminalized in the UAE, and so is dressing in a way that does not conform with the stated sex/gender marker on one’s passport, which can impact trans travelers.

While many LGTBQ+ people visit Dubai and do so safely, and LGBTQ+ people certainly exist and live in the UAE, being visibly out in the UAE is potentially dangerous for queer people. If you identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, I suggest seeking out additional LGBTQ-specific resources before visiting such as this guide and this guide, and adhere firmly to the rules while visiting for your own safety.

Where to Stay in Dubai

view of more plain-looking buildings of dubai with the burj khalifa in the distance

Budget ($150 & Under)

Rove Downtown Dubai

I bet you’d be shocked to hear you can enjoy a rooftop pool with a view of the Burj Khalifa behind you for under $150 per night, but you can at theRove Downtown Dubai!

It’s located right by the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall, making it one of the most centrally located budget-friendly hotels in Dubai. The rooms are modern and lively, and there is even an on-site movie theater at the hotel called Reel Boutique which has 46 seats!

Check rates and availability at Rove Downtown Dubai here!

Mid-Range ($150-350)

Jumeirah Emirates Tower

This stunning hotel near the Dubai Mall is almost a world of its own! Jumeirah Emirates Tower boasts over 400 rooms, nine restaurants and nightlife options, a spa, a pool, a fitness center, and a club!

The Jumeirah brand name is synonymous with luxury and here you’ll see why, and while there are some ultra-luxury suites that go for well over a thousand dollars a night, your average double room here is rather affordable, typically around $250 per night.

Check rates and availability for Jumeirah Emirates Tower here!

Luxury ($350+)

St. Regis Dubai, the Palm

This epic luxury hotel is the epitome of Dubai at its most impressive and over-the-top. The St. Regis Dubai is located on one of the Palm Islands in Jumeirah, a series of islands in the shape of a palm tree!

The rooms are massive, each with a seating area that features floor-to-ceiling windows with epic views over Dubai and the coast. The luxury is endless here: we’re talking 24-hour butler service, fine-dining restaurants and afternoon teas, not one but two outdoor infinity pools, stunning cocktail bars and luxe spas. It’s everything you think of when you think of Dubai luxury.!

Check rates and availability for St. Regis at the Palm here!

Lisbon or Porto: How to Choose (If You Have To!)

ravelo traditional boat in porto

If you are planning a small trip to Portugal, but you only have time to visit one city, you’re likely wondering: should I visit Lisbon or Porto?

I’ve visited Lisbon twice and Porto once and thought quite a bit about the differences between the two cities.

And while I have guides for both — check out this post on how to spend one day or two days in Lisbon and this post on how to spend one day or two days in Porto — I figured I’d break it down for people who have to choose.

(Have even less time? I have guides for one day in Lisbon and one day in Porto is forthcoming)

So this post puts the question of whether to visit Lisbon or Porto head to head!

In it, I’ll be comparing Lisbon vs. Porto so you can decide what the best city is for your personal travel style.

Another thing to consider if you’re traveling in winter is that Lisbon’s winter weather is considerably nicer than Porto’s winter weather (where it rains more often than London!), so keep that in mind!

So, Lisbon or Porto? Let me break it down.

Choose Lisbon if…

… You want that big city feel

While it may seem very obvious that Lisbon is the bigger city, being the capital, I was truly surprised by how small Porto feels in comparison.

While on paper, it’s about half the size of Lisbon, it really truly feels much smaller than that.

Lisbon has a compact and walkable center, but its edges sprawls on for ages. Belém, Oriente, Amadora, the city is simply huge.

That’s not to mention Almada, just on the other side of Lisbon’s Tagus River, technically another city but with many sights associated with Lisbon such as their imitation Christ the Redeemer statue from which you can get an epic view of Lisbon.

Simply put, you can spend weeks in Lisbon and never quite feel like you’ve seen the whole city.

I’ve spent nearly 3 weeks in Lisbon by now and still am discovering new neighborhoods.

On the other hand, Porto doesn’t quite have that big city feel. I spent 3 days there and felt like I had a pretty good feel for the city’s layout and neighborhoods in that short amount of time.

After Lisbon, Porto feels like a small town in comparison. This is actually great if you have a limited time to visit one city in Portugal and want to get to know it well.

However, if you’ve always been pulled towards big cities, Porto may feel a little small for you, as it has a vibe more similar to towns and villages in Portugal.

… You’re a major foodie

Porto is definitely no slouch when it comes to good food, but it’s a little more staunchly traditional than Lisbon when it comes to food.

Meanwhile, Lisbon is the culinary powerhouse of Portugal, excelling at not only Portuguese food but food from all around the world.

I had everything from Cape Verdean food to Chongqing-style hot spot in Lisbon, and not a single plate missed the mark.

For some tips on where to eat in Lisbon, I defer to my friends Daryl & Mindi, two food bloggers who have made their home in Lisbon.

They’ve shown me a few of the best restaurants in Lisbon and many of my favorites are indebted to them!

… You love street art and everything hipster

Porto is more traditional, whereas Lisbon has more of an upstart, hipster vibe to it.

After all, Lisbon is home to LX Factory, the mecca of all things hipster and Instagrammable, where you can ogle street art, shop in one of the world’s prettiest bookstores (hint: it’s not Porto’s Livraria Lello, which is now an Instagram hellscape), dine, and sip fantastic specialty coffee all in one former textile factory turned multifunctional urban development.

There’s also the fun nightlife district of Bairro Alto and a seemingly innumerable amount of cute cafés all over Lisbon serving up delicious coffee in gorgeous surroundings (my personal favorite is Augusto Lisboa in Alfama).

… You can’t imagine not going to Sintra

Sintra is not technically part of Lisbon, but it might as well be, since for many people, visiting Pena Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira is essential.

As such, Lisbon is the much more obvious choice as a day trip to Sintra (or even a full Sintra itinerary) couldn’t be easier.

While Porto has awesome day trips of its own, which I’ll get into shortly, if you’re into gorgeous colorful castles and beautiful castle grounds, Sintra (and thus Lisbon) is the choice for you.

Choose Porto if…

… You want the (slightly) less touristy option

I am definitely not claiming that Porto is not touristy – that would be patently false.

However, compared to Lisbon, which is nearly bursting at the seams with mass tourism, Porto is less crowded and oversaturated with tourism.

You will certainly encounter crowds at popular places, such as the Porto Cathedral and the port house on the Vila Nova de Gaia side of the river.

However, overall I had more of a feeling that Porto was maintaining its distinctly Portuguese identity a little better in the face of tourism than Lisbon.

… You lust after azulejos

While Lisbon certainly has its share of tiles… it’s truly nothing compared to Porto, which is one of the best places to hunt down azulejos anywhere in the country.

From the petite Capela das Almas to the most beautiful train station on the planet, São Bento, to the stunning wall of Igreja do Carmo to the inner courtyard of the Porto Cathedral’s cloisters… yeah, Porto’s definitely got the edge on Lisbon on this one.

While Lisbon has the excellent azulejo museum, which is interesting for getting to understand the history of the artwork, nothing beats seeing the large-scale works in person out in the urban landscape the way they are in Porto.

… You’re a wine geek

While Lisbon is for foodies, Porto is for winos. And why not? After all, it is the namesake for port wine, one of the greatest gifts to man.

It’s worth exploring the touristy-but-well-worth it port houses along the banks of the Douro River on the Vila Nova de Gaia side.

Better yet, take a day trip to the Douro Valley to try Portuguese wines in their natural settings.

There are countless excellent Douro Valley wine tours from Porto to choose from!

Regardless of how you experience it, wine lovers will surely freak and geek out on Portuguese wines in Porto.

While port is definitely what the region is best known for, you’re also not far from the Minho region where they produce the country’s best ‘green wine’ aka vinho verde, aka one of the best summer wines on earth!

… You want a more walkable city

Although Lisbon’s center is quite small and walkable, Porto is undoubtedly much smaller and I found it extremely easy to cover the city by foot in just a matter of days.

While yes, it is quite hilly, just as Lisbon is, I found it a little more easy to navigate whereas I was constantly getting lost in Lisbon.

The sights are more clustered together, to the point where you can really easily do a quick walking circuit and tick off many of your top Porto sights in a few hours.

If you only have a few days in either Lisbon or Porto and you really want to feel like you “know” the city by the end of your stay, Porto would be the more logical answer as it’s a lot more compact and easy to visit in a short time.

Choose either Porto or Lisbon for…

… Their proximity to incredible beaches

Both Lisbon and Porto are really close to some incredible beaches. Porto is way closer, as you can literally take a city bus and be on the lovely beach of Matosinhos in a matter of some 20 minutes or so from the center.

From Lisbon, you can easily access Cascais, which is not without its charms, though it can get quite crowded!

Better yet is to rent a bike in Cascais and bike down the coast a bit until you find a stretch of beach you like. There are other gorgeous beaches near Lisbon more off the beaten path (I liked Praia das Maçãs near Sintra).

Of course, Porto’s beaches are a little colder being further north, though I found the water in the beaches near Lisbon to be quite cold as well, even in August!

The Algarve has warmer waters and can be added to a Lisbon trip by taking a Lisbon to Algarve road trip if you rent a car, but visiting the Algarve is not really doable unless you have at least a week to enjoy Portugal.

… A budget-friendly getaway

Whether you pick Lisbon or Porto, either way, your wallet won’t have too much to complain about.

While Lisbon is marginally more expensive, in my opinion, it’s also a very wallet-friendly destination by Western European standards.

I typically paid about 6-10 euros for a full meal with wine, sometimes a little more when eating at nicer places or opting for seafood.

Accommodations set me back a fraction of what they would in similar destinations, and public transportation and Uber are similarly affordable compared to the rest of Western Europe.

While it’s gotten more expensive recently due to the tourism boom, there’s no denying that a trip to Portugal – whether it’s to Porto or to Lisbon – will cost a fraction of a trip to Spain, Italy, or Greece, some other popular Southern European destinations.

… Life-changing pastéis de nata

No matter where you go in Portugal, be sure to try their delicious pastel de nata, a delicious egg custard tart best enjoyed with a dusting of cinnamon on top fresh, and preferably fresh out of the oven.

Personally, my favorite comes from Pastéis de Belém, a place I was willing to write off as too touristic but ending up blowing my mind (and maybe it was the fact that I visited Lisbon in March, but I only had to wait about 10 minutes for piping hot fresh pastéis!).

However, Manteigaria in Lisbon is a close second, and there’s one in the Time Out Market near Cais do Sodré that is less of a schlep than Belém.

In Porto, I was there for a shorter amount of time so I didn’t exactly get to hone my hunt for pastel de nata there, but I’ve heard the best are at the Porto branch of Manteigaria or one of the two outposts of Nata Lisboa in town.


So, there you go: the complete Lisbon vs. Porto rundown! I hope I’ve helped you decide where to spend your next trip, but feel free to drop any questions you have in the comments and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Or, just let me know – which are you leaning towards, Porto or Lisbon?