In Italy there are so many magnificent places rich in history and Paestum is one of them. With its Greek ruins and National Museum, the Paestum Archaeological Site is a must in any cultural tour to discover southern Italy.
Where is Paestum exactly? Can I visit its ruins in just one day? What can I do and see in the surroundings? Here are some useful tips to plan a visit to the Paestum Temples: get ready for a unique journey through art and history! And to top it off, you could not miss a taste of excellent “buffalo mozzarella”.
- Things to do in Paestum: a southern Italy's must-see wonder
- Where is Paestum?
- What to see in Paestum: Ruins, Temples and Archeological Museum
- Paestum Temples: The Three Colossians of the Ancient World
- The Forum, the Basilica Paleocristiana and other excavations
- The Archaeological Museum: The home of the mythical Tomb of the Diver
- Opening hours, Info and Tickets to visit the Archaeological Site of Paestum
- Guided tour of the Paestum Temples: Is it recommended?
- Paestum Temples by night and tours of the local dairies
- Where to eat in Paestum: Restaurants and “Tenute”
- Paestum and Cilento: Blue Flag Beaches and National Park
- Naples and the Amalfi Coast: Points of interest close to Capaccio-Paestum
- Where to stay in Paestum: Hotels, Camping and Casali
- 3 things that will make you love your visit to Paestum
Things to do in Paestum: a southern Italy's must-see wonder
Why is Paestum so famous all over the world? Because it is a great historical site, testimony to Ancient Greek culture. Originally called Poseidonia - later transformed in Paestum by Romans - today this ancient city of Magna Graecia houses incredible ruins and finds of Hellenic civilization, among the largest in the world.
In 2017 the Ruins and the Archaeological Museum of Paestum were the 15th most visited Italian site, with over 440 thousand visitors.
Where is Paestum?
The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Paestum is located in Cilento (Italy).
This area of Campania (the home of buffalo mozzarella) is full of beautiful tourist destinations not too far away from Naples, Pompeii, Salerno and the Amalfi Coast (link interno). That’s why Paestum is almost always included in guided tours and trips in southern Italy, both by Italian and foreign travellers.
What to see in Paestum: Ruins, Temples and Archeological Museum
In Paestum you’ll find the most well-preserved ancient Greek temples in the world, which are the main attraction of the area.
You can understand the importance of such an archaeological site by the fact that not even in Greece it is nowadays possible to admire imposing structures like these, all close to each other.
But the temples aren’t the only things to see in the Archaeological Site of Paestum. The visit is divided into two parts:
- The walk through the Archaeological Area among Temples and other ruins surrounded by the ancient city walls.
- The visit to the Archeological Museum located opposite to the site, which houses a great collection of artifacts, found during the excavations. Have you ever heard about “the Tomb of the Diver”? It’s the museum highlight!
You can visit both areas or just one of them, but we suggest you to overlook nothing if you want to live a complete experience.
Paestum Temples: The Three Colossians of the Ancient World
What makes the Paestum Ruins unique in the world are the three Doric temples located in the vast and greenery plain of the archeological site: the Temple or Basilica of Hera, the Temple of Neptune and the Temple of Athena or Ceres. These three ancient giants leave no one indifferent, even those who do not particularly love art and history.
- As confirmed by the vast majority of visitors, the state of conservation of the Paestum Temples is excellent: almost all of the ruins in the Archaeological site are well preserved.
The Basilica of Hera and the Temple of Neptune are close to each other and visitors are welcome to enter: you can walk inside through the columns, admiring them from another perspective.
The Temple of Athena, instead, is the smallest of the three temples of Paestum, located at the end of the site on a small hill and walking in is not allowed.
You can sit under the shade of the large trees all around the temples and have a rest, especially on summer days when the sun is hot. And don’t forget to bring fresh water and a cap with you!
The Forum, the Basilica Paleocristiana and other excavations
The archaeological site of Paestum is very large and in addition to the temples it also houses other important Greek and Roman ruins of the ancient city.
The area is well preserved and walkable, covered with vegetation and offering picturesque views.
Do not miss the Forum, the Domus and the Amphitheatre: I’m sure you’ll love walking all around the site perimeter a lot.
- If you are an archaeology lover, you shouldn’t also miss the Early Christian Basilica, (which is located not far from the archaeological area of Paestum), and the ruins of the Heraion, an ancient sanctuary a few km from Paestum.
The Archaeological Museum: The home of the mythical Tomb of the Diver
The other part of the visit takes place in the National Archaeological Museum, right opposite to the Temples entrance.
The museum is organised on several floors and it’s divided into three sections with collections of finds emerged during the excavations, including paintings, sculptures and tombstones. It is one of the most important archaeological collections in Italy.
The museum route is well-structured: a historical excursus leads from the Neolithic to the discovery of the ancient city. The captions in several languages and the free videos that accompany the various collections are clear and highly appreciated by visitors.
- The highlight of the Archaeological Museum of Paestum is the famous Tomb of the Diver. A funerary artifact, a rare example of Greek painting plastered and decorated with the technique of fresco.
- The other flagship of the Archaeological Museum are the metopes of Foce del Sele Heraion and the collection of ceramics.
Opening hours, Info and Tickets to visit the Archaeological Site of Paestum
The Archaeological Park of Paestum (both Museum and Archaeological Area) is open every day from 8:30 to 19:30 (last admission at 18:50).
The single ticket includes both the visit to the temples and the entrance to the museum and can be purchased on the spot.
Here are some practical info and tips for the visit:
- There are two ticket offices, one at the entrance of the museum, and the other at the Main Gate, near the Temple of Neptune. Except for the high season, there is never too much queue to expect at the ticket office, so it’s usually easy to get tickets directly on site. During the high season and summer months it would be a smarter choice arriving on the spot already with a ticket at hand. The "skip the line" ticket booked online guarantees you priority access to the site.
- Free admission for children under 18, visitors with disabilities and their companions. Free entrance on every first Sunday of the month, from October to March.
- There isn’t a specific and compulsory order of visit, so you can choose to start either from the archaeological area or from the museum. Our advice is to always keep your admission ticket at hand, to be easily shown if you are asked to.
The option "museum only" or "archaeological area only" is available but, in our opinion, it would be an incomplete choice. Consider that in a single day you can easily see everything in depth.
Those who arrive at the Paestum Ruins by car, can park a few steps from the archeological site, by paying a little additional fee. From here, the site is reachable walking through the pedestrian area.
Guided tour of the Paestum Temples: Is it recommended?
Here is the most important advice we’re going to give to you, so keep it in mind while planning your visit to the Paestum Archaeological Park.
First of all: You can go around the site on your own walking through the temples and follow the bilingual information boards that will help you to understand the history of the ruins and the museum collections. However, according to us and to many tourists, it would be better to be accompanied by an expert tour guide who can explain everything to you.
Paestum Temples by night and tours of the local dairies
In addition to the classic tours that take place during the standard opening and closing hours of the site, during summer guided tours of the Temples by night are also available. T
his magical walk at night through the illuminated temples is an extremely suggestive experience.
Night walks generally take place in July and August between 19.30 and 23.00.
As mentioned above, Cilento (Italy) is the land of buffalo mozzarella. For a pleasing ending of a day off in Paestum, you must absolutely visit almost one of the local dairies. You can choose from several tours that combine the visit to the ruins with one to the “temples” of mozzarella di bufala campana, a "gastronomic mecca" for tourists who come to Campania from all over the world.
Where to eat in Paestum: Restaurants and “Tenute”
Walking through the pedestrian area next to the Archaeological site, you will find small fish restaurants but also pizzerias where you can stop and ordering something to eat before or after the visit.
Are you wondering about a fresh and quick snack? There are excellent ice cream shops with tables outside and breathtaking views of the Temples of Paestum. Enjoy the view before continuing your walk.
For a TOP gastronomic experience, you should stop at one of the Tenute - Caseifici scattered along the road that leads to the Temples. Artisan production of buffalo mozzarella, dairy products, yogurt and ice cream: authentic delicacies... just like "licking the moustaches"!
The Tenute are easily reachable from the Archaeological Park by car in 10/15 minutes. Where to go? Vannulo, Rivabianca and Il Granato are the most famous but each tenuta offers typical products that you will not find anywhere else.
Paestum and Cilento: Blue Flag Beaches and National Park
Many visitors choose Paestum as a daily destination; others decide to stay longer to enjoy also the other beauties of the Cilento area.
With white sands and deep blue waters, Paestum beaches are well equipped with hotels, campsites and holiday resorts. From Paestum you can quickly reach the pearls of the Cilento Coast. How? With a boat trip or simply renting a car: Marina di Camerota, Palinuro, Agropoli with the bay of Trentova or Castellabate, so dear to Joachim Murat.
- Thanks to Cilento, in 2018 Campania has won the record of number of municipalities with Blue Flag, exactly 18 Blue Flags.
But Cilento is not only beaches and seaside. Starting from Paestum, you can visit UNESCO World Heritage Sites such as the Cilento National Park and Vallo di Diano with the archaeological site of Velia and the Certosa di Padula.
Naples and the Amalfi Coast: Points of interest close to Capaccio-Paestum
Moving in the opposite direction, towards Naples, there are a lot of other beautiful places to visit.
In just half an hour by car you can reach the center of Salerno and then move to Amalfi, Positano and the other wonders of the Amalfi Coast(link interno).
And above all, in less than two hours from Paestum, you can reach the wonderful city of Naples.
Depending on your travel schedule, you can choose whether to stay in Paestum or not.
If you decide to visit Cilento and its beauties, it may be a smart choice to plan a longer stay in Paestum. If you are planning a tour that also includes the Amalfi Coast, Ischia, Sorrento and Capri or an excursion to the Ruins of Pompeii, then it might be smarter finding an accomodation in Salerno or Naples, visiting Paestum with a day trip.
Where to stay in Paestum: Hotels, Camping and Casali
If you have decided to book an accommodation in Paestum, you are spoilt for choice. There are so many solutions available: camping in tents, caravans and autocaravans along the coast, but also beautiful hotels a short distance from the Archaeological Park or delightful family-run farmhouses immersed in the greenery, with balconies overlooking the Temples.
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3 things that will make you love your visit to Paestum
Every travel experience depends on personal tastes. However, in our opinion there are 3 things that any traveller visiting Paestum will certainly love.
- You will be positively impressed by the state of preservation of the Paestum Ruins. Consider that they date back over 2500 years!
- The visit to the Temples of Paestum will be a bit tiring but absolutely exciting. Especially for those who are not passionate about art and history, a tour inside an archaeological site like this could be boring but be sure that, thanks to the sympathy and enthusiasm of the tour guides, it will be an exciting dive into the past for anyone!
- The beauty of Paestum lies in the fact that it is not only famous for its archaeological area, but it is also a destination that offers alternative options to cultural tourism. You are close to the Cilento beaches, you can reach Naples and the Amalfi Coast in a couple hours. And finally the joy of coming back home with some buffalo mozzarella DOC is priceless!
Just a last tip. If you are passionate about history and archeology then you should not miss a visit to the Archaeological Museum of Naples, one of the most appreciated Italian museums by international travelers.