The origin of the far-infrared emission from the nearby radio galaxy M 87 remains a matter of debate. Some studies find evidence of a far-infrared excess due to thermal dust emission, whereas others propose that the far-infrared emission can be explained by synchrotron emission without the need for an additional dust emission component. We present Herschel PACS and SPIRE observations of M 87, taken as part of the science demonstration phase observations of the Herschel Virgo Cluster Survey. We compare these data with a synchrotron model based on mid-infrared, far-infrared, submm and radio data from the literature to investigate the origin of the far-infrared emission. Both the integrated SED and the Herschel surface brightness maps are adequately explained by synchrotron emission. At odds with previous claims, we find no evidence of a diffuse dust component in M 87, which is not unexpected in the harsh X-ray environment of this radio galaxy sitting at the core of the Virgo cluster. © ESO 2010.