A splendid ancient harbor, the home of Christopher Columbus and famous Genovese pesto. Okay, maybe…In my opinion, there’s no super great surprise in Genoa. Bunch ofoldpalaces, narrow streets and few pretty viewing platforms. So, what is worth visiting in Genoa? Here’s a list of 15things youshouldn’tmiss.
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15.Piazza de Ferrari
When you get to Genoa, it’s best to start in the heart of the city: Piazza de Ferrari.A huge ornate fountain is the crown jewel of the square.The square lies on the verge between the Old Town and the modern business area framed by 19th-century buildings. Boring I know, butit’s agoodstarting point for exploring the Old Town.And while you’re there, you can take a photo with the “GENOA” sign as a proper tourist.I liked this square but check the Piazza San Carlo in Turin. Turin is my favorite city in Italy and I’ve written a separate article about it.
14.San Lorenzo Cathedral
Cattedraledi San Lorenzois the greatest cathedral in Genoa and arguably the most interesting one.Located just a street away from theFerarrisquare,you can easily recognize it by itszebra-striped façade, made of white marble and black shale. Quite impressive. The façade was finished in the 14thcentury, but the cathedral itself is a reconstruction of an even older Roman basilica.In the cathedral’s sacristy, you can visit theMuseo del Tesoro which guards several holy relics. A glass goblet passed on as the Holy Grail, Salome’s quartz platter(without John the Baptist’s head), and a fragment of the True Cross. I’m sure all of them are authentic (imagine an ironic tone)as well as the “one true Torino Shroud”.
On agrimmernote, visit themonumentalGenoa cemetery!Does it sound strange to you to visit a cemetery as a point of interest? Well, it’s Italy! Anything is possible there.Thisparticular cemeterywas created inthe 1800sandcontains a wide range of artistic sculptures, statues, monuments, and even arched walkways and porticoes. Each one of the gravestones is a piece of art. So in this case, it’s more like walking through the stone art collection… with a Walking Dead twist. And hey, if Nietzsche was inspired by this, there must be something about it!
12.Christopher Columbus’birth house
It may come as a surprise, but the great navigator and explorer Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa.Inan ancient house still standing to these days.Well, more or less. Since the attack of the French troops inthe17thcentury, it’smostly a ruin.For 3 EUR (2.55 GBP / 3.40 USD) it’s possible to visit the two rooms inside, dedicated to Columbus’ life. However, it’s like 5 minutes matter, so I just took a photo from outside and moved to anothersite.
Read also: Top 10 Things to Do in Aosta Valley
11. Palazzo Ducale
On the corner of the Piazza de Ferrari stands the grandiosePalazzo Ducalefrom the 13thcentury.Formerly the seat of the Genoa Doge(head of the independent Republic of Genoa), restored after the great fire in 1777 isnow the center of culture. Therefore, the best way to see it all is by visiting some of the prestigious art exhibitions or cultural events.
The Royal Palaceis something for art lovers. On every step, there’s astucco decoration, a fresco masterpiece, a sophisticated statue,or a painting made by some utterly important painter.Once thesplendorhome of a Savoy royal family, nowone of the most popular tourist attractions in Genoa is surely worth a visit if you’re an art enthusiast. You should see the ballroom…
TheGenoaUNESCOWorld Heritagehighlight,42grand 16th-century residenceson the Via Garibaldi and ViaBalbistreetsthatform aspectacular noble districtcalledStradeNuova. Most of the palaces were built for insanely rich Genoa’s families, showing off the wealth of the Republic of Genova. Perhaps the most famous and opulent arePalazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso,andPalazzoTursi,which are open to the public.
Our tips for Genoa: 🏡 Where to stay:Marina Place Resort(8.8 ⭐️) |NH Collection Genova Marina (8.4 ⭐️) 🍴 Where to eat: Le Rune | Trattoria Rosmarino |Cucina Valoria💸 Save money withGenoa’s Museum Card
Read my 10 travel tips for Italy you should know before you go.
We’ve stayed at Hotel Marina Place Resort and I would definitely choose this one again. Besides the excellent breakfast, big cosy rooms, big free parking and free upgrades, it’s in a great location with very good restaurants nearby.
It cost us around USD 210 per night and it was absolutely worth it.
Just fyi, you book a hotel in Italy (or anywhere else) through our booking.com affiliate links, we’ll get a small (like, really small) commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you so much! We’ve sprinkled hotel tips throughout this article.
Genoa isthe largest harbor in Italy and if it werenot forMarseilleit would be the largest Mediterranean harbor. With the naval history dating back to the 12thcentury, visiting the Genovese old harbor is one of the mandatory things to do in Genoa. It was abandoned for a long time until the local enthusiasts decided to save it and made a vibrantentertainment complex. The festive grand opening took place in 1992 on the500thanniversary of the discovery of America.Today the harbor is amodern venue with cafés and restaurantsandlots of attractions.
Panoramic Lift “Bigo”
The modern40-metersiconic lift offers a circular viewof the old town on one side and thewaterfronton the other.The shape of the lift is supposed to resemble an old crane unloading goods from the ships. I don’t know how about you, but I’ve never seen the old crane unloading ships, so to me it just looked like a giant iron octopus. The lift operates every tenminutes,andit costs 5 EUR (4.20 GBP / 5.7 USD).
The uniqueglass and steel ball construction from 2001 is home tomore than 150 fauna and flora species. It’s basically a big tropical greenhouse, where you walk among the palms, birds, and butterflies. Nice touch to the modern harbor. The separate ticket is for 5 EUR(4.20 GBP / 5.7 USD)as well. If you buy the combined ticket to the Aquarium, theBigo, and the Biosphere, it’s a bit cheaper.
Areplica of a 17th-century Spanish galleonwas originally made for Roman Polanski’s filmPirates. Although it looks like a real Spanish galleon on the outside, it has a modernmotor,and thehull is made from steel. However, it’s coolandaccessible to explore: 6 EUR(5 GBP / 7 USD)for adults and 4 EUR(3.40 GBP / 4.50 USD)for kids. There’s not much to see inside, so unless you have small kids, I think it’s enough to take a pretty picture from outside.
7.MaritimeMuseum(Galata Museo del Mare)
I hadhigh expectationsfor this one. And guess what… it wasreally lame.In theGalata Museum,you’ll findtonsof paintings, tonsof texts,no shipsmodels(if I don’t count the teeny tiny models,okay,one lame model).The only cool thing (a real-life submarine) is cleverly seated outside the museum to lure you for a visit.If you’re planning on taking your kids there, don’t. The huge galleon outside and the Aquarium will be a better choice.Maybe I was so disappointed before I had been inthe one in Venicebefore and it wasmuchmuchmuchbetter. I spent 6 hours in there, totally blown away.In Genoa, it took meabout an hour.
By the way—when you hear the word “Italy”, one thing that probably comes to your mind straight away is Italian cooking. I’ve dedicated an article specifically to Italian food.
After the Cape Town Aquarium, this was thesecond-best.It’s thelargest Aquarium in Europe with more than 600 species. Myfavorite—manatees,dolphins,seals, and of course, sharks. TheGenoa Aquariumhas several exhibits offering multiple experiences includingvirtual reality andskates petting. Who would say no to that? Anyway, it’s approximatelya2-3 hoursvisit, unless you’re with kids, then it can be a never-ending visit.
5 Photo Spots for Perfect Instagram Pictures:
And because I’m a super-nice person, I will also disclose the best 5 photo spots in Genoa you must visit, if only for the view.
The ancient city gate is not only an impressive structure,but youcan also climb up and enjoy the view from there (for free!). It was apart of the 12th-centurydefensive fortification, alsoserving as a main entrance to the city.Sometimes it’s called a Barbarossa gates/walls as it was primarily built to defend the city against Frederick Barbarossa (the Holy Roman Emperor and the King of Italy).You can spot a small plagueon the gate. In case you’re wondering what’s written there, I was too. I did a little research, butthe only thing I found was that“only those who come in peace can touch the gate”. Well, I anticipated something more mysterious and interesting. Never mind, maybe next time.
Hotel tip: Meliá Genova Hotel, which lies in the heart of Genova, is a great choice for anyone who likes a good breakfast, nice rooms with comfy beds and a nice big pool.
Prices start at USD 199 per night for 2 people.
If you plan your trip to Genoa for more than one day, act like a Genovese and take an evening stroll along the seashore on theCorso Italia promenade. It starts a few kilometers outside the city center, so you can either walk there or take a bus 31 from Piazza diFerarrito PuntaVagno.The 2.5 km-long (1.5 mi) promenade takes you toBocadesse, a former fishing village, now a popular tourist attraction.It looks like a part of CinqueTerre;you just don’t have to fight the crowds and the train schedule(if you don’t know what I mean, readmy guide to Cinque Terreand you’ll understand). There are severalbeaches along the way, including the one inBoccadasse, as well as stunning photo spots.
Tip:There’s not much parking space, so I recommend using public transport on this one. Bus 31 leaves every 15 minutes and connects the Genoa City center directly withBocadasse.
You know where else you can find beautiful views? In Lombardy—I’ve written separate article about it. Check it out!
3.PasseggiataAnita Garibaldi a Nervi
A little bit further behind theBocadasselies another cute small village called Nervi.Anotherformer fishing village (what else would you do there in the 19thcentury?)is now home to anextensive park area with a botanical garden and modern art gallery. The heart of the village is still the little port with its bars, cafés, and restaurants. The port is the starting point for thePasseggiataAnita Garibaldi, a seaside promenade with many beautiful views and spots for bathing.
One of the biggestpoints of pride among Genovese is theirancient lighthouse. Originally part of the medieval fortification is one of the oldest lighthouses in the world!The tower is believed to be 800 years old. In the following centuries, the building gotbigger,andthey even had a jail in there. Today, the lighthousestands in the middle of the modern industrial harbor, providing a bit different perspective. You can see the bustling new harbor on one side and the Porto Antico with the city roofs on the other.
Spianata di Castellettois a historical landmark on a hill yet still within the city walls. From the 13thcentury, there was aCastellettofortress looking down on the city, however, it was torn down in the 1850s. One way how to get to the top isa special lift, operating since 1910which will take you right to the Belvedere Luigi Montaldo—the very best place to enjoy the city views at any day of the time.It’scoolto use the hundred-year-old lift, but if you want to climb up yourself,many steps are leadinguphill.
Before your travel to Italy, you might find useful my article about travel tips for Italy.
If you’ve had enough of city life and you want to enjoy some Italian nature, you might like Cervinia—check out my guide to Cervinia!
Where to next?
- Best 7 Places to See in Lombardy
- What to Do in Turin: 9 + 1 Places to Visit
- Top 10 Things to Do in Aosta Valley
This post may contain affiliate links. We earn a small commission if you make bookings through my links, at no additional cost to you. This helps us keep this blog free, thank you!