People often ask us “what is there to do in Genoa?“. Since one of us (Enrico) is from there, it is not difficult for us to answer. Genoa is one of the most fascinating cities not just in Italy, but also in Europe. Spread between mountains and sea, it’s a city full of history and amazing spots.
How to get to Genoa
Genoa has an airport and many train stations:
Many flights connect the local airport with various European capital cities (Amsterdam, London, Munich, Paris, etc). Alternatively, you can refer to the following airports in the vicinity: Orio al Serio (in Bergamo) and Galileo Galilei (in Pisa). They are well connected with the biggest cities in Europe, and you can reach Genoa from there in about 2-4 hours by train then;
in case you want to get there by train, check Trenitalia website in order to find out more about the timetables. The main stations in the city center are Genova Brignole and Genova Piazza Principe.
10 things to do in Genoa
Now that you know how to arrive, let’s dive in! We have prepared a list for you: save it and you’ll have enough things to see for at least 4 days.
1. Get lost in the Old Town
Genoa was once called La Superba (“the Proud one”), due to its glorious past. It was one of the 4 most important Maritime Republics in the Middle Ages – it was the best one, actually! – and it used to control many territories around the world: Europe, Asia, Central, and South America, and North Africa.
A big part of the old town of Genoa was inscribed on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) in 2006. The city’s rich cultural history allowed it to become the 2004 European Capital of Culture. Last but not least: the city is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, Niccolò Paganini, or Fabrizio De André!
Old town in detail
Genoa has one of the largest historical city centers in the whole of Europe, full of medieval sights and continuous discoveries. It is known for its caruggi, a dialectal word for an alley, that is crossing the old town. It’s easy to get lost here, and we absolutely suggest you to do it! It’s just one of the best things to do in Genoa. You will find authentic art galleries and old artisan and traditional shops (together with some small hidden brothels, but stay out of them 🙂 ). There are also plenty of small churches, nestled between the old buildings, that create an awesome atmosphere.
Be sure not to miss the following streets:
- Via degli Orefici
- Vico Indoratori
- Piazza di Pellicceria
- Salita Pollaiuoli
- Via Macelli di Soziglia
- Piazza Campetto
- Salita Santa Maria di Castello and its amazing curch
- Via XX Settembre and Piazza de Ferrari; this is the main square and the heart of the city
In case you get lost and you cannot find your way out, follow this advice: just go south, you will end up in front of the sea and the Old Port. From there, it’ll be easy to orientate.
2. Old Port
Reconstructed in 1992, the Old Port is the perfect place for a stroll on a warm day. With an area of more than 230.000 square km, it is full of bars, ice-cream parlors, and restaurants, together with some of the best-known things to do in Genoa:
- The maritime museum, Galata Museo del Mare (literally “Museum of the Sea”), celebrating Genoa’s prodigious history.
- An amazing panoramic lift called Bigo, from which you will enjoy a wonderful view of the Port and the city. Check this website for info and prices. It’s in Italian, but quite easy to understand!
3. Visit Aquarium + Biosfera
In the Old Port you will find also the Aquarium of Genoa. The world-class aquarium deserves a special mention: It’s the second-largest aquarium in Europe and the 9th in the world. It includes shark and dolphin tanks, together with turtles, seals, penguins, jellyfish, thousands of tropical fishes, and a sweet couple of manatees. In the last section you can even pet some friendly manta rays.
The entire visit lasts between 2 and 3 hours, and it’s really worth the quite expensive ticket of 25 Euro.
Close to the aquarium you will find the Biosfera: it’s a 20-meter diameter sphere, in which they recreated the environment of a tropical forest. It’s possible to find tropical birds, trees, plants, and butterflies there.
If you want to visit the Aquarium together with the Biosfera and the Galata Museum, you better buy a special ticket that includes all the entrances to these sights. You will save some money!
4. Do some proper shopping
We know that Milan is the capital of fashion and Genoa is not known in the world for its shops, but give it a chance. Among the things to do in Genoa, you better consider some proper shopping. Via XX Settembre is the heart of the local shopping since it’s right in the city center. It’s the longest and the largest street in the city, and full of clothes shops. You will find here whatever you like to dress!
At the beginning of the street, there is a big covered market called Mercato Orientale (“Oriental Market”), in which you will find fresh groceries. From fresh fish to fruits and vegetables, it’s the perfect place to buy.
If you aren’t on a budget (meaning: you can spend a lot of money), check the elegant exclusive boutiques in Via Roma. Bring your credit card with you!
5. Get high: Castelletto
Genoa also has several funiculars, so try at least one of them. We absolutely suggest you choose the one to Belvedere Montaldo at Castelletto. You will enjoy a spectacular panorama from the top of this terrace. For the gluttonous ones, there is also a good ice cream parlor.
Boccadasse is one of our favorite places in Genoa. In Genoese dialect it’s called bócca d’aze, meaning “donkey’s mouth”, from the shape of this small harbor. Founded around the year AD 1000, it is an old mariners’ neighborhood. It’s the typical Ligurian old village, made of brightly colored houses, narrow alleys, a small beach, and boats everywhere. It’s so romantic!
Boccadasse is situated at the end of Corso Italia stroll, the main seafront street of the city. Walk Corso Italia all the way toward the east and you will easily find it. Once you get there, there are two things to do:
- Grab a drink and a generous serving of fresh fried seafood at a local shop. Then go to the beach and enjoy the best aperitivo you could ever have.
- Hang around with your camera and check all the narrow streets in the vicinity. You will fall in love with this place!
Located in the eastern part of Genoa, Nervi is one of the most beautiful, elegant neighborhoods of the city. It’s known mainly for three things:
It is the biggest park of the city. With its 92000 m2, it’s the perfect place for a stroll on lazy afternoons. The park is fresh in the summer and warm in the winter. There are more than 100 different species of plants, including several ancient trees from Brasil, Chile and China. Moreover, there are even two different communities of tree squirrels! You can bring your own walnuts and feed them as the locals do: They are friendly and cute.
absolutely the best one in Genoa. It’s long and panoramic, with dramatic cliffs and rocks above the sea. We especially love it after a storm, when the sea is rough and creates a magical dark atmosphere.
At the end of the stroll you will find this cozy little beach. The water is quite clean and there is a good bar where you can have a beer.
Camogli is a bit far from the city center, but easily reachable in 20 minutes by car or with the local trains. It’s an amazing place, so make sure to include it to the things to do in Genoa! See by yourself from the pictures below and in our gallery at the bottom of the post.
Similar to Boccadasse, it’s a lovely colored place, perfect for a walk at the sunset and having a swim. It’s the typical fishermen’s village, with an ancient church and cobblestone alleyways all around. These narrow streets are called creuza in the local dialect. They will bring you from the center of the town square to the sea.
If it’s summer, you can spend an entire day in Camogli. Go there in the late morning and lie on the beach. For lunch, you can try the local Focaccia di Recco: it’s delicious focaccia with the local sweet and sour cheese. In the afternoon, go explore the town with its beautiful harbor and old small castle. Take your time and enjoy a romantic aperitivo while watching the sunset.
9. Boat trip from the Old Port
Why don’t you do a boat tour? With Genoa by the sea, it’s easy. There are various well-planned tours, so you just need to choose the one you prefer. There is even a whale watching tour: check Whale Watch Liguria’s website for additional info.
The list of things to do in Genoa is not finished yet. If you are staying there for more days, we definitely suggest you visit the surroundings by boat.
10. Eat Pesto
Genoa is famous in the world particularly for its more representative dish: pesto, of course! It’s a delicious green sauce, that goes so good with pasta. It’s made of basil, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. You should really try it at least once: real pesto is different from that “thing” you can find in the supermarket.
There are plenty of restaurants that offer different kinds of pasta with pesto: trenette, trofie, penne, and lasagne. We warmly suggest a small restaurant for tasting the real pesto: Cavour 21, the perfect place for a lunch break during the Old Town tour. It’s an authentic informal place, with low prices and the best pesto in Genoa. Except for the one that Enrico makes at home! Soon we’ll give you the step by step recipe, so you can try to do your own.
These are the 10 things to do in Genoa so far. Have we missed something? Leave a comment below and share the article with your friends!