What to do in Genoa if you are on holiday here for the first time?
Do you have only a few available days and want optimize your time?
Do not worry: I will answer to this ...and even more in this article.
Since I have open my B&B, I happened to find the same curiosity in my guests:
- What are the things to do in Genoa?
- What are the Genoa attractions?
- Could you tell me what to see in Genoa and its surrounding area?
Since I have had the fortune to be born in this place, one of the best cities of Italy, so why not make a list of the 10 best things to do in Genoa at least once in the lifetime.
Are you ready to start?
However, before continuing the article, there is an important thing you have to know.
If you have planned to visit Genoa, you should know that it is nearly impossible to find a free parking space in downtown area.
Therefore, if you are going to visit with your car, I suggest you look for a B&B or a hotel having a valet parking.
I am the operator of the B&B Al Centro di Genova. Such a B&B is located about five hundred meters from the central station of Genoa, and it has a private garage. In the event that you are interested in it, click here to know more:
1) Start visiting the Old Port:
Ivano Fossati used to say, “Who looks at Genoa has to know that Genoa can be seen from the sea only”.
That is because Genoa is a thin and long city closed between the sea and mountains, which are sloping straight down to the Mediterranean Sea; it has one side only: the sea one.
To get an idea of what the city is, you should guess it from the sea, find out its geometrical and vertical lines, enter the Old Port, and try to conquer it...if you can; -)
Therefore, start visiting the Old Port of Genoa that is the heart and soul of the city.
Within this area, you will find many attractions: I suggest you get on the Bigo (an observation lift) or go up the Lanterna (the Genoa symbol as far back as the Middle Age).
From such observation points, you will be able to have an idea of the boundless extension of the Port, and enjoy a breathtaking view!
2) Visit the Aquarium of Genoa and the Museum of the Sea:
AQUARIUM OF GENOA
After visiting the Old Port, make for the Aquarium of Genoa that is the greatest in Italy and the second one in Europe (second to that of Valencia).
Once entering the structure lights get low and the sunlight of the Old Port turns into seabed light, and after going a few steps, you will find yourself in a wonderful and inspiring aquatic environment.
During the first part of the visit, you will see dolphins, seals, sharks, and many other less-well-known species of fishes; in the second part you will find yourself in typical fauna environment of Madagascar, and see, from a strong green colour, prehistoric reptiles, reddish frogs, crocodiles and a lot of varieties of indescribable-colour fishes.
You will feel as if you are literally projected under water.
GALATA: THE MUSEUM OF THE SEA
Remaining within the Old Port, I suggest you visit the “Galata – The Museum of the Sea”: it is a summary of the city history, from the first merchant ships, propelled by oars strength of galley slaves, to great ocean liners.
Do not be fooled by the term "museum": it is much more than a museum! It is a very entertaining and interactive experience for both adults and children.
When entering it you will find yourself surrounded by twenty-three interactive and very entertaining rooms that make you understand the meaning of the sea and “travel” in all various ages.
Through interactive attractions, there will be the possibility of “experiencing” life of sea at first hand. You will be able to look into the historic memories of Genoa (from the Maritime Republic and Christopher Columbus), to end up with the room that attracted me more than others: The show "La Merica". It tell us travels towards America that our ancestors made looking for a new life.
You will be able to experience the fear, courage and hope of ocean travellers, live first-hand their difficulties, and perceive the vivid mirage that they chased by going to America so far away.
In my opinion, only this room is worth the full-price thicket.
3) Walking among the roads of one of the greatest Historical Centres of Europe
The historical centre has maintained its unique character through alleys, churches and historic stores, in spite of the city development.
Walk among the alleys and taste the air, you will feel as if you are transported back to a more than one thousand years ago.
4) Find out Strada Nuova, World Heritage of Unesco
Alleys are charming, but Strada Nuova is indeed the best that the Superba shows.
The magnificence of these buildings, built up between 1500 and 1700, has always charmed the travellers from the entire world. Genoese noblemen loved surrounding with frescos, furniture, works fit for a king. Now, you can visit them by entering the more beautiful buildings of Strada Nuova (Via Garibaldi)
5) Look at Genoa from high above the city
If you are visiting Genoa, you have to know that there is a way to appreciate its beauty: look at it from above.
You will find many observation points; one is different from the other, but equally breathtaking. I am going to list my two favourite ones below; you can easily reach them on foot or on public transport being they in central area:
A fantastic “balcony” over the Historical Centre from where you can enjoy a view on the whole city and port.
Getting there takes a minute: reach Piazza Portello and get on the lift of Castelletto.
In few seconds, you will arrive at destination and be able to enjoy an ice cream or drink a coffee admiring the slate roofs and typical small balconies of the old historical centre houses, the port, the Lanterna, and the sea.
My opinion? You have not absolutely to miss it.
THE TERRACE OF PALAZZO ROSSO
Not many know this city wonder (I have known it myself for a few years 🙂 )
It is a rooftop terrace located on the roof of Palazzo Rosso, one of the more beautiful historic houses of Strada Nuova. By going up onto the terrace, you will find yourself into the middle of the historical and greatest-of Europe centre, and indeed be able to enjoy a “superb” view!
6) Taste the focaccia, farinata and pasta al pesto
Wherever you are, during your visit in Genova, you will find a bakery or a trattoria where you can taste the dishes of Genoa. The most famous (and most tasteful) are:
1. Genoese Focaccia
2. Pasta al Pesto
4. Pansoti with walnut sauce
5. Torta Pasqualina
6. Genoese Pandolce fruitcake
7. ... and much more
To taste one of such dishes, I suggest you to visit one of our typical markets:
There are dozens of such markets in Genoa, but the most famous is the Mercato Orientale that is located in the city centre; it is the ideal place to smell and taste our food products: olives, cheeses, vegetables, and legumes of any kind.
At the Mercato del Carmine, instead, they will teach you to prepare the authentic Genoese Pesto, as people used to do in the old days.
If you want to try all these specialities but you don't have the time, have a look to the best Genoese food tour, click here
7) Play a bit of sport as a real Genoese man:
It is a scenic 5km-long promenade that flanks the sea. It is the destination of runners with their families and children who like to arrive up to Boccadasse, which is a wonderful fishing village.
You can find it in about ten minutes from the city centre, and it is another Genoa place loved by local runners. If you want to play a bit of running, begin your route from a small red house (the head office of the sport club Associazione Podistica Peralto, just after the Richetto’s restaurant) and run into the running path. Going along this path, you find yourself surrounded by maritime pines and rocks. At the end of the path, you will be able to enjoy a breathtaking landscape.
RIGHI’S ADVENTURE PARK
If you are on holyday with your family, you can take your children to the Righi Adventure Park. It is completely among trees on the hills of Genoa, where you can jump from a tree to the other; try staying on hung platforms, Tibetan bridges, pulleys and ropes in a play of balance and concentration. It is very amusing for adults too!
8) Devote a whole day for an outing to the Forts
Rising your eyes towards the hills, you cannot avoid to see the imposing building dominating hills.
Those are the Genoa Forts: a group of fortresses that remind us of medieval castles, and are one of the best interest places of Genoa.
They were built in 1600 over the medieval walls that surrounded the city, and were even used by military architects in Germany and France.
These were twenty kilometres-long city walls forming the longer fortification in the world after the Great Wall of China.
Genoa is a city closed between mountings and the sea; therefore, it is very easy to reach the top without going a long distance. The best way to reach the top is to take the famous Train of Casella: a two-coach convoy that departs from Piazza Manin, travels for about 25km, cross the Apennines and terminate in Casella.
After arriving there, you will seem to have travelled for a long distance, but actually, you are not far from town centre.
Forts are a charming route around the city; they are an interesting area of Genoa to see, where you can practice hiking or ride a bike.
If you have time, I suggest you to spend a day to find out this area of Genoa (weather permitting).
9) Find out one of the more beautiful promenade of Italy (Nervi), and a small fishing village (Boccadasse)
If you happen to get tired of the bustle and bustle of the city, and you want to have a few moments of peace, walk along Corso Italia promenade and make for Boccadasse, a small fishing village having a little beach surrounded by tight buildings situated quite near the sea.
The sea is not so much transparent, but Boccadasse is the best place to relax in a little beach or by walking around its small roads tasting one of the most tasteful ice cream of Genoa that you may buy at the Antica Gelateria Amedeo.
It is the place for a romantic aperitif or an evening walk in the adjacent Corso Italia.
Take a train or a bus and make for the East area of Genoa; you will find yourself in Nervi, which is a chic and aristocratic district, and have one of the most beautiful promenade in Italy (The Gateway Turismo.it even defined it as the most beautiful in the world!).
Go all over this two-kilometer-long promenade made of red bricks; from here enter the Nervi Park, which is a field of green grass where you can lie on it, play ball, put a picnic, run or see the squirrels already got used to tourists who feed them with walnuts and dried fruit.
10) Finish your day with an evening in the alleys
To stick to the subject about aperitif, end your visit in Genoa with an evening in the alleys.
This city historic area is full of clubs and bars now; it has turned into the hearth of the Genoese movida.
Enjoy an aperitif in company, and keep on having a drink all night among the alleys of this wonderful city.
Genoa is a wonderful city
Behind every corner, in the middle of every alley, if you raise your eyes to the sky you'll see details of sumptuous palaces which are invisible to the distracted eye, and if you have the correct curiosity, you'll find things that'll attract your attention and will amaze you!
If you ever come to Genoa and you need any insider's travel tips, just let me know.
Contact me here: Contact Andrea or leave a comment in the box below.
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