23 Best Things to do in Genoa, Italy (with Map)

Although it is usually overlooked in favor of other Italian cities, Genoa has more than enough to keep you occupied for a few days. Lying along the Ligurian Sea, the grubby yet grand city has loads of elegant palaces and art-decked churches to visit.

Long one of the Mediterranean’s most important ports, it thrived for centuries as a powerful maritime republic. During this time, staggering riches poured in, fueling the construction of evermore elaborate palaces, piazze and churches. Filled with phenomenal frescoes, artworks and statues, this earned the city its nickname ‘La Superba’.

While much of it now sadly appears quite run down, still one of the most fun things to do in Genoa is getting lost amidst its ‘caruggi’ – narrow alleys home to hidden treasures and architectural gems. The city’s waterfront area also has a world-class aquarium, maritime museum and historic ships to check out among other tourist attractions. A fascinating place, Genoa can easily be visited alongside the popular Portofino and Le Cinque Terre.

Where to Stay in Genoa

Among the best places to stay in the city are the streets around the waterfront and along the vibrant Via XX Settembre. Innumerable accommodation options can also be found around its two main train stations in the east and west of town. You may want to avoid staying in the caruggi though as many people feel unsafe amidst them, especially after dark.

Thanks to its almost unbeatable location and exquisite decor, the Hotel Bristol Palace has long been a favorite with visitors to Genoa. Located along Via XX Settembre, right by Piazza De Ferrari, it was established in 1904 in a turn-of-the-century palace. Aside from its very stylish, spacious rooms, the four-star hotel also has a classy restaurant, bar and terrace to enjoy. The highlight though has to be its astonishing elliptical staircase which spirals its way up through the building.

In the historic center of Genoa, not far from the Old Port, is the excellent Hotel Le Nuvole Residenza d’Epoca . Despite being located in a charming thirteenth-century building, all its rooms and common areas are very modern, clean and comfy. Guests can also enjoy complimentary tea and an afternoon buffet in its airy lounge. With everything so nearby, the three-star hotel is another great option

How to get there

Genoa Train Station

Lying right in the northwest of Italy alongside the Gulf of Genoa, the city is served by the Christopher Columbus Airport. This has daily flights to countless destinations around the country and the rest of Europe. A bus whisks you from its terminals to the center in just twenty minutes.

From Genoa’s two main train stations, you can also easily travel to Milan, Turin, Rome and Tuscany. Other regional trains take you to popular spots like Cinque Terre and Portofino in around an hour. Buses also depart regularly for both cities in Italy and further afield.

Cruise ships and ferries also often dock at its busy port. These could be from Barcelona and Bastia or Tangier, Tunis and Palermo.

Another option for reaching the city is to drive with motorways connecting you to Nice and Monaco to the west, Milan to the north and La Spezia, Pisa and Florence to the east.

Once you arrive, many sights should be within walking distance of your accommodation. If not, there are plenty of bus and metro lines crisscrossing their way across the entire city.

Map of Things to do in Genoa, Italy

23. Torri di Porta Soprana

Torri di Porta Soprana

One of Genoa’s main symbols and sights, the Torri di Porta Soprana are by far the most impressive part of its ancient city walls. Rebuilt numerous times over the centuries, its two slender stone towers make for some fantastic photos and viewing.

Once one of the main entrances to the Old Town, the monumental gate was erected in 1155, around the rise of the Genoese Republic. Topped by crenelations, its semicircular towers lie either side of its narrow but high arched gateway.

After passing through the historic Porta Soprana and taking photos of its fine features, there is plenty to see nearby. Right next to it for instance is Christopher Columbus’ childhood home and the charming ruined cloisters of the Monastery of Sant’Andrea.

22. Palazzo Rosso

Palazzo Rosso

Lying right in the historic heart of town along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is the very picturesque Palazzo Rosso. Now home to an excellent art collection, the house museum is instantly recognisable due to its bright red facade.

Built between 1671 and 1677 for the Brignole Sale family, its stately rooms still contain many of their original furnishings and decorations. As such, marvelous marble staircases and grand hallways lead to lavish apartments coated in fabulous frescos and ceiling paintings.

Adorning its walls are plenty of important paintings while antique furniture, statues and period pieces also decorate the immense mansion. Among its many masterpieces are works by renowned artists such as Palma Vecchio, Durer and van Dyck. For its architecture, artworks fine furniture pieces and frescos, Palazzo Rosso was one of the best museums we visited in Genoa.

21. Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola

A couple of minutes walk away is yet another gorgeous building to explore from Genoa’s glory days. Full of stunning statues, paintings, furniture and frescoes, Galleria Nazionale di Palazzo Spinola really is a must-visit for art lovers.

Hidden away amongst the narrow alleys of the sailors’ quarter, the ornate aristocratic residence was one of the Palazzi dei Rolli selected to house notable guests of the Republic of Genoa. Completed in 1593, its striking Mannerist-style facade gives way to opulent rooms featuring carved marble, mosaic floors and sparkling chandeliers.

Other than admiring all its remarkable ceiling paintings and resplendent rooms, you can also peruse phenomenal artworks by Flemish masters and Italian Renaissance artists. Often overlooked, the tastefully decorated palace and its enticing treasures are well worth stopping by if you have the time.

20. Anita Garibaldi Promenade

Anita Garibaldi Promenade

Rightfully described as one of Italy’s most beautiful promenades, Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi winds its way along the ocean cliffs east of Genoa. Passing by the small fishing village of Nervi, it offers up some spectacular views over Liguria’s lovely coastline.

Overlooking dramatic rock formations, secluded coves and some small beaches, the pedestrian path stretches roughly two kilometers in length. Backing it too are handsome hillside mansions set amidst lush, landscaped gardens.

Besides sauntering along taking in the sublime sea views, you can also stop off to swim or snorkel at some spots. A couple of traditional little bars and restaurants can also be found along its meandering route. Very peaceful and pretty, its sweeping panoramas over the romantic-looking Nervi and glinting waters of the Mediterranean are simply out of this world.

19. Mercato Orientale

Mercato Orientale

In contrast to the quiet, calm promenade, the massive Mercato Orientale buzzes with energy and life almost the entire day. Located right by Piazza Colombo along Via XX Settembre, its stands sell fresh food products and specialty dishes from all around Italy.

First opened back in 1899, the indoor marketplace actually occupies what was once meant to be the cloisters of the much older monastery alongside it. Only recently renovated, it looks very stylish with elegant arches and open windows overlooking its chic central food court. Here you can try all kinds of local focaccia and pesto dishes or delicious Kenyan, Mexican and Japanese ones.

There are also tons of stalls to examine, selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to regional cheeses, meats and seafood. A foodie’s paradise, it is a great place to pick up tasty gifts or bottles of wine to take home.

18. Santa Maria di Castello

Santa Maria di Castello

Just to the south of the Old Port is the art-filled Basilica di Santa Maria di Castello; one of the oldest churches in the whole city. While its imposing facade may look quite plain, inside there are majestic frescoes, marble floors and paintings to enjoy.

Perched atop Castello Hill where the bishop’s fortified palace was once found, the Romanesque-style church has existed in some form or another since at least the ninth-century. Presided over by both its bell tower and the enormous Torre degli Embriaci, its atmospheric chapels and cloisters are a treat to amble around.

Decorating its attractive interior are scores of fine artworks commissioned by the main noble families of Genoa. Particularly noteworthy are the church’s magnificent marble altar, colourful painted ceilings and Giusto d’Alemagna’s eye-catching Annunciation fresco from 1451. The three-story cloisters of its old convent also attract lots of attention.

If you’re lucky, a church volunteer may take you on a guided tour of the basilica, pointing out its most interesting and important features. We found it very illuminating as we learnt a lot about the history of the city at the same time. A hidden gem, it was certainly one of the most beautiful churches we came across in Genoa.

17. Via XX Settembre

Via XX Settembre

The city’s main street, the vibrant Via XX Settembre is lined by loads of grand buildings now home to countless shops, restaurants and cafes. Along with Corso Italia, it is one of the most popular places to walk along with locals and tourists alike.

Connecting Piazza della Vittoria to Piazza De Ferrari, its pavements and roads extend just under a kilometer in length. Long porticoes run along both sides in places while some exquisite Art Nouveau palaces also overlook the busy thoroughfare.

Even if you don’t come for its big brand-name shops and designer boutiques, there are more than enough incredible old buildings to admire. You can also pop in the Mercato Orientale, snap photos of the Monumental Bridge or explore all the small streets branching off to either side.

16. Staglieno Cemetery

Staglieno Cemetery

If you’re after even more impressive architecture and artwork, make sure to head to the scenic and serene Staglieno Cemetery. Just a fifteen minute drive or bus journey north of town, it is famed for its ornate tombs and monumental sculptures.

One of the largest cemeteries in all of Europe, its many memorials and mausoleums sprawl across a leafy hillside. Tucked away amidst its gorgeous lawns and groves of trees are thousands of graves, many home to important figures and affluent Genoese. To commemorate their achievements and artistic talents, sculptors like Rubino, Canonica and Bistolfi erected ever more elaborate tombs.

Amidst all its arched walkways and porticoes, you’ll find Art Nouveau, Byzantine and Gothic chapels among others. At the center of the cemetery is a superb statue of Faith and a long marble staircase leading up to its domed Pantheon nestled amongst the trees. Fascinating to explore, it is also home to Giuseppe Mazzini’s final resting place – Italy’s independence hero and a Genoa native.

15. Caruggi


One of those must things to do in Genoa, the maze of claustrophobic streets and tiny squares are remarkably the largest historic center in Europe. Squeezed between the surrounding hills and sea, the ‘caruggi’ are exciting to get lost in with new sights, shops and architectural treasures hidden around every corner.

Over the centuries, rich merchants and noble families constructed hundreds of ostentatious palaces and townhouses alongside its alleys. Almost blotting out the sky, their colourful facades tower above the crooked streets below which suddenly open out onto small squares and splendid churches.

When exploring its warren of historical houses, you’ll stumble across little artisans’ shops and cafes only frequented by locals. Although much of the area is quite grimy, we found it utterly enchanting as it almost feels as if you’ve stepped back in time to the Middle Ages. We also took some great photos here of its charming streetscapes with Piazza Banchi being one of our favorite stops.

14. Palazzo Doria Tursi

Palazzo Doria Tursi

Just a few minutes walk from the square is the decadent Palazzo Doria Tursi; the largest and many say loveliest along Via Giuseppe Garibaldi. Now open to the public as a museum, it has also housed the city hall since 1848.

Boasting a stunning Mannerist-style facade flanked by large loggias, the palace was originally built in 1565 for Niccolo Grimaldi – the main banker to Philip II of Spain. Only befitting such a powerful and wealthy noble family, the massive mansion’s rooms are lavishly decorated with frescoes and artworks. The highlight though has to be its two-floor courtyard which makes for some fabulous photos.

On display in its galleries are a rather odd assortment of artifacts, including old coins, ceramics and paintings. Of most interest, however, are its exhibits on Niccolo Paganini – one of the most renowned violinists of his time. While the collection was otherwise underwhelming, the palace itself provides an invaluable look at the Republic of Genoa’s golden era.

13. D’Albertis Castle

D'Albertis Castle

Home to an incredible array of ethnographic and archaeological findings, D’Albertis Castle lies just a fifteen minute walk north of the Old Port. Set atop Galletto hill, its ruddy red ramparts and tower also offer spellbinding views over the city and Ligurian Sea.

Exhibiting some extraordinary Gothic Revival-style architecture, the fairytale-like castle was erected in 1893 atop the foundations of a fourteenth-century fort. The former home of eccentric explorer and sea captain Enrico Alberto d’Albertis, it now contains the Museum of World Cultures.

Based upon the personal collection amassed during his travels, its weapons, costumes and statues hail everywhere from Australia and the Americas to Africa and Oceania. Delightfully displayed, they look every bit as unique as the manor’s imaginative rooms, staircases and hallways. A special place to stop by, the castle also has verdant gardens and phenomenal views for visitors to enjoy.

12. Corso Italia

Corso Italia

Speaking of views, some of the best in town can be enjoyed along the iconic Corso Italia which runs its way alongside the city’s shimmering seafront. As you stroll along, you’ll pass various lidos and the Ligurian Sea with pretty palazzi and bars also backing it.

Hugging the shores of the Albaro neighborhood just east of the centre, it stretches roughly two and a half kilometers to the beautiful fishing village of Boccadasse. Crowded year-round with Genoese, it is a very popular spot to walk, run, jog or cycle by the sea.

Aside from exercising and taking in its fantastic views and architecture, there are high-end seafood restaurants and cocktail bars to check out. The promenade also passes swimming pools and private beaches if you fancy a quick dip. Some interesting historic sights are also dotted along like the Punta Vagno lighthouse and 1282 San Giuliano Abbey.

11. Palazzo Ducale

Palazzo Ducale

Right in the heart of the city is yet another of Genoa’s architectural gems. Now a cultural centre, the Neoclassical-style Palazzo Ducale has numerous temporary exhibitions and opulent art-filled rooms to explore. Dominating Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, it lies between both the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and Piazza De Ferrari.

Once the home of the Doges of Genoa, construction of the extravagant mansion began at the end of the thirteenth-century. This was when the seaport was slowly consolidating its military and economic power in the Mediterranean.

Once past its marvelous marble facade, you’ll find elegant courtyards, halls and exhibition spaces. These often house temporary installations and artworks by big names such as Banksy, Rubens, van Gogh and Monet among others. Perhaps most impressive though is its Baroque-style chapel which is completely coated in frescoes celebrating illustrious characters and glories from the republic.

10. Old Port

Old Port

As the city’s history, heritage and culture are so tied to that of the sea, you just have to amble about its Old Port at some point or another. Now home to all kinds of attractions and dining establishments, it was from here that many merchants and explorers set forth in centuries gone by.

Known in Italian as the Porto Antico, the secluded harbor played a key role in Genoa becoming one of the Mediterranean’s maritime powers. Whereas it was once merchants’ vessels and warships that docked here, nowadays yachts and pleasure boats bob about its waters. There is also a replica of a seventeenth-century Spanish galleon to see here.

Other than its excellent aquarium, there is a maritime museum, art gallery and mural-coated palazzo to visit. Along its lively palm-lined promenade, you’ll also find a biosphere full of tropical plants, birds and butterflies. Its soaring Bigo lift also offers up sweeping panoramas over the city and sea. With so many seafront bars, restaurants and shops to try out, the happening area ended up being one of our favorite parts of the city.

9. Via Giuseppe Garibaldi

Via Giuseppe Garibaldi

While the countless caruggi beside it are rather gritty and grimy, Via Giuseppe Garibaldi is anything but as grandiose palaces line it the whole way along. Set just north of the sailors’ quarter, its narrow flagstones are a treat to stroll along for all its breathtaking Baroque buildings.

Originally known as Strada Maggiore or Strada Nuova, the 250 meter-long street was laid out in the sixteenth-century. All along it, the Genoese aristocrats erected suburban villas and palaces, outdoing each other with their extraordinary facades. Further embellished with arcades and loggias, balconies and frescos, they now all make for some amazing photos.

Many of these magnificent buildings were listed as the Rolli di Genoa – fancy private residences that hosted important foreign dignitaries visiting the city. While they all exhibit some sublime architecture, only three are open to the public. Palazzo Rosso, Bianco and Tursi, their art collections and interiors can all be visited with the Strada Nuova Museums card.

8. Boccadasse


Very different from the center of the city, the former fishing village of Boccadasse can be found at the eastern end of Corso Italia. Peaceful and picturesque, all its pastel-colored houses, trattorie and ice cream parlors cluster about a small cove and pebble beach.

Once you reach the small Church of St. Anthony right at the end of the promenade, you can drink in divine views of Boccadasse before you. A photographer’s dream, its huddle of bright buildings stands out delightfully against the blue skies and waters around them.

After snapping some photos, you can wander around town or enjoy some dinner or drinks at one of its terraces. If you want to lounge on the beach, you may have to fight for a spot as its warm pebbles get quite crowded in summer.

Although there is not all that much to do here, we’re still glad we got to visit Boccadasse. After all the days spent sightseeing in the Old Town, sauntering along by the sea and stopping for an aperitif was a very welcome change of pace.

7. Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato

Santissima Annunziata del Vastato

Along with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and Santa Maria di Castello, the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata del Vastato is one of the most stunning churches in the city. Located just a stone’s throw from Palazzo Reale, it has some eye-catching artworks and architecture for you to examine.

While work began on the church in 1520, it was only in the seventeenth-century that its rich Baroque decorations were added. While its immense Neoclassical facade already looks arresting, inside truly is an artistic treasure trove. Decorating its side chapels are elaborate altars and paintings while rows of Corinthian columns prop up its roof and rotunda.

Stealing the show, however, are its glittering golden ceilings that boast some of the finest frescoes that we’ve ever seen. Absolutely gobsmacking, they depict lots of Biblical scenes in great detail and vivid colors. A must-visit, its frescoes were so riveting we almost developed a neckache from staring up at them so long!

6. Spianata Castelletto

Spianata Castelletto

For some of the best panoramic views over both the gritty city and glinting Gulf of Genoa, head up to Spianata Castelletto. Lying just ten minutes from the basilica, the hill rises high above Via Giuseppe Garibaldi and its royal residences below.

Due to its strategic setting overlooking the harbor, a fort stood here from the tenth to the nineteenth century. Its name in Italian ‘small castle’ actually derives from this with the belvedere having replaced the dismantled fortifications.

To reach its shady courtyard and sweeping viewpoints, either pant your way up a steep hill or take a public lift from Piazza del Portello. At the top, you can gaze over the city’s rooftops and watch sleek cruise ships sailing in and out of the harbor.

5. Piazza Raffaele De Ferrari

Piazza Raffaele De Ferrari

The heart and soul of life in Genoa, the grand Piazza Raffaele De Ferrari is bordered by many of its most important and impressive buildings. Renowned for its big bronze fountain, it lies in between the historic and modern centers of the city.

Quite unusually shaped, the current layout of the large square dates to the first two decades of the twentieth-century. While three busy streets – Via XX Settembre, Via Dante and Vita Petrarca – join at its eastern edge, eclectic palaces and Neoclassical buildings surround the rest of it. Among the most astounding of these are the Palazzo Ducale, Teatro Carlo Felice, and Palazzo della Borsa Valori.

Dominating its center is of course the giant bronze basin and spurting jets of its fountain; one of the symbols of the city. After ambling about the piazza and admiring its palazzi, you can set off along Via XX Settembre, shop in the gorgeous Giuseppe Mazzini gallery or see Columbus’ childhood home.

4. Cathedral of San Lorenzo

Cathedral of San Lorenzo

Right next to the square too is the dramatic-looking Cathedral of San Lorenzo – yet another of Genoa’s unmissable architectural masterpieces. Rather reminiscent of the duomos in Siena and Florence, its black, white, green and pink striped facade is awe-inspiring to gaze up at.

Dedicated to Saint Lawrence, the colossal cathedral was consecrated in 1118 and boasts a delightful mix of Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architectural styles. Above its three pretty portals are a wonderful rose window and one tall belltower – the other never having been completed.

Inside though is where it really dazzles as vast frescoes, stained-glass windows and statues decorate its ceiling and walls. Even more jewellery and silverware are displayed in its museum with the relics of San Lorenzo also kept here.

3. Galata Museo del Mare

Galata Museo del Mare

For those interested in learning all about the city’s history, a visit to the Galata Museo del Mare is an absolute must. Appropriately located down by the waterfront, its artifacts and exhibits cover over six centuries of the maritime republic’s relationship with the sea.

The largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean, it occupies a ginormous modern building in the Porto Antico area. Opened in 2004, its four floors are packed with amazingly old maps, model ships and navigational equipment. Its well-done exhibits also shine a light on everything from Christopher Columbus and the Age of Discoveries to the rise of the Republic of Genoa. Others are dedicated to sailing and shipbuilding or storms, shipwrecks and sailors’ lives at sea.

Very immersive, it has a seventeenth-century Genoese galley and a much more modern Italian Navy submarine to tour about. Although more information could definitely be provided in English, we loved exploring the museum and couldn’t recommend it enough. We really learnt a lot here both about the history of Genoa and that of navigating in general. Some great views of the harbor can also be had from its rooftop terrace.

2. Palazzo Reale

Palazzo Reale

Just a short walk from the museum is probably the most attractive and ostentatious of all the seaside city’s palaces. Full of fabulous antique furniture and intricately-detailed frescos, the popular Palazzo Reale has an absolutely majestic hall of mirrors, ballroom and throne room to wander around.

Initially built for the immensely wealthy Balbi family in 1655, the bright red and white palace was later enlarged by other owners before eventually being sold to the House of Savoy. Now preserved as a museum, its regal rooms highlight how the Genoese aristocracy used to live in centuries gone by.

Sumptuously decorated, its marble staircases and halls all feature some marvelous stuccowork and frescoes. Decorative vases, sculptures and portraits also line the colorfully painted walls of its stately apartments while crystal chandeliers hang overhead. Already a treat for the eyes, the palace’s broad terrace also has commanding views to enjoy over Genoa.

1. Aquarium of Genoa

Aquarium of Genoa

Back by Porto Antico is arguably Genoa’s standout tourist attraction: the enormous Aquarium of Genoa. A firm favorite with families, its expansive exhibits and tanks are home to thousands of fish, reptiles, birds and marine mammals.

One of the largest in Europe, the aquarium was opened in time for Genoa Expo ’92 which celebrated 500 years since Christopher Columbus discovered the New World. Fittingly enough, its many marine and freshwater displays occupy a huge boat-shaped building along the waterfront. In total, it houses a staggering 15,000 specimens of more than 500 different species.

On show are not just shimmering shoals of fish but playful dolphins, penguins and seals too. Sharks and stingrays also feature as do great big jellyfish, sea turtles and sea cows. As educational as it is entertaining, the aquarium really is a must-visit when in Genoa.

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