Italy is an incredible country to explore! However, with so many beautiful Italian cities to choose from, it can get tricky when choosing which to visit. That being said, if you’re in the north of Italy, then make sure to visit Genoa. You see, there are so many of the best things to do in Genoa dotted all across the city; making it a great stop for a city.
Look, there’s no beating around the bush, Genoa is quite an underrated Italian city to visit and often gets overlooked. I hear what you’re saying, why Genoa when you have the likes of Milan, Bologna or Lake Como relatively close by?
Well, there’s heaps of history, incredible forts and a vibrant city centre that’s great for a weekend trip.
So, to help you get the most out of your trip, I’m sharing my top places in Genoa you can’t miss. Have an amazing time exploring Italy.
1.) Cathedral Of San Lorenzo
A visit to the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is a must in Genoa. In fact, I’d go as far as saying it’s one of the best things to do in Genoa for its sheer grandeur alone.
Built in the 1100s, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo has heaps of history that’s so epic to see and stroll around today. Best of all, there are so many preserved naves, artefacts and jewels that have made up the cathedral for many centuries.
You start with the incredible doors welcoming you into the cathedral and once you’re in head over to the incredibly detailed altar. It is amazing. We loved seeing ‘The Martyrdom of St. Lawrence‘. It’s a vast painting or fresco on the top of the presbytery vault. It’s just beautiful.
To make things easier, book this 2-hour walking tour of Genoa. You’ll get to see the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, Palazzi dei Rolli and so much more. Just be sure to book this ticket before arriving in Genoa. Tickets can sell out at peak times.
2.) Old Port Of Genoa
Now like I mentioned earlier, Genoa is famous for being a port city and has been one of the most important ones in Italy so a visit to Genoa is not complete without a visit to the harbour. Plus, it’s gorgeous for an afternoon stroll.
You can do a tour dedicated to the Old Port but, I think it’s easy to do alone. Plus, it gives you ample time to stroll at your own pace and stop off for a bite to eat.
Though, make sure to leave enough time for the Genoa Aquarium. Just make sure to book this timed-entry ticket to the world-renowned Genoa Aquarium. It’s a great place to visit with the whole family and one of the largest in Northern Italy.
My recommendation would be to make plans here to coincide with lunch so you can tie in a walk along the harbour with some food and a refreshing Aperol Spritz.
3.) Piazza De Ferrari
Piazza De Ferrari is the main square in Genoa and it’s arguably one of the most beautiful spots to visit in the city.
Best of all, it’s too far from the Cathedra; so you can visit both at the same time.
Now, Genoa, in a lot of ways, can feel a little ‘rough around the edges’. That being said, Piazza De Ferrari is definitely the shinier side of the city.
Once here, make sure to explore Doge’s Palace and see the Palazzo della Borsa Valori (The Palace of the New Stock Exchange); which is stunning.
Not only that, Piazza De Ferrari is also home to one of Italy’s largest opera houses and a smattering of great spots to eat in (but perhaps a bit pricier and touristy than if you venture a little further away from the piazza).
That being said, a few streets away is Raviolhouse which is a yummy spot for freshly made ravioli for lunch.
4.) Walls of Genoa: Porta Soprana
The Walls of Genoa are one part of the city that you can’t miss. In fact, I’d say visiting the walls is one of the best things to do in Genoa as you stroll the historic boundaries of the walled city.
Now, lots of the walls date back to the 1100s to keep the city safe. That being said, nowadays, Genoa is significantly bigger but you can still see so much of the walls.
Now, if you only have time for one point, make sure to see the gates of Porta Soprana. It’s an ancient gateway into the city and an iconic gem when you’re visiting Genoa.
5. ) Christopher Columbus House
Probably one of the Western world’s most famous explorers, Christopher Columbus has a long history with Genoa. You see, this is where Columbus lived.
Now you might think Christopher Columbus and immediately think Spanish. Well, he was Italian-born and raised before heading out to sea and the Christopher Columbus House is the site where he grew up. Though, it wasn’t called that when he lived there!
Though, outside of the original Genoa Walls, the original was constructed back in the 1400s. Over time, it fell into decay and was rebuilt centuries ago and is well worth a visit today.
Better still, it is quite literally a 1-minute walk from Porto Soprana and worth visiting in one trip.
His house is in Genoa and is now an important part of the city’s history you have to visit when you’re there, especially considering the importance of Genoa as a port city.
Afterwards, head over to the Columbus Monument on the other side of the harbour. It’s not too far from the train station and easy to see when arriving or departing from Genoa by train.
Just a short trip away from the centre of Genoa is Boccadasse; a quaint fishing village that’s so beautiful to see. Now, Boccadasse is still within the wider Genoa Metropolitan area, meaning you can easily grab a taxi to head over and explore.
Now, as you might know, this region of Italy is generally famous for its colourful houses. It’s the part of Italy that’s home to the 5 colourful villages of Cinque Terre. Well, Genoa has Boccasasse, which is stunning and a great way to have that vibe without having to even leave the city.
It’s picturesque, there are restaurants (like Trattoria Osvaldo for their pasta) here to have food in and there’s even a cosy little beach here. It’s just such a colourful gem in the city and worth a visit for an afternoon trip.
7.) Carlo Felice Theatre
One thing some visitors tend to miss out on when in Italy is a visit to the theatre or the opera. Unlike places like New York or London which have theatre districts, Italian cities tend to centre around 1 or two main theatres and Genoa is no different in that respect.
Best of all, iconic venues, like the Carlo Felice Theatre, tend to have incredible operatic performances and even if you don’t speak the language, it’s still worth visiting for a dip into Italian culture. After all, La Boheme is performed in Italian, even if you’re watching it in London or New York.
As with most theatre performances, planning is important. Decide what show you want to see before you visit and also lock down the tickets to avoid disappointment when visiting Genoa.
8.) Palazzo Reale
Palazzo Reale is a Royal palace built for the Balbi family in the 1600s and visiting is one of the best things to do in Genoa whilst visiting the port area.
Once here, make sure to go inside Palazzo Reale, which now houses a gorgeous museum showcasing the long history of Genoa.
As you can imagine, Genoa’s history as a port city led to a lot of wealth in the city (historically) and places like this in Genoa (albeit built a few centuries after its heydays as one of the wealthiest cities in the world) showcase how Genoa’s wealthiest families used to live.
The rooms are incredibly details and beautiful and it’s just such a masterpiece in the city.
9.) Via Garibaldi
Via Garibaldi in Genoa is a street like no other in Genoa, so much so that is now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
So why is Via Garibaldi famous or even important? Well, this street was built by the aristocrats in Genoa during the Renaissance and is home to so many of the city’s palaces. This along makes it one of the best things to do in Genoa and is easily one of the grandest streets in the city.
Once here, stop by the art museum of Palazzo Bianco which houses centuries of work that’s great for an hour’s visit.
Also, don’t forget about Palazzo Gerolamo Grimaldi. It houses the most stunning frescoes which are just beautiful. Keep your eyes peeled for Apollo on the Chariot which was painted by Lazzaro Calvi.
You can also pop into Rosso Palace, with one ticket getting you in all three palaces whilst on Via Garibaldi.
10.) Forte Diamante
Just on the fringes of Genoa are heaps of historic forts to visit. From Forte Begato, Forte Puin and Forte Diamante. The latter is my firm favourite and one of the best things to do in Genoa if you’re looking for a hike.
You see, it’s a historic defensive fort that overlooks the region and towards the Genoan coast and the hike is quite invigorating, to say the least.
It’s around 30-45 minutes (one way) and quite tough in the summer sun. Just make sure to pack plenty of water and snacks for your trip.
Around a 20-minute drive from the harbour of Genoa, Bogliaso is a gorgeous coastal area of the city that’s further down the coast.
The area is small but totally cosy and has one of the best gelato’s we’ve had this side of Italy at Nughene il gelato. Their pistachio gelato is so good.
Bogliasco also has a little beach, Spiaggia Libera, which is too busy for my liking but totally great for a little dip if you’re getting too hot!
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