15 Best Things to Do in Genoa (Italy)

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Genoa is a vast sprawling city that sits in the Gulf of Genoa on the Ligurian Sea in the North western region of Italy. With a current central population of 588,000 and a greater metropolitan population of 1.5 million, Genoa is the 6th largest city in the country and also one of the most important economic centres. A staple of the city is its immense port and shipyards that have been present since the 19th century. As with many regions in Italy, Genoa has been inhabited by humans for thousands of years and its natural harbour was used by both the Romans and Etruscans.

Genoa had a close association with the Holy Roman Empire and was known for its ferocious fleet of sailors and warriors during the Middle Ages. In later periods, the city saw a decline due to shifting trade routes, and was then annexed as part of the Napoleonic Empire. In modern times it serves once again as an important part of Italy.

Get the 24/48 Hour Genova Museum Card for free access to 22 museums and public transport (with the bus add-on)

Due to the cities illustrious history, Genoa has a host of welcoming Piazzas, decorative palaces and fantastic churches; it offers a variety of first class tourist attractions together with opportunities for shopping and fine dining.

Lets explore the best things to do in Genoa:

1. Piazza De Ferrari

Piazza De FerrariSource: flickr
Piazza De Ferrari

Located in the centre of the old town in the Molo district, the Piazza De Ferrari is one of the central points of Genoa and offers a myriad of different sights.

The main feature of the Piazza is the large ornate fountain – This fountain has a series of water jets that spray into a central basin and forms a lovely symmetrical shape and cascade of water.

Surrounding the fountain are a number of important buildings including the Palace of the Doges, the Carlo Felice Theatre, the Genoa stock exchange and the Palace of the Duke of Galleria.

Admire the diferent building and 19th century architecture, throw a coin into the fountain or site and watch the locals go about their business.

Alternatively there are several small restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating to relax in.

2. Porta Soprana

Porta SopranaSource: wikipedia
Porta Soprana

Genoa is known for its once expansive city wall – over the years, the walls were expanded and enclosed much of the city, infact, they were the longest city walls in Italy.

Part of this bygone area still stands today in the form of the Porta Soprana gatehouse and towers.

These two towers are only a short walk from the Piazza De Ferrari and are easily visible from many parts of the city.

Flanking the arched gateway, the two towers are circular and topped with crenulations and provide a wonderful photographic opportunity.

3. Piazza Matteotti

Piazza MatteottiSource: wikimedia
Piazza Matteotti

Although situated right next to the Piazza De Ferrari, the Piazza Matteotti is a wonderful location in its own right and features a range of historical buildings and sights.

Doges Palace sits at one of the of square and is a truly opulent building framed by a series of stone columns, whilst at the other end sits the fabulous San Lorenzo Cathedral.

Furthermore, markets are often held here and you can pick up a great bargain after haggling with the locals.

Finally there is also the Church of Saint Ambrogio which is a fantastic building which an ornate interior.

4. San Lorenzo Cathedral

San Lorenzo CathedralSource: flickr
San Lorenzo Cathedral

More commonly known as Genoa Cathedral, the church of San Lorenzo is a fantastic building and is often overlooked.

The architecture is reminiscent of Florence Cathedral and features a similar striped marble and stone front façade – The colours are fantastic with greens, pinks, blacks and whites.

Created in 1118, this church has stood for hundreds of years and its interior is truly awe-inspiring.

Inside, the ceiling is immensely decorated with frescos and beautifully coloured artwork.

Furthermore, the pink marble columns frame the central altar perfectly.

Furthermore there is also some magnificent paintings including the Martyrdom of St. Lawrence by Lazzaro Tavarone.

5. Genoa Aquarium

Genoa AquariumSource: flickr
Genoa Aquarium

Located next to the Piazza Carciamento in the main harbour area, the Aquarium is a brilliant location for all the family.

Contained within this building is a myriad of different marine life including varieties of fishes, sharks, dolphins, turtles and Jellyfish.

Two central themes are creatures of the Ligurian Sea (the sea that Genoa harbour extends onto) and the environment of the North Atlantic Ocean.

All of the displays and tanks are well maintained and spacious, and the environments have been recreated faithfully to give the animals everything they need in terms of climate and habitation.

Skip-the-Line ticket available online: Aquarium of Genoa Full-Day Entrance Ticket

6. Genoa Maritime Museum

Genoa Maritime MuseumSource: flickr
Genoa Maritime Museum

As Genoa was a major naval power during the 16th-19th centuries; it stands to reason that the city should contain one of the largest Maritime museums in Europe.

This museum is a truly interesting and insightful place and contains four floors of historical artefacts, reconstructions and displays.

One room contains a display of various globes and atlases from different time periods, whilst another hosts a reconstructed galley ship.

Alternatively, rooms on the second floor feature reproductions of shipwrecks and a myriad of naval instruments.

Furthermore, an Italian military Submarine resides in the adjacent dock and tours are provided of this fantastic vessel.

7. Forte Begato

Forte BegatoSource: flickr
Forte Begato

This hillside fort is located in the northern regions of Genoa and has a commanding position on top of a large mountain.

Created in 1818, this relatively modern fort complex acted as a defensive structure for many years until its importance declined and it fell into disuse.

The main part of the complex is the large central barracks that used to house over 300 soldiers and a range of artillery platforms.

During WW2, the fort was used as a prison for POW’s but now is closed to the public.

Although you cannot enter the building, it is still a fascinating place to visit and the hike to the top of the plateau is great for any outdoor enthusiast.

Furthermore, the views from the top are breath-taking and you can see the city of Genoa sprawled out before your eyes.

8. Via Garibaldi

Via GaribaldiSource: flickr
Via Garibaldi

A UNESCO listed World Heritage Site; the Via Garibaldi is one of the most important streets in Genoa and is famous for its large amount of palaces and fine architecture.

Notable buildings include the Palazzo Bianco, the Palazzo Rosso, the Palazzo Doria Tursi, the Palazzo Lomelino and the Palazzo Pantaleo.

This narrow street provides a staggering amount of fantastic architecture and the most notable building is possible the Palazzo Rosso which features a bright red/orange façade.

Three of these palaces are open to the public – Rosso, Bianco and Tursi and offer a great insight into the history of Genoa together with a range of wonderful artefacts and art collections.

9. Genoa Harbour

Genoa HarbourSource: flickr
Genoa Harbour

The immense harbour of Genoa stretches for 22km of coastline and is home to a large amount of docks and ports for commercial, recreational and pleasure purposes.

This harbour offers a huge amount of potential for tourism and includes a myriad of bars, restaurants and museums.

Consider spending some time walking through the various harbours to see the variety of ships, or visit the maritime museum or aquarium.

At the central point of the harbour network to the left of the bay is also the fantastic Lanterna di Genoa which is a large 76m tall lighthouse that has stood since the 1100’s in some form.

10. Museo d’Arte Orientale

Museo d'Arte OrientaleSource: google
Museo d’Arte Orientale

Located near the Piazza del Portello in the centre of Genoa in the centre of the Villetta di Negro Park, the Museum of Oriental art offers something different to the standard contemporary art museums of most cities.

Within the confines of this inviting structure is one of Europe’s largest collections of oriental and Asian art.

The exhibitions are split into various categories that cover different eras and contain a variety of works including Ming sculptures, Buddhist sculptures, and a range of well-preserved Japanese armour and weapons.

Finally there is also a collection of Asian paintings and bronze theatrical objects.

This museum really does provide a fantastic insight into oriental culture and art.

11. Castello d’Albertis

Castello d'AlbertisSource: flickr
Castello d’Albertis

Albertis Castle stands a short distance from the main harbour and houses the Museum of World Cultures.

The castle itself was created in a Gothic Revival style and was built in 1886. It is actually built on the site of a previous 12th century fort and preserves the forts original foundations.

The castle offers great views of the Ligurian Sea and the surrounding city.

Inside the building is the wonderful museum of world cultures.

This collection includes a range of findings from around the world by Enrico and Luigi Albertis such as weaponry from the Sudan and China, and artefacts from the Mayan civilization.

12. Spianata Castelletto

View from Spianata CastellettoSource: flickr
View from Spianata Castelletto

Castelletto is a residential quarter in Genoa and the Spianata is a raised platform and walkway that offers unparalleled views of the city and harbour.

The courtyard and walkway are accessible via a series of steps or an ornate lift that is topped with a large glass panelled building.

Once you are at the top, you can look down to the city beneath you.

During the daytime see the ships in the harbour and hear the hustle and bustle of the locals, and at night see the city transformed with an advent of lights.

The courtyard itself is a great place to relax and is shaded by a variety of trees; there are also several binoculars that allow you to see details of the city close-up.

13. Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi a Nervi

Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi a NerviSource: flickr
Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi a Nervi

The Passeggiata Garibaldi is a stretch of paved walkway that winds along the coastline of Genoa.

Starting at the Via Giovanni which is approximately 15 minutes to the east of the city centre, the walkway features a pink cobbled path and hugs the coastline perfectly.

You can walk this stretch of public footpath for at least 1km through the district of Nervi.

Lining the path is a variety of residential buildings, shops and cafes.

Come here to escape from the busy city, take in the sea air, and admire the beautiful coastal scenery Genoa has to offer.

14. Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno

Cimitero Monumentale di StaglienoSource: flickr
Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno

The national monumental cemetery is located on the hillside of the Staglieno district of Genoa.

Whilst a cemetery might seem like a strange attraction, this particular cemetery is truly monumental as its name suggests and is more than just a place of burial.

The cemetery was created in the 1800’s and features a huge range of monuments, statues, memorials and sculptures.

Surrounded by arched walkways and porticoes, the cemetery feels more like a palace than a place of eternal rest.

Consider visiting this site to see the architecture and look at the different styles of tomb and gravestones.

15. Lanterna di Genoa

Lanterna di GenovaSource: wikimedia
Lanterna di Genova

The Lanterna di Genoa is an ornate ancient lighthouse that has stood since the 12th century but over time has been reconstructed.

It stands as the main lighthouse of the harbour and is an iconic landmark of the city.

After the tower of Hercules and the Kopu lighthouse, it is the oldest in the world.

A large icon of the city of Genoa is present on one side, and the top is crowned with a large glass light.

Standing at 76m high it towers over the surrounding area and can be seen for miles.

15 Best Things to Do in Genoa (Italy):

  • Piazza De Ferrari
  • Porta Soprana
  • Piazza Matteotti
  • San Lorenzo Cathedral
  • Genoa Aquarium
  • Genoa Maritime Museum
  • Forte Begato
  • Via Garibaldi
  • Genoa Harbour
  • Museo d'Arte Orientale
  • Castello d'Albertis
  • Spianata Castelletto
  • Passeggiata Anita Garibaldi a Nervi
  • Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno
  • Lanterna di Genoa