Things to see and do in Genoa

A comprehensive and detailed guide to things to do and see in Genoa in 1, 2 or 3 days.


“Lying in the bottom of the Gulf with its careless majesty of a queen … Genoa is, so to speak, to meet the traveler” (A. Dumas, 1841). Too bad that travelers most often, through the hastily favoring other locations of Liguria, such as Cinque Terre or Portofino, thus losing the opportunity to discover a city rich in history, hidden treasures, interesting corners.

The charm of this city wedged between the mountains and the sea, fragmented between past and present, a crossroads of peoples and cultures (in fact the name of a medieval Genoa is Janua, meaning “door” in Latin), hit writers, poets and songwriters, who in their verses have told its beauty, its contrasts, its hidden soul. Although Genoa is known primarily for its aquarium, the ancient maritime republic contains within its walls wonderful reminders of its glorious past but also bold and modern works that have made it a kind of capital of modern Italian.

So, walking around the city you can admire noble palaces and ancient churches, getting lost in the maze of narrow streets (carroggi) is organized at the heart of the old town, visit interesting museums, leave you surprised by the symbols of the new Genoa, towards the future but superb custodian of a past ever present. So here are 10 things you absolutely should not miss in Genoa.

The Lighthouse of Genoa

Evidence of seafaring of this city is its lighthouse, commonly called “the Lantern” has always been the symbol of Genoa. 77 meters high, the historic tower stands on the ruins of a hill 40 meters that is located about 177 meters above sea level.

La Lanterna di Genova
The Lighthouse of Genoa

Born to signal to ships entering the port but also to control the movement within, the tower was built in the fourteenth century on the site where since 1128 there was a working lighthouse with a wood-burning (bonfires). In 1326 it was installed the first lantern oil (olive) and in 1340 was painted on the bottom of the tower coat of arms. Its present appearance is the result of reconstruction work in the sixteenth century and in spite of the interventions that followed the events of the war and the lightning, the lantern looks like then: a tower with two slender volumes superimposed with the landing at the top of each of them (the first terrace is accessible), a staircase of 720 steps, a lantern inside which are the lighting elements.
Attached to the tower is the Lighthouse Museum, a multimedia museum dedicated to the city and the province, reached by a walk of about 800 meters from the Ferry Terminal that runs along the old walls to the lighthouse.

The city’s historic Genoa center

The city’s historic center is the core of the Old Town, a place full of history and charm that after years of neglect was finally restored and returned to the city. To discover the charm of the old Genoa bisognacamminare walk and go into the “alleyways”, the quaint alleys of medieval origin, and characteristics creuze (narrow streets encased in the walls), lost among the beautiful streets lined with noble palaces and squares harmonious (Piazza delle Erbe, Piazza San Donato) overlooked by ancient churches (San Donato, San Matteo).

Il centro storico di GenovaThe city’s historic center

It is no coincidence that a large part of the old town was dichiarataPatrimonio World dell’Umanità.Molti are the sites of historical interest such as the Castrum, which is the first settlement of the city dating back to the Romans and the Etruscans, the great value architectural heritage with the famous Palazzo Spinola and Palazzo Ducale, two magnificent buildings citizens through which relives the splendor of the ancient maritime republic. There are also, recreational opportunities as in the old town features abound inns where you can taste the typical dishes of Genoa, famous bars, clubs where every night you esibisconoband, and workshops ultracentenarie who conquer and fascinate with their charm of yesteryear.

L’Acquario di Genova

Aquarius is the main tourist attraction of Genoa. It opened in 1992 in the ancient port, that of Genoa is the largest Italian aquarium and the second in Europe, after that of Valencia.

L'Acquario di Genova
Acquarius in Genoa

The marine park is home to 12,000 specimens of 600 different species (not only marine species but also animals of the rain forests and freshwater) in a spectacular setting that accurately reproduces their original natural habitat. The visit to the Aquarium is a fun and exciting as it offers the opportunity to know the aquatic fauna “walking” in the seas and in the waters of the world’s most fascinating. The path between the various pavilions of Aquarius leads through more than 70 tanks where you can observe sharks, seals, turtles, penguins, and public outreach that integrate the visual experience with scientific knowledge. Recently it opened the new Hall Cetacean designed by Renzo Piano to admire the cute marine mammals is a perspective underwater, thanks to the tunnel basement, both from a top-down perspective that allows you to watch the dolphins out of the water.

Via Garibaldi e Musei di Strada Nuova a Genova

Included among the assets of the Heritage Site, the beautiful Via Garibaldi, the “New Road” half of the sixteenth century, also called the “Golden Path” for the splendor of its buildings (splendid palaces and Cambioso Carrega-Cataldi) is home the unique museum dedicated to the ancient art that connects the three historic mansions owned by the city: Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi. In the first palace, residence of the seventeenth century Brignole – Sale, they have preserved the historical furnishings and art collections that noble family gathered in more than two centuries.

Via Garibaldi e Musei di Strada Nuova a Genova
Via Garibaldi e Musei di Strada Nuova a Genova

On display works by Van Dyck, Veronese, Guercino, Strozzi, Dürer.Palazzo White houses a fine collection of Italian paintings (do not miss the Ecce Homo Caravaggio), Flemish (Rubens, Van Dyck, Memling), Dutch (Steen) , French (Vouet) and Spanish (Murillo) from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. Finally, the aristocraticopalazzo Tursi well as hosting the boardrooms of the Mayor, has a remarkable exhibition of decorative art (ceramics, tapestries) and guards the “Cannone”, the famous Paganini violin built in 1734 by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri violin maker.

Galata | Museo del Mare di Genova

Yet more evidence of the bond with the sea of Genoa Galata Museum of the Sea, the largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean dedicated to the history of navigation. Through reproduction and display of boats of all sizes and types, tools and charts, multimedia and interactive, the museum offers visitors a real journey through time allowing him to identify with the lives of sailors, passengers and migrants .

museo-mare-galata-genovaThe journey begins on the ground floor from the age of the ships rowing, continues on the first and second on the route of sailing ships and revolutionary geographical exploration and ends on the third floor dedicated to travel to America. Do not miss the rooftop terrace Mirador to enjoy a beautiful view of the harbor and the city. So, how you can not miss this museum so interesting and engaging, for more in the city which was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, the great navigator of all time ?!


Cattedrale di San Lorenzo a Genova

The majestic and solemn Cathedral of San Lorenzo was built from the ninth century and was rebuilt until the sixteenth century, which explains the juxtaposition of different architectural styles both outside and inside. In 1118 the church was consecrated by Pope Gelasius II.

Galata | Museo del Mare di Genova
Duomo di San Lorenzo a Genova

This town ‘presents the visitor with its beautiful Gothic façade in Genovese style (XIII century) with a French as demonstrated arrangement of portals and central rose. Romanesque period date back the side panels with the two portals and the dome (designed by Galeazzo Alessi) and the bell tower are of the sixteenth century. The interior is divided into three naves, it contains numerous sculptures and paintings. Along the left aisle is the Chapel of St. John the Baptist which houses the bones of San Lorenzo; down the right aisle leads instead to the Museum of the Treasury of the Cathedral which houses masterpieces of religious art including the Sacred Basin which legend identifies with the Holy Grail, the Ark of the ashes of St. John the Baptist and other objects related to the cult of patron of the city.


I Palazzi dei Rolli a Genova

I Palazzi dei Rolli are nothing but the beautiful residences of the noble family that straddles the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were offering hospitality to famous people passing through town.

Palazzi dei Rolli a Genova
Palazzi dei Rolli a Genova

Dwellings (over one hundred) that the Republic of Genoa had earmarked for this purpose were included in the lists (Rolli of Public Housing) that were updated periodically. According to their architectural value and their splendor, the palaces were divided into three categories (Bussoli) each of which was matched to a certain category of guest: first bussolo for cardinals, princes and viceroys; bussolo according to feudal lords and governors; third for princes and ambassadors. Since 2006, forty-two of these prestigious buildings “articulated sequentially hall – courtyard – stairwell – garden and rich interior decorations”, have been recognized by UNESCO “World Heritage” as “an expression of a unique social and economic identity that will present the ‘urban architecture of the modern era in Europe. ” A walk through the streets Balbi, Garibaldi, Lomellini and St. Luke will take you to discover these historic houses and a rich past that has made hospitality a cultural model.

Il Porto Antico di Genova

At one time this area was the center of Genoese merchant. After the conversion made by Renzo Piano for the Colombiadi (celebrations of the fifth centenary of the discovery of America) 1992, the Square of Genoa on the Mediterranean has become a holy place for tourism and leisure.

Il Porto Antico di Genova
Il Porto Antico di Genova

Here are in fact: the Aquarium, a major attraction for visitors of all ages; the Biosphere, the bubble of steel and glass on the water designed by Piano that plays inside a tropical setting with a wide variety of tropical plants, but also butterflies and small animals (iguanas, birds); Galata, the largest and most innovative maritime museum in the Mediterranean; Bigo by Renzo Piano, the metal structure resembling a crane that stands out on the sea with panoramic lift has become a symbol of Genoa. The transformation of these places did not occur, however, only with the creation of modern works but also bringing new life to the old port buildings, including the old cotton warehouses that now house cultural and recreational facilities as the City of Children, the largest space in Italy dedicated to the game, science and technology, for children between 2 and 12 years old.

What to eat in Genoa

When we talk about cooking and good food even things have discounted their value, then to Genoa we can not help but recommend, first of all, a good plate of pasta with pesto, and then, a good piece of cake.

Cosa mangiare a Genova
Cosa mangiare a Genova

That ‘s right, the specialties of Genoa are these two. The cake is prepared in many ways: with olives, onion, cheese, sage and so on. Also filled pasta is a product typical of the city such as ravioli and traditional pansotti, stuffed eggs, beets and cottage cheese. Among the main courses also widespread torta Pasqualina, a puff pastry stuffed with cooked chards or artichokes, zucchini, cheese and eggs. Very yummy vegetable soup and Genovese porridge, a thin cake made of chickpea flour mixed with water, salt and olive oil and then cooked in a wood oven. In a seaside town like Genoa certainly can not miss the fish, stockfish genovesepreparato with cod, squid, anchovies and sardines. Among the special dishes stands out the Cappon Magro, a rich and elaborate salad that has a base of plain biscuits seasoned with garlic, vinegar and salt, with firm flesh fish, boiled eggs, boiled vegetables, artichokes, shrimp and tuna. Finally lunch in beauty you have to taste the sweet rolls Christmas Genovese, a sort of cake filled with raisins and crushed pieces of lemon peel, apple fritters, chestnut cake and scallops.