Looking for the best things to do in Genoa? Let’s discover what to see in Genoa in one day among history, art, food & wine, culture!
Genoa, the capital of Liguria, is located in the North West of Italy. Surrounded by the sea and mountains, Genoa was historically the centre of the daily comings and goings of ships, trade and discoveries of unexplored territories.
Visiting Genoa is always fascinating. If you’re looking for the best Genoa tourist information, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s discover together what to see in Genoa in one day!
Why should you spend one day in Genoa?
Genoa is a strong city, as well as being extremely fascinating. Is Genoa Italy worth visiting in a day and more? Keep reading and you will discover the best things to do in Genoa in one day!
Birthplace of explorers and leaders such as Cristoforo Colombo, of songwriters such as the legendary Fabrizio de Andrè who with his sweet and bitter songs (using the ancient Genoese dialect in recent years, sometimes even incomprehensible to the Genoese people themselves) described Genoa and its contradictions during the economic boom.
For this reason, perhaps, its history, as if it was a tale, culminates perfectly with the inclusion of “Le Strade Nuove and the system of the Palazzi dei Rolli” in 2016 in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
History is very rich. It is worth stopping and discovering what a traveller can see while visiting Genoa in one day.
Right below you will find a guide on the best things to do in Genoa in one day.
What to see in Genoa in one day?
Among historic noble palaces, houses, plaques in memory of famous people and historic shops, there are many things to see in Genoa.
The historic centre of Genoa will certainly not leave you disappointed as the city has got a wide range of museums. The Acquario di Genova is one of the favorite Genoa tourist attractions: in fact it is the largest Italian and European aquarium for marine species and is definitely worth a visit, but this city has much more to offer.
Genoa sightseeing tours will include many walks in the open air, rewarded by traditional Genoese food: baked goods, first and second courses with a strong taste and traditional sweets will make you explore wonderful flavours.
Furthermore, it is possible to visit Genoa on foot to discover amazing slow itineraries.
To make sure you don’t miss in Genoa things to do and much more, read on!
Visit Genoa on foot: the complete itinerary
I recommend that you start visiting Genoa on foot from Piazza Principe, which is one of the city’s transport hubs: on one side, there is the underground station (Principe station) and on the other the railway station. Right next to it, there is the bus stop where buses depart and arrive, including the shuttle arriving from Genoa airport.
Just 100 metres away, we can find the first recommended stop:
1. Villa del Principe
The Doria Pamphili family has enriched this villa with frescoes, paintings, sculptures and tapestries. The garden is majestic: in the centre of the garden, there is the Neptune fountain by the Carlone brothers, which symbolises Admiral Doria.
I recommend that you book in advance if you are interested in visiting the Villa during the week, because it is possible to enter without a reservation only on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
2. Monument to Christopher Columbus
Outside the train station, there is Piazza Acquaverde where the monument to Christopher Columbus is located. Genoa is in fact the birthplace of the navigator who discovered America, which the statue is thought to be indicating (falsely).
It is about 60 metres high and was built by eight different sculptors: they took care of the central statue, the bas-reliefs and the figures at the top of the composition.
3. Via Balbi
To get closer to the historic centre of Genoa, take via Balbi.
Designed by architect Bartolomeo Bianco, it was built in 1600s thanks to the Balbi family – Genoese bankers who have got influential roles at that time.
This street is very interesting because it represents a historic urban intervention that extends luxury residences, previously located exclusively in the centre, to new areas of the city.
4. Royal Palace Museum
Many prestigious buildings overlook Via Balbi, including the Royal Palace and its museum.
The Royal Palace is an important historic building: it is included among the 42 historic buildings of Palazzi dei Rolli, registered together with the Strade Nuove as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Palazzi dei Rolli are noble palaces that, in the ancient Republic, were used to house famous personalities who were in Genoa on a state visit on the basis of public draws from the lists (called “rolli”).
These buildings have got a Baroque or Renaissance style with large stairways, gardens and internal courtyards.
The Royal Palace is an example of this splendour: we owe the construction of this magnificent building to the Balbi family, together with the Durazzo family, here too.”Palazzo Reale” was named by the Savoy family after their purchase.
Frescoes in Baroque and Rococo style cover the vaults of some rooms. Paintings, furnishings and sculptures, that have been there for centuries, make this palace extremely impressive.
Among the most popular works of art, you will find masterpieces by Tintoretto, Guercino, Anton Von Dyck, Ferdinand Voet and Luca Giordano.
It is interesting how this house, put up for sale by the Durazzo family, was disputed between Napoleon Bonaparte and King Vittorio Emanuele I, the king of Sardinia. The latter had his own way.
Today Palazzo Reale is a museum that you can visit (always preferably by booking online) and where exhibitions and events take place.
5. Galata, The Sea Museum
Moving towards the dock among the best things to do in Genoa in one day, we find an interesting stop for sea, history and art lovers.
Four floors in the Museum and a terrace will await you in Galata “Museo del Mare”.
It is a sea museum that takes you back to the naval history of Genoa, which inevitably influenced the city. It is an interactive exhibition where you will become part of history with 4D visions, interactive stations and naval simulators.
There is also an Open Air Museum on the docks of the Galata. You will also visit the submarine into water. I would say an experience not to be missed!
On the museum website, the recommended visiting time is about an hour or two. They also host various events with artists and experts from the nautical sector. I invite you to take a look at the website!
6. Spianata di Castelletto
For an incredible view of Genoa, there is nothing better than this belvedere! It can be reached via two lifts (Castelletto Ponente and Levante). Once there was a fortress in this place and was subsequently demolished, hence the name “spianata” (esplanade, in english). From this panoramic point, today you can enjoy a 360 degree view of the historic centre.
7. Via Garibaldi and the Palazzi dei Rolli
The time has come to take Via Garibaldi and start walking with your nose upwards so as not to miss the most significant buildings in the city.
As I said before, together with the system of Palazzi dei Rolli, Via Garibaldi has been included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This pedestrian street, called the new road, is about 250 metres long. If you have only planned a quick tour of the city, it is certainly among the 10 things to see in Genoa.
Among the magnificent buildings in the street, Palazzo Podestà at number 7, Palazzo Doria Tursi (now the Town Hall) and Palazzo Rosso at number 18, the most recent one, will attract for sure your attention.
It is also worth mentioning Palazzo Carrega Cataldi, now home to the Chamber of Commerce, built by architect Giovan Battista Castello known as “il Bergamasco”. The sixteenth-century and late Genoese Baroque decorations make the interiors of this building very suggestive.
I recommend that you take advantage of the Rolli days that will take place shortly (from 9 to 11 October 2020) to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
What is it about? It is a period of the year (sometimes more than one) when the Palazzi dei Rolli are open to the public. With an online reservation, you will be able to see live the rooms whose sculptures, paintings and frescoes from the late Renaissance and early Baroque are wonderfully preserved.
8. The Ancient Port of Genoa
At this point, from via Garibaldi we head towards the historic centre of Genoa. Crossing the “caruggi”, the typical streets of medieval origin, and sneaking into the “creuze” (typical alleys embedded between the walls that radiate out from the city and connect almost all the districts of Genoa), you can fully enjoy the experience of visiting Genoa on foot.
Arriving at the Old Port, in the historic centre of Genoa, Palazzo San Giorgio will be there waiting for you with all its grandeur. It is also called “Palazzo del Mare” (Sea Palace, in english) and is divided into two parts: an older one of medieval origin and one of Renaissance origin. Today it is the seat of the port authority of Genoa.
The port area was redesigned by Architect Renzo Piano and has become an important destination, included among the best Genoa tourist attractions.
The Old Port hosts several events, festivals and concerts thanks to the Arena del Mare and Piazza delle Feste, which in winter undergoes a transformation becoming an ice rink.
The Biosphere (or Renzo Piano’s bubble) was built in 2001: it is a floating spherical structure 20 metres in diameter. The visit is an integral part of the Genoa aquarium itinerary.
9. The Aquarium of Genoa
When asked what to see in Genoa in one day, the answer is “the Aquarium!”.
The structure hosts over 70 ecosystems and about 12,000 species from all the seas of the world and it is the largest aquarium in Europe.
The Aquarium of Genoa offers different kinds of experiences in addition to the simple visit, that is very interesting anyway. It is absolutely one of the best things to do in Genoa.
10. Cathedral of San Lorenzo
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo dates back to 1098 and it is historically the main Catholic place of worship in Genoa. The Cathedral was dedicated to Saint Lawrence and houses the ashes of the patron saint of the city: St. John Baptist.
During the Second World War, bombings destroyed part of the ceiling that is still inside the church.
According to legend of Saint Lawrence’s dog, one of the sculptors at work lose his dog and carved it in a point in the facade. Have fun looking for it!
Inside the cathedral there is the Treasure Museum, a project by Franco Albini which preserves a collection of objects from the Treasure of the Cathedral such as the chalcedony plate and the fifteenth-century processional arch.
11. Piazza De Ferrari
In Genoa visit the main square, named after Raffaele de Ferrari, Duke of Galliera.
It is the focal point of the city where the main streets converge. It is surrounded by buildings with different architectural styles, including the new Stock Exchange building, which expresses in all its beauty the power of Genoa in the early twentieth century, the Liguria region building and that of the Linguistic Academy.
Carlo Felice Theatre is the main theatre in Genoa and one of the most famous Italian theatres, recognisable by the imposing scenographic colonnade.
Palazzo De Ferrari, Palazzo Forcheri and Palazzo Ducale complete the square, which revolves around the central fountain formed by a large bronze basin and splashing water.
12. Victory Square
Along Via XX Settembre, a street famous for shopping, you will easily reach Victory Square. Victory Arch, stading out in the middle of the square, is a memorial arch erected in the 1930s in memory of the Genoese people who died during World War I.
The square is a short walk from Genoa Brignole train station, the metro station of the same name and close to several bus stops. So it is an excellent point to end your day and to easily reach your accommodation. As an alternative, you can decide to start the route from here to visit Genoa in one day and go backwards.
13. The Lighthouse of Genoa (The Lantern)
If you have got a car, I suggest that you plan a trip to the famous Lighthouse of Genoa (“Lanterna di Genova” or simply “Lanterna” in Italian). It is the port lighthouse and serves as a symbol and a landmark for the city of Genoa.
It is the tallest lighthouse in the Mediterranean sea, the second in Europe and the fifth in the world, thanks to its 77 metres. In any case, you can certainly admire it from the waterfront panorama.
And if you are short on time, here is a summary to make sure you do not miss anything: 👇
Top 10 things to see in Genoa
- Monument To Christopher Columbus
- Museum Of The Royal Palace
- Galata – Sea Museum
- Spianata Di Castelletto
- The Strade Nuove And The Palazzi Dei Rolli
- The Ancient Port Of Genoa
- The Aquarium Of Genoa
- The Cathedral Of San Lorenzo
- Piazza De Ferrari
- Victory Square
Discover the Best Things to do in Genoa:
Strolling through the Caruggi, it will not be difficult to understand what to see in Genoa in one day. You can stop at the many historic shops that adorn Genoa’s alleyways.
Many deal with clothing and footwear, but there are also many apothecaries with historic pharmacies and drugstores.
Impossible to resist the temptation to taste a piece of focaccia genovese, the world-renowned flatbread from Genoa, in the most renowned bakeries.
The variety of ancient food and wine activities is immense: among tripe shops (where tripe is cooked), poultry shops, butcher’s and pastry shops, there will be many stops.
Traditional food will taste different in Art Nouveau shops dating back to the late 1800s.
Italia Delight offers you a multi-day tour to discover the pleasure of food in Genoa: you will go to the best places in Genoa without fail and you will be able to attend a Pesto demostration with a final tasting of Focaccia Genovese and Vermentino wine.
By following the tour guides on this urban trekking, you will be able to discover the best Genoa tourist attractions. You can also personalise your trip with the Local Expert by adding the activities that best suits your needs.
I undoubtedly include a stop in a bookstore (Bozzi bookshop and Dallai bookshop). For handicraft lovers, Luigi Busellato’s workshop deals with plates, stamps and engravings.
Turaccioli factory is also interesting: there you can find normal and processed corks as well as all the accessories for bottling.
What to eat in Genoa?
Below you will find my tips on what to eat in Genoa:
- FOCACCIA GENOVESE is at the top of the list. From the classic version to the one with onions, it is the traditional local breakfast. Visiting Genoa without tasting it is a crime;
- PESTO GENOVESE – no replica is like the original pesto from Genoa. Its ingredients are Genoese basil PDO, Parmigiano Reggiano (or Grana Padano), Pecorino Romano, extra virgin olive oil from the Ligurian Riviera, pine nuts (from the Mediterranean), garlic and salt.
Simple, isn’t it? But do not use the mixer! The marble mortar is THE instrument and, only in this way, there will be the right symphony of unique aromas and flavours. A must with trofie (traditional Ligurian pasta).
- FARINATA is made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil and salt. It is cooked at high temperatures in the oven (usually wood fired ovens in historic Genoese premises).
- FOCACCIA WITH CHEESE is a delicious baked product from the city of Recco. Unlike the traditional focaccia genovese, this focaccia must not rise too much. In fact it is thin and contains a fresh cheese that will melt becoming one with the dough. A must while visiting Genoa!
- CUCULLI are pancakes made from a mixture of chickpea flour, water, chives, rosemary and sage – often served as an appetiser.
- PANSOTI WITH WALNUT SAUCE – you will often find them in local trattorias. They are traditional ravioli stuffed with wild herbs, seasoned with a walnut sauce and prescinseua (a dairy product with a typical Genoese sour taste).
- CIMA is a second course consisting of very thinly sliced veal stuffed with peas, egg, pine nuts, mushrooms and cheese.
- TRIPPA, a popular dish from the Ligurian cuisine that in Genoa you can taste in many local tripe shops.
Among the desserts, I recommend that you taste PAN DOLCE, CANESTRELLI and SACRIPANTINA. The latter is perhaps a dessert little known by tourists but it is certainly among the most popular in family meals. It was created in the 19th century and is made up of sponge cake, creams with butter, rum and Marsala.
Visit Genoa and discover traditional foods with the culinary experience selected by Italia Delight: it will take you on an itinerant food and wine tour with lunch at the Porto Antico area (Old Harbour) with an amazing panoramic sea view.
One last travel tip for Genoa sightseeing: while visiting Genoa and its historic centre, I recommend that you stop at the ancient Romanengo confectionery, one of the most illustrious pastry shops in Italy to buy rose syrup, a Genoese speciality.
How to get to the city
Genoa is a well-connected city and is the ideal starting point for a trip to Liguria with the aim of visiting wonderful cities such as Portofino, the Cinque Terre and La Spezia. Cristoforo Colombo Airport in Sestri Ponente serves the city and, even without a car, you can reach the centre of Genoa using public transport.
A more convenient alternative to flying is the train: the railway line is not only convenient to get to the city, but it is also very useful to move around Genova along with the metro.
Four highways lead to Genoa and remember that the city has got one of the main Italian maritime stations.
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