The Top Things to Do and See in Genoa

Forte Diamante is an imposing stone fortress that once served to defend Genoa from invading forces
Forte Diamante is an imposing stone fortress that once served to defend Genoa from invading forces | © lucag_g / Alamy Stock Photo
Matt Charlton

Italy’s biggest port city has maritime history, museums and so much more on offer – here are our top picks on what to do and see in Genoa.

Italy in a city – faded glory, squalor and chaos meet vibrancy, grandeur and beauty. This metropolis, a full-on assault on the senses, will lead you through twisting shaded alleys – known as caruggi – which suddenly burst into grand, sparkling, blindingly bright spaces, shadowed by soaring Renaissance-era edifices. From very ancient history to contemporary tales of Italy’s largest port, you’ll be confronted on every twisty turn with something to see or do. Thank goodness we’ve narrowed it down for you…

Porto Antico

Those with a loose grasp of Italian will already know that this means Old Port, and as Genoa is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, it’s more than fitting. As well as being old, it also comprises the largest plaza in the Mediterranean, where culture, fairs, shows, sports, boating, horticulture, gastronomy and shopping come together in a glorious Genoese melting pot, no matter what time of the year you visit.

Palazzo Reale

The Royal Palace is one of the largest 17th- to 18th-century architectural complexes in Genoa, and its halls are decorated with frescoes, stuccos, sculptures, furniture and fittings belonging to the noble families who’ve occupied it down the centuries, including two paintings by Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck. Need a breather from all the history? Pep yourself up with an espresso in the cafeteria and a lungful of air in the ornate garden.

Genoa Aquarium

Taking centre stage in the port, this is the biggest aquarium in Europe, boasting around 12,000 specimens and 6,000 species… oh, and six MILLION litres ( 1.6m gallons) of water. The size of some of the tanks – particularly those for the dolphins and sharks – needs to be seen to be believed. Kids will love it all – from the manatees to the manta rays – although parents may have to grit their teeth while “discovering the world of corals with Spongebob.”

Musei di Strada Nuova

A heady combination of three museums – Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi – which together form a single complex, Musei di Strada Nuova consists of over 75 striking rooms. It unfolds on various levels, including courtyards, loggias, gardens and terraces, and up to the mirador (viewpoint) of Palazzo Rosso, which, of course, means epic views over this chaotic dazzling patchwork of a city. A masterpiece of Genoese architecture.

Corso Italia

This is Genoa’s main promenade, connecting the Foce district to the fisherman’s village of Boccadasse – so feel free to don your best threads and stroll the heck out of it. Luckily, there are numerous beach clubs, bars and restaurants lining the route if all the walking makes you peckish or thirsty, and it takes you past key Genoese landmarks such as Chiesa di San Pietro, the Abbey of San Giuliano, and the little Art Deco palazzi overlooking the Mediterranean.

Forte Diamante

It looks like something from the Game of Thrones universe – an imposing stone fortress, sitting like a chunky crown on the peak of Monte Diamante, 667m (2,188ft) above sea level. Its imposing appearance and hard-to-access location was a blessing for the Italian forces of the 18th century, as it meant any invading forces from the north would be easily spotted and repelled. It’s less convenient for current-day visitors, however, who’ll have to drive up into the hills above Genoa and then hike for around 30 minutes to get those all-conquering views.

Galata Museo del Mare

With its rich naval history and sons as famous as Christopher Columbus, it’s no surprise that Genoa is home to Italy’s largest maritime museum. Designed by Spanish architect Guillermo Vázquez Consuegra on the site of a former shipyard dating back to the 15th century, high-tech, hands-on exhibits span 28 galleries on four levels, and take you from the days of Columbus right up to a S518 Nazario Sauro submarine.

Via XX Settembre

Cutting east through the city for around 1km (0.6mi) from Piazza de Ferrari, this is Genoa’s main shopping street. You’ll find all the big-name brands (H&M, Nike, Pandora) here, but also plenty of smaller, more interesting boutiques. Starting to flag? You’re never far away from an espresso, a greasy, savoury slab of focaccia or a cone of pistachio gelato, and, if it’s raining, the porticoed pavements mean you’re sheltered, too. They’ve thought of everything, the Genoese.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Olga Lenczewska.

Looking for more inspiration? We’ve narrowed down the best hotels for every traveller so you can confidently book your next stay on Culture Trip. After check-in, discover the best restaurants the city has to offer before ending the night at one of the best bars in Genoa.

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