Are you planning a three-day-trip to Genoa and you want to know what to see, what to eat and where to sleep?
You ended up in the right article.
If you don’t know me yet, I introduce myself: I’m Andrea of Discover Genoa, I’m a local and I love my city.
In this article I would like to give you some advice to visit Genoa if you only have 72 hours available.
Here you will find a first typical tour with the most important attractions of the city, then an out-of-town trip and a more cultural visit where I will tell you some secrets that only a local would know.
To help you totally enjoy the tour in my city, I have also decided to add the list of my favourite restaurants and bars.
Continue to read to know more.
3 day tour in Genoa: what to see, where to eat and where to sleep
Genoa is considered the most underestimated city in Italy: when you arrive you think there isn’t much to do, but when you leave you can’t wait to come back.
To help you enjoy all the attractions, I have decided to sort this three-day-tour in this way:
- Day 1: visiting the centre of Genoa (the Aquarium, the alleys and the Porto Antico)
- Day 2: visiting the fishing villages (Boccadasse, Nervi)
- Day 3: historical and cultural tour (the Monumental Cemetery, the Maritime Museum)
Right, that’s enough talk. Let’s get on with it: our Genoa tour starts now.
Day 1: visiting the old town of Genoa
Starting from Genova Brignole train station, today we will visit the centre of Genoa, its alleys and the most important attractions (including the famous Aquarium).
Before you start, look at the video where I sum up the first day of the tour in a few minutes.
Piazza della Vittoria
Out tour starts from the famous Piazza della Vittoria, one of the biggest squares of Genoa and the heart of the city centre.
In the middle the majestic Arco della Vittoria (Victory Arch) stands out, built in 1930s as tribute to the people who fell during the First World War.
If you look beyond the Arch, you can notice a big staircase in the background: it is the Caravel’s Staircase where Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria (the three Christopher Columbus’s caravels) are represented by colourful flower decorations.
Via XX Settembre
Every city has its own shopping street, Milan has Via Montenapoleone, Rome the famous Via dei Condotti, Genoa has via XX Settembre, whose name comes from the Capture of Rome on September 20th 1870, day when the end of the Papal States was declared.
It’s an uphill street, about 1 km long, where you can find the most prestigious cafés and shops of the city.
While you are walking up the street, try to keep your eyes upwards: the frescos and the decorations are painted in black and white, the colours of the ancient Genoa nobility.
Piazza De Ferrari
Here we are in piazza De Ferrari, the central square. It isn’t the biggest, but it’s surely the one Genoese people love the most.
In the middle of it there is a majestic bronze fountain, while on the perimeter you can see four buildings with an eclectic style: Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo della Borsa, Palazzo della Regione and the famous Teatro Carlo Felice (the opera house).
Via San Lorenzo
After having walked up to Via XX Settembre and reached Piazza De Ferrari, the road goes downhill to the Porto Antico.
Via San Lorenzo is famous because it connects the city centre to the Port and because it’s where the famous Cattedrale di San Lorenzo is located, the most important church in Genoa.
This cathedral has different interesting stories, for example the legend about San Lorenzo’s Dog, the reason why it has just one bell tower and the story about the unexploded bomb inside the church.
The Legend of San Lorenzo’s Dog
To the right of one of the two doors to access the church, if you get close, you will notice a dog carved in marble (click here to see the picture).
According to the legend, during the building of the cathedral there was a small dog always wandering around the sculptors keeping them company during work.
During the last phase of construction, the dog got lost and nobody could find it anymore.
The sculptors wanted to remember the dog by dedicating a small sculpture to it on the cathedral’s facade: a story of loyalty carved in marble.
The Bell Tower of San Lorenzo
Why does this cathedral have just one bell tower?
The history connected to the legend tells that, unlike the other churches that have two bell towers, San Lorenzo has just one; maybe it was the lack of capital to build the other one or because they ran out of the same material.
The unexploded bomb
Inside the church there is a bomb that damaged the cathedral during the Second World War.
Way back in 1941, a missile launched by the English fleet broke through the ceiling, but miraculously it didn’t explode.
Unfortunately, the bomb inside the church isn’t the original one, but it’s an exact replica of it.
You are wondering where the original bomb is?
Well, it was taken into the sea and blown up.
Typical Genoese Lunch
After all this time walking I bet you are hungry, am I right?
There’s two options:
- Finger food: eat quickly before you continue walking
- Restaurant: sit and eat with no hurry
If you are a real sportsman or sportswoman and you want to eat something quickly, I recommend a take away of mixed fried fish at the historic (and typical) Carega, the favourite fried food shop of Fabrizio De Andrè or a sandwich at Gran Ristoro, located right next to it.
If you want a relaxed lunch instead, reach Ombre Rosse, a typical Genoese restaurant a few steps away from the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo or Panino Marino, a place that offers a mouth-watering selection of Gourmet sandwiches with fish!
Acquario di Genova
Let’s continue walking.
When you get to the end of via San Lorenzo, you will be in the Porto Antico.
This area, that once was a commercial area, was completely transformed in 1992 in occasion of the World Expo.
It is now where the most important attractions for kids and adults are such as the Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, the Submarine and the Bigo, a panoramic lift.
The Aquarium is the symbol of the city and, with its 70 fish tanks and more than 400 different species of fish, marine mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibious animals and invertebrates, it became one of the most important Aquariums in Europe (only second after the Oceanographic in Valencia).
I suggest you buy tickets online, in order to skip the (long) queue at the ticket office.
The Old Town
Do you know what caruggi are?
This word describes the peculiar and narrow covered walkways and shady alleys of lots of cities and little towns of the Italian Riviera.
From the Porto Antico, enter the old town walking through via al Ponte Reale.
You will have arrived at Piazza Banchi, where you can see the famous Loggia della Mercanzia, a beautiful building built during the Middle Ages, where the negotiations of merchants and bankers took place.
Go ahead until you reach via del Campo, the famous paved street known for the song and where Fabrizio De Andrè lived, and reach the Chiesa dell’Annunziata.
At the end of via del Campo, after having walked a few metres on your right, you will reach Piazza dell’Annunziata, where an impressive and amazing church is located.
From the outside it seems like a normal cathedral, but I guarantee that the inside will leave you speechless.
The street you see right outside the church is called via Balbi: an uphill street surrounded by buildings with sixteenth-century facades.
Besides being the place where the offices of the Department of Law of the University of Genoa are, via Balbi is known for its Palazzo Reale, where Kings and Queens lived in the past.
Walking down via Balbi, go back to Piazza dell’Annunziata.
Go ahead for about 100 metres and then turn left, you will have reached Strada Nuova (via Cairoli and via Balbi).
This is certainly my favourite part of Genoa. It’s 200 metres long, 7 metres wide and there are 14 historical buildings that will leave you breathless.
The most famous (and the only ones you can visit) are Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Rosso and Palazzo Tursi.
If you want to post an Instagram Story that will make your followers jealous, go up to Palazzo Rosso’s terrace.
You are not so high, but you are “in the middle” of something: the biggest old town in Europe.
From here you can enjoy a 360-degree view on the Old Town, the Porto Antico the Lanterna and the Aquarium.
If you are on holiday with your significant other, you should reach Spianata Castelletto: a square suspended on the old town, once used as control point of the city.
Take the Castelletto lift and get off at Spianata: from here, as well as a stunning view, you can enjoy the sunset over the sea.
You will get a thrill.
Where to have dinner in Genoa
Do you want something typical? Here you have three options for an inexpensive dinner, a mid-price dinner and a more sophisticated one.
Inexpensive restaurant in Genoa: Molo 21
Located in the Porto Antico area, Molo 21 is famous for its traditional and particularly inexpensive dishes.
It’s the ideal choice if you don’t want to spend a fortune, but you still taste the famous trofie with pesto, pansoti with walnuts sauce or other Genoese specialities.
Where to eat well and pay a fair price: Trattoria Rosmarino
Without a doubt one of my favourite restaurants, the perfect price/quality ratio.
If I have convinced you to go, you should make a reservation, because it’s often really crowded (especially during weekends).
Where to eat seafood in Genoa: Acciughetta
It is a restaurant run by lovely people, located right in the city centre.
The menu changes almost every day and the prices are slightly higher than the other two restaurants, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Where to sleep in Genoa near the Aquarium
Well, we ended the first day of our tour.
After all these kilometres, you deserve a good night’s sleep.
If you are planning to visit Genoa, you must know that it’s basically impossible to find a free parking space in the central area.
So, if you are travelling by car, I suggest finding a B&B or a hotel that offers a parking service.
Day 2: the fishing village
Today you need to take a car or a public transport (bus or train) to reach two of the most fascinating places in Liguria: Boccadasse and Nervi.
Go to Genova Brignole train station and get on the bus number 31.
Now you have two different options:
- Walk along Corso Italia, a 1.5 km long street that runs along the sea
- Go straight to Boccadasse on the bus
In the first case you have to get off at the Piazzale Kennedy stop, in the second one you have to stay on the bus until the Boccadasse stop.
Boccadasse is a heavenly corner which is the same as it was 100 years ago, and where the citizens can touch the sea.
It is a hamlet of fishermen with a beach surrounded by narrow buildings in front of the sea.
This hamlet, besides being absolutely amazing, is famous because it gave its name to the neighbourhood La Boca, in Buenos Aires.
During the Italian overseas emigration period, a Genoese community from Boccadasse established itself in Buenos Aires, creating the neighbourhood La Boca, in tribute to the hamlet where they came from.
Boccadasse has been voted the best attraction in Genoa on TripAdvisor and in the latest comments people say that “looking at the sunset from the rocks is a priceless experience“.
Now that you have ended your visit to Boccadasse, get on the bus number 15 and go to the chic and aristocratic district of Quinto, where you can have lunch.
Lunch on the seashore in Genoa
Do you want to have lunch with a view of the sea?
I suggest you go to Gnam Gnam, a place run by lovely people and that attracts a lot of locals (especially in summer) because of the panoramic terrace above the sea.
You can find it in the district of Genova Quinto, a few steps away from the next destination: Nervi’s promenade.
Welcome to Nervi!
Here you can walk for 2 kilometres on the famous Anita Garibaldi’s promenade overlooking the sea (the website Turismo.it says it’s the most beautiful promenade in the world).
At the end of the route you will reach Nervi Park, famous for having lots of squirrels and where the Gigante del Cile, a Chilean wine palm about 10 metres tall and 150 years old, is located in the middle of the park.
Day 3: museums in Genoa
Here we are at the third and last stop of this tour in Genoa
Today I would like to let you know which I think are the best museums in Genoa.
Don’t be taken in by the word museum: the ones I’m talking about will make you feel amazing with interactive experiences and will entertain both adults and children.
Let’s start with the Maritime Museum.
Near the Aquarium, in the Porto Antico area, there is an unusual museum: the Galata.
When you enter you will be surrounded by 23 evocative interactive rooms, that will let you understand the meaning of the sea and of the journey through the different ages.
You will have the chance to personally “experience” sea life through the interactive attractions; you will be able to delve into Genoa’s history (from the Maritime Republic to Christopher Columbus) and end with the room that attracted me the most: the exhibition “La Merica” that explains the journey of the Italian ancestors towards America.
The icing on the cake?
Go up to the museum’s roof, on the fourth floor, and be amazed by the quiet and magical view on the entire city. That’s incredible!
Natural History Museum
If you are still eager to visit places of culture, I recommend the Natural History Museum Doria, located a few steps away from Genova Brignole train station.
It’s an important museum that has more than 3 million examples of animals and plants brought to Italy in 19th century by different maritime explorers.
The most fascinating things in the Museum?
In my opinion they are the insects (there’s millions of them), and the 20-metre-long skeleton of a fin whale that died in 1878 and was found on the beach in Monterosso (La Spezia).
It’s a good idea for adults and ideal for kids.
Oh sure, do I travel to Genoa to visit a cemetery? Are you crazy?
This is probably what you are thinking.
The Cimitero Monumentale di Staglieno is more than a cemetery, it’s an open-air museum, today considered among the most fascinating and important in Europe.
Bear in mind that thousands of tourists from every part of Europe come to Genoa to visit it on purpose!
Genoese bourgeois and citizens are buried here in Staglieno, as well as important personalities that made the history of Italy.
Among them you will find Giuseppe Mazzini, Govi, Fabrizio De Andrè, Maly Lloyd Wilde (Oscar Wilde’s wife) and many others.
Inside the Monumental Cemetery you can also see a Pantheon, galleries and arcades with lots of monuments representative of the 19th and 20h Century, and the Boschetto Irregolare, an irregular grove inspired by the model of the Romantic gardens, where the Mille and other heroes from Risorgimento are buried.
Genoa in three days: conclusions
Well, you reached the end of this long article on what to see in Genoa in 3 days and I hope I gave you all the necessary information to enjoy your next trip to this city.
On day one we found out which are the most important attractions in Genoa, on day two we explored two beautiful fishing villages, while on day three we visited the most important museums of the city.
What do you think about my guide?
Well, I hope you really liked it.
Wish you a great holiday in Genoa, Italy,