Genoa is a fascinating historical city and hosts some of the best attractions and landscapes in Italy.
There are so many things to do and see that a whole book probably wouldn’t cover all the reasons why you should visit it — therefore here’s my TOP 10.
Hi! I’m Andrea from Discovergenoa and I was born and raised in Genoa.
In this article, I’ll try to write down a list of 10 reasons that will (or at least should) lead you to book a vacation in Genoa.
Since I had to make a choice, I have left out hundreds of reasons for visiting Genoa.
If others jump to mind, write them in the comments
Before we start with the article, check out this video:
Are you ready to start?
Before we move on to the article, you must know something.
If you plan to visit Genoa, you should know that it is basically impossible to find a free parking spot in the centre area.
Therefore, if you travel by car, I suggest you find a B&B or hotel with a parking service.
And now to the article.
What is the city of Genoa in Italy famous for?
The Porto Antico and its attractions
Ivano Fossati said: “Those who watch Genoa should know that Genoa can only be seen from the sea.”
Because Genoa is slim and slender, nestled between the water and the hills that plunge to the Mediterranean Sea, it only faces the sea.
To get an idea of the city, first of all you should have a glimpse from the sea, look at its geometrical and vertical lines, enter the Porto Antico (Old Port) and try to conquer it… If you can.
Start with a visit to the Porto Antico of Genoa, which is the very heart of the city.
Inside this area you’ll find many attractions: I suggest to ride the Bigo (panoramic lift) or climb up the Lighthouse (symbol of Genoa since the Middle Ages).
From these two panoramic viewpoints, you can admire the huge dimensions of the Port and enjoy breath-taking views.
Acquario di Genova and Museo del Mare
After the visit to the Porto Antico, head to the Acquario di Genova, the largest aquarium in Italy and the second largest in Europe (after the one in Valencia).
Once you’re inside the building, the lights go down, the sun above the Porto Antico is replaced by the light of sea bottoms, and in a few steps you’ll find yourself in a wonderful and evocative water environment.
In the first part of the visit, you’ll meet dolphins, seals, sharks and numerous other less known species of fish.
In the second part, you’ll be inside a typical fauna environment from Madagascar, and among the deep green leaves you’ll see prehistoric reptiles, reddish frogs, crocodiles and various fish with indescribable colours.
You’ll really feel like you’re underwater.
Galata Maritime Museum
Inside the Porto Antico I suggest you also visit the maritime museum “Galata – Museo del Mare”: it contains a summary of the city history, from the first merchant ships, where oarsmen rowed, to the big ocean liners.
Don’t let the word “museum” mislead you: it is so much more! It is a fun interactive experience that both children and adults will love.
Inside, you’ll find yourself in 23 very evocative interactive rooms that will show you the real meaning of the sea and the “journey” throughout the years.
You’ll have the chance to “try” yourself the life at sea with interactive attractions. You can delve into the historical memories of Genoa (like the Maritime Republic and Christopher Columbus) and end up in the most interesting room, in my opinion — the exhibition La Merica tells the journey of our ancestors looking for a new life in America.
You can feel yourself the fear, strength and hope of the travellers on ocean liners, experience their difficulties and sense the mirage that the far away America was for them.
In my opinion, this room alone is worth the entrance fee.
The largest old town in Europe
Despite the city development, the old town has kept its unique characteristics with alleys, churches and historical shops.
Walk through the caruggi (alleys) and feel their atmosphere: you’ll think you have travelled back over 1,000 years in time.
The alleys are charming, but in Strada Nuova (Via Garibaldi) the Superb City is at its best.
These magnificent palaces, that were built between the 1500s and the 1700s, have attracted travellers from all over the world.
The nobles of Genoa loved to surround themselves with frescoes, decor and arts fit for a king.
You can visit them by entering the most beautiful palaces in Strada Nuova.
If you’re visiting Genoa, you must know that there is a way to appreciate all its beauty: watching it from above.
All over the city, you’ll find various panoramic viewpoints, all different from the others, but equally breath-taking.
Below, I list my two favourites, which are both in the centre and can be easily reached on foot or by public transportation:
It is a beautiful “terrace” overlooking the old town, where you can enjoy a view over the whole city and the port.
You’ll find it in a heartbeat: just go to Piazza Portello and take the lift Castelletto.
You’ll reach your destination in only a few seconds and you can then enjoy some slush or coffee while watching the slate rooftops and typical terraces of the old town, the port, the Lanterna and the sea.
My opinion? You can’t miss it.
Not many people know this pearl of the city (I only found out about it a few years ago).
It is a panoramic terrace on the roof of Palazzo Rosso, one of the most beautiful historical palaces in Strada Nuova.
If you climb to the terrace, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the largest old town in Europe, and you can enjoy a “superb” view!
Read this article to learn more: Genova from above
Focaccia, farinata and pasta with pesto
During your visit to Genoa, you’ll find a bakery or a trattoria everywhere, where you can enjoy the culinary specialities of the city. The most famous (and tasty) are:
- The Genoese Focaccia (click here to learn how to make the real focaccia)
- Pasta with pesto
- Pansoti with walnut sauce
- Torta Pasqualina
- Genoese Pandolce
- …and so much more
In order to taste these specialities, I suggest to visit one of the typical markets.
In Genoa, there are a lot of markets, but the most famous one is the Mercato Orientale. It is located in the city centre, and it’s ideal if you are looking for the smells and tastes of this land — olives, cheese, vegetables and beans of all kinds.
At the Mercato del Carmine, you’ll even learn to make the real Genoese Pesto, in the traditional way.
If you want to find out the 10 typical Genoese meals you should try at least once, click here and read the article written by my friend Giorgio: What to Eat in Genoa
Attractions for children
In Genoa, all the points of interest are close to one another, therefore you can go anywhere on foot or by public transportation.
This is a great advantage, especially if you travel with your children — you can visit the city without losing too much time driving around.
If you’d like to know all the attractions of Genoa for kids, here’s a guide, where I listed 10 things to do with children in Genoa. Have a look.
Looking towards the hills, you can’t miss the huge constructions overlooking the mountains.
Those are the strongholds of Genoa — a series of fortifications that remind you of medieval castles, now one of the best points of interest in Genoa.
They were built in the 1600s on the medieval walls that surrounded the city, and became a model for military architects in France and Germany.
These walls were about 20 km long, forming the longest fortification in the world after the Great Wall of China.
Genoa is sandwiched between sea and mountains, therefore it is very easy to reach the peak without going a long way.
The best way to reach the summit is the famous train of Casella — it starts in Piazza Manin, runs 25 km, crosses the Apennines and arrives in Casella.
Once you’re there, you’ll feel like you’ve travelled a long way, but you’ll actually be very near the centre.
The strongholds are a fascinating route around the city — a part of Genoa you must see, where you can hike or ride a mountain bike.
If you have enough time (and the weather is sunny), I suggest you spend some time discovering this side of Genoa.
If you decided to spend a day in the strongholds, click here to find out the best itinerary: Where to Hike in Genoa.
If you’re tired of frenzied cities and you are looking for some peace and quiet, walk down the promenade Corso Italia and head to Boccadasse, a small fishing village with a beach enclosed between narrow buildings and the sea.
The water of the sea is not the clearest, but Boccadasse is the best place to relax on a small pebble beach or walk through alleys, while enjoying some of the tastiest ice cream in Genoa, made in the Antica Gelateria Amedeo.
It’s the perfect place for a happy hour by the sea or an evening stroll in the near Corso Italia.
The promenade of Nervi
Take a train or a bus and head East — you’ll find yourself in Nervi, an elegant and sophisticated district with one of the most beautiful promenades in Italy (the portal Turismo.it even defined it the most beautiful promenade in the world!).
Cover the 2 km of the panoramic promenade, made with red bricks, and enter the park of Nervi, a green expanse where you can lie down, play ball, have a picnic, jog or watch the squirrels, which are not afraid of the tourists feeding them with nuts.
Speaking of happy hour, end your visit of Genoa with a night in the alleys.
This historical area of the city is now full of clubs and bars — it’s the centre of the night life of Genoa.
Enjoy a happy hour with your friends, and spend the night tasting various drinks in the alleys of this wonderful city.
Here’s the end of this post about the best attractions why Genoa is famous for.
If you have any suggestion, please leave a comment. I will try to answer all of them.