In a destination like Italy, there’s really no shortage of great places to visit. But having so many interesting cities to choose from for your vacation can mean some places like the port city of Genoa go mostly overlooked. Which is a shame really, as Genoa is a city full of personality and its fair share of surprises. Thanks to its long maritime history, Genoa enjoyed a great deal of prosperity and has the palaces to show for it, something you’ll surely find entertaining.
Perhaps the best thing about a trip to Genoa is that you don’t need to invest a lot of time if you know what you’re looking for. This Genoa itinerary will lead you around the city, efficiently showing you the best places to visit in Genoa along the way. That way, you can spend just 1 day in Genoa and still get to know the city and see its main sights with ease.
Best Time to Visit Genoa
In order to get the most out of your visit to Genoa, you’ll want to know the best time to go. Weather and tourist numbers can have a drastic effect on the experience of visiting, but it’s also understandable that your visit has to fit in with your other travel plans.
Like so much of Italy, the busiest time to visit is during the summer months of June, July, and August. This is when the city experiences its warmest weather, but it’s also when accommodation will be at its most expensive. Instead, the best time to visit Genoa is during the city’s shoulder season. From April to June and again in September and October, you can expect pleasant weather for outdoor sightseeing and fewer tourists to share Genoa’s attractions with. As for wintertime, expect cool weather, plenty of rain, and for some attractions to potentially be closed.
How to Get Around Genoa
Genoa is a large port city spread across a hilly landscape, meaning it pays to know the best ways to get around. While visiting Genoa you’re likely going to spend most of your time around the city’s Old Town, where walking is a viable option for getting about. But that won’t always be the case, so it’s worth getting to know Genoa’s public transport system.
To get around Genoa on public transport you have the choice of buses, metro, elevators, and even two funiculars. Chances are the metro is going to be the most useful to you as it connects the main train station and harbor with the Old Town. But the elevators and funiculars will make reaching higher parts of the city much easier, as they’ll save you from having to walk too much uphill. Tickets work across the entire urban network and start at €1.50 for a single ticket which is valid for 100 minutes.
Another great way to get around for tourists is on the Hop-on Hop-off bus that traverses the city. The bus stops at all of the important attractions in the city and with a 24 hour ticket you can hop-on and off where and whenever you like. You can buy your Hop-on Hop-off bus ticket here.
Where to Stay in Genoa
An important step in planning a trip to Genoa is figuring out where in the city you’re going to stay. Since Italy is such a popular tourist destination, it’s best to organize your accommodation as far in advance as possible. After all, you want as many options as possible when picking where to stay in Genoa to find something in your budget that suits you.
Location is certainly an important factor to keep in mind when deciding where to stay. Ideally, you want to find accommodation that’s in or close to the Old Town. However, staying near the harbor is another good option, especially with the local metro that runs there.
Live it up by staying at the Meliá Genova, one of the best places to stay in Genoa. This five-star hotel is found in the heart of the city and features beautifully appointed rooms, as well as an indoor swimming pool, a wellness center, and a Turkish bath.
For a balance of affordability and quality, be sure to check out the B&B Hotel Genova. This three-star hotel enjoys a location with easy access to public transport near the Palazzo Reale, plus it has clean and stylish rooms.
Genoa isn’t exactly your typical budget destination, which makes Ostellin Genoa Hostel one of your best options. This colorful hostel offers both dorms and private rooms, a useful kitchen, and friendly staff.
For more accommodation options in Genoa check out Booking.com. They continuously offer the best rates and their custom service is on point.
The Perfect 1-Day Genoa Itinerary
Although you only need one day to take in the best of Genoa and its attractions, don’t make the mistake of underestimating this port city. Genoa is actually a city full of history and culture just waiting to be explored. All the best things to do in Genoa reveal the city’s grand heritage and show off its prettier side. To cover all that, you’ll end up experiencing various neighborhoods across the city, from down in the harbor to up in its hills.
However, before we get to our Genoa itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it.
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With that important matter fully covered, let’s get right into this Genoa travel itinerary which will show you what to do in Genoa in 1 day to properly see the city.
Recommendation: Join guided walking tour and discover the many treasures of Genoa’s historical city center. Follow the labyrinth of narrow alleys through the city, visit the splendid Palazzi dei Rolli, and admire the artwork at the Strada Nuova Museums. This 2-hour walking tour can be booked here.
The ideal place to begin your visit is in the medieval center of Genoa, which is full of narrow laneways and worn away building facades. Unlike some cities, this part of Genoa is still very much residential, but is also home to plenty of cafes, bars, and shops. While you should feel free to aimlessly explore Genoa’s Old Town, there are some places you won’t want to miss.
One of those spots is the Via Giuseppe Garibaldi, which is pretty much the main street in the historical center thanks to the many palaces and residences that sit along it. This street dates from the Renaissance period and is a key part of the Strade Nuove, recognized as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The other major landmark to visit is Piazza De Ferrari, an open square that centers around a large ornate fountain and is lined with stately 19th century architecture.
Just a short walk from Piazza De Ferrari stands the Porta Soprana, a preserved city gate which was once part of Genoa’s city walls. Two large stone towers sit on either side of this arched gateway, all of which makes it an impressive sight to see. A visit to Porta Soprana helps give you an idea of what the tall city walls must have once been like.
Just outside the gate you’ll also find a restored stone house where Christopher Columbus spent his childhood, as well as many olive trees, which together create a memorable stop as you explore the city.
Cathedral of San Lorenzo
Back towards the heart of the Old Town you’ll come to the most important church of the many in Genoa, the impressive Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Like several other cathedrals in this part of Italy, this one has a striped stone and marble facade which immediately catches the eye. The cathedral was originally built in 1118 in a Romanesque style, but has seen other architectural flourishes added over the years. Head inside and you’ll see that the interior is equally striking, especially the Chapel of St. John the Baptist which was built to hold the ashes of the saint whom they brought back from the Crusades.
Genoa is bursting at the seams with grand palaces to visit, and the Palazzo Rosso is widely considered to be one of its most impressive. The Palazzo Rosso, which sits along Via Garibaldi, is one of the palaces that make up the Palazzi dei Rolli recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. However, it is only one of three on Via Garibaldi along with the Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Tursi which are open to the public. With a visit here you can expect to see incredible frescoes decorating palace rooms, not to mention works of art by the likes of Van Dyck, Strozzi, and Dürer.
Moving away from the Old Town to the harborside neighborhood of Prè, you come to another major palace, Palazzo Reale. Otherwise known as the Palazzo Stefano Balbi, or simply the Royal Palace Museum, this is another member of the UNESCO heritage-listed Palazzi dei Rolli. Dating from the 17th-century, this incredible palace was once a royal residence for the House of Savoy, which explains its grandeur and opulence. Outside you’ll see stunning garden terraces, pretty balconies, and magnificent staircases. It only gets better inside with the lavish decor of rooms like The Mirror Gallery and the extensive art collection.
Genoa Harbor and Lighthouse
It’s now time to head down and see what the waterfront of Genoa is like. Genoa Harbor occupies a huge section of the city and has long been the economic heart of the city. However, the Porto Antico, as it is known, has also become a popular place for tourists thanks to new developments in the area.
A walk along the harbor’s edge will take you from attractions like the maritime museum and aquarium, right round to the historic Lighthouse of Genoa. Along the way you’ll pass all manner of ships including some traditional wooden ones. Just don’t miss the lighthouse at the end, as this symbol of the city was built in 1543, making it the third oldest lighthouse in the world. Of course, you may not want to walk the entire way around, in which case the metro makes a quick alternative.
To finish the day, head to one of the best viewpoints in Genoa, the Belvedere Castelletto. Whether you climb one of the long staircases that lead to it or simply take an elevator, the trip up is worth it for the panoramic views you get across the rooftops towards the sea. Being up there should give you a whole new perspective on the city. It also makes for a nice sunset spot if you time it right.
Have More Than 24 Hours in Genoa?
Just because you’ve seen many of the key sights in Genoa on your first day doesn’t mean it’s necessarily time to move on. Genoa may be the largest city on the Ligurian Sea, but it shares that coastline with some wonderful other destinations. Allow even one extra day in the area and you can see one of these seaside spots and get a lot more out of your trip. To give you some ideas, here are some spots to visit when your 24 hours in Genoa are up.
For a more classically captivating seaside destination, pay a visit to the small town of Portofino. This harbor town is a beautiful place to visit on the Italian Riviera, cramming in plenty of wonderful scenery into quite a little town.
Having followed the coastal road that leads to Portofino, it’s an incredibly short walk to the center of this town. Wandering about, you’ll see a nice selection of authentic pastel colored houses completely surrounded by endless greenery that makes Portofino feel more secluded than it actually is. Soon enough you’ll make your way to the waterfront marina, with one luxury yacht after another tied up there, showcasing the types of visitors Portofino is used to.
Continuing around the marina, it’s time to take to the walking paths that cover the end of the peninsula east of town. There you’ll discover Castello Brown, the Portofino Lighthouse, terrace gardens, and the absolute best views of Portofino and the coastline there. If you want the perfect postcard photo of Portofino, that’s where you’ll get it.
You can book a guided tour to Portofino here.
2. Cinque Terre
Easily the most popular destination on this part of Italy’s coastline, it’s hard to say no to Cinque Terre. This collection of five villages has become famous for its magical scenery and is rightly on many peoples’ bucket lists. So why not take the opportunity and visit this stunning part of the Ligurian coast.
Cinque Terre is made up of five villages; Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Then there’s the surrounding national park which has walking trails criss-crossing its hilly landscape, providing some of Cinque Terre’s most cherished panoramas. Unfortunately, that’s a lot to expect from a day trip, so it’s best to focus on each of the beautiful seaside villages and their immediate surroundings.
What’s great about Cinque Terre is that each village has something different to offer. For instance, Monterosso is known for its fantastic beaches, Vernazza for its scenic harbor, and Corniglia for the terraced vineyards that watch over it. To learn more about making the most of a visit here, make sure to read our dedicated guide to Cinque Terre.
Those that don’t feel like traveling far from Genoa for their day trip should turn their attention to the quaint city neighborhood of Boccadasse. Once a small fishing village, Boccadasse has been incorporated into the urban sprawl of Genoa over time.
What’s nice about Boccadasse is that it still looks like a typical Ligurian seaside town and nothing like the city center of Genoa. In fact, take one look at the buildings and you’ll swear you were somewhere in the Cinque Terre. Pretty pastel buildings surround a small pebble beach creating the kind of scenery you dream of exploring with a gelato in hand.
Since there are no beaches to be found in the heart of the city, Boccadasse and its surrounds are essentially Genoa’s main beaches. While Boccadasse Beach isn’t too exciting, Vernazzola Beach and Sturla Beach are considerably larger, with more room for those looking to sunbathe and relax.
So there you have it, all you need to know to thoroughly explore Genoa in 1 day. If you’re thinking of spending more time in Italy, be sure to consult our comprehensive Italy itinerary.