Home to pesto, focaccia, Christopher Columbus, and one of the tallest lighthouses in the world, Genoa is an intriguing coastal city that shouldn’t be missed when planning a trip to Italy. With this Genoa itinerary, you’ll be on your way for 1, 2, or 3 days in Genoa to explore this largely undiscovered part of Italy by tourists.
Genoa is located on the northwest coastline of Italy in the region of Liguria. While the region is mainly known for being home to Cinque Terre or the “Italian Riviera”, the capital city of Genoa is an exciting destination itself.
How Many Days in Genoa?
While most people just spend their time in Genoa as a stopover city, spending a minimum of one or two days in the city is ideal to make the most of the city. With one day in Genoa, you’ll manage to see the main attractions of the city but still be at a block of time if you’d like to explore the city more.
If you are staying for 2 days in Genoa, you’ll be able to discover more and maybe revisit some of your favorite parts of the city.
For a trip of 3 days in Genoa or even more, you will have the opportunity to dig deeper into Genoa and maybe take a day trip to the surrounding areas of Liguria.
When you’re looking to decide how many days to spend in Genoa, the important factors are going to be; what you’re looking to get out of your trip, if you’d like to spend time in the surrounding areas, and how quickly you like to make your way through a city.
Getting To and Around Genoa
If you’ll be reaching the city by plane, the best way to make your way to Genoa is by flying into the Genoa Airport, also known as the Christopher Columbus International Airport. The airport has domestic and international connections, making it easy to fly in from the rest of Europe or other destinations in Italy – such as Rome, Naples and more.
The Genoa airport is only about 10 km from the city center which gives quick and easy transportation to your accommodation in the city. This is great especially if you only have a day in Genoa and want to make things quick.
You can reach the city by public transportation on the shuttle, Volabus AMT. It collects passengers from directly outside the terminal and costs 6 euros for each direction. Buses are also quite frequent running between every 20 and 30 minutes and with drop-off points at multiple places throughout the city center.
If you’re looking to skip the public transport and go directly to the city center by taxi, there’s a fixed cost per person for a taxi ride at 7 euros per person.
For those arriving by train in the city, the metropolitan area of Genoa is serviced by many train stations but with one main one in the center of the city; Genova Piazza Principe.
Piazza Principe station services trains throughout Italy to and from Genoa and also EuroCity trains connecting Italy to the French Riviera, Austria, and many other countries in Europe. You can view schedules here.
Genova Piazza Principe is located close to the waterfront, making it convenient if you need to reach the port. It is also very central with many buses at the station to take you to your destination throughout the city.
Making your way throughout Genoa is quite easy due to the proximity of its main attractions as well as an efficient public transportation system. The AMT transportation system in Genoa has over 140 bus lines, 1 underground line running through most of the main attractions, 2 funiculars, and 10 lifts rising to the high points of Genoa for wonderful panoramic views.
Tickets are €1.50 and are valid for 100 minutes throughout the entire transportation network. There are also different passes for various periods available for purchase if you plan on using public transportation frequently. Public transport tickets can be purchased at AMT ticket offices as well as at newsstands, tobacco shops, as well as many other shops and bars.
If you’re solely looking to visit the main attractions of the city, it’s easy to walk throughout your trip as most of these are near each other by the Old Port in the Old Town of Genoa. Otherwise, it’s still quite a walkable city depending on your fitness level.
1,2 or 3 Days in Genoa Itinerary
Known in Italian as “Genova”, Genoa is the capital of the region of Liguria spanning back to the 5th century BC. Being the 6th largest city in Italy, it’s a surprise that Genoa is a destination off the beaten path in Italy.
Many people only arrive at the port of Genoa to go directly to their final destination on the Italian Riviera, but Genoa itself is worth spending at least a day or two in.
From some of the most delicious food in Italy to the splendor of the many palaces (Genoa was once an extremely wealthy shipping city), to the “Caruggi”, the narrow and shaded walkways familiar to the Italian Riviera, Genoa is a city rich in culture, culinary delights, and soon to be, your time.
Day 1 – Old Town of Genoa
Via Garibaldi and The New Streets (Le Strade Nuove)
This Genoa itinerary begins at the UNESCO Heritage Site of Via Garibaldi. Via Garibaldi as well as the neighboring streets of Via Cairoli and Via Balbi are listed as UNESCO Sites with Renaissance and Baroque buildings going back to the 16th century.
The UNESCO sites also include many of the famous palaces within the area. If you’re taking public transport, the best way to start the day is to first make your way to the San Giorgio metro station as it’s the most centrally located to the sights you’ll be seeing today.
The street is completely closed off to traffic, so just by walking down this famous street, you’ll find yourself back in time being surrounded by all the remnants of the once luxurious residences of wealthy Genovese merchant families.
It is also possible to book a walking tour here to learn more about the history of the city.
Palazzi Dei Rolli
The Palaces that are included in the UNESCO site of Genoa are known as the “Palazzi Dei Rolli”, or Palaces of the Lists. This is a group of 42 palaces on Via Garibaldi in classic Renaissance and Baroque styles that have been well preserved for modern visitors.
A handful of the Palazzi are now being used as private residences or public buildings and offices but there are still many open for visitors including Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco, and Palazzo Doria Tursi.
The collection of the three of these Palaces is called the “Strada Nuova Museums”. The three residences together make up one of the most important collections of Genovese antique art and are truly an experience.
You’ll have the opportunity to make your way through over seventy-five rooms as well as numerous courtyards, gardens, and terraces offering splendid views of the city. For those spending 1 day in Genoa and would like to visit one museum, the Strada Nuova Museums are a great choice.
The museum is open every day of the week except Sunday, and tickets are 8 euros. You can also book a guided tour here.
A good alternative option is to buy the Genova Museum Card for 15 euros, which lasts for 24 hours and includes public transport. The Genova Museum Card includes 27 city museums, 18 civic museums, and 9 non-civic museums and is a great bargain if you’re looking to visit multiple museums in the city.
San Lorenzo Cathedral
About a 7-minute walk from the Strada Nuova Museums is the San Lorenzo Cathedral. You’ll reach the Cathedral from Via San Lorenzo and can’t miss it from its unmistakable black and white marble architecture with two lions marking the entry.
The Cathedral was built in 1100 and was bombarded by the English during World War 2. You’d think after a bombardment the Cathedral would be demolished but miraculously the bomb didn’t explode, leaving the Cathedral intact.
If you visit the San Lorenzo Cathedral, you’ll still see the bomb inside the church and have the opportunity to touch and see it for yourself.
Genoa’s biggest claim to fame is likely the well-loved pesto sauce with an interesting legend behind it. The known legend has it that in a convent on the hills of Pra in Genoa, a friar regularly collected herbs that grew on those hills (basil, in honor of San Basilio).
One day he decided to combine the ingredients given to him by the pilgrims, and the result is what we know today as the vibrant green pesto.
There’s no better way to spend your first lunch in Genoa than by savoring the true Genovese pesto pasta. Near the San Lorenzo Cathedral is Zimino, a classic no-frills trattoria offering the most delicious Genovese cuisine.
The portions are big, the people are friendly, and you’re almost guaranteed to have a meal that will make you want to come back for more.
Spianata Castelletto (Castelletto Esplanade)
After exploring the Old Town of Genoa from below, and especially if you only have 1 day in Genoa, you’ll without a doubt want to see the city from above. After lunch, head to the Spianata Castelletto. From Zimino, it’s just about a 15-minute walk on Via S. Luca.
The Spianata Castelletto offers marvelous 360 panoramic views of the city and is a great way to see the city in its entirety as well as the harbor. You can reach the esplanade from Piazza Portello by the Ascensore Della Spianata Castelletto (Castelletto Esplanade Elevator), which is an experience and sight in itself that you can’t miss on your Genoa itinerary.
Whether you decide to visit by day or night, it’s the perfect place to take in the city while enjoying a coffee, ice cream, or cocktail.
Day 2 – Genoa Aquarium, Port, and More Food
If your itinerary includes 2 days in Genoa or 3 days in Genoa, you’ll still be here with us to eat and explore more! If you’re only spending a day in Genoa, feel free to alternate any of the next two days with the first day depending on your interests.
To start day 2 of this Genoa itinerary, you’ll want to head back to the San Giorgio metro station but go the opposite way from the Old Town that you went to yesterday. This will bring you to the Port of Genoa and our first stop of the itinerary on day 2, the Genoa Aquarium.
Originally built for the Genoa Expo of 1992, the Genoa Aquarium is the largest in Italy and the largest aquarium of aquatic biodiversity in Europe featuring over 12,000 different animals and over 600 different species. You would think that it is a bit of a random thing to do in Italy, but most locals in Genoa will tell you it is one of the must-see sites while visiting the city.
The aquarium is open 7 days a week and tickets can be purchased here. Children 3 and under are also included in free admission.
Porto Antico & Lighthouse
After spending time at the Genoa Aquarium, make sure to take some time to wander around the harbor of the Porto Antico (Old Port). The port of Genoa is the largest and busiest in Italy and also one of the busiest in continental Europe.
Whereas most ports are quite unkempt and only serve a purpose for the boats, the port of Genoa has been transformed into a lovely area making it the perfect place to go for a walk by the sea.
While spending time by the port, something that is worth your time and visit is the Lighthouse of Genoa or known locally as the “Lanterna”. The Lanterna is what many call the quintessential symbol of the city with its history going back to 1128, once lighting bonfires to help signal incoming sailors.
It’s the largest in the Mediterranean and the most important to Italy standing 249 feet tall! The first 172 steps are open to the public but the upper levels are under military control. Make sure to remember that the Lighthouse and its features available to visit are only available for visits during the weekend.
The perfect meal after spending time at the Lanterna and around the port is seafood! You can find some of the freshest seafood in Genova, making it one of the most popular foods in this coastal city.
A nice spot by the harbor to eat a modern twist on classic Italian seafood dishes is TUNA Cantina e Pescato.
Day 3 – Boccadasse Village or D’Albertis Castle
On your third and final day in Genoa, you’ll first head to Boccadasse, a well-preserved, ancient, and charming fishing village located within the city of Genoa.
The village of Boccadasse is a well-loved area by locals and truly a special place to visit for tourists if you’re looking for a quieter atmosphere within the large city. The village is recognizable by its classic and colorful houses lining the seaside similar to those that we know on the Italian Riviera.
There are pleasant places to walk, restaurants to eat at, and also a few places to have a drink by the sea. There is also a small beach area if the weather permits swimming and sunshine during your stay.
From the center of Genoa, you can reach Boccadasse Village either by an hour-long walk along Corso Italia or by the 31 bus departing from Genova Brignole station.
Another interesting place to visit on your last day in Genoa is the D’Albertis Castle. The castle is a historical residence in the central part of the city which was once the home of sea captain Enrico Alberto d’Albertis.
After he died in 1932, the residence was donated to the city of Genoa and now boasts a wonderful collection of maritime and archaeological art including the Museum of World Cultures since 2004. Built in 1886 in Gothic style, the castle gives grand views of the city as well as the Ligurian sea.
Tickets are 6 euros for entry but are also included in the Genova Pass.
If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to head to the Italian Riviera for the day, it’s going to be a jam-packed day but doable.
If you’re going to Cinque Terre, you’ll first need to take a train from one of the main train stations in Genoa to Levanto. Then from Levanto, you’ll head to the Cinque Terre Express which runs throughout the 5 towns, then you can depart at whichever town you want or spend time in various towns.
Heading to Portofino is a lot more feasible as it’s closer to Genoa. You’ll just need to take a regional train from one of the main stations in Genoa or you can book a guided tour via boat here.
Where to Stay in Genoa
Whether you plan to only spend a day in Genoa or more, you’re going to need to find a place to rest your head in the Ligurian capital. There are plenty of places to choose from in the city and if you’re wondering where to stay in Genoa, have a look through these suggestions:
B&B Dormire Dai Grimaldi – This small bed and breakfast is a great option for those travelling on a mid-range budget. They have a range of en-suite rooms available, a common lounge area and breakfast included each morning. They also have a great central location for exploring Genoa. Click here to see their availability
Hotel Astoria – For those looking for a high-end option, then this luxe hotel is a great choice. Centrally located and perfect for exploring all Genoa has to offer, they have a range of plush rooms available to suit all kinds of people. There is also an on-site bar, a fitness centre and the hotel even allows pets. Click here to see their availability
OStellin Genova Hostel – If you’re travelling on a tight budget or solo, then this hostel can be a great option for you. They have a range of both dorm beds and private rooms available, a central location for exploring the city and great common areas for meeting other visitors to Genoa. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Genoa hotels!
If you’re planning a trip to Italy and are looking for a destination off the beaten path with delicious and world-renowned food, Genoa is the perfect spot. Genoa is rich in maritime history and exciting places to visit along the Ligurian coast, so you won’t be at a loss for things to do in this city.
Whether you have 1, 2, or 3 days in Genoa or just a stopover to the Italian Riviera, this Ligurian town will capture your heart, mind, and stomach.
When travelling in Genoa, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads.
Are you planning a visit to Genoa? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!