I had so much fun recreating what to do in Genoa from my own trip there in August. I really hope that, due to the international airport and the popularity of nearby Cinque Terre that more and more people choose Genoa for their holiday in Italy.
It’s got all the old world charm of Rome without the hoards of tourists (yes, even in August!). It has enough to do without feeling overwhelmed with attractions. And Genoa is right on the Italian Riviera: good food and great weather!
But it can be difficult to decide what to do in Genoa when it’s not a super famous/popular city. Like, obviously you’re going to hit up the Eiffel Tower in Paris, but Genoa? How do you know what to do in Genoa? Don’t sweat, I’ve got your three days in Genoa itinerary sorted.
What to do in Genoa: 3 Day Itinerary
Travel/Flights to Genoa: How to get there
Flying is the best way to get to Genoa unless you’re visiting on a Mediterranean cruise. Easyjet flights depart from Manchester, Bristol and London airports to Genoa only, so it’s a little trickier to visit than, say, Milan if these aren’t your local airports. Check out Skyscanner for the latest dates and prices for flights to Genoa from the UK.
Did you know? Genoa uses the St George’s cross as it’s city Flag! So you might be wandering around Genoa, eating gelato, and all of a sudden you spot an English Flag. But actually, it’s a Genovese Flag. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? And they had it first! England stole it from Genoa, the scoundrels.
Public Transport in Genoa: How to get around
Another fantastic thing about Genoa – this city is SO walkable. Actually, most places you have to walk. The main tourist sites around Genoa, including most of Old Town, are pedestrianised. There is a Metro service that runs along the outer edge of Genoa that my dad and sister found easy to use, it just has one line. The fare is €1.50 for 100 minutes of travel on any of Genoa’s public transport options.
And areas that aren’t walkable or connected by metro, are connected by a bus service that was a real struggle to decipher. In fact, I can’t even find a decent website explaining how to use Genoa’s buses. I did find out that you cannot buy bus tickets on the bus, you have to find a nearby ticket sales point. Which believe me, aren’t always conveniently situated next to each and every bus stop.
It is helpful to know that if you buy a metro ticket you can also use the bus with the same ticket. But you’ve only got 100 minutes, so hopefully, a metro stop is near your bus stop! The whole system seemed flawed. Let me know if you manage to figure out the buses! I’d love to hear from someone who’s cracked it.
But I would just walk wherever you can. Job done.
Accommodation in Genoa: Where to Stay
My parents booked our accommodation as they originally were going to visit me during an extended trip to Italy. They booked this apartment through Expedia which is actually quite reasonably priced for four people staying seven nights in the middle of August. Though the kitchen could do with an update, I liked the quirky decor throughout the rest of the apartment and the bathrooms were nice.
It also had a balcony and a GORGEOUS view of Genoa. We were on a little bit of a hill, but it was a very gentle climb. And though it may seem slightly out of the city, I found the location to be ideal (super near the Genova Principe train station). And Genoa is much smaller than it looks anyway.
If I was travelling by myself and not with my family, I would have booked a hostel through Hostelworld. If you’re the same, check out the hostels in Genoa here.
Let’s get down to what to do in Genoa on your 3-day trip!
Day 1 in Genoa: Cathedrals, Old Town & Christopher Columbus
Breakfast: While choose a hotel in Genoa with breakfast included.and about, no one is screaming about Italy’s world-famous breakfasts. So to save time and money, I would stock up on breakfast supplies at the local supermarket (we had a small one by our apartment). Or you could
However, if you are keen, the classic Italian breakfast is a cappuccino or espresso with a side of croissant. I recommend heading somewhere like Café HB 1969. They seemed to serve various coffees, juices and pastries to set you up for the day for less than €10 each.
Top tip: Make sure to double-check opening times of shops, museums and churches on the start of the day. They change throughout the days of the week and season. And sometimes, they even close for a couple of hours in the afternoon before opening again later.
- Christopher Columbus Monument – Just a quick stop by Genova Principe Train Station in Piazza Acquaverde. The Christopher Columbus Monument in the piazza commemorates the famous explorer, as Genoa is actually his birthplace!
- Porto Antico – Next, head down towards the harbour and walk along the seafront. It’s this area where you’ll find pushy salesmen and maybe scams but nothing resembling bigger cities such as Paris or Rome.
Mid-Morning gelato – La Dolce Morella Gelateria
After a fair bit of walking, you deserve your first gelato break! You’ll be pleased to know every day on my ‘what to do in Genoa’ itinerary has a gelato break.
This gelateria, also known as ‘Gelateria San Luca’, La Dolce Morella Gelateria serves great gelato. And cheap, too: you can buy a small (but ample) cup of gelato for under €3. And remember to ask for more than one flavour!
- Piazza Banchi – Then, head up into Old Town. This neighbourhood is characterised by it’s narrow, dark streets but at least there’s not much traffic! Just the odd Vespa you have to watch out for. Piazza Banchi is one of my favourite places in Genoa. There are a few film and book stalls as well as a random display of colourful umbrellas. If it’s open, you can also have a look inside Church di San Pietro in Banchi which is a cute little church (it’s also free to enter!).
- Artline Creations Shop – If you’re interested in picking up some original, handmade-in-Genoa gifts, take a detour to Artline Creations. They sell women’s clothing, accessories like scarves and lots of jewellery. I picked up a sterling silver ring and it came in a cute little bag with the Lighthouse of Genoa printed on. Naturally, I didn’t buy any presents and just bought something for myself!
- Cathedral di San Lorenzo – Your final stop before lunch, the Cathedral di San Lorenzo. Like the Duomo in Florence, it has a beautiful black and white stripey design inside and out. It’s free to enter (you’re having a cheap morning so far!) but if you want to visit the Treasure Museum next door, that’s €6 full price.
Lunch – Douce Pâtisserie Café
It’s time for some lunch! There are a few Douce Pâtisserie Café locations around Genoa, but this is the most convenient. They serve a wide selection of antipasti, filled croissants and sandwiches (not to mention the pastries) so it’s the perfect place to stop for lunch.
We found the café by accident but it just happened to be a really nice place to eat lunch!
That was a bit of a jam-packed morning, but don’t worry. The afternoon is going to be much more laid-back.
- Piazza de Ferrari – This is the new main square in Genoa (whereas Piazza Banchi was the old town main square) and it is quite vast. Though there isn’t much to see apart from some good-looking banks and a nice fountain. This is also where you’d catch a Hop-on-hop-off bus in Genoa if you wanted to do that.
- Columbus House – Just down Via Dante you’ll find a super random, old looking house which was apparently where Christopher Columbus lived for a short time in his youth. The Columbus house is only open on the weekends, but not to fret. I really don’t recommend going in, anyway. It’s been ‘reimagined’ so nothing inside is authentic and it’s an empty shell of a house, so there’s literally nothing to see.
- Via XX Settembre for Shopping – If you wanted to compare the madness of UK shopping streets with the pleasant experience of Genoa’s main shopping street then head to Via XX Settembre. Alternatively, if you’re not bothered with the same shops you can find in the UK, head to the Spianata dell’Acquasola park for a nice stroll. Or go one better, try Pasticceria Gelateria Mangini for a nice sit-down, a local beer and yummy savoury snacks!
Dinner – Ristorante Pizzeria Trieste Di Nizzari Natale
After you’ve had your fill of shopping and/or local beer, take a nice, long leisurely walk (or take the metro) through the old town. Ristorante Pizzeria Trieste di Nizzari Natale (try saying that five times fast. Or even just the once!) may seem quite touristy on the outside, but all four of us really enjoyed our pasta there.
In fact, their arrabbiata pasta was my favourite meal of the whole trip and we went back again so I’d be silly not to recommend the restaurant. Good beer selection and tiramisu, too!
Day 2: Palazzi Rolli UNESCO World Heritage Site
Today is all about Genoa’s #1 tourist attraction. There are approx 163 palaces (?!) that were owned by rich families in Genoa from the 16th Century to host visiting Royalty and other important visitors from around Europe.
Today, 42 of those Palaces are part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. The most notable palaces are situated on Via Garibaldi, known back in the day as Strada Nueva (“new street”). How the heck are you supposed to trek around 42 palaces?! Lol, no I don’t recommend doing that. There are five ‘main’ palaces that I’m going to add to my ‘what to do in Genoa’ itinerary.
- Palazzo Reale – If you look at the rest of this itinerary and think ‘meh, I’m not going to all of those Palaces’ then firstly, why are you going to Genoa if you don’t like old buildings? And secondly, then make sure you at least head to Palazzo Reale. It’s the grandest palace and it’s been restored and maintained to resemble what it would have looked like in the 16th century. There’s even a throne room.
- Oimemì Shop – I am throwing some weird places to buy yourself pressies, aren’t I?! I just love it when I find genuinely great locally made, useful products you can take home with you. Oimemì mainly sells men’s t-shirts (have a guess what I bought my boyfriend!) but they had socks and other little knick-knacks too. The shop is not exactly hard to find so it’s worth a pop in on your way to the next palace, I reckon!
- Palazzo Spinola National Gallery – The great thing about visiting Palazzo Reale and then Palazzo Spinola National Gallery together is that once you have a ticket from one palace, you will receive a reduced price ticket at the other. So when I visited Palazzo Reale and paid a reduced price of €3 as a 25-year-old EU citizen, I was informed I only needed to pay €1 for a ticket to the Spinola Gallery! I didn’t end up visiting this palace because, for security reasons, they only lead guided tours every 30 minutes and I didn’t have the time to spare. This palace has turned into a gallery, as opposed to being restored to its authentic interiors like Palazzo Reale.
Lunch – Gargantua and Pantagruel Bistrot
Not too far from Via Garibaldi is this lovely little bistro, Gargantua and Pantagruel Bistrot. I didn’t try it myself but it’s got good reviews and seems to serve lighter bites like focaccia and antipasti. And G&P Bistrot has got you covered if you fancy a cheeky Aperol Spritz with your meal.
- Palazzo Bianco – Make your way back up to Via Garibaldi for the afternoon. Pop into Musei di Strada Nuova for one ticket to Palazzo Bianco, Palazzo Doria Tursi and Palazzo Rosso which are all right next to each other. In fact, the exhibition in Palazzo Bianco leads you straight onto Palazzo Doria Tursi. It’s €9 for all three palaces, which ain’t too bad.
- Palazzo Doria Tursi – I really enjoyed visiting both Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi, but they are more like a museum exhibition that visiting a stately home which I know might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Mid-Afternoon gelato – Gelateria Profumo
Take a break before the next and final palace by eating one of the best gelatos I’ve ever had in my entire life. Gelateria Profumo on a little street just south of Via Garibaldi and I ate a crema and caramel gelato for only €2.50 so I highly recommend.
- Palazzo Rosso – The last palace of the day! The high point of Palazzo Rosso is the authentic apartment on one of the upper floors (much like Palazzo Reale). And you’re able to visit the roof for some cracking views across Genoa.
- Cinema Sivori – I wouldn’t be a very good film blogger recommending what to do in Genoa without suggesting you Cinema Sivori and I really enjoyed it, new plush seats and a cosy little theatre. Just making a suggestion… My mum and I went to
Dinner – Trattoria de Maria
I didn’t eat at Trattoria de Maria but it was recommended by Genoa-based blogger A Small Kitchen in Genoa. Apparently, this restaurant serves really traditional Genovese cuisine but without the price tag of some of the other recommended restaurants.
Did you know? Genoa invented pesto! So don’t miss out on ordering pesto pasta one night of your trip. Other local foods include Foccacia bread, vegetable pies, and of course lots of seafood since you’re right by the sea! There are too many great, local dishes to list.
Day 3: Genoa, Boccadasse, Cinque Terre or Portofino
Another Day in Genoa
There are so many other things to do in Genoa that may be of particular interest to you. If you’re struggling to think of what to do in Genoa for your last day, you could visit the Maritime Museum of the Sea or the Aquarium of Genoa which are both on the harbour. Though I didn’t visit either.
The Aquarium is a big hit for families, but apparently, they keep dolphins which is incredibly cruel as dolphins should never be kept in tanks. And ever since I visited the Maritime Museum in Hamburg, I’ve realised these museums are so rarely interesting and exciting.
If you’re looking for things to do in Genoa that will give you a viewpoint over the city, try hopping on the funicular up to Castello Mackenzie or the Lighthouse of Genoa if you are visiting on a weekend.
Day Trip to Boccadasse
The fishing village of Boccadasse was recommended as one of the top things to do in Genoa many times online and in my Lonely Planet guide book. However, if you are planning on visiting some of the more popular coastal Italian towns such as Portofino or Cinque Terre, visiting Boccadasse is a waste. It’s essentially Portofino but on a smaller, quieter scale and it’s a bitch to get to.
Lonely Planet made it seem like the walk along the Corso Italia to Boccadasse was a nice stroll. Except they forgot to mention most of the Corso Italia is a very busy road and only the last 20 minutes are pleasant. I’m also inclined to blame Google Maps for my bad experience because it said the walk was approx one hour 40 minutes to Boccadasse… wrong. It was easily two hours and 30 minutes and I was a hot, sweaty mess when I got there.
To top it off, when I tried to get the bus back to Genoa, I had no idea where to buy a bus ticket. Super.
So, if you aren’t heading to Portofino or Cinque Terre one your trip, I do recommend a little jaunt to Boccadasse as it is a nice little place. And you’ll be pleased you visited a colourful, seaside town on your trip to Genoa.
However, take the train to the nearest train station which is Genova Sturla and then it’s only a 20-minute walk to Boccadasse. This is faaaar better than walking two and a half hours there and back.
And once you get to Boccadasse, try the Antica Gelateria Amedeo. The gelato melts annoyingly fast but it’s delicious.
Day Trip to Portofino or Cinque Terre
I can’t really recommend taking a day trip to Portofino above Cinque Terre, and vice versa. I did a day trip to both, and it totally depends on what you’re looking for.
If you’ve gazed longingly at other tourist’s Instagram snaps of Cinque Terre, then Portofino isn’t going to cut it and you should read my guide on how to spend one day in Cinque Terre.
However, if Cinque Terre is a bit far away and you want something more relaxing, you should read my guide on how to take a day trip from Genoa to Portofino via a boat cruise.
That’s my extensive, 3-day itinerary for what to do in Genoa, Italy. Have you visited Genoa or do you have any questions about what to do in Genoa? Let me know in the comments below!