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10 things to do and see in Genoa

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10 things to do and see in Genoa

“Lying at the bottom of its bay with the careless majesty of a queen … Genova meet the traveler” (A. Dumas, 1841). Too bad that often the travellers  just stop there few hours in order to go visiting other towns  of Liguria, such as the Cinque Terre and Portofino, loosing the opportunity to discover a city full of history, hidden treasures, picturesque corners.

The charm of this city between mountains and  sea, past and present where peoples and cultures meet (in fact themedieval name of Genoa is  Janua, that means “door” in Latin), enchanted writers, poets and songwriters with its hidden soul.

Although Genoa is known primarily for its aquarium, the ancient maritime republic has within its walls wonderful proofs  of its glorious past but also modern works . So, walking around the city you can admire the noble palaces and ancient churches, visit museums, and understand that Genoa run out toward the future  but is also superb custodian of a present past.

In this page we suggest you  10 things to do and see during a holiday or a weekend in Genoa.

If you are looking for a hotel in Genoa, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 100 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

The Lighthouse of Genoa

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This lighthouse is the proof of the seafaring tradition of Genoa. The lighthouse is commonly called the “Lantern” and has  always been the symbol of Genoa.

The Lighthouse of Genoa
The Lighthouse of Genoa

77 meters high, the tower stands on the ruins of a historic hill of 40 meters that is located about 177 meters above sea level.

Born to signal to ships entering into the port but also to control its movement inside, the tower was built in the fourteenth century. In 1326 it was installed the first oil lantern  and in 1340 was painted on the bottom of the tower the coat of arms. Its current  appearance is the result of reconstruction work of the sixteenth century, and the lantern looks like then: a tower with two walkaways(each one with a terrace), a staircase of 720 steps, a lantern inside which  there are the lighting elements.

Close to the tower there  is the Lighthouse Museum, a multimedia museum dedicated to the city 800 meters far from the Ferry Terminal that runs along the old walls to the lighthouse.

Where:  the harbour of Genoa
How to get there: by feet
When:  the Lighthouse  and the Museum are open on Saturdays, Sundays and public holidays from 2:30  to 6:30 pm
Ticket: full ticket € 6, reduced ticket € 4

The historic center of Genoa

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The historiccenter of Genoa is the core of the Old Town, a place full of history and charm thatwas finally restored  after years of neglect and decay.

The historic center of Genoa
The historic center of Genoa

To discover the ancient charm of Genoa you have to walk  into the “carruggi” the alleys of medieval origin, and characteristic creuze(narrow streets built in  in the walls), get lost among the beautiful streets  with noble palaces and squares (Piazza delleErbe, Piazza San Donato) overlooked by ancient churches (San Donato, San Matteo).

It is no coincidence that a large part of the historic center has been declared a World Heritage Site. There are many historical sites such as the Castrum, which is the first settlement of the city dating back to the Roman period, the architectural heritage of the famous Palazzo Spinola and Palazzo Ducale, two public buildings. There are also many inns where you can taste typical dishes of the Genoese cuisine, popular bars, and old shops  with their charm.

The Aquarium of Genoa

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The Aquarium is the main tourist attraction of Genoa. It opened in 1992 in the ancient port, and it is the largest Italian aquarium and the second in Europe, after the one of Valencia.

The Aquarium of Genoa
The Aquarium of Genoa

The marine park has  12,000 specimens of 600 different species (not only marine species but also animals of rainforests and freshwater) in a spectacular setting that  reproduces exactly their original natural habitat. The visit to the Aquarium is a funny and exciting experience as it offers the opportunity to learn about aquatic fauna “strolling” in the seas and in the most beautiful waters in the world. The path between the various pavilions of Aquarius go through more than 70 tanks where you can also observe sharks, seals, turtles, penguins, and outreach areas that complete the visual experience with scientific concepts. Recently it was inaugurated the new  Cetacean Hall  designed by Renzo Piano to see the cute marine mammals from an underwater perspective, thanks to the basement tunnel.

Where: on the Harbour of Genoa
How to get there: by Bus: line n ° 1, 12 and 13 with the last stop in front of the Aquarium; M: stop San Giorgio;
By Train: from Stazione Genova P. Principe walking  for 15 minutes or by bus. 1
for Piazza Caricamento or  by subway direction De Ferrari stop San Giorgio; from StazioneBrignole bus. 12 and 13 for Piazza Caricamento
When:
January and February: Monday  – Friday . from 9:30 am to 7:30  pm (last entrance 6 pm ) Sat., Sun. and holidays from 9:30 am to 8:30 pm  (last entrance 7:00pm);
March, April and May: Monday  – Friday . from 9:30 am to 7:30  pm (last entrance 6 pm ) – Sat., Sun. and holidays from 8.45am to 8:30 pm  (last entrance 7:00pm);
May and June: Monday  – Friday . from 9:30 am to 7:30  pm (last entrance 6 pm ) – Sat., Sun. and holidays from 8.45am to 8:30 pm  (last entrance 7:00pm);
July: every day from 8.30 am  to 10.00 pm  (last admission 8:30 pm );
August: every day from 8.30 am  to 10.00 pm  (last admission 8:30 pm );
September and October: Monday  – Friday . from 9:30 am to 8 pm (last entrance 7 pm ) – Sat., Sun. and holidays from 8.45am to 9 pm  (last entrance 7:00pm);
November:Monday – Friday. from 9:30 am to 8 pm (last entrance 6 pm ) – Sat., Sun. and holidays from 9:30 am to 9 pm  (last entrance 7:00pm);
December: Monday  – Friday . from 9:30 am to 9 pm (last entrance 7 pm ) – Sat., Sun. and holidays from 9:30 am to 9 pm  (last entrance 7:00pm);
– 25 and December 26 from 9.30 to 9 pm  (last entrance 19:00).
Ticket: Adults € 23.00; children (4-12 years) € 15.00; Children (0-3) free; reduced (military, over 65, disabled) € 20,00.

Via Garibaldi and Museums of Strada Nuova in Genoa

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The beautiful Via Garibaldi, the “New Road” of mid-sixteenth century, also called the “Golden Path” for the splendour of its buildings (the beautiful Cambioso and CarregaCataldipalaces) hosts  the unique museum dedicated to ancient art that connects the three historic mansions owned by the city: Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo DoriaTursi.

In the first building, the seventeenth-century residence of the Brignole– Sale family, you can admire the historical furnishings and art collections that the noble family picked up in more than two centuries.

There are works by Van Dyck, Veronese, Guercino, Strozzi, Dürer. Palazzo Bianco houses a fine collection of Italian paintings (do not miss the Ecce homo of Caravaggio), Flemish (Rubens, Van Dyck, Memling), Dutch (Steen), French (Vouet) and Spanish (Murillo) from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century . The aristocratic Palazzo Tursi, has a remarkable exhibition ofDecorative art (ceramics, tapestries) and  the “Cannone”, the famous Paganini violin built in 1734 by Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri violin maker.

Where: old town centre
How to get there: Brignole Station take the 18, 18 / and get off in Piazza Portello; from Piazza Principe take the 34 (last stop) and get off at Piazza FontaneMarose. By: take Via Balbi, Piazza della Nunziata and Via Cairoli.
When: Tuesday to Friday 9 am 7 pm ; Saturday and Sunday 10 am – 7 pm ; Monday closed.
Ticket: Full € 9.00; reduced (over 65) € 7.00; free for EU citizens from 0 to 18 years old

Galata | Museum of the Sea in Genoa

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Galata Museo del Mare testify the link of Genoa with the sea. It is  the largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean dedicated to the history of navigation.

Galata | Museum of the Sea in Genoa
Galata | Museum of the Sea in Genoa

Through reproduction and exhibition of boats of all sizes and types, tools and charts, multimedia and interactive exhibits, the museum offers visitors a real journey through time studying  sailors, passengers and migrants’ life .

The journey begins on the ground floor from the age of rowing ships, continues on the first and second floor on the route of sailing ships and revolutionary geographical explorations and ends on the third floor dedicated to the trip to America. Do not miss the Mirador panoramic terrace to enjoy a splendid view of the harbor and the city.

Where: the Harbour
How to get there: by Train: Genova P. Principe (5 minutes walk), buses 2, 5, 9 Caricamento  direction; Subway: Arrival Darsena station; Bus: from Railway Station Brignole buses 12, 13, 15 Loading direction.
When: From March to October: Mon – Sun from 10:00 am to 7:30 pm  (last entrance  6 pm); From November to February: Tues – Fri. from 10:00 am  to 6 pm (last entrance 4:30 pm); Sat., Sun. and holidays from 10:00 am  to 7:30 pm  (last admission 6 pm); Monday closed.
Ticket: Adults € 12.00; children (4-12 years) € 7.00; Children (0-3 years) free; reduced (over 65, military, disabled) € 10.00.

San Lorenzo’s Cathedral in Genoa

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The majestic and solemn San Lorenzo ‘s Cathedral was built from the ninth century and was rebuilt until the sixteenth century, which explains the many different architectural styles both outside and inside. In 1118 the church was consecrated by Pope Gelasius II.

San Lorenzo’s Cathedral in Genoa
San Lorenzo’s Cathedral in Genoa

The cathedral welcomes the visitor with its beautiful Gothic façade in Genoa style (XIII century) with French influence as shown by the portal and central rose window. The side walls with the two portals  date back the Romanesque period while the dome (designed by GaleazzoAlessi) and the bell tower are of the sixteenth century. The interior is divided into three naves, it has many sculptures and paintings. Along the left aisle there is the chapel of St. John the Baptist where are preserved the bones of San Lorenzo; down the right aisle there is instead to the Museum of the Cathedral Treasury which houses masterpieces of religious art including the Sacred Basin, the Ark of the ashes of St. John the Baptist and other objects related to the worship of patron of the city.

Where: old town centre. San Lorenzo square
How to get there: by feet
When: Cathedral: daily from 8 am to 12 am and from 3 – 7 pm. Museum: Monday to Saturday from 9 to 12 am and from 3 to 6 pm.
Ticket: Full € 6.00; reduced € 4.50; Children (0-5 years old) free admission

The Rolli Palaces in Genoa

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The Rolli Palaces are beautiful residences of the noble family who between sixteenth and seventeenth centuries used to offer hospitality to famous people visiting the town.

The Rolli Palaces in Genoa
The Rolli Palaces in Genoa

Places (over one hundred) used for this purpose were included in some lists (Rolli of public Housings) that were updated regularly. According to their architectural value and their splendour, the palaces were divided into three categories (Bussoli) each for a specific category of visitor: first bussolo for cardinals, princes and viceroys; second bussolo for feudal lords and governors; third one for princes and ambassadors. Since 2006, forty-two of these prestigious buildings have been recognized by UNESCO “World Heritage”. A walk through the streets Balbi, Garibaldi, Lomellini and San Luca will take you to discover these historic homes and a rich past that has made hospitality as a cultural model.

The Old Harbour of Genoa

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Once this area was the center of trade activities of Genoa. After the conversion made by Renzo Piano for the Colombiadi (celebrations of the fifth centenary of the discovery of America) in 1992, the Piazza di Genova on the Mediterraneanohas become a place dedicated to tourism.

The Old Harbour of Genoa
The Old Harbour of Genoa

Here you can find: the Aquarium, a great attraction for visitors of all ages; the Biosphere, the bubble of steel and glass on the water designed by Piano that reproduces inside a tropical setting with a wide variety of tropical plants, but also butterflies and small animals (iguanas, birds); Galata, the largest and most innovative maritime museum in the Mediterranean; Bigo by Renzo Piano, the metal structure resembling a crane that stands out on the sea with panoramic lift. The transformation of these places didn’t happen, however, just  with the creation of modern works but also bringing back to life the old port buildings, including the old cotton warehouses that now houses cultural facilities such as the Children’s City, the largest space in Italy dedicated to the game, science and technology, for children between 2 and 12 years of age.

Things to eat in Genoa

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First of all we have to suggest you pasta with pesto, and then, a good focaccia bread.

Things to eat in Genoa
Things to eat in Genoa

That’s right, the specialties of Genoa are these two. The focaccia is prepared in many ways: with olives, onion, cheese, sage and so on. Also filled pasta is a typical product of the city such as ravioli and traditional pansotti, stuffed with eggs, beets and ricotta cheese. Among the first dishes there is tortaPasqualina, a puff pastry stuffed with artichokes or cooked beets, zucchini, cheese and eggs. Very yummy are vegetable soup and Genovese porridge, a thin cake made of chickpea flour mixed with water, oil and salt and then baked in a wood oven.

In a seaside town like Genoa the fish is always available like stockfish alla Genovese made with cod, squid, anchovies and sardines. Among the most special dishes there is capponmagro, a rich and elaborate salad that has a fund of biscuits flavored with garlic, vinegar and salt, with fish, boiled eggs, boiled vegetables, artichokes, shrimp and tuna. To finish your lunch  you have to taste the Genoese Christmas sweet bread, a sort of panettone filled with raisins, apple fritters, and chestnut cake.

Where to sleep in Genoa

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Genoa has an excellent tourist accommodation with more than 500 facilities between hotels, guest houses, B&Bs and apartments. Excluding busy periods, such as Spring, it is not difficult to find accommodation that suits your pockets.

Where to sleep in Genoa
Where to sleep in Genoa

Prices are not low, and start from minimum of 70 € per night, double room . Of course, the prices go up to hotel in the centre and close to major attractions, especially the Aquarium. A hotel in the less touristic area costs less but also forces you to move for  one hour to reach the centre.

If you are looking for a hotel in Genoa, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 100 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com