Genoa is the city you don’t expect, it’s the great Maritime Republic. It is an authentic city with a welcoming and cosmopolitan soul, all to be discovered: from the historic center to the Porto Antico to the alleys celebrated in song by De Andrè while enjoying focaccia and excellent Genoese pesto.
Three days in Genoa: what to see
Genoa is a beautiful city, it is the Superba.Imposing and grand, the Ligurian capital is rich in ancient treasures and architectural and scenic beauty, but above all it is rich in many gastronomic specialties such as pesto and focaccia. Genoa is the sixth largest city in the country and its magnificent streets host stately buildings, squares and churches of great historical and artistic interest. The city has also played and plays an important role in maritime trade thanks to its large Port. There are many good reasons to visit Genoa, and this one we are going to cover will be a very special itinerary between art and sea, discovering what to see in three days. Are you ready to leave for La Superba? Here are the top ten places to visit.
The Porto Antico
Let’s start this tour of the Lady of the Sea, as the poet Francesco Petrarca called it, from Porto Antico – the Old Port. Covering an area of 230,000 square meters, it is the most fascinating part of one of the largest projects in Italy: the GOA. Organized as a residential district, it is a part of the port of Genoa, the largest and most important Italian port, as well as the most famous maritime port of call. Strolling through the fully pedestrianized area of the Old Port is a must when visiting Genoa to fully experience and enjoy the play spaces, venues, docks, and major attractions. The Old Port redesigned as a tourist, cultural and service center was restored in the early 1990s by architect Renzo Piano. An efficient tourist information and reception service is present and active in the Old Port area, with friendly and knowledgeable people who will answer all your questions.
The Aquarium of Genoa and the Biosphere
Within the district of Porto Antico there are many buildings of artistic and cultural interest, including the famous Aquarium of Genoa. It is the largest aquarium in Europe, a real living museum, and houses about 6,000 marine specimens of over 600 species. It is a fascinating and unique exhibition area, made even more spectacular thanks to the tank dedicated to dolphins. The Genoa Aquarium is one of the main attractions for children and teenagers that make Genoa particularly known and famous. Visiting it is a truly beautiful educational experience, but also fun and interesting for adults. Inside the Genoa Aquarium, in addition to visiting the many marine species, you can also visit a giant exhibition balloon: the Biosphere, a glass and steel sphere where a large number of animals such as butterflies, iguanas, and various tropical plants live undisturbed. They thrive thanks to the climate specially created inside the large ball-shaped structure. Also the Biosphere was designed by Renzo Piano, and was inaugurated in 2001 at the G8 summit. Genoa’s Aquarium and the Biosphere are open all year round and can be visited in two or three hours. Opening hours are Monday through Friday from 11.00 am to 7.00 pm, with last entry at 5.00 pm and on weekends and holidays from 9.00 am to 8.00 pm, with last entry at 6.00 pm. And remember not to knock on the glass, not to give food to animals or throw objects in the tanks and take your photos without flashes!
Galata Museum of the Sea and the Nazario Sauro Submarine
The Old Port amazes you once again with two enchanting sites to visit. The Galata Museo del Mare, which opened in 2004, is located in the Galata Palace. It is a five-story structure that chronicles the Genoa Maritime Republic and houses historic equipment and arsenals as well as documents signed by Christopher Columbus. It comprises several interactive rooms in which to understand the navigation in non-modern times of our ancestors, and numerous rooms dedicated to maritime trade and ocean liners. The museum has very high standards of modernity and a beautiful terrace overlooking the city; it also features an exhibition hall, a bookstore and a cafeteria. Finally, it is home to schools, also favored by the proximity of the museum center with the Genoa Principe station and the proximity of the metro stop “Darsena”. Opposite the Galata Museo del Mare is another museum, a floating exhibition space: the Submarine Nazario Sauro, effectively an impressive and fascinating “extension” of the Galata Museo. Getting on board and identifying with the lives of sailors, passengers and migrants of yesterday and today is an extraordinary experience. The submarine Nazario Sauro S518 is the only Italian berthed submarine that can be visited to experience the living conditions of submariners. A memorable experience is assured as you sail through history at the exiting Galata Museo del Mare with its open submarine, the largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean. The museum is open from Tuesday to Friday from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, with last admission at 5.00 pm and on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm, with last admission at 6.00 pm.
Genoa’s Lanterna is the city’s iconic soul and symbol. It is the tallest lighthouse in Italy and the Mediterranean. With a height of 77 meters and at an elevation of 117 meters above sea level, it is the fifth tallest in the world and the second tallest in Europe after the Île Vierge Lighthouse in the French department of Finistère. It is built on a rock outcrop and has maintained its present structure since 1543 at the height of the medieval period. The building consists of a tower on two orders of square section plan, with a terrace surmounting each order. The Lanterna, in all its splendor, is the oldest lighthouse in Europethat is still active and BEWARE: don’t call it a LIGHTHOUSE, it is the LANTERNA! It is possible to visit the monument complex with guided tours, and the monument remains closed in case of severe storms or ORANGE weather alert.
Gazing over Genoa and its sights from above is a unique experience; it’s possible thanks to the Bigo, a circular, rotating panoramic elevator over the sea that gives a truly spectacular 360-degree view of the city. This modern metal monument, anchored in water, was designed by Renzo Piano for the 1992 Genoa Expo and is reminiscent of the ancient cranes that handled goods in the harbor. The elevator car features illustrative photo panels and a voice guide with background music, giving directions to the bell towers, towers, characteristic slate roofs, and ancient and modern buildings that emerge from the labyrinth of Genoa’s “caruggi”. A stunning view, at a height of 40 meters, offering a unique view of the city. The Bigo is open every day of the year: on Mondays from 5.00 pm to 10.00 pm and from Tuesday to Sunday and on public holidays from 10.00 am to noon and from 5.00 pm to 10.00 pm, with departure every ten minutes.
The Cathedral of San Lorenzo
Walking from the Old Port towards the characteristic Via San Lorenzo, you come across the City of Genoa’s Basilica, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. It is the city’s most important church, dating back to the 12th century and houses the ashes of the patron saint of the city, San Giovanni Battista, which arrived in Genoa at the end of the First Crusade. Intriguing stories and fascinating legends have been associated with Genoa’s Basilica and the depictions on its facade since the medieval period when the church forecourt increasingly became the hub of the city’s political and civic life. On the cathedral’s facade, you can admire its Gothic portals topped with bas-reliefs and high-reliefs and, laterally, two lions dating from the mid-19th century, while the interior hosts a diverse range of artistic styles. The frescoes in the barrel vaults and the architectural works amaze even the most distracted visitor, immersed in a unique and stunning atmosphere. An interesting fact: inside the cathedral, in the right aisle, there is an exact replica of an unexploded piece of ordnance. The shell was fired in 1941 by the British fleet during one of the worst attacks launched against Genoa during World War II; it crashed though the roof, but never exploded (and here the legends abound). A beautiful church to visit in the heart of Genoa, a real artistic jewel that has survived the times and the people. The Duomo is open from Monday to Friday, from 8.00 am to noon; it is closed on weekends. To visit the cathedral, you should book a tour so as not to miss the Treasury Museum, which is accessed from inside the cathedral, as well as the nearby Diocesan Museum.
The Doge’s Palace
A few steps from the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, you can continue your tour of Genoa by visiting the Doge’s Palace, which is one of the city’s most iconic historic stately buildings. Dating back to the 13th century, it was the Doge’s place of residence and today it is the city’s main cultural center. The Ducal Palace hosts year-round art exhibitions, conferences, festivals and educational activities. A visit to the Doge’s room, the Doge’s chapel, the Grimaldina tower, and the prisons is definitely a must. The Doge’s Palace is open daily from 7.00 am 11.00 pm. For exhibitions and events that have their specific opening hours, see the dedicated pages.
Piazza De Ferrari and the Teatro Carlo Felice
Continuing your stroll along Via Dante, you come to Genoa’s most famous square, Piazza De Ferrari, dedicated to Raffaele De Ferrari, Duke of Galliera, a generous benefactor who, in 1875, donated a substantial sum of money for the expansion of the port. The center features a monumental bronze fountain erected in front of one of the Palazzo Ducale entrances, a work by the architect Cesare Crosa di Vergagni in 1936. Piazza De Ferrari is the center of events, gatherings and the city’s nightlife. Near Piazza De Ferrari is the Teatro Carlo Felice, the city’s opera house, home to opera seasons, concerts and in recent years has also hosted pop music concerts, musicals and modern ballet companies. The theater was inaugurated on April 7, 1828, in the presence of the Royals of the Kingdom of Sardinia, Carlo Felice and Queen Maria Cristina. Legend has it that in Turin, the Genoan musician Paganini had refused to give an encore performance to King Carlo Felice, so years later the theater was dedicated to the king himself in the hope of calming his anger towards the city. Getting to know Genoa’s theater, not only in terms of the performances staged there but also its history, structure, and architecture, is certainly a most interesting experience. The theater also holds open days so that visitors can freely explore all the spaces and take behind the scenes tours. The theater box office is open from 11.00 am to 6.00 pm, Tuesday through Friday; on Saturdays, it is open from 11.00 am to 4.00 pm. In short, if you want to spend a distinguished and high-class evening of symphonic music and opera on your three-day visit to Genoa, the Teatro Carlo Felice is for you. If you leave from the central station of Piazza Principe, you can also reach the theater on foot, but only if you enjoy leisurely walking: it will only take 20 minutes.
Villa del Principe – Palazzo di Andrea Doria
If you want to witness the ancient aristocratic history of the Doria family, just visit the sumptuous Prince’s Palace, which is located a few meters from Principe Station and the Maritime Station, where cruise ships dock. It is easily reachable on foot from the city center, through the Old Town, or by metro. The Palazzo di Andrea Doria is the richest noble residence in Genoa, the Villa of the only Prince that Genoa has ever recognized. It’s construction commenced in 1528, in one of the most beautiful areas of sixteenth-century Genoa. In fact, it was the only “palace” of a republican city, a museum filled with treasures and works of art, including frescoes, tapestries, and wooden furnishings. The villa has splendid monumental gardens, veritable works of architectural mastery, with Taddeo Carlone’s magnificent Neptune fountain symbolizing Admiral Doria. The gardens underwent changes with the construction of the railroad and the expansion of the port in the late 19th century, as well as the construction of the Miramare Hotel and Maritime Station in the early 20th century. It was also severely damaged by a bombing in 1944, and only in 2001, after a long restoration, it returned to its original splendor. The opening hours of Villa del Principe are from 10.00 am to 6.00 pm, only on Saturdays and Sundays.
The Royal Palace
To finish off your tour of Genoa, your last visit is to one of the city’s most important historic buildings, the Royal Palace. What we now call the Royal Palace is actually a grand patrician residence built and lavishly decorated by both the House of Savoy in the 19th century and two great Genoese dynasties, the Balbi and the Durazzo, between the mid- and late 17th century. The tour starts from the monumental atrium with 18th-century stuccoes to the courtyard of honor, from the roof garden to the noble apartment on the second floor. The tour ends with the Throne Room, the Ballroom and the Gallery of Mirrors. Admiring these staterooms among the frescoes, paintings, and furnishings is an experience that takes you back in time to the ancient splendor of the nobility of a bygone era. The works on display are by the best Genoese artists of the 17th century along with masterpieces by Bassano, Tintoretto, Luca Giordano, Anton Van Dyck, Ferdinand Voet, and Guercino.
Genoa in three days: an itinerary with ten things to see
Here’s a summary of our three-day tour of Genoa:
- The Old Port
- Galata Museo del Mare
- Cattedrale San Lorenzo
- Piazza De Ferrari
- Teatro Carlo Felice
- Palazzo Ducale
- Villa del Principe
- Palazzo Reale
How to get to Genoa by train
A tour of Genoa in three days is quite feasible, even on foot. Don’t miss the chance for a long weekend in the Ligurian capital, which can be reached by train from Milan, Rome and Naples, with 2 daily services. Visit the destination and schedule page for Genoa and buy your modifiable Low Cost ticket and save money. Remember the Italo Senior and Italo Famiglia super deals. Ready for departure? La Superba is waiting for you.