This large port city in the northwest of Italy might not have the cache or familiarity of more popular Italian destinations like Rome, Venice and Florence, but the capital of Italy’s Liguria region has enough charm, medieval sights and pretty piazzas that you’d be hard pressed not to fall in love with Genoa at least a little. Only have time for a short visit? That’s okay — don’t skip the city just because you’re on a tight timeline. Here’s how to spend a memorable 24 hours in Genoa.
Start the morning at Belvedere Montaldo (also called Spianata Castelletto), essentially a “balcony” suspended over the historic centre with amazing views over the city and port. To reach it, you can take the stairs up from Via Garibaldi if you’ve got some morning energy to burn, or use the Art Nouveau lift from Piazza Portello, which costs around EUR 1. The open space at the top has benches, encouraging you to stop and enjoy the views and relax before you start your day.
Once you’ve had your fill of those gorgeous city views, head back down to Via Garibaldi, which is at the edge of the historical centre. From here, going downhill you can start to explore the labyrinth of narrow streets that continues until the port. While exploring the area you can grab a piece of traditional focaccia (plain, with onions or olives) at any bakery. Continue towards the sea and visit the charming Sottoripa area with its shops and cafes, and if you’re still hungry, stop for another local street food at Antica Friggitoria Carega, where they sell traditional deep-fried foods.
From the Sottoripa area, make your way on foot to Porto Antico, a large square overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and the perfect place to stop for lunch. You can find many cafes, restaurants, or shops from which to buy a sandwich and enjoy it overlooking the water. The best spot to find a bench is a platform on the water at the end of Marina Molo Vecchio. If a sandwich isn’t going to cut it appetite-wise and you want to try the best pizza, go to Rossopomodoro for authentic Neapolitan pies. If you’re looking for the best Italian products, you cannot miss Eataly Genova with over 6,000 local products to browse (or buy to take home for a souvenir!).
Continue on to San Lorenzo and visit the main Cathedral in Town, Cattedrale di San Lorenzo. Then head to Piazza De Ferrari, the most important square in town and the place where the old city meets the new part of the city. You can check one of the temporary exhibitions at Palazzo Ducale and then take a look at the beautiful little square of Piazza San Matteo. From here, you can follow Via XX Settembre, the most important shopping street of Genoa, and make a stop at the Mercato Orientale, the biggest market in Genoa and where you will find fresh, local products.
At the end of Via XX Settembre you’ll find Genoa Brignole Railway Station. From here you can catch bus 31 just in front of the station to Boccadasse. This beautiful spot just outside the city centre is a fishing village that has maintained is own authentic atmosphere and gives you lots of beautiful views. The best time to come here is at sunset when people relax on the beach having a drink or having dinner at one of the restaurants inside the village.
For travellers on a short visit, we’d definitely recommend having a layover that will allow you to spend two to three hours in the city centre, and another hour for travelling to and from the airport.
The best way to get from the airport to the sites is by taking a taxi, which should take around 25 minutes.
If you want to see Genoa in two hours in the morning or afternoon, make you way to pretty Porto Antico, a large square by the water where you can spend your layover shopping, taking in the area’s many sights, or getting something to eat from the numerous restaurant and cafes. For a different perspective on the city, the Bigo is a panoramic lift that takes you up 40 metres and offers a unique view of Genoa.
If you’re in Genoa for an evening or nighttime layover, take a taxi or a bus from the city centre to Boccadasse (about 15 minutes) for dinner or a sunset drink on the beach. This small, scenic fishing village at the edge of Genoa is home to many seaside bars and restaurants and well worth a visit even if you only have a couple of hours.