Travel Guide: Is Genoa, Italy Worth Visiting? [2023]

· Our answer to this question, plus the best things to do in Genoa, how to get to Genoa, and more. ·

Aug, 23, 2023
silhouette of father holding baby with genoa city skyline in the background

When we traveled to Genoa for the first time, we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. To be honest, I hadn’t really heard much about this city at all. This post will dive into everything to know about visiting Genoa, including whether or not Genoa, Italy is worth visiting. 

I knew that we had some time to fill between visiting Milan and heading onward to Sicily, and I wanted to use that time to visit a new place. I saw that Genoa wasn’t very far away on the map, and I had already been to most of the other major cities in Northern Italy.

It wasn’t until after we bought train tickets to Genoa that I learned it is one the largest Italian cities, and it has been Italy’s biggest port city for centuries. It is the birthplace and childhood home of Christopher Columbus, and most importantly, it is the home of pesto! 

This post is going to break down some of the best things to do in Genoa, as well as how to get to Genoa and how to get around Genoa. After that, I’ll answer the question, “is Genoa, Italy worth visiting?”

Is Genoa the Same as Geneva?

Genoa and Geneva are pretty similar names, so it would make sense to assume that they are the same city. What makes this even more confusing is that the Italian name of Genoa is actually Genova, which is only one letter different from Geneva.

With that being said, Geneva is in no way, shape, or form related to Genoa. Genoa is a port city in northwestern Italy, and Geneva is a city in western Switzerland near its border with France. The two cities are located about 250 miles apart, and you can get from one to the other by car in less than five hours.

If you have been mixing up the names of Genoa and Geneva, cut yourself a little slack. The Italian name of Genova is extremely similar to the Swiss city of Geneva, and nobody can blame you for mixing them up!

Best Things to Do in Genoa

1. Try Authentic Genovese Pesto

Before traveling to Genoa, we actually had no idea that pesto was from there. It was a fact that somehow was never made clear to us. And we love pesto! 

Our first night at dinner, Angel saw that there were a lot of dishes that had to do with pesto Genovese, and we started to wonder if there was fire behind that smoke. A quick Google search filled us in on the fact that pesto is indeed a Genovese food.

As you might expect, the pesto here is undoubtedly the best pesto you’ll ever have in your life. If you don’t believe me, pop into Pestobene and order a piesta. I promise you, this is one of the best things to do in Genoa.

While it might not qualify as street food, it is a quick snack that you won’t want to miss.

2. Check Out The Childhood Home of Christopher Columbus

While he has a very divisive reputation, Christopher Columbus is undoubtedly an incredibly important figure in European and North and South American history. To our surprise, Christopher Columbus was born and raised in Genoa for the brunt of his childhood. 

His childhood home is a very well-preserved place to go check out. It is located just a short walk from the Piazza De Ferrari metro stop, making it very accessible via public transportation. 

The house was destroyed by various attacks on the city, but has been restored to look as it did during his time living there in the 15th century. You will notice very quickly that the house is very tiny, as Columbus came from very humble beginnings.

Woman and her baby outside of the House of Christopher Columbus in Genoa Italy

3. Visit the Treasure Museum in the Cathedral of Saint Lorenzo

As devout Catholics, we love stepping into churches in Europe. We just know they’re always going to be stunning. The San Lorenzo Cathedral in Genoa certainly doesn’t disappoint.

However, some of the real treasure in this cathedral is off to the side, in what they call the Treasure Museum. This small museum has some incredible artifacts, including a real fragment of Jesus’ cross, a relic with a lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair, the ark of the ashes of John the Baptist, and the silver plate on which his head was presented to Princess Salome. Religious or not, this is pretty epic and is easily one of the best places to visit in Genoa.

Interior of San Lorenzo church in Genoa with black and white striped pillars
Gold plate with John the Baptist's head  in church museum
Gold miniature model display of a church

4. Visit the Largest Aquarium in Europe

Being a historically rich port city with direct access to the Mediterranean Sea, it makes sense that Genoa would have an aquarium. However, we were stunned to find out that Genoa’s aquarium is the biggest one in all of Europe.

Even cities like Paris, Berlin, and London do not have bigger aquariums. Most people would tell you that visiting the Genoa aquarium is one of the best things to do in Genoa, and I wouldn’t disagree! For more information about tickets and pricing, visit the Genoa aquarium’s website.

Distant image of Genoa's Aquarium jutting out into the Ligurian Sea

5. Visit the Royal Palace Museum

The Royal Palace Museum is a gorgeous museum located on the historic Via Balbi. As its name implies, this museum used to be the palazzo reale, or royal palace, of Genoa. The furnishings are beautiful, the whole building has good air conditioning, and the views from the terrace are some of the best views in all of Genoa. 

Entrance to the museum costs €10. For more details, check out the museum’s website.

Facade of the Royal Palace of Genoa from its inner courtyard

6. Visit the Three Palaces on Via Garibaldi

If you like art, visiting the three palace museums on the Via Garibaldi is surely one of the best things to do in Genoa. Via Garibaldi is where all the wealthiest people in Genoa used to live, and they all build gorgeous palaces right next to one another. 

While there are more than just three, there are three palaces that have been turned into art and history museums, and they can all be visited with the same ticket. As a group, they are called the Strada Nuova Museums. 

The ticket costs €9, and it gives you access to the Palazzo Rosso, the Palazzo Bianco, and the Palazzo Doria-Tursi. From world-famous violins, to paintings from centuries ago, to beautiful furnishing, you’re in for a nice time if you visit here. For more information, visit the Strada Nuova Museum website.

7. Eat a Cone of Fresh Calamari and Fries from Friggiatoria

I understand that calamari is not just a Genoa thing, but being located right on the Ligurian Sea means Genoa has some really great seafood. On one of our walks through the city, we stumbled across Friggiatoria. This small restaurant in the Porto Antico whips up some killer seafood on the go. 

They served us fresh calamari and fries in a cone. With a squeeze of lemon juice, it was absolutely delicious. If you’re not a calamari person, you should still be sure to try some of the local seafood while you visit! 

Sitting along the water and munching on a fresh catch is easily one of the best things to do in Genoa. This restaurant is located just a stone’s throw from the Aquarium of Genoa and the Maritime Museum.

Man holding Cone of Calimari in Genoa Port

8. Try a Deluxe Dessert Coffee at a Corner Cafe

We don’t know if this is something specific to Genoa, but we have never noticed it anywhere else in Italy. Walking through Genoa, there are a lot of cafes that serve artisan dessert coffees. By dessert coffee, I am referring to espresso con panna, which is normally just espresso and whipped cream. 

In Genoa, they take this to a whole different level. One morning, I had a cannoli-themed dessert coffee, which consisted of a shot of espresso, approximately 6 inches of whipped cream, cannoli cream, a miniature cannoli, and chocolate drizzle. Another day, I had one that was a shot of espresso, another 6 inches of whipped cream, and berries and berry drizzle. 

While they definitely aren’t healthy, they sure are a guilty pleasure. These cafes can be found all throughout the historic center.

Two Fancy Dessert Coffees in Genoa Italy

9. Hang Out and Shop in the Piazza De Ferrari

The Piazza De Ferrari is one of the most important squares in Genoa, and it is very central to all of the best things to do in the city. This square is decorated with a gorgeous fountain and is surrounded by some absolutely stunning buildings.

From here, Christopher Columbus’ home is less than a 10-minute walk, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo iis less than a 5-minute walk, and the main shopping street of the city spurs right off of the square. 

If you need to do any shopping while in Genoa, this is definitely the place to go. If you’re not in a shopping mood, kick back and have a coffee or an aperitivo at one of the many cafes or bars in this area.

10. Lose Yourself in The Old City

Literally, go get lost. That’s what Angel accidentally did on the first day and it was one of her favorite experiences in the city. I had to get work done at a cafe so off she went with the baby to casually explore what was near was. She came upon this massive, epic Roman archway and naturally had to explore what was inside. Little did she know, this was the gate leading into the ‘old city’ and boy was she in for a treat.

Literally, go get lost. That’s what Angel accidentally did on the first day and it was one of her favorite experiences in the city. I had to get work done at a cafe so off she went with the baby to casually explore what was near was. She came upon this massive, epic Roman archway and naturally had to explore what was inside. Little did she know, this was the gate leading into the ‘old city’ and boy was she in for a treat.

Genoa’s Porto Antico Is Unlike the Rest of Italy

There are small, narrow streets throughout Italy. But, typically, they are rather open, well-lit streets and the buildings don’t reach very high. Genova’s Old City was nothing like I had ever seen in Italy. There were dozens of narrow pedestrian streets, shadowed by tall, ancient homes and shops on both side. 

Furthermore, there were even smaller and darker alleyways that broke off from these main streets. It doesn’t feel like you’re in Italy. You feel like you’re in Jerusalem and Jesus is about to walk around the corner. 

It felt like an entirely different era! It was also practically a maze. And there was no cell service within “the gate”! So Angel quite literally got lost and had no means of contacting me. 

She eventually found her way back home and retold her remarkable adventure.

Our pictures can give you an idea of what we are talking about. However, if you truly want to experience an accurate clip of Genoa, you have to watch our Genoa Travel Vlog. We walk you through the streets so that you can get a feel for what we are talking about.

How to Get to Genoa

While it is one of the biggest cities in Italy, Genoa’s airport is not very well connected internationally. Additionally, getting from the airport to the city via public transportation is a little complicated. Here’s everything you need to know about getting to Genoa, Italy.

Flying to Genoa

I wrote a blog post a few months ago where I ranked the best airports to fly through when visiting Italy, and let’s just put it this way: Genoa’s small airport didn’t make the cut. While Genoa is a major city in Italy, it definitely doesn’t have a major airport. 

Genoa and Genoa Airport are simply not all that well connected by air. Genoa City Airport (GOA) is a small, regional airport that offers a few international flights, but mostly just offers routes to other parts of Italy. If you want to fly to Genoa, you might have a tough time finding a reasonable flight into Genoa itself. 

Even if you are coming from somewhere else in Europe, you will likely need to have at least one layover in order to get to Genoa. If you can find a reasonable flight route (in terms of both trip time and airfare) into Genoa, I recommend that you take it. However, if you are coming from anywhere outside of Italy, France, and Spain, this is pretty unlikely.

I recommend flying into a different city in order to get to Genoa.

What Are the Best Cities to Fly into in Italy to Get to Genoa?


There are two optimal answers to this question. The first answer is Pisa, which actually has one of the biggest airports in all of Italy. Pisa International Airport (PSA) is the biggest airport in Tuscany, and you can get from the Pisa Airport to Genoa by train in under two and a half hours. 

Pisa probably edges out the other city on this list in terms of total time to Genoa, as Pisa’s airport is very close to the city center and well connected to its train station. You can get from the terminal to the train station in 7 minutes, and then from Pisa Centrale train station to Genoa Brignole train station in under two hours. 

If you can find an affordable and reasonable flight route into Pisa, this is probably the best city to fly into to visit Genoa.


The other city you can fly into to get to Genoa is Milan. Milan is the second biggest city in Italy, and it has several major airports that you can utilize. 

If you were to ask me which Milan airport is best, I have one very easy answer. Far and away, Milan Malpensa (MXP) is the best airport to use in Milan. It is a major hub, meaning that there are a ton of inbound and outbound flights here every day. 

More flights usually means cheaper airfare or more convenient routes, as I mentioned in my post on finding affordable airfare.

Malpensa is connected to central Milan via the Malpensa Express train, which is extremely convenient and comfortable. In my opinion, this is part of what makes Malpensa the best airport in Milan. Getting from the airport to the city couldn’t be easier, and at just €13 each way, it can be much cheaper than a taxi depending on the size of your travel party. 

Malpensa is located pretty far outside of the city, making taxis pretty expensive and buses a bit of a longer journey.

While Milan has other airports, I think that Malpensa is the only one worth checking if you want to go to Genoa. Milan’s other airports are also great options, but getting to Milano Centrale train station from them takes close to an hour. From Milano Centrale to Genova Piazza Principale Station takes about two hours on the train.

How to Get to Genoa from Genoa City Airport (GOA)

As I have mentioned, Genoa’s airport is small and is pretty much just a regional airport. As a result, it is not very well connected to the city by public transportation. 

If you want to take a taxi and skip the public transportation options, I don’t blame you. However, if you want to stick it out, here’s how to get to downtown Genoa from the airport.

When you exit the airport, there are two options to get downtown: the Volabus and a combination of the Airlink Bus plus a train or another bus. In my opinion, the Volabus is much, much better if your timing works out. 

The Volabus is a bus that runs directly from the airport to Brignole train station, and from Brignole train station you can take the metro to get closer to your accommodation (more on that later). This option costs €5 each way, and children ride for free.

If the timing doesn’t work out very well for you to take the Volabus, you can also take the Airlink bus, and then another bus or a train into the city. The Airlink bus connects the airport to Sestri Ponente Aeroporto train station and costs €1.50. 

From this station, you can either take a train (20 min) or a bus (25 min) to Genova Piazza Principale station. While the Volabus is a more direct route, this option may fit into your itinerary better. For full timetables of both options, head to this website.

How to Get to Genoa by Train

As I mentioned above, it is unlikely that you will actually be flying into Genoa Cristoforo Colombo Airport. If you are flying into either Milan or Pisa the best way to get to Genoa is by train. This is also the case if you’re already somewhere else in Italy.

I have said this time and time again – Italy has one of the best train systems in the world. I love using Trenitalia, and I even wrote a full post about using trains in Italy.

Genoa has two main train stations. Genova Piazza Principale is the city’s main station for trains connecting to the north and west of Genoa. Genova Brignole station is the city’s main station for trains connected to the east and south of Genoa. 

For this reason, visitors coming from TurinMilan, Switzerland and France will likely want to find a train into Genova Piazza Principale, while visitors coming from FlorenceRome, Naples, Cinque Terre, and Pisa will likely want to use Genova Brignole. 

It doesn’t hurt to check out both stations anyway, but generally this is how things will shake out. While Genoa’s airport isn’t very well connected to other cities and countries, the train stations definitely are. Milan, Pisa, and Florence are all less than three hours away by train, and other cities probably connect through one of these three.

How to Get Around Genoa


While Genoa is one of Italy’s bigger cities, it is actually pretty walkable in many cases. We found ourselves walking just about everywhere within the main areas of the city. The historical center and most of the major museums are fairly walkable from both train stations.

The city does have a network of buses as well as a metro line. While the metro system only has one line with 8 stops, it is actually very helpful for getting around the city. The line runs right through the heart of the city, and it is extremely affordable at only €1.50 per ride.

The metro line runs from the suburb of Brin to Genova Brignole station, basically making the shape of a fish hook through the main areas of the city. It includes both train stations and the city’s main square, Piazza de Ferrari.

Using the metro is especially helpful during the summer. During this time, the city is extremely hot and walking a kilometer is a bit more intimidating.

Having only one line naturally means you’re still going to have to do some walking. Generally speaking, Genoa is extremely walkable. The city is laid out kind of in the shape of a banana around the harbor.

This means that getting from one total end to the other is pretty far, but getting from the harbor to the northern edges of the city is not far at all. We stayed in the Hotel Della Posta Nuova and felt like it was perfectly connected to things to do. From there, we could get pretty much anywhere we wanted to go in the city within a 20-25-minute walk.

The Best Time to Visit Genoa

Genoa is at its best between May and June and between September and October. The weather gets a bit cooler in the spring and winter, and the summer is absolutely blazing. 

Genoa’s tourism traffic is very interesting, as the biggest variable is whether or not there are cruises docking in the port on a given day. This issue doesn’t really exist outside of the summer when cruise demand is much lower. On a summer day when there aren’t cruises docked, the city is pretty relaxed and the amount of tourists isn’t overwhelming.

However, like any cruise port, the city has an entirely different vibe when there are thousands of cruise passengers flooding into the most popular parts of the city. For this reason, coupled with the blazing heat of July and August, it is better to visit Genoa in the late spring or early fall. 

If you do visit in the summer, air conditioning is an absolute must-have. Many Airbnb’s and hotels in this area do not have it, so be sure to double-check. 

We were dumb and didn’t double-check. Our baby was not very happy with us. You can read about that fiasco in our tips for traveling with a baby in Europe post.  

baby and mother looking and magnificent royal mirror

Is Genoa Worth Visiting?

Genoa is a city that I had heard very little about, knew very little about, and expected very little from. For that reason, it absolutely blew me away. While there were some parts of Genoa that felt a little bit seedy and unsafe at first, the city and its atmosphere grew on me exponentially by the end of our stay. 

Filled with delicious food and stunning architecture, Genoa is a fantastic Italian city to visit for a couple of days along the Italian Riviera. In fact, I included it on my list of the best day trips from Milan. 

I wouldn’t recommend taking a week-long trip exclusively to Genoa. But I do think Genoa is worth visiting for a few days and is a fantastic stop on a cruise. The main attractions all deserve to be visited, from Genoa’s main square to its glorious Renaissance palaces.

I was very pleasantly surprised by Genoa. I’d go back and explore its old town in a heartbeat.

street view of Genoa Italy

Frequently Asked Questions About Visiting Genoa

Is Genoa or Milan better?

In my opinion, that isn’t a fair question. Milan is one of my favorite cities on Earth, and very few Italian cities measure up. I recommend visiting Milan over Genoa, but definitely both if you have the time.

What is the most beautiful part of Genoa?

The most beautiful part of Genoa is the Piazza di Ferrari. Many will say that the Porto Antico is nicer, but I disagree. While the Porto Antico is wonderful, the Piazza di Ferrari is lavish and packed with pretty buildings.

Is Genoa near Amalfi Coast?

Technically, Genoa is near the Amalfi Coast. They are both located on the Italian Riviera. However, there isn’t great infrastructure between the two places, which makes transit times a bit longer, at least by train.

What are the best places to stay in Genoa?

There are many wonderful hotels in Genoa. We stayed at the Hotel Della Posta Nuova and had a great stay. It was affordable and comfortable, but not luxurious.

If you have a bigger budget, the Bristol Palace Hotel gets raving reviews and is absolutely stunning.

That’s all we have for you about Genoa! Hopefully this post is helpful as you start planning your journey to Italy’s most important port. I really do think that Genoa is worth visiting, even if only for a few days.

If you’re planning a trip to Genoa, comment to let us know! We’d love to chat ahead of time and answer any questions you have. Otherwise, have a wonderful day and stay present!


Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.

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Meet The Author - Greg

Hi, I'm Greg. I'm an avid traveler who has traveled to over 50 countries all around the world with my wife and kids. I've lived in Italy, Mexico, China, and the United States, and I dream of moving abroad again in the future. With this blog, I provide my audience with detailed destination guides to my favorite places and pro-tips to make travel as stress-free as possible.