Last Updated on October 24, 2023 by Ingrid & Alex
I’ve finally made it! After all these years with a strong passion for Italy and its lovely little towns, I’ve managed to finally go and see the crown gems, the holy grail – the Cinque Terre, while spending one day in Genoa along the way.
Since getting there is a journey and we landed in Milan, we decided to spend a night in another great city on the Italian coastline, heavily underrated in my point of view, with a lot of potential and history, where you can also stop by when making your way to the Cinque Terre: Genoa, Italy.
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Thus here are my tips on what to see and do in one day in Genoa, Italy.
I’ve been here before, some 7 years ago, and spent a few days but somehow I didn’t really have any particularly strong memories about this harbor town. So maybe the one question you have in mind now: “is Genoa Italy worth visiting?”
Well, apart from the amazing food (best fritto misto I’ve ever had, focaccia Genovese, pesto Genovese, and the list could go on and on), beautiful little towns on the southern part of Genoa where you can go for a swim and catch the sun (Camogli, the neighborhood of Boccadasse, Bogliasco, Pieve Ligure) or the best ice cream I’ve had in my life (and I had my share of Italian ice cream, but nothing compares to the one they sell at this place), I didn’t really remember much.
But after spending one night and discovering the town, I can fully say Genoa is worth visiting!
And it is easy to do in a short time – maybe if you choose to do a cruise on the Mediterranean, you will end up in Genoa as well, thus the question remains: should you give it a chance during your one-day cruise stop in Genoa, or choose one of the smaller villages in Liguria?
Of course, one can choose to spend a long time here and take a day trip from Genoa to Cinque Terre, or a day trip from Genoa to Portofino and other places like the Northern Italian Riviera, Noli, Finalborgo, Savona, or even the French Riviera. Options are countless.
But we did it the other way around this time, one day in Genoa on our way to the Cinque Terre.
So here is what to do and see in one day in Genoa, Italy!
Getting to Genoa, Italy
Making your way to Genoa is easy no matter where you are coming from because you will have a lot of great train connections.
As I said before, we landed in Milan and took the train to Genoa (a quick 1h30 min ride), having booked the tickets beforehand online on Trenitalia.
Getting from Milan airport to Milan Central train station wasn’t hard. We just exited the airport and found a bus that took us directly to the train station.
If however, you do that, take into consideration a bit more time to get from the airport to the train station (maybe 1h30 just to be sure), because in Italy you never know (we did a bit of cardio but managed to eventually catch the train).
If you want to skip the train ride and come directly to the city, you could try seeing whether there are any flights landing from your destination (most probably not since there are only very few) at Genoa’s airport.
Of course, another way of getting around is always by car. And I always prefer booking a car as soon as I have my trip details (flights and accommodation) so that I can make sure to find the best price possible.
Discover Cars is a great aggregator that will help you find and book the best option for renting a car during your trip, helping you save up to 70% on your car rental. They have a pretty good Cancellation policy that would give you options in case your flight or travel plans change. Get your offers here!
Where to stay in Genoa
No matter if you are spending one day in Genoa and staying overnight, or deciding to spend much more time in Liguria, you will want to make an idea about some accommodation options.
Here are only a few of the hotels in Genoa:
- Hotel Le Nuvole Residenza d’Epoca – stepping into the lobby of this hotel you won’t feel like you’ve left Venice, even so, the rooms have an airy minimalist design. The hotel is perfectly located for sightseeing and shopping in Genoa.
- La Piazzetta Rooms – may not be a perfect choice if you are looking for a hotel, but this small 3-room place is perfectly located in the heart of Genoa.
- Melia Genova – if you don’t want to step outside of your comfort zone and prefer an international chain hotel, with an indoor pool, a sauna, and a Turkish steam bath, Melia is the place for you.
- Grand Hotel Savoia– the gem of the list, the elegant 5* hotel is everything you’ve dreamed of. Soak in a jacuzzi after a full day exploring Genoa, or just sip a cocktail on the rooftop terrace with the whole city at your feet.
What to see in Genoa Italy in one day
Now that you’re there, you are wondering what to do in Genoa in one day. Genoa is an old city with a great history, by the water, on the hills. Need I say more?
I do, I know. And I will bear with me.
The first thing we noticed when we got there was the nice main train station – Genova Piazza Principe – with high white ceilings. I know, I must be funny, but we just couldn’t help but stop and take some pictures. Next thing, you step out into a small Piazzetta very close to a whole lot of hotels also within walking distance from the harbor.
If you will be spending more days in this medium-sized Italian town, you will have some additional time for Genoa sightseeing and for exploring the beaches near Genoa. But in one day, that might be hard.
I recommend staying close to Genoa’s main train station because it will be easy for you to travel around and the best places will be within walking distance.
Piazza Raffaele de Ferrari and Via Garibaldi
One place not to miss is the main square in Genoa, Piazza Raffaele de Ferrari. Either way, it is flanked by a large arch galleria and a big fountain caught my attention the first time I saw it from the car.
This could easily be the entrance to the old town, from where all the narrow streets I’ll talk about later on will start to unfold before our eyes.
Palazzo del Principe
Start your day by going to the Palazzo del Principe.
Mainly because you will have beautiful gardens all to yourself and you won’t have to wait around after people in order to take beautiful pictures with the setting overlooking the harbor.
Just note that if you want to visit the inside of the villa as well (we have only been to the gardens, which are lovely as well as you can see below), the opening hours start at 10 AM.
Palazzo Reale Genova
Next, head to another beautiful setting, part of the UNESCO World Heritage: the Palazzo Reale Genova. We spent most of the time here.
Mainly because we were lucky enough to catch a day with free entrance, but either way on a normal day the ticket is only 6 EUR and it’s totally worth it in my view (Mondays are closed).
Dating from the 1600s, the palace is impressive. From its 1st floor with its beautifully decorated rooms to its second floor with the Room of the mirrors (smaller than the one at Versailles but still impressive), and to its fantastic garden, there is nothing you won’t love about this place.
And let’s not forget the terrace with the breathtaking view over the harbor. I loved everything about this place and could not help but imagine myself living here.
Extra TIP: If you don’t want to worry about finding the palaces, getting from one place to the other, or going on the wrong day, you can also book a palaces guided tour. You will have a guide with you, learn a lot about the palaces and people that stayed here, all this with a flexible cancellation policy. Book your tour here!
Via XX Settembre
Or better yet, the shopping street of Genoa passes below one of Genoa’s attractions: the Monumental Bridge.
Who doesn’t want to do a little bit of shopping, especially when in Italy where everything is so stylish?
Also known as Strada Nuova (the New Street) Via Garibaldi is one of Genoa’s main streets, but is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Here is where most of the imposing palaces dating as far as the 1500s are lined up, thus walking along the 250m street you’ll feel like walking back in time.
Way back when Genoa was an important Italian power and most of the wealthy families built palaces.
Genoa’s Aquarium, the Old Harbor, and the Port of Genoa
Once you’ve had your share of royalty for one day, head to the Port of Genoa where you will feel the salty air and breezy vibes.
If you have the time to pay a visit to the Genova Aquarium, which will surely impress you (especially if you are traveling to Genoa with kids, this should not be an attraction worth missing).
If you don’t have the time, just walk around the boats and admire the beautiful view (don’t miss out on the Vascello Neptune, a replica of a 17th-century boat). Maybe stop by for lunch in one of the many restaurants offering a large variety of fish and seafood.
We had dinner in the harbor, the first night we arrived, and the atmosphere was surely pleasant.
Or the Sea museum. This is one attraction that could be easily added to your one-day in Genoa itinerary simply because it can be linked with the previous point on the list.
Here is where you’ll learn more about navigation throughout the time, 600 years to be more exact.
Cathedral of San Lorenzo
The most important church in Genoa, right in the city’s center, offers amazing views from the top of the tower.
Another place you don’t have to miss is the Spianata Castelletto, this amazing balcony offering a 360 degrees view over Genoa’s city center and its port.
I have to admit it was a bit hard finding the way here and we got a bit lost on the streets of the city center, but after asking around we finally managed to find the elevator, pay the 80 cents per person, and got up.
Finding the elevator to Spianata Castelletto:
If you don’t want to get lost like us and want to find the elevator to Spianata Castelletto head directly to Piazza del Portello, where right after the Galleria Giuseppe Garibaldi (we did that on foot), there will be a health club and behind it the elevator.
And man was we rewarded! There’s no wonder they say that when you want to go to heaven you take the elevator to the Spianata Castelletto.
Sitting on a bench here, we couldn’t help but think of how lucky the people living in this city on the Mediterranean must be.
Children playing in the sun, parents peacefully waiting for them while doing nothing much but gossiping around and admiring the view, the peaceful breeze and the wonderful houses with gardens filled with flowers, the clear blue sky, and the little coffee shops with gelato artigianale.
What else would you call Heaven?
Exploring the old town and the Vicoli (narrow Genoa streets)
And while you make your way towards Genoa’s main train station you cannot leave town without allowing yourself to get lost nei vicoli – the narrow Genoa streets of the historic city center.
You might find some of them rather creepy but you don’t have to be afraid and trust me that not all streets are like that.
At some point, I think we found the less glamorous streets (if you get what I mean), but shortly after were surprised by some streets filled with colorful umbrellas.
Only afterward did I learn that the city was decorated because of the 2018 Euroflora. (Update: the next one will take place in 2022 if you want to plan a visit and catch it see more information here).
If like us, you only had a few hours to spend in the city, by visiting the above sights you have already run out of time. Then this would have been your perfect answer to the “what to see in one day in Genoa, Italy” question.
Have more time in Genoa?
If you have more time and don’t only spend one day in the Ligurian town, you might want to tick also the below main Genoa attractions:
A beautiful neighborhood of Genoa where you will have the chance to taste a little bit of Cinque Terre flavor (if you don’t have the time to get to the 5 little perfect towns).
Yes, the place is small and can get crowded in the evenings, but it is vibrant and colorful and it has the best gelato in town.
The Durazzo Pallavicini Villa
The Durazzo Pallavicini villa was chosen as the most beautiful park in Italy in 2017, with its beautiful and impressive gardens, and theatrical constructions.
The park is open from Tuesday to Sunday, during Spring and Summer, and can be easily reached by:
- train ( at Genova Pegli train station),
- the number 1 bus from Genoa’s city center in the Voltri direction (1,5 EUR ticket)
- by boat with the Navebus that leaves from the Porto Antico
The Nervi Park
The Nervi Parks – with their romantic panoramic seaside promenade.
Also known as Porta Sant’Andrea, the gate is one of the ones that survived Genoa’s old city walls. If you are passionate about history, make sure not to miss it.
The Funicular of Genoa (the Zecca)
Climbing the top of the hills in just minutes, while offering a great view over the city and the sea, the funicular takes you to the Pelarto Park (or the Park of the City Walls).
Monumental Cemetery of Stagnielo
Considered one of the most fascinating and important cemeteries in Europe, an open-air museum.
Designed in 1835, with a Pantheon, galleries, and hundreds of monuments, this is one destination you don’t want to miss when you have more than one day in Genoa.
And whatever you do, don’t leave the city without tasting focaccia with pesto Genovese!
Getting around Genoa
While for our trip to Genoa, we chose to do everything on foot and get to see the Ligurian town as much as possible, a better and faster idea would be to use public transportation or a hop-on-hop-off bus. That way you can fit in as many things to do in Genoa in one day. Book your ticket here!
By using buses, the underground line, lifts, and funiculars, you can get faster from one point to the other, while managing to maximize your time in Genoa.
The cheapest way of seeing Genoa in one day and its top attractions, with public transportation included, is the 24 hours Genoa Card, which you can purchase online.
What to eat in Genoa – Ligurian traditional cuisine
As an Italian food addict, I must say no matter where you go in Italy food will not disappoint. But as always, there are places with better food than others.
Since you’ll have only one day in Genoa, you’ll want to make sure you taste all the traditional delicious dishes, thus I’ve made a list for you to have close.
Know all the Italy food facts you must know before going
Some Ligurian dishes you don’t want to miss out on trying:
- Pesto Genovese – yes, pesto has its origin in Genoa, and trust me when I say I haven’t tasted any better one in my whole life than the one they make here. Such a simple combination of delicious basil, pine nuts, olive oil, garlic, and cheese. Eat it with pasta, in paninis, or even in gelato.
- Salsa si Noci – walnut sauce, is one of the other popular mouthwatering salsas for your pasta.
- Focaccia Genovese – be it simply drizzled with salt and olive oil, with potatoes, tomatoes, cheese, you name it! In Genoa is where you’ll eat the best Foccacia out of all of Italy (or the world).
- Farinata – is another traditional Ligurian dish you probably have never heard about, but should try. The thin pancake is done with chickpea flour which grants it a nutty flavor.
- Misto fritto or fish dishes – because where else than in a port town should you eat some of the best seafood there is? Italians keep it simple when it comes to fish, and that is great because you need to taste how fresh it is.
- Pasta alla Genovese – not only pesto, but also boiled potatoes and green beans in this delicious pasta dish.
- Pandolce alla Genovese – may be the most traditional dessert in Genoa, mixed with dried fruit and pine nuts, similar to a panettone, which was eaten for Christmas. But you can now find it at any pasticceria.
If you don’t want to wander around without knowing what to grab first, and if you are a food lover like myself, consider a food tour with tastings. You will have the chance to discover the gastronomical wonders of Genoa, guided by a local specialist. See more here!
Day trips from Genoa
If I’ve convinced you to spend more than one day in Genoa, you might want to know what other things are there to see and do on a day trip from Genoa.
Most importantly, Genoa’s location offers the possibility to see many unforgettable destinations. Many are for sure on your bucket list.
A day tour to Camogli and Portofino should not be missed! While Portofino is a famous posh area, Camogli is a hidden gem worth seeing! See more here!
Cinque Terre, Florence, Savona are only a few important destinations perfect for a day trip from Genoa. Check out my full list and all you need to know about my day trips from Genoa post.
Italy Travel Resources
- Thinking about taking a longer trip to Italy? Check out my 7 days Italy Itinerary
- Go South and live the real Italian vibes with my One week in South Italy itinerary
- Take the perfect pictures for your forever memories in these Instagram spots in Positano.
- A region worth your attention for your next trip? Give Puglia a chance and check out my 4 days in Puglia itinerary
- Have only limited time to spend in Italy? Why not see the Eternal City for one day or eat your heart out in Bologna for 2 days
- What else is more Italian than an Amalfi Coast itinerary? That’s the dream for many and it is for a good reason that way.
- Wondering how many days are enough for Venice? I’ve been there 3 times and I think I have the answer to your question.
PIN FOR LATER!