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.
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 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 Genoa a chance, or choose one of the smaller villages in Liguria?
Of course, one can choose to spend a longer 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 Milano and took the train to Genoa (a quick 1h30 min ride), having booked the tickets beforehand online on Trenitalia.
If 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.
What to see in Genoa, Italy in one day
Now that you’re there, what should you plan for? 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 being also 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, because 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 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 haha.
Via XX Settembre
Or better yet, the shopping street of Genoa passing 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 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 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.
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 gossip around and admire 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
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 streets of the historic city center of Genoa.
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 learned that the city was decorated because of the 2018 Euroflora. (Update: the next one will take place in 2021 if you want to plan a visit and catch it).
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.
Other attractions we did not see in one day 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, colorful and it has the best gelato in town.
The Durrazzo Pallavicini Villa
The Durrazzo Pallavicini villa 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 which survived from 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).
And whatever you do, don’t leave the city without tasting focaccia with pesto Genovese!
Getting around Genoa
While for one day in Genoa we chose to do everything on foot and get to see the Ligurian town as much as we could, a better and faster idea would be to use public transportation.
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.