What to Do in Genoa | City Breaks Italy | Genoa City Guide & Attractions


The name Genova originates from the Roman God Janus ('Giano' in Italian), protector god of all passageways and doors; in ancient times the Genoese decorated their doorways with religious bas-relief. Originally a Roman port, Genova suffered invasions from the Byzantines, Lombards and the Franks. In the 11th century, Medieval Genoa became an oligarchic republic, expanding and flourishing. The crusades also helped Genoa secure its role as the Mediterranean maritime leader for centuries. In 1528 in alliance with the Spanish, the Golden Age of Genoa commenced, resulting in the building of sumptuous palazzos and villas. Declining in the 17th century, Genoa was annexed. From Genoa, Garibaldi started his 'Expedition of the Thousand' that would eventually lead to the constitution of the Kingdom of Italy. In the 19th and 20th centuries, Genoa enjoyed great urban development, assuming the role of industrial and port centre for  Milan and Turin. Since the old port was transformed into a tourist attraction, tourism has developed in the city.

Genoa has a rich artistic history with numerous frescoes, paintings, sculptures and other works of art in the city's abundant palaces, museums, art galleries and piazzas.  The home of the 'Ligurian School', Genova was home to Rubens, Van Dyck and Bernado Strozzi. The prestigious neoclassical Teatro Carlo Felice once hosted Richard Strauss and Stravinsky as conductors and is still a thriving production house. There's also chamber music and folk music in Genoese dialect. Other things to do in Genova include exploring the fascinating shops, cafes and restaurants in the old city centre with its narrow winding allies and many churches and mansions. Popular local foods include pesto, focaccia, farinata, stoccafisso and walnut sauce. Minestrone soup also comes from Genoa.

Must-see attractions
What to do in Genova? There's so much to enjoy.  Don't miss the Aquarium - Europe's largest marine park; Palazzo Ducale; Palazzi dei Rolli, part of Unesco's World Heritage list; the museum corner of Via Garibaldi; San Lorenzo Cathedral; Palazzo Reale; Palazzo del Principe Doria; Belvedere Luigi Montaldo with gorgeous terrace views; Museums and Gardens in Nervi.

The city of Genoa covers an area of 243 km2 between the Ligurian Sea and Apennine Mountains, beside two popular Ligurian vacation sports Carnogli and Portofino.

The historic centre of Genova is the best example of an entirely preserved Medieval town in Europe.  A large part has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. Other areas to note include the hugely popular Old Port and lighthouse; the Santa Maria di Castello and Torre degli Embriaci - a monumental basilica, nunnery and museum of great historic and architectonic importance.

Annual events
When you're deciding what to do in Genova, consider timing your trip to coincide with one of the many major annual events including: Holy Week around Easter; International Poetry Festival in June; Music Festival in July and August; Theatre Festival in July and August, set in the old town; International Boat Show in October; Festival of Clowns in December.

Public transport includes the main railway stations Genoa Brignole Station and the Genoa Principe Station and a metro line. The Airport of Genoa is built on an artificial peninsula. Several cruise and ferry lines serve the passenger terminals in the old port.

Useful external links

Key facts
  • City and important port in Italy
  • Called La Superba due to glorious past
  • Rich art, music, gastronomy, architecture and history made it 2004 EU Capital of Culture
Tourist attractions
  • Piazza de Ferrari
  • Genoa Cathedral
  • Palazzo Ducale
  • Palazzo Reale
  • Villa Durazzo-Pallavicini and Gardens
  • Ancient City Walls and Gates
  • Acquarium


  • Mediterranean climate
  • Summer - warm and dry, averaging 24ºC.
  • Spring and Autumn - wettest months are October and November
  • Winter - mild, averaging 8ºC.