10 things to see in Genoa

Built between the sea and the mountains, Genoa is a city rich in history, sights and monuments to visit.

From the city’s iconic lighthouse to the palaces that housed famous people in the 16th century, in this article you will find out what are the 10 things to see in Genoa.

Let’s get going!

Lantern of Genoa

Always the symbol of Genoa, the“Lantern” is the lighthouse that characterizes this former maritime republic: 77 meters high, it rises about 177 meters above sea level on the remains of a 40-meter hill.

Its history dates back as far as 1128, when the presence of the tower was preceded by an existing one.

In fact, over the years, the lighthouse has been featured in many battles, including the French siege of 1513 and World War II.

The reconstruction of the lighthouse

It was rebuilt in 1537 at the behest of Doge Andrea Centurione Pietrasanta and, despite the interventions carried out due to the war events of the time, its current appearance is as it was then: it looks like a tower built in two volumes, one on top of the other, with two terraces, the first of which is reachable, 172 steps and a lantern inside of which are the lighting elements.

Next to the tower is the Lantern Museum, a museum dedicated to the city and the provincial territory, which can be reached by an 800-meter walk along the old walls to the lighthouse from the Ferry Terminal.

Caruggi and Via del Campo: the historic center of Genoa

Genoa’s historic center is a place steeped in history, the core of the old city that has finally, after years of decay, been restored.

During long walks you will run into the caruggi, narrow medieval alleys characteristic of the Ligurian city.

You’ll get lost in the sight of the famous Palazzo Spinola and Palazzo Ducale, and squares such as Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza San Donato, overlooked by the churches of San Donato and San Matteo.

Via del Campo

“Via del Campo, there is a little girl. With dewy lips, eyes as gray as the street, nascon flowers where she walks.”

During your walk, remember to pass by Via del Campo, the street sung by Fabrizio De André in the song of the same name: you will find an exhibition space with vinyl records at number 29 red, along with photographs and many other curiosities related to the Genoese singer-songwriter.

Historic center of Genoa

Much of Genoa’s historic center is a World Heritage Site due to sites of historical interest such as the Castrum, that is, the first urban settlement dating back to the Roman and Etruscan periods.

But don’t worry, that there is entertainment in Genoa as well: you will find inns aplenty, in which you can taste typical Genoese dishes.

Bands fill historic bars, while centuries-old stores will captivate you with their charm of days gone by.

Palazzi dei Rolli

The Palazzi dei Rolli are the luxurious residences of the Genoese nobility.

But why are they called that?

Between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Republic of Genoa offered hospitality to illustrious figures who visited the city.

More than a hundred mansions registered in special lists, known as the Rolli of Public Lodgings, had been set aside for this purpose.

These Palaces, based on their architectural and luxurious value, were divided into three categories (bussoli), each of which corresponded to a certain category of guest:

the first compass housed cardinals, princes and viceroys;

the second compass was intended for feudal lords and governors;

In the third compass housed princes and ambassadors.

Palazzi dei Rolli as a World Heritage Site

In 2006, 42 out of 114 of these palaces were declared “World Heritage Sites” by UNESCO: you can find them mainly in Via Garibaldi, Lomellini, Balbi and San Luca.

You can visit the Palazzi dei Rolli during Rolli Days, organized by the City of Genoa throughout the year.

Aquarium of Genoa

Opened in 1992, the Genoa Aquarium is Italy’s largest aquarium, second largest in Europe after Valencia’s marine park, Oceanogàfic.

Located in Genoa’s 16th-century Old Port at Ponte Spinola, the Aquarium is the most popular destination in Genoa because of its 12,000 specimens of 600 different species, both marine and freshwater and rainforest.

A path divided into pavilions will guide you through the more than 70 exhibition tanks, in which you can also see penguins, seals, turtles and sharks.

By purchasing the combined ticket you can also visit:

  • to the Biosphere, a steel and glass structure inside which a tropical forest has been built;
  • to the Bigo, the panoramic elevator with views of Genoa la Superba.

Old Port

The ancient port was once the center of Genoa’s mercantile activity.

In 1992, to mark the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America, it was redesigned by Renzo Piano. The port area is now one of the most popular tourist destinations: you can walk, dine and shop here.

During the winter, the Old Port hosts an ice skating rink, on which you can learn to skate as well as watch the city’s competitive teams practice.

In the Old Port area, in addition to the Aquarium of Genoa, the Biosphere and the Bigo, there is also the Galata, or the city’s Museum of the Sea.

Not only that: the conversion to a tourist area has brought back to life some old port buildings including the Magazzini del Cotone, which now house recreational centers such as the Children’s City, the largest play and interactive museum for children between the ages of 2 and 14.

Galata Sea Museum

With its 10,000 square meters of exhibition space, the Galata is a glass and steel building that houses the largest maritime museum in the Mediterranean.

Once the site of galley construction (row-propelled warships), the building has been redeveloped and renovated at the hands of Spanish architect Guillermo Vasquez Consuegra.

Here you can see reproductions of boats of all types and all sizes, nautical charts and interactive stations.You will discover Italian emigration, but also what the living conditions of sailors were like thanks to a visit to the S518 Nazario Sauro, a former military submarine.

Cathedral of St. Lawrence

We continue our list of 10 things to see in Genoa with the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the city’s most important church, which overlooks the square of the same name.

It was built around 1098: over the years it has undergone various restorations that have resulted in it having different architectural styles, both inside and out.

Externally, the facade is Gothic with black and white stripes, colors that symbolized Genoese nobility in the Middle Ages, while the 16th-century bell tower is currently as it was then.

Internally there are 3 naves distinguished by 14th-century marble columns, in both Gothic and Romantic styles, on which rest faux matronei.

From inside the cathedral you can reach the Diocesan Museum and the Treasury Museum, inside which are kept the Ash Ark of St. John the Baptist, the city’s patron saint, and other relics related to the saint.

De Ferrari Square

The heart of Genoa, De Ferrari Square is the commercial, financial and economic core of the city and the site of the country’s most important events.Here, its nineteenth-century style and the sumptuousness of the palaces blend with the scents of the sea and Ligurian cuisine.

Since 1877 it has been named after Raffaele De Ferrari, a politician and benefactor who donated a large sum of money to the city for the expansion of the port.

In the center of the square, water features emerge from the monumental bronze fountain built by architect Cesare Crosa in 1936, which rises in front of the Doge’s Palace, the former residence of the Doge, the Palace of the New Stock Exchange, and the Palace of the Liguria region.

There are many buildings to visit, including the Carlo Felice Theater, the Palace of the Ligustica Academy of Fine Arts, and the Civica Biblioteca Berio, designed by Carlo Barabino in the first half of the 19th century.

Via Garibaldi and Strada Nuova Museums

Do you like ancient art?

Then you can’t help but visit Via Garibaldi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, renamed as the “Strada Nuova” of the mid-16th century, or “Via Aurea” because of the grandeur of its buildings such as Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Doria Tursi, three city-owned mansions.

Red Palace

A 17th-century home of the Brignole Sale family, it holds historic furnishings and art collections collected by this noble family over more than two centuries: you can admire the beauty of works by Van Dyck, Guercino, Dürer, Strozzi and Veronese.

White Palace

At Palazzo Bianco, Italian painting blends with Flemish, French and Dutch and Spanish painting from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

You will look at the works of Murillo, Van Dyck, Rubens, Memling and Caravaggio’s “Ecce Homo.”

Doria Tursi Palace

Known mostly for its mayor’s reception rooms, this palace holds decorative arts such as ceramics and tapestries.

The Palazzo Doria Tursi also houses Paganini’s famous “Cannone” violin, built in 1734 by luthier Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri, and the “Penitent Magdalene” by Venetian sculptor Antonio Canova.

Castelletto esplanade

The city, being built vertically, is filled with elevators and cable cars, which will allow you to reach Genoa’s most scenic spots.

Among these, the best known is the elevator in Piazza Portello, with which you will reach Belvedere Montaldo, also known as Spianata Castelletto: from this suspended balcony you can enjoy an extraordinarily impressive, 360-degree view of the harbor and the historic center of the superb Genoese city.

If you prefer to walk, you can also reach the viewing terrace on foot by starting from Via Garibaldi, walking up the Salita San Francesco and continuing up the Salita a Spianata Castelletto.

In a short time you will reach the wonderful hanging balcony of Belvedere Montaldo, where you can take memorable photographs and selfies.

Where to stay?

Just under a kilometer from the city center and a hundred meters from Brignole train station, Urban Flora is the perfect place to visit Genoa.

With us you will experience a Scandinavian-modern look, where fresh and pleasant plants will make you enjoy as much relaxation as possible and for an unforgettable vacation. All rooms provide a private bathroom, smart TV and free Wi-Fi that will make you feel right at home. Book your room now or contact us to ask for more information.


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