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Whether you're a fan of architecture and historic buildings or not, you won't be able to resist the charm of this Ligurian city, with its swathe of attractions ancient and modern. You'll soon be beguiled by Genoese joie de vivre as you wander the steep labyrinth of medieval lanes of this city nestled in the Ligurian hills.
Are you thinking about booking a hotel in Genoa, Italy? Follow our advice and we'll help to organise your city break.
Why visit Genoa?
The historic Ligurian city of Genoa is the home of numerous opulent palazzos, with more than 40 classed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. When you arrive, you'll also be struck by its photogenic setting between the sea and the mountains as well as its vibrance and elegance, its effervescent streets and dynamic nightlife.
What to do in Genoa?
Explore the old town
Start your visit to Genoa by losing yourself in the alleys of the old town, an enchanting latticework of minuscule arteries and vast piazzas lined with palaces, mansions and churches of rare beauty.
On Via Garibaldi, regarded as one of the most handsome streets in the world, you can contemplate the façades of sublime palaces, several of which now house important museums.
Another thoroughfare not to miss is Via XX Settembre, a lavish boulevard bordered by elegant art nouveau façades and with a unique atmosphere that takes you back in time. In fact, you can travel through several centuries of history at one single monument, for the eclectic Cathedral of San Lorenzo boasts architectural features from classical Roman, Gothic, Baroque and Mannerist styles.
And don't miss the Palazzo Ducale, an elegant landmark that was the seat of the Republic of Genoa's government for several centuries; today it has morphed into a cultural centre hosting big-name exhibitions and festivals.
Holding their own among all these sumptuous palaces are some splendid churches: Romanesque San Donato is celebrated for its exquisite artworks, while Santa Maria Maddalena boasts an ornate façade and elaborate Baroque interior.
Visit Genoa's museums
As a famous maritime city, it's only appropriate that Genoa should spawn a museum dedicated to the sea. At the Galata Museo del Mare, you'll learn a lot about the city and its dependence on the sea, on the history of maritime conflicts and shipbuilding, about trading and also immigration. You'll also get the chance to tour a submarine.
Climb up to the roof of Palazzo Bianco for magnificent views over the city before discovering the palace's art gallery, with exquisite works by artists including Caravaggio. The Palazzo Bianco is one of the major museums on Via Garibaldi, alongside the palaces of Rosso and Doria-Tursi. Together they form the Strada Nuova Museums complex, with important collections of paintings and priceless decorative arts.
There's another art museum deserving your attention. The National Gallery is tucked away in 16th-century Palazzo Spinola, and impresses with a collection of ceramics as well as paintings by Genovese, Flemish and European masters.
Art connoisseurs should also visit the Museo di Sant'Agostino, where an important display of frescoes is set in an Augustinian convent dating from the 13th century.
To end your artistic city tour on a different note, take yourself off to the Edoardo Chiossone Museum of Oriental Art to admire Japanese and Chinese art in a spectacularly verdant setting on the summit of a hill.
Walk down to the port
After visiting the old town and its museums, head for Genoa's port, which is the oldest maritime trading hub in Italy. A stroll around the harbour puts you in sight of merchant ships and cruise liners as well as a surprising addition to the dockside – the galleon "Neptune", a replica pirate boat built in 1985 for a Roman Polanksi movie!
But there's much more to see than boats. The port has other treasures, including the Aquarium of Genoa, the Renzo Piano-designed Biosphere – a spherical glass-and-steel structure suspended over the sea – and also the crane-like Bigo panoramic lift, which offers views across the harbour. And while you're nearby, don't forget to cast an eye over the trompe-l'œil frescoes on the façade of the 13th-century Palazzo San Georgio.
For a unique memory of your stay in Genoa, climb up to the viewing deck of the Lanterna. Standing at 117 metres above the coastline, it is the highest lighthouse bordering the Mediterranean Sea, and at sunset you can admire the city from its viewing deck.
Take to the heights to admire Genoa
Genoa grew up on the flanks of the Ligurian hills, so there's no shortage of viewpoints. If you'd like to see the city from on high, take the public lift from central Piazza del Portello up to the Belvedere Luigi Montaldo – also known as the Spianata Castelletto – a wide esplanade offering panoramas over the city and cruise port to the Maritime Alps in the distance.
Walk along the seafront
Want some fresh air? Corso Italia is a pedestrian promenade stretching for several kilometres along the coastline. You can stretch your legs, discover the beaches and admire Genoese architecture as you walk. It's also a great spot to contemplate magnificent sunsets.
Pass a few hours in Boccadasse for a change of scenery. Situated around 10 minutes' drive from the historic centre of Genoa, Boccadasse is a charismatic fishing village set around a little cove bordered by pastel-hued houses. Its compact shingle beach is a popular place for a dip and a laze in the bright sunshine.
Genoa stands at the heart of the Italian Riviera. You're bound to find the beach of your dreams along its sandy coastline – how about the pebble beach at Sturla or one of the many secluded coves?
Would you like to view the beauty of Genoa from offshore? Hire a boat or join a day cruise and get out on the open sea! You can also combine your sailing adventure with swimming and visiting pretty towns including romantic Camogli and glamorous Portofino along the coastline.
Where to eat in Genoa ?
Traditional Genoese cuisine is varied. From pasta and basil pesto to the freshest of seafood, vegetable pies filled with chard and sour cheese to ravioli topped with walnut sauce, you'll find plenty to make your taste buds sing.
The regional pastries are pretty special too! Sample them in Genoa's welcoming cafés or buy one from a high-end patisserie to enjoy as you meander around the city.
The historic heart of Genoa is full of excellent restaurants and welcoming trattorias, but if you'd like a quick bite or a taste of local specialities, search out the Mercato del Carmine in the multi-ethnic neighbourhood of Prè.
Nightlife in Genoa
Hotels in Genoa
The best hotels in Genoa are near the city centre, the beach or the port. For a lasting memory of your trip to Liguria, choose a luxurious 4-star Genoa hotel with a swimming pool, fitness centre and restaurant. If you're travelling for work, book a business hotel in Genoa with meeting rooms and parking.
How to get to Genoa ?
Genoa is easily accessible in around two hours by car from Menton on the Côte d'Azur and Milan or Turin in northern Italy, and there are direct daily flights from London Gatwick airport. Once there, you can easily tour the city on foot, but it's best to hire a car if you want to explore the surrounding towns and beaches.