48 hours in Genoa: what to do on a weekend break

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48 hours in Genoa: weekend break - Piazza de Ferrari

With direct flights from the UK, now is the perfect time to explore this gracious city on the Italian Riviera

Genoa has a wealth of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered; follow our guide to where to go and what to see.

Genoa is the capital of the Italian region of Liguria, and Italy’s sixth largest city. Clinging to the Mediterranean coast, it’s a city built on the hills, boasting a beautifully preserved medieval centre and a lively revamped port. But step behind the noble Renaissance palaces and you’ll discover a world rich in art.

Genoa has never been one for chasing tourists, but with flights from London and Edinburgh as well as Bristol, Luton and Manchester, it’s never been easier to discover a city bursting with culture and history.

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Day 1: What to do

Start in the Centro Storico (the old town), where getting lost within its narrow lanes – called carruggi – is part of the fun. You won’t generally find huge piazzas, but the exception is the stately Piazza de Ferrari, part of a chain that links the Teatro Carlo Felice opera house to the striking black and white San Lorenzo cathedral. Pop into the Palazzo Ducale museum to see its latest temporary art exhibitions. For some of the city’s best views, take the gorgeous Art Nouveau lift at Piazza del Portello up to Spianata di Castelletto.

Day 1: Where to eat

For lunch, land meets the sea harmoniously in cosy La Forchetta Curiosa in Piazza Negri, where the lunchtime menu changes regularly but can include squid-ink risotto or ravioli with pesto – which originated in Liguria. Dishes are a bargain at €6 – €9.

At dinner time, you can start from 6pm onwards with an aperitivo in one of the bars along Via San Donato, Via San Bernardo or Piazza delle Erbe. The free snack buffet during aperitivo time (usually 5.30 – 8pm) is all part of the deal, but make sure you save room for the seafood at Trattoria dell’Acciughetta, which includes an imaginative starter of anchovies prepared five ways.

Where to stay in Genoa

For a budget option, try La Meridiana. Built on the ruins of a Franciscan friary near Via Garibaldi, it has simple rooms and wonderful views from its garden. From €80.

A mid-range option is the NH Collection Genova Marina, a luxurious, nautical-themed hotel that’s in the thick of the marina action. Stop for cocktails on the terrace overlooking the port. From €145.

48 hours in Genoa: weekend break - Cattedrale di San Lorenzo

The iconic Cattedrale di San Lorenzo in Piazza San Lorenzo.

Day 2: What to do

Head to the Porto Antico and discover how this industrial port has been revitalised and turned into one of Genoa’s buzziest areas. Although pricey, the Genoa Aquarium has a jaw-dropping collection of sharks, dolphins and countless other marine creatures. Back in the Centro Storico, stroll along Via Garibaldi past the Palazzi dei Rolli, a UNESCO-listed, wonderfully ornate collection of 16th-century palaces. At Palazzo Rosso, you can see works by Veronese, Ferrari and Van Dyck.

Day 2: Where to eat

For a change from the usual Italian breakfast of cakes, try a breakfast of gorgeous focaccia – another Ligurian speciality – at Panificio Grissineria Claretta at Via Posta della Vecchia 12. Nibble on this classic street food as you explore the carruggi.

At lunch, enjoy traditional Ligurian pasta and seafood in Il Cadraio’s vaulted dining room at Vico Dietro il Coro della Maddalena 25 in the old town. Expect dishes such as spicy ravioli with asparagus and octopus.

Day 2: Where to go

Treat yourself: hop on the No 15 bus and head four miles east of Porto Antico to the small but perfectly formed beach at Boccadasse. Although it’s pebbly, it’s a popular spot with locals hoping to cool off in the summer months. Just bring your swimming shoes and wade in.

48 hours in Genoa: weekend break - city skyline

Genoa has a wealth of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered.

What to see in Genoa: a tip from a local

“It’s cheaper to buy a Genova Pass for €4.50. It gives you unlimited travel on public transport, and the lifts that connect the city, for 24 hours.”

Cristina Gelvi, Genoa

Do more in Genoa with Boundless

Save up to 10% on a five-star holiday in Genoa with Barrhead Travel

With your Boundless discount you can save on a trip to Genoa, with your flights and hotel booked through the experts at Barrhead Travel; they’ll find you the perfect city break.

48 hours in Genoa: weekend break - fresco in Palazzo Rosso

A 17th-century fresco by Ligurian artist Gregorio De Ferrari at Palazzo Rosso. Image © Getty Images.

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