With trains from London to Genoa, you can reach the UNESCO sites, Romanesque churches, and fishing neighbourhoods of this Italian Riviera city in comfort. Genoa is more than just a central hub for the Italian Riviera: the old port city’s UNESCO status is testament to its past splendour, with elaborate Renaissance-era palaces jostling for attention with sorbet-coloured buildings along its rugged coastline. Trains to Genoa arrive at Piazza Principe, located in the Old Town and a short walk from the Porto Antico (old port). This is the ideal place to begin your adventure in this bustling seaport with centuries of maritime history.
Given its history as an historic Mediterranean maritime power, it should come as no surprise that Genoa is home to an abundance of UNESCO World Heritage sites. You can join guided tours to the Strade Nuove (new streets), a group of 14th and 15th century streets located in the Old Town, and the Palazzi dei Rolli, 42 magnificent 16th and 17th palaces. The Old Town is approximately a 15 minute away walk from Genoa Piazza Principe Train Station. The Rolli palaces can also be visited without a guide for free twice a year. Make sure you check if your visit coincides with one of these dates.
The Aquarium of Genoa, located in the Porto Antico, is the place to observe the most extensive range of biodiversity of any aquarium in Europe. It boasts over 12,000 sea creatures and vegetal specimens across 27,000m². A new addition is the Tropical Garden where you can meet sea mammals that may have inspired mermaid legends, and encounter the unusual species of sawfish in the shark tank.
The Romanesque Basilica di Santa Maria di Castello is more than a church: it’s also a gallery, housing artworks commissioned over the centuries by the Genoese nobility. Full of hidden cloisters, a loggia, and chapels, it offers free tours with English-speaking volunteers. With a tour you’ll get to see areas of the basilica easily missed when visiting on your own, as well as learn about the history behind the paintings. Key works are the Stories of David frescoes and a collection of Renaissance-era majolicas (brightly-coloured tin-glazed pottery).
Step back in time in the old fishermen’s neighbourhood of Boccadasse, which lies close to Sturla Train Station, running along Genoa’s main seafront. Legend has it that neighbourhood's name stems from the Genovese dialectal phrase ‘bócca d'âze’, or donkey’s mouth, owing to the shape of the bay around which Boccadesse lies. Boccadesse has a quaint, relaxed feel – perfect for a leisurely stroll with a gelato while admiring the clusters of houses in shades of apricot, peach, and lemon. The small rocky beach boasts clear, inviting waters where you can take a dip on hot summer days.
Return to the present day with an innovative sensorial experience at Dialogo nel Buio (Dialogue in the Dark). Designed to demonstrate trials faced every day by the blind, as well as challenge your other senses, you will step into a darkened space led by a blind guide. Without your sense of sight, your other senses are heightened and you rely on touch, smell, sound, or even taste. Make sure you book ahead to secure a visit in English.
If you want to travel to Genoa from elsewhere in Italy, direct trains to Genoa run from Pisa, Milan, Turin, and La Spezia. If you are in the UK, you may be surprised to learn that Genoa is closer than you thought – you can travel by train from London St Pancras International to Genoa Piazza Principe in 13 hours and 30 minutes. Changing in Paris, Nice, and Ventimiglia along the way, now is the time to let the train take the strain. Why not pop into the Louvre in Paris or enjoy majestic sea views from Nice’s Promenade des Anglais along the way?