Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Weekend in Genoa with kids: 5 things to do

With its Aquarium, the largest in Europe, Genoa has now become a regular destination for many families. In the Ligurian main city, parents and children find a city with spaces dedicated precisely to the little ones (e.g. the Città dei Bambini, but not only). Since there are so many activities that can be done, by necessity we had to leave out some visits in our short guide, such as those to the beautiful historic villas in the western part of Genoa or excursions to the Forts overlooking the city, but we will certainly cover these when we present other itineraries. This time, with our five tips on things to do on a weekend in Genoa with children, we have concentrated above all on the proximity of the Porto Antico, the area which, being the home of the Aquarium, is almost an obligatory point of transit: from here you can then easily reach all the activities we have recommended.

1. Aquarium of Genoa and the Porto Antico

How much time do you need: minimum 2h30m (Aquarium only)
Genova - acquario e porto antico con bambini

From a historic landing place to a large square on the Mediterranean, Genoa’s Porto Antico (Old Port) has lived many lives in its centuries of history. For years it was the beating heart of the city’s work and traffic until the naval pole (commercial and industrial) moved to the city’s west side, effectively rendering the area unused, which was only returned to citizenship with the 1992 Expo: In that year, the Porto Antico was connected again to the Old Town thanks to the project by the famous Genoese architect Renzo Piano; Piano himself explained well the meaning of the Porto Antico’s rebirth: ‘Before ’92 the port was separated from the city, but since then Genoa has been able to regain its contact with the sea and re-establish a relationship with the water.

The Aquarium of Genoa is certainly the most attractive destination, being the largest in Europe with more than 70 ecosystems and almost 12,000 specimens from all over the world and allowing you to make a total immersion in the aquatic biodiversity of the planet.
To access the facility you have to choose a time slot (both online and at the ticket office), and given the very high turnout – especially during holiday periods – the only problem is figuring out the best times to visit it: according to the official website, queues are concentrated in the middle of the day, so it is advisable to visit the Aquarium in the early morning or from mid-afternoon onwards. The visit lasts on average about two and a half hours but, apart from that and with limited places, other activities can also be booked in advance, for example the special experience with the penguins in which you can watch the animals’ afternoon meal together with the guides.

The whole Porto Antico is family-friendly and in addition to the Aquarium there are many other things to discover. For example, in the same complex that houses the Aquarium there is also “La Città dei Bambini e dei Ragazzi” (The Children’s and Youngsters’ City), an exhibition and experiential itinerary of over 2000 square metres in which children and young people can train their critical spirit by activating all five senses: by visiting the areas equipped with interactive installations, they are transported on a journey to discover our sensory relationship with the world, a way to learn while playing and having fun. The complete enjoyment of “La Città dei Bambini e dei Ragazzi” is about two hours (with no time limit, of course). Inside, there are also areas designed for children between 2 and 4 years old. 

For those who love nature more, a visit to the ‘Biosphere’ is certainly recommended, where one can admire the fauna and flora of tropical forests inside the glass architecture designed by Renzo Piano; for those looking for a moment of relaxation, there is always the ‘Edmondo De Amicis International Children’s Library’, a place where one can recharge one’s batteries by reading a good book or participating in the cultural activities and workshops organised by the library staff.
Also in the area, one cannot fail to mention the Bigo panoramic lift from which one can admire the beauty of Genoa with a different view of the city.

How to get there

The Porto Antico of Genoa is located in the city centre and is the seafront of the Old Town. If you arrive by train, from both stations you can reach the area by metro: there is only one line and the station where you get off is ‘San Giorgio’. If you arrive by car, there are several pay car parks nearby.

2. Boccadasse, the fishing village within the city that inspired the Pixar film 'Luca'

How much time do you need: minimum 1h
Cosa vedere a Genova con bambini boccadasse

An old fishing village preserved almost intact within the contemporary city.
Boccadasse is a real, living seaside village and not a reconstruction for the use of tourists – with shops, restaurants and still a few fishermen – and despite the surrounding urban growth, the original structure of the place has been kept the same as it was centuries ago, with its traditional coloured houses overlooking the sea and small pebble beach.
Its landscape is evocative and iconic, so much so that it was one of the sources of inspiration – along with the Cinque Terre and other views of the Riviera di Levante – for the Pixar cartoon ‘Luca’ (written and directed by Enrico Casarosa from Genoa) set in the imaginary town of Portorosso; and indeed once you enter the village it seems as if you are in a magical world where time has stood still.

During the summer you can go swimming, but also during the rest of the year Boccadasse is blessed with a happy microclimate that makes the sea pleasant even in winter: paradoxically, even when it snows it is a visit not to be missed, because there are very few landscapes in the world like an ancient seaside village whitened by snow.
Our advice is to experience the village to the full, have an ice cream or a piece of focaccia to eat while relaxing on the beach where the children can play.
Boccadasse is located in the eastern part of the city and is connected to the centre by the long seafront promenade of Corso Italia, which is another pleasant activity to do on the way back.

How to get there

At least once is recommended the walk from Boccadasse to the centre of Genoa (Corso Italia). The duration of the walk is one hour. Boccadasse is connected by bus to Brignole station (bus line 31). There is no parking for the car, so it is recommended to find parking in the Foce area and then reach by public transport or on foot.

3. Palazzo Ducale and its ancient prisons

How much time do you need: minimum 2h
palazzo ducale di Genova da visitare con i bambini

Palazzo Ducale (the Doge’s Palace) was for centuries the symbol of power in Genoa, first the seat of the medieval Commune then the fortress where the Doge of the Republic resided (the Doge was the highest office). Now it is the city’s liveliest cultural centre, hosting exhibitions, conferences and shows. But it is also a place steeped in history, a precious testimony to its architectural evolution from the first medieval core to the latest 18th-century modifications.

The historic building is open to the public, you can walk through its courtyards and porticoes, accessing them from Genoa’s central squares (Piazza De Ferrari and Piazza Matteotti), while the piano nobile is where exhibitions are held – usually in the Doge’s Apartments – or where other important cultural events are organised – in the Salone del Maggior Consiglio or the Salone del Minor Consiglio.
At the Palazzo Ducale every day you can find something to do, with the simultaneous concurrence of many events with interests for all ages, or just to visit.

For children and young people, the route that includes the Grimaldina Tower and the ancient prisons is very interesting, a visit that children always enjoy because it is cloaked in mystery. Good conservation allows these historic prisons to be discovered in their original layout.
Reversing our imagination of prisons as a dark, underground cavern, the ancient cells of the Palazzo Ducale are located in an area of the building between the attic above the Doge’s Apartment and the Grimaldina Tower: as you will see when you visit them, they are not in any case comfortable environments, being exposed to the seasonal weather, both windy and cold in winter and asphyxiating heat in summer; above all, the cells in the corridor above the Doge’s Apartment are small with low double doors, with thick iron grilles behind the walls, above the ceilings and under the floors, and were a veritable cage impossible to escape from; the cells in the top levels of the Grimaldina Tower, on the other hand, are larger, brighter and better ventilated, and served as prisons for important people waiting for their ransom to be paid.

The Grimaldina Tower and the ancient prisons are not always open to the public, but guided tours are organised during the year, many times together with activities for children and young people (for more information, we recommend visiting the Palazzo Ducale website).

How to get there

Palazzo Ducale represents the centre of the city and is therefore easily accessible all transport options. The metro stop is ‘De Ferrari’ while several buses stop nearby. If arriving from outside the city by car, it is advisable to find a car park outside the centre and then reach Palazzo Ducale on foot or by public transport.

4. Ligurian Sea excursions by boat

How much time do you need: minimum 1h (the tour of the Port) to one day (visit to San Fruttuoso)
Giro in battello a Genova e San Fruttuoso di Camogli

From Genoa’s Porto Antico you set sail for adventure!
The area in front of the Aquarium is where the boats that take tourists and non-tourists around the Ligurian Sea moor every day: in fact, you can choose from different excursions according to your time requirements.

If your stay is short, you can take advantage of a free hour or so to embark on a discovery of the Port of Genoa. The boat tour includes a sea tour of the three inner harbour basins and you will have the opportunity to discover the city from a different perspective with an unusual viewpoint of Genoa’s wonders, first and foremost the famous Lantern.

Boats for daily excursions to San Fruttuoso and Portofino also depart from the Porto Antico, setting sail in the morning and returning in the late afternoon: San Fruttuoso can only be reached on foot from the Portofino promontory or by sea, and this has made it possible to preserve the charm of an intact seaside village that overlooks a crystal-clear sea with its small beach, whose waters hold in their depths the famous bronze statue of Christ of the Abyss, which can be admired on site thanks to other smaller boats that depart from the shore of San Fruttuoso. Alternatively, instead of leaving from Genoa, one can also organise the trip to San Fruttuoso by choosing Camogli, another jewel of the Riviera di Levante, as a starting point.

The last recommended offshore excursion is a visit to the ‘Cetacean Sanctuary’, a marine area between Italy and France inhabited by various species of cetaceans. On the boat there will be a biologist who will accompany the trip as a guide to cetacean sightings with information and trivia. This excursion lasts approximately 5 hours.

How to get there

All these boat excursions depart from Ponte Spinola, which is the pier where the Aquarium of Genoa is also locatedIf you arrive by train, from both stations you can reach the area by metro: there is only one line and the station where you get off is ‘San Giorgio’. If you arrive by car, there are several pay car parks nearby.

5. The Lanterna of Genoa, its museum and park

How much time do you need: minimum 2h
Lanterna di Genova cosa vedere a Genova con bambini

A symbol of the city, the tallest lighthouse in the Mediterranean and one of the oldest still in operation (second only to the tower of Hercules in la Coruna), the Lanterna today forms part of a larger tourist area that also includes a museum located inside the old fortress (with its characteristic rooms) and which tells the story of the Lanterna, and a path inside the historical walls at the foot of the lighthouse, a walk that starts from the original access from the west and runs along the old road for about 800 metres, giving, while immersing oneself in the calm of the park, an evocative view of the port of Genoa. The Lanterna tower can be visited by climbing up to the first panoramic terrace and allows you to appreciate the entire coast and the heights from a privileged vantage point.

How to get there

The Lanterna remains in the western part of the city. The entrance to Genoa Lanterna Park is from the Ferry Terminal in Via Milano. Here there is a pay car park. The nearest metro station is ‘Dinegro’, which is about a 10-minute walk away. You can also take bus line number 18, which runs through the city centre.

Show CommentsClose Comments

Leave a comment