With its mix of the old and the new, Genoa is as multilayered as the hills it clings to. Once one of the richest cities in Europe, for centuries it was an essential stop on The Grand Tour, as visited by Henry James, Anton Chekhov and Dylan Thomas. Its glamour faded slightly in the 20th century as it was (wrongly) dismissed as being little more than Italy's northern port. But the charm is still here. Washing lines hang between vertiginous candy-coloured houses, geraniums spill out of window boxes and the salty smell of the sea hangs in the hair.
Genoa boasts one of the world’s most fascinating and best-preserved medieval centres. Here you'll find narrow lanes that can barely accommodate anything wider than a scooter, at least three world-class churches and countless great neighbourhood restaurants. And for one of the most sumptuous views in Europe, head to the Palazzo Rosso museum with its rooftop viewing platform perched high above the city.
- Acquario (Porto Antico area): Italy’s largest aquarium, with over 70 tanks, is home to a series of marine, lake and terrestrial environments. It holds over 600 different species, with some 6000 specimens of fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds.
- Palazzo Ducale (Piazza Matteotti 9): The ancient seat of government of the Republic of Genoa is now Italy's largest multi-purpose cultural centre, offering a packed calendar of important art exhibitions in the splendid setting of the halls of the Maggior and Minor Consiglio.
- Palazzo Rosso (Via Garibaldi 18): In its sumptuous surroundings, boasting frescoes by the most important 17th-century Ligurian artists and a host of magnificent furnishings, visitors can admire a unique collection of paintings collected over the course of two centuries by the Brignole family.
- Palazzo Bianco (Via Garibaldi 11): This 17th-century palazzo houses paintings from numerous international schools, such as Italian (Veronese, Caravaggio), Flemish (Rubens, Van Dyck), Dutch (Steen, Cuyp), French (Vouet, Lacret) and Spanish (Murillo, Zurbaran). The Palazzo is also home to a vast collection of paintings from the Genoese school, dating from the 16th to 18th centuries.
- San Lorenzo Cathedral: Today's cathedral, founded in the 10th century, is essentially Gothic in its style. The facade is characterised by a black-and-white striped motif, very common in the Tyrrhenian area. The interior, with its three naves, is home to an impressive fresco dating back to the early 14th century.