Last updated on July 7, 2024 by Stefano Ferro, founder of MEL365, following extensive travelling in Italian Riviera

Where to stay in Genoa – Discover the 5 prime areas

This is one of the biggest cities in Northern Italy, so no wonder you find it challenging to understand where to stay in Genoa.

My favourite neighbourhood is the Historical Centre unless I have a car and in that case, San Vincenzo works better. There are many reasons for my choice that I will explain later. In this guide, I have mentioned another 3 areas to stay in Genoa that may be better if travelling with kids or you want to have some romantic time.

But let’s start with a map and a summary table with the key points.

Best 5 areas to stay in Genoa
Best 5 areas to stay in Genoa

Best places to stay in Genoa – Key points

On a mobile, swipe left and right to see all the columns

AreaSuggested HotelBest ForProsConsCharacterTrain StationFerry StationHow is Parking
Centro StoricoHotel Palazzo GrilloAmbience, First-timersHistoric character, dining scene, centralCrowds, noiseMedieval, RenaissanceFarCloseLimited
Porto AnticoHotel De VilleWaterfront, Attractions, FamiliesSeaside ambience, dining/shopping, centralTouristy vibe, noise, priceVibrant seaside hubFarVery closeAvailable but pricey
MoloCasa MarinaCulture, NightlifeBuzzing energy, dining/drinks scene, museumsNoise levels, limited parking, touristyCultural heart, livelyFarCloseChallenging
San VincenzoLe stanze della LanternaBudget, Practical StayAffordable prices, great location, close to transitLess charming, busy areaEconomical, practicalVery close to Genova BrignoleRequires public transportationEasier in comparison
BoccadasseAurora 20Romantic couples, Beach TimePicturesque setting, charming atmosphere, seaside vibesFarther from the centre, limited nightlife, busy in the summerVillage-like, seaside charmRequires public transportationFarLimited
Best 5 neighbourhoods to stay in Genoa

My 3 best hotels in Genoa

View of the Historic Centre on the right, Molo on the left and the Antico Porto on the front
View of the Historic Centre on the right, Molo on the left and the Antico Porto on the front

Centro Storico – Historical Centre

  • Best place for ambience, first-timers

Pros

  • historic character,
  • dining scene,
  • central location

Cons

  • car-free zones (if driving there)
  • very busy,
  • noise

The Centro Storico is in my opinion the best place to stay in Genoa to experience its historic atmosphere, highly suggested to first-time visitors.

As soon as you start wandering around the centre’s pedestrianized lanes, you’ll be transported back in time. Lavish palazzi with ornate facades and coats of arms line the routes. Meanwhile, sunlight filters through the buildings to illuminate lively public squares where friends gather over spritz and focaccia.

The area’s historic legacy is alive everywhere you look – from the UNESCO-listed Le Strade Nuove (Via Garibaldi, Via Balbi and Via Cairoli) to the unique Cattedrale di San Lorenzo. Yet the Centro Storico is no mere museum, with an animated dining and nightlife scene spilling out of cozy eateries and enotecas at all hours.

Walking in the Historic Centre of Genoa
Walking in the Historic Centre of Genoa

As you’d expect, staying in these ancient quarters means embracing a car-free lifestyle, either walking everywhere or using public transit. And while beautifully charming, the narrow laneways can get busy and noisy, especially during peak seasons.

The Centro Storico is definitely a very romantic neighbourhood and in this respect the perfect place for couples wanting to mix the charming vibe with the endless possibility of food and drinks.

It may not work so well with families, especially if travelling with a pram because the cobblestone lanes will be a bit of a nightmare to walk through, besides the possible noisy nights (based on where you stay, I have added a few safe accommodations below).

Here are 3 great accommodations in the Historic Centre

Hotel Palazzo Grillo ($$$$): Beautifully refurbished historical building with modern and comfortable rooms. Get to the terrace for the splendid city views.

Salvago 12 ($$$): Beautifully designed and spacious 1BR (up to 5 people) in a superb location with high-speed WiFi.

Mini Hotel ($$): Great value-for-money hotel with basic clean rooms right in the heart of the Old City

The Historic Centre of Genoa
The Historic Centre of Genoa

Porto Antico – Old Port

  • Best place for waterfront, attractions

Pros

  • seaside ambience,
  • dining/shopping,
  • central location

Cons

  • touristy vibe,
  • noise,
  • expensive

Hand down, Porto Antico is the best place to stay in Genoa for the waterfront view. Interestingly enough, following the steel crisis, this area went through a massive decline in the 80s, a place to avoid as a good friend of mine used to tell me.

It was only in the 90s, that the Old Port regained its splendour, with the special Expo for the Columbus Quincentenary (500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ 1492 arrival in America) and today it is the vibrant seaside hub packed with attractions.

It’s one of the most convenient places to be in Genoa, with plenty of bars, restaurants, and shopping opportunities hosted in the old docks and shipyards. And then you have two of the most unmissable attractions in the city and Italy too: the enormous Aquarium of Genoa and the unique Biosfera Exhibit.

For this reason, I usually highly suggest this neighbourhood to families travelling with kids. You will be a stone away from all the places you want to enjoy with your little ones, plus most of the area is pedestrian or easily walkable.

The Antico Porto of Genoa
The Antico Porto of Genoa

You are also so close to the Historical Centre. You can enjoy a nice stroll there or an evening excursion for a lovely meal in one of the many narrow historic lanes.

This is also the best area if you are planning to take a ferry boat to beautiful Sardinia for a holiday because the harbour is within walking distance and you can find easily enough parking.

The biggest downside I can see in this area is that you won’t experience that dolce vita, the Italian lifestyle that you can get in the other neighbourhoods. Porto Antico is more of a resort area that gets very busy during weekends and public holidays with plenty of people walking around and some noise till late in the evening coming from open-air restaurants and lively bars. 

In a few words, you won’t find here the family-run trattoria or the local hotel typical of a characteristic city of the Italian Riviera. For this reason, prices of accommodations and restaurants tend to be higher than average too.

Here are 4 great places to stay in Porto Antico

Hotel De Ville ($$$$): Spacious and clean boutique rooms with modern amenities. The breakfast options are excellent, great for an awesome start of the day

NH Collection ($$$$$): Luxurious hotel with stunning port views just steps from the aquarium. Fantastic breakfast buffet and convenient parking if travelling by car

So&Leo Guest House ($$-$$$): Modern and well-designed rooms with city views.

Casa Cicala ($$-$$$): A 2BR apartment in a prime location with free WiFi and a fully equipped kitchen. A great choice for families with kids.

Drone view of Genoa Antico Porto and Historic Centre
Drone view of Genoa Antico Porto and Historic Centre

Molo

  • Best place for culture, nightlife

Pros

  • buzzing energy,
  • dining/drinks scene,
  • museums

Cons

  • noise levels,
  • limited parking,
  • touristy

Molo is the Soho of Genoa, the cultural heart of the city with the best local nightlife that you can find around.

By day, the area is famous for its boutique museums and art exhibitions. You can easily spend a day around by visiting the Palazzo Ducale, the Museo di Sant’Agostino (currently under refurbishment), Christopher Columbus’ House and so much more. Or you can just get lost in the Renaissance splendour of the maze of lanes and hidden squares.

As sunset approaches, Molo starts dressing up for the night. Most of the caruggi (narrow lanes in Genovese) are filled up with tables for a lovely al fresco dining experience. The locals typically start with an Aperol Spritz around 7 pm, the aperitivo time, then they move on to any of the fantastic local trattorias in Molo.

You will find mostly local cuisine around, with family-run restaurants and pizzerias offering the famous focaccia Genovese, Trofie al Pesto Genovese or Ravioli alla Genovese. If unsure where to start, take Piazza delle Erbe as a reference and explore the restaurants around.

Narrow streets of Molo
Narrow streets of Molo

As night deepens, you will find in Molo a good selection of boutique bars and pubs, a bit vintage a bit bohemian, or small DJ clubs to spend the night and enjoy the local young community.

Similarly to the historical centre also Molo is a challenging, if not impossible, area to to find street parking. There are a few organised areas but expensive and you may need to book them well in advance if visiting in the peak season (May to July).

Also, be selective in the hotels because a few squares and streets can be quite noisy till the early hours of the morning. There are still quiet corners, like for the accommodation selected below, but during the summer certainly the partying crowd in the popular lanes can be loud.

Here are 2 great hotels in Molo

Casa Marina ($$-$$$): Beautiful, well-kept 1BR apartment steps from San Lorenzo Church. Cozy and fully equipped for comfort. Ideal for couples.

Altido($$): Modern 1BR apartment with superb facilities. Close to transport options.

San Vincenzo

  • Best place for budget, practical stay

Pros

  • affordable prices,
  • great location,
  • close to transit

Cons

  • less charming,
  • busy area,
  • noisy streets

San Vincenzo is a great neighbourhood to stay if you are travelling on a budget. You will find here a good selection of economical accommodation, from hotels to Airbnbs.

It’s also one of the best choices if you are planning for a long stay because, besides the convenient prices you will experience the real Genovese life, including one of the most characteristic markets of Genoa, the Oriental Market, which opened over 100 years ago and still running strong with the local community. You will find here also a well-priced food court which is very handy for a quick lunch.

Talking of food, San Vincenzo is surely not as popular as Molo but you can still discover some great family-run trattorias and neighbourhood cafes, the ones for the locals with caffe al baco (standing by the bar) and just a bunch of round tables for a quick cappuccino and cornetto. Nothing fancy but still so characteristic besides being a good place for a quick chat.

Medieval street in the Italian hill town of Genova.
Medieval street in the Italian hill town of Genova.

You will be also a stone away from Genova Brignole, one of the two main train stations in Genoa, a very handy location if you plan to visit the Cinque Terre or use this city as a base to explore the Italian Riviera. There is also a direct train to Milan, so well connected to the north of Italy.

So what are the drawbacks of staying in San Vincenzo? Well, you will need public transportation to visit the Historical Centre and any of the attractions in Porto Antico. This is more of a residential neighbourhood with a mix of lovely Renaissance buildings and 70s/80s constructions, a real eyesore, not really an area organised for tourism, which can be perfect if you are looking for a more genuine experience.

Here are 2 great guest houses in San Vincenzo

Le stanze della Lanterna ($): Comfortable basic rooms at a great price. Free coffee available

Brignole A ($): Near Brignole Central Station. Comfortable basic rooms with city views. Free WiFi, fully equipped kitchen.

Boccadasse

  • Best place for a romantic getaway, beach time

Pros

  • picturesque setting,
  • charming atmosphere,
  • seaside vibes

Cons

  • farther from the centre,
  • limited nightlife,
  • very busy in summer

Boccadasse is a neighbourhood of Genoa however it is often referred to as a village because the atmosphere of this small hamlet is pretty unique, much closer to the towns of the Cinque Terre, with pastel colour houses that descend towards the coast, not really the typical urban area.

It must be said that Boccadasse was actually an independent fishing village till the end of the 19th century but it was gradually enveloped in the city of Genoa during its expansion.

View of Boccadasse which in some respects is quite similar to the Cinque Terre
View of Boccadasse which in some respects is quite similar to the Cinque Terre

It’s definitely the most charming neighbourhood, the best spot for a romantic weekend with your partner, although there are not as many available accommodations and you won’t find as many restaurants and cafes around as in Molo.

Bocccadasse is also quite far from the city centre, around 7-8km so you will have to use public transportation (40-45 minutes) to visit the main attractions of the city.

My tip: Leave Boccadasse on a 2nd or 3rd visit for a unique experience. Bypass this neighbourhood if you have been already to other characteristic towns of the Italian Riviera like Vernazza or Portofino.

Boccadasse has also a small pebbly beach, another good excuse for a visit during a lazy summer afternoon, which is actually quite popular with locals, especially at the weekends, certainly not a secluded spot.

Here is an amazing place in Boccadasse

Aurora 20 ($$$$): 1BR apartment with stunning sea views. You cannot get better than that.

 

Stefano Ferro - MEL365.com Founder and Editor

About the Author

Stefano is a seasoned travel expert and the visionary founder of MEL365.com, a leading travel website with traffic across 6 continents. With a rich background in the travel industry, Stefano spent four pivotal years at Amadeus Travel Distribution System, gaining invaluable insights into travel technologies and distribution.

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