A family of 5 with a zest for life

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids

*This is a paid collaboration with Visit Genoa

You'll find Genoa in Northern Itlay. This bustling port is the sixth largest city in Italy and known for its art, culture and historical landmarks. I didn't know much about the city before our trip but I am so pleased we had the opportunity to explore. We spent just 48 hours in the area which I'd say is enough time to get a feel for the place. You could easily spend longer here though. I made the trip by myself with Harry, Heidi and Jack as Steve had to work and couldn't take any holiday (booo). This was to be a weekend of firsts - my first trip to Italy, my first trip abroad just myself and the kids and my first time taking an interconnecting flight. I honestly found the whole trip to be absolutely stress-free though and I think Genoa's laid-back nature, safe streets and glorious sunshine really contributed towards this.



Travelling to Genoa from the UK


Our trip to Genoa wasn't too straightforward if I'm honest. Our initial flight was cancelled at the last minute so we ended up being squeezed onto a few flights and travelling from Newcastle to Paris to Rome to Genoa, all with different airlines. We could have waited a day for a more straightforward route but we kind of needed to arrive in Genoa on Friday. In the end, taking multiple flights actually worked out a lot better than I thought. I'd never taken an interconnecting flight before and its nowhere near as stressful as I'd built it up to be in my head.

Very happy about our final flight of the day! 

During our return flight, we flew with KLM from Genoa to Amsterdam and then to Newcastle. This is definitely the route I'd recommend. KLM is a lovely airline and their staff provided the kids with cookies and activity packs as they board the plane plus Amsterdam airport is fantastic - there is loads to do (including a science museum), lots of fantastic places to eat and lots of space too. As this part of our trip was all with one airline, I was able to check in for both flights at the start and no other security checks etc.... were required after our checks in Genoa. I checked in online and used a mobile boarding pass which was less hassle and meant less queuing. If you're worried about interconnecting flights, there are always staff on hand to help you.  Other options from the UK include:
  • Direct flights from London Stanstead with Ryanair and BA
  • Visit Genoa as part of a cruise
  • Fly via Paris with Air France
  • Fly to Milan and catch a train to Genoa 
  • Fly via Rome with Air Italia
  • Drive/catch a train or bus from Nice (it costs less than 10 euro and takes under 3 hours)
  • Flying via Amsterdam with KLM would definitely be my number one choice

Where to stay with kids in Genoa

We stayed in the Best Western City Plus, Genoa. I did not have high hopes for the accommodation as the name Best Western just does not say quality to me. However, I was proven wrong and after a little research I found out that this hotel is actually listed as a top 10 hotel in the whole of the city on Tripadvisor and I can see why (also - how cute are these umbrellas which are here as part of a festival in the city and right outside of our hotel door).

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - umbrellas in street
Mini plaza outside of the hotel

The location of this hotel is just perfect for families - just a 60-second stroll from the main square where you'll find the famous fountains, a theatre, metro station, restaurants (*cough cough including McDonalds) and shops yet its hidden in its own mini plaza so it feels quiet and tucked away.

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Best Western City Plus Genoa Family Room Bunk Beds

We really appreciated the power shower, free WiFi, well-stocked mini bar and comfortable beds. The staff were all super welcoming and were able to understand my Geordie accent without any problems. Breakfast was a family affair with colouring sheets and crayons available for the kids (and newspapers for the grown-ups) plus a huge selection of buffet items to choose from including pancakes and syrup, croissants, meats and cheeses, cereal, breads, pastries, fruits, yoghurts and more.

There is a proper coffee machine in the breakfast room where guests can help themselves to a hot drink free of charge, 24 hours per day. There are tea and coffee making facilities in the rooms too but it was great being able to quickly grab a cup of real Italian coffee on the way back to our room after a day exploring without having to faff around with a kettle in your room. There's also a wellness suite in the basement (suitable for ages 16+) and if I'd have travelled with another adult, I'd definitely have escaped to the spa and sauna for a short while each evening.

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - coloured umbrellas

We loved the little Gelato shop around the corner from the hotel where 3 ice creams and a bottle of water set us back just 6 euros - I honestly expected the prices to be a lot higher than this and was pleasantly surprised. There were lots of little coffee shops, pastry shops and hidden gems like this in the immediate vicinity. 

What to do in Genoa - Day One | Explore 

On day one, I'd highly recommend spending 30 minutes or so just walking around on foot. The historic centre and port are very close (a 10-minute walk) to each other and the architecture is absolutely stunning everywhere you look. Take time to absorb the atmosphere - observe the street artists, admire the stylish Italian ladies drinking Espresso Martinis in the bars, browse the market stalls and listen to the buskers. Genoa is everything I expected from an Italian city and more. If you'd like to explore with children, you can purchase a fun city treasure hunt for 12 euros which will take you around medieval streets, into historic workshops and really give you a feel for the place. 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - main square fountains

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - main square fountains

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - main square fountains

After your morning walk, spending the rest of the day at the old port is the best idea if you have children in tow. This area of the city very much reminded me of London's Southbank with its play parks, activities, museums, fairground rides and later in the day there was a fab bubble man entertaining the crowds too. Activities at the port are all within easy walking distance of each other and include:

Neptune

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Neptune pirate ship at the old port

This real pirate ship replica from the movie Pirates was once the most expensive movie prop of its time. I loved watching children dressed as pirates excitedly climb aboard to explore. 

Play parks and fairground rides

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - bouncy castles at the old port

The port is lined with mini play parks and fairground rides to keep little ones entertained. You'll never have to walk far before they're asking for a park break. Most are free, but some require a small fee (like this one) to enter.

Museum of the Sea - Indoors

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - museum of the sea replica ship

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - museum of the sea replica ship

The museum of the sea is a must-visit attraction for any budding sailors. It's very hands-on with the chance to row your own 15th-century board, enjoy a stormy VR experience and admire replica ships and boats.

Museum of the Sea - Submarine Tour

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - museum of the sea submarine tour

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - museum of the sea submarine tour

If you'd like to try something a little different, there's a chance to take a tour around a real submarine docked outside of the museum. This submarine was active during the cold war and it's eye-opening to look inside. Space on board really is tight and I don't think a life at sea would be for me! This part of the tour was super interesting and really brought some of Europe's recent history to life. 

Museum of the Sea - Set Sail 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - museum of the sea sailing lesson and trip

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - museum of the sea sailing lesson and trip


You can hire a boat (with captain and crew) from the museum of the sea and they will provide you with basic sailing lessons on this 2-3 hour trip around the harbour and out to sea. The views of Genoa are absolutely stunning and when they switch the engines off and raise the sails, it is so peaceful, tranquil and relaxing and bobbing around the sea on our own private yacht was definitely one of the most memorable moments of our trip. Children can even steer the boat and help to raise the sails which my three absolutely loved. It's worth noting that life jackets are not provided on this trip but I did feel safe as there was always two adults sitting next to 'the captain'. If you're not keen on this but still fancy trying your hand at sailing, I'd recommend taking your own life vest with you. 

Aquarium behind the scenes tour & visit 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Genoa aquarium sharks

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Genoa aquarium behind the scenes tour - dolphins

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Genoa aquarium behind the scenes tour - dolphins

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Genoa aquarium jellyfish

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Genoa aquarium shark tank

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Genoa aquarium digital game

The aquarium at Genoa is absolutely huge and spread out over a few floors. We were taken on a behind-the-scenes tour which can be pre-booked and is highly recommended. I've done this kind of thing a couple of times before and can hand on heart say that this aquarium is definitely one of the best - you know this when there are no restrictions on taking photos 'behind the scenes'. Our guide took us outside onto a private viewing platform to watch the dolphins interact with their trainers. All but one of the dolphins here have been rescued from other aquariums and zoos in Italy which no longer meet the required legislation (the other dolphin is now 38 years old). There aren't any public performances but there are plenty of opportunities to watch the dolphins interact with one another.

We also learned about a programme designed to increase Italian terrapin numbers in the wild (they are currently endangered) and were given a quick lesson on how Jellyfish are formed. All good and interesting stuff! After our guided tour we had free time to explore and spent a good few hours meeting manatees, seals, penguins, fish, stingray, sharks and more. The kids loved playing a special digital game where you could design your own fish, let it out into the wild and watch it in the giant digital aquarium to see if it survived and then learn the reasons why. I love the fun and educational aspect of this! Jack beat us all and designed a fish with a 78% chance of survival! If you do visit Genoa with kids, I would say the aquarium has to be on your list.

Seafood and Pizza 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - seafood at the old port

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Italian pizza for kids at the old port

The port is lined with restaurants serving pizza, pasta and the freshest seafood. There's lots of outdoor shaded seating and we dined at a restaurant adjacent to a play park (the name escapes me but if you walk along the port away from the aquarium and museum of the sea you'll find it) and it was nice to let the children play whilst we enjoyed an extended lunch. I highly recommend this seafood salad to start - the octopus was divine. 

Mini Train 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - mini train rides at the old port

If you want to see more of Genoa but your little ones aren't able to walk for a long time, a mini train leaves from outside the aquarium on a regular basis. The train will provide you with a mini-tour of the city with an audio guide and only costs a couple of euros. 

What to do in Genoa - Day Two | Visit Nervi 

On day two I'd recommend escaping the historic centre and experience a holiday Italian Style. Nervi definitely had the same vibe as our much-loved Calella de Palafrugell in Spain. It's where the locals head for some R&R, is authentic and there wasn't a single English tourist in sight (apart from us of course). Nervi is very easy to reach from the centre via train and our carriage was packed with locals and their beach bags heading out for some Italian sunshine.  Nervi is a beautiful old harbour village with sandy coves and a rugged coastline lined with restaurants and lidos. The coastal path is flat and safe and ideal for children and pushchairs and the views here have been voted as some of the best in Italy. My pictures do not do this little village justice and they have to be seen to be believed.

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - catching the train from Genoa to Nervi

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - canoeing in Nervi, Genoa

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - coastal path Nervi

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - coastal path Nervi

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi harbour

After your morning walk. You can grab a few bits and bobs to eat from one of the shops or cafes lining the route and I'd highly recommend heading through the archway by the sign for the Museo Giannettino Luxuro and exploring the Parchi di Nervi. Here you'll find award-winning rose gardens, beautifully landscaped grounds, a fabulous playground and shaded areas and seating in which to enjoy your picnic. It's the perfect tonic to city life. 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi museums and parks

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi play park for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi play park for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi play park for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi award winning rose garden

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi award winning rose garden

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi award winning rose garden

As the afternoon sunshine reaches its peak, it's time to head indoors. The park grounds are home to a couple of museums and galleries which are definitely worth popping into. The staff are all super welcoming and we really enjoyed learning about traditional photography techniques that are in display in the museums. We even had the chance to try this ourselves. What do you think of our creations?
How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi cyanotype technique at museum

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi cyanotype technique at museum

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi cyanotype technique at museum

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Nervi cyanotype technique at museum

Walking, parks, museums and art are all thirsty work. In the afternoon it's worth walking back along the prom and finding somewhere to relax. There's the chance to paddle in rock pools around some of the restaurants and bars or hire canoes and head out to sea. We decided to spend a few hours at Bagni Medusa which is a bar/restaurant right by the sea with a natural Lido pool for kids to play in (with lifeguard), changing facilities, loungers, chairs and direct access to the sea. Harry, Heidi and Jack really loved it here and I can highly recommend trying the anchovies (not something I'd normally choose but I was pleasantly surprised) with a nice cold glass of wine as you watch the kids play. Perfect! 

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Lido at Baghni Medusa Nervi for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Lido at Baghni Medusa Nervi for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Lido at Baghni Medusa Nervi for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Lido at Baghni Medusa Nervi for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Lido at Baghni Medusa Nervi for kids

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - Anchovies at Baghni Medusa Nervi

Trains back to the centre of Genoa run every 30 minutes or so. You'll probably be super tired on your second evening after a day in the sunshine so I'd recommend staying local and low key for dinner and maybe taking an evening walk to the fountains where locals often play music and dance. It's the perfect location to enjoy one last Gelato or an al fresco glass of wine in one of the nearby bars.

Dining with kids in Genoa 


Italians dine later than us Brits and dinner takes a lot longer than what I'm used to - when dining with kids, I'm very much an in and out kind of girl but this just doesn't happen in Genoa. Evenings start at around 7:30pm and meals can last a good few hours. All of the places we visited did not have a children's menu but were happy to offer tomato/pesto/cheese pasta, pizzas or smaller portions from the main menu. I'd definitely recommend trying some kind of pesto dish (pesto is said to have been invented in Genoa) as well as Genoa's signature chickpea and cheese bread which seems to be available everywhere. I also highly recommend ordering the speciality Foccacia from Le Rune - made with olive oil it was like nothing I've ever tasted and I can see why so many people sing the praises of this restaurant. Harry, Heidi and Jack tried their hand at ordering in Italian (super cute) and everywhere we visited also had English menus available as standard.

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids -Dining with kids and child-friendly restaurants in Genoa

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids -Dining with kids and child-friendly restaurants in Genoa (pesto pasta)

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids -Dining with kids and child-friendly restaurants in Genoa

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids -Dining with kids and child-friendly restaurants in Genoa - focaccia from le Rune

Another difference about the restaurants in Italy is that there seemed to be a very small selection of soft drinks available - my children are happy with water but if yours aren't, I'd recommend packing one of those tiny bottles of juice cordial you can buy. There are drinking water fountains around the city so packing a water bottle is also a good idea.

I felt very safe walking around the streets at around 10pm with the kids and didn't have any concerns re:safety. Obviously still be on your guard as you are in a city but as a single woman, I felt absolutely fine. On the whole, food prices seemed very reasonable too. I ordered fillet steak from one of the top-rated restaurants in the city and it was only 20 euro. Pizza and Pasta dishes are around 12 euros in the central restaurants.

How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids - safe streets at night

If you're looking for an Italian break with stunning scenery, good food, gorgeous architecture, easy-to-use transport, friendly people plus an abundance of things to do for kids, I really could not recommend Genoa enough. We were pleasantly surprised and I really did not expect an Italian city break to be this relaxed and fun for all.

Let me know if you fancy a trip........

To find out more about Genoa, check out the official Visit Genoa website and check out the hashtags #Genova4Family and #GenovaMoreThanThis across Social Media.

I've linked this post to Mummy Travels and Wandermum #CityTripping - a fab place to find inspiration for your next city break.

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How to spend a weekend in Genoa with kids #Genova4Family #GenovaMoreThanThis


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23 comments

  1. Sam the photos and your description really make me want to visit, I wonder if we can get a flight over from Spain in the summer break what and adventure that would be for the kids!

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  2. What a wonderful place for a mini-break! I love the sound of the aquarium and boat trip. Great tips on travel to and from Genoa

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    1. Thanks Claire - we had the best time x

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  3. I wouldn't immediately have thought of Genoa as a short break but this is perfect- loads to do, my daughter would adore the aquarium and the swimming, plus our favourite food and chances to sit in the sun with wine for me. I definirely fancy designing my own fish, learning to sail and the anchovies too!

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    1. I think you would both love Genoa x

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    2. You have definitely tempted me! And thanks for linking up with #citytripping too

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  4. Looks like there is so much to do in Genoa. i'd love to take kids to italy but as never been before always been unsure of the best places to go

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    1. Genoa has to be top of the list for families - we had a fabulous time x

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  5. I have travelled extensively through Italy, but have yet to make it to Genoa!! It looks wonderful, what a great place for a first trip there (and solo with kids, brilliant!)... Also loved the look of Nervi - very pretty! Both now on my list! :) x

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    1. Great - hope you get to visit them both soon. I'd definitely recommend :-)

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  6. What a brilliant destination for a family city break. I love the look of all the activities - especially sipping a glass of wine while the kids play in the natural lido! ;) Your post and photos have got me looking at flights for Genoa.

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    1. Oh exciting! Wine, Sunshine and Lido is a perfect combination I think x

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  7. I just love the photos with the brightly colored umbrellas!! They seem so cheerful to me. That room set up is fantastic for families! I've never seen that but kudos to Best Western!! I had no idea there was so much to do in Genoa. I've always looked at it as an option to get to the Cinque Terre region but Pisa has always worked out better for our flights. Looks like Genoa should receive serious consideration, too! #Citytripping

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    1. It really should - it's such a fantastic city with absolutely loads to do x

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  8. Oh gosh it looks beautiful! You certainly packed a lot in. We're heading to the Italian lakes this summer and I'm even more excited about it now. I want to do a solo trip with my girls at some point - I think maybe Italy could be the perfect destination.

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    1. Honestly, solo trips in the UK with the kids have been more stressful! haha! Genoa is such a lovely, welcoming destination for families x

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  9. Your trip looks and sounds amazing, Sam. I really enjoyed following it. How interesting that the interconnecting flight went so well - I'd never have considered going for that unless I had to. I reckon you need to go back, to try out that spa!

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    1. Ah thanks Nell - I'm no longer apprehensive about interconnecting flights at all - they open up the world from our local airport. I am definitely with you about going back to try the spa. I'd love to take Steve too x

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  10. Genoa is one of the few parts of Italy I've never been to and it has been on my list a long time. I might need to start investigating options again

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  11. Italy is top of my travel bucket list, I must admit though I had never thought of visiting Genoa though and did not know much about it before reading this. It sounds like you packed so much into your weekend and like you all had a brilliant time xx

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  12. What a fantastic city. I had not thought of visiting here before but this looks like our kind of trip with lots to see and do. The Sea Museum looks great

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  13. Well done mumma on your first solo trip with the kids! I'm yet to take on that challenge - so hats off to you. And I need to get to Genoa now - what a fantastic place for families - I'd never thought of it as a weekend destination before reading this post.

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I always love reading your thoughts and comments - Sam x

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