Located in Northern Italy and capital of the Piedmont region, Turin’s a city that’s best known for its chocolate and Fiat production. As Italy’s first capital, the beautiful city is characterised by its stunning architecture, industrial present, and royal past. What’s more, is that the entire city is set against the backdrop of breathtaking snow-capped peaks. Here’s a quick guide to the very best things to do in Turin!
Best things to do in Turin
#1 Mole Antonelliana & Cinema Museum
The crown jewel of Torino is the towering Mole Antonelliana, a structure so famous that it is often nicknamed the ‘Eiffel Tower of Italy’ and even appears on one centime coins. Open daily apart from Tuesdays, the interior of the tower is dedicated to a cinema museum while the top floor offers stunning panoramic views over the city and beyond.
#2 Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace)
Not far from the impressive Duomo, traces of the city’s royal past can be found in the Palazzo Reale, a neo-classical and baroque building which was the seat of power in Torino for countless centuries. Once home to the Savoy family, today, the palace now serves as a cultural centre, housing plenty of priceless artworks and other objets d’art. Purchase your entrance ticket and guided tour here.
#3 Turin Shroud & Duomo di San Giovanni
For those familiar with ecclesiastical history, and more specifically Catholicism, the Turin Shroud will likely need no introduction. For the uninitiated, the shroud is alleged to contain a negative image of a man said to be Jesus of Nazareth.
Today, the veil is housed within the city’s main cathedral, Duomo di San Giovanni and is only put on display to the public every decade or so upon papal decree. While it will likely not be on show when you visit the city, the rest of the church can be visited for free on a daily basis and is filled with plenty of beautiful carvings and frescoes.
#4 Museo Egizio (Egypt Museum)
One of the most impressive collections of Egyptian artifacts outside of Cairo is not to be found in London or Paris but in the non-touristic city of Turin! Located in the very heart of town, the Museo Egizio has housed its collection since the museum was first founded in 1824. Today, access to the collections (i.e. over 26,000 objects) are possible for a small fee on a daily basis. Purchase your museum ticket and guided tour here.
#5 Palazzo Madama
The former palace turned museum, Palazzo Madama, was once home to the first Senate of the Italian Kingdom. Now, the Palazzo houses the Turin City Museum of Ancient Art. However, this is a rather deceptive name considering that the cultural hub houses mainly artwork from the Middle Ages to late 18th-Century. On the top floor, there’s a covered roofing deck offering one of the best views of Turin.
#6 Take a trip to the Basilica of Superga
Perched precariously, high above the city, the Basilica di Superga is an easy day trip away from the hustle and bustle of busy modern Italian city life. Constructed during the 18th-century, the easiest way to reach this pretty church is to take the original 1930s tram, right up the side of the mountain! Once there, there’s countless hiking trails into the countryside, as well as the chance to wander inside the Savoy family crypt.
#7 Fetta di Polenta (Slice of Polenta)
While many may venture to Turin for the sole purpose of seeing the Mole Antonelliana, it’s little-known that architect Alessandro Antonelli was gifted a strangely shaped piece of land in his younger days, years before he embarked on his world-famous project.
Located in the Vanchiglia district of the city, the Fetta di Polenta is also referred to as the Casa Scaccabarozzi and was first built over one hundred and fifty years ago. As its name would suggest, it quite literally resembles a slice of polenta cake!
#8 Piazza Castello
One of the best places to sit, stop, and people watch is in Piazza Castello, a beautiful town square named for its nearby Castle. Within the Piazza itself, you’ll also find plenty of coffee shops, chocolate stores, and places where you can sample the Italian specialty that is gelato.
#9 Piazza San Carlo
Often nicknamed ‘Turin’s drawing Room’ (much like the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in nearby Milan), Piazza San Carlo is populated by coffee shops and was first built in the 16th and 17th-centuries. Constructed in the Baroque style, highlights of the square include the twin churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo Borromeo, as well as a statue of one of the Dukes of Savoy.
#10 Via Roma
Slicing its way through the city, Turin’s main street is filled with restaurants, bars, and plenty of shops. If you fancy a spot of shopping while in Torino, then you need to look no further than this expansive street. Often referred to as Italy’s answer to Oxford Street in the UK, make sure to head to this street if you want to find some of the best food stores and fashion brands the city has to offer!
#11 Enjoy coffee in a historic Café
Italy is well-known for its coffee culture, and Turin is no exception. One of the very best things to do in Turin is to head to an ancient coffee shop and sip on an espresso while watching the world go by. Some of the very best historic cafés in Torino include Caffè San Carlo, and Bicerin (this is Turin’s oldest coffee shop and dates all the way back to 1763.)
#12 Get a little lost…
Finally, Torino is like plenty of other Northern Italian towns and cities in that it’s a place best explored on foot. And besides, how else will you discover the best chocolate to be found in the city if you don’t go in search of it?
#13 Sample some local food and drink
Torino and its surrounds are well known for Fiat production… as well as that of chocolate and wine. In fact, Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, an area which specialises in Italian reds, specifically Barolo and Barbaresco.
While in the city, make sure not to miss out on one of the many chocolate shops on offer. If you’re looking to take a self-guided chocolate tour of the city, then the tourist office in the town centre provides plenty of maps and leaflets.
#14 Turin Arcades
If you’re a fan of 19th-century architecture, then you simply must walk around some of Turin’s arcades. In fact, should you opt to visit the city, then no doubt you’ll end up walking through one or two anyway. After all, Torino is home to no less than 18 kilometres worth of arcades. Over 12 kilometres worth of these are connected, meaning that Turin has the largest pedestrian area in Europe.
#15 Borgo Medievale Torino (Medieval Village of Turin)
During a 19th-century world fair, the medievalesque looking Borgo was constructed in the city’s park, Parco del Valentino. Located alongside the River Po, the green space was opened in the 19th-century, thus making it Italy’s first public garden. The fake medieval village itself is open on a daily basis, free to visit, and comprises of a castle complete with drawbridge, countless narrow streets, and several artisan shops.
#16 Palazzo Carignano
Of all the things to do in Turin, learning about history is high on the list. Once the private residence of the princes of Carignano (a branch of the House of Savoy), today the impressive building is now home to the Museum of the Risorgimento. One of 23 museums in Italy dedicated to the ‘Risorgimento’ (unification of Italy), it’s among one of the larger cultural hubs. The museum was established in 1878, shortly after the unification was completed in 1871.
Things to know before visiting Turin for the first time
For those who are seeking to go a little off the beaten tourist track when it comes to Northern Italy, Torino is an absolute must. After all, if you’re looking for plenty of churches, a great foodie scene, and plenty of museums, then this Italian city has it all. However, there are a few things you should know before you go.
Firstly, though most people speak English, it’s only polite to learn a few words of the local language. ‘Hello,’ ‘Please,’ ‘Thank you,’ and ‘Sorry’ are great places to start. As such, I highly recommend bringing along a simple Italian phrasebook like this one to help you on your travels! If you’re planning to see a number of monuments during your visit, then you might want to purchase the Torino + Piemonte Card. More details can be found here.
Turin is an easy city to navigate and you can easily get to all of the main tourist attractions on foot. However, as with many European cities, there are plenty of uneven roads and cobbled stones. Comfortable shoes are an absolute must and it’s not unusual to clock up well over 20,000 steps a day!
Finally, though Turin is certainly not as popular as other Northern Italian cities like Milano or Genoa, it still certainly gets plenty of visitors, especially during peak season (high summer) and during events. In order to secure the best accommodation, you’ll want to book your place to stay ASAP. like this one